On 8th, 9th and 10th October, Harwich will ring out with music and song once more when the 15th Harwich International Shanty Festival returns after a year’s absence due to Covid.

All of the artists are desperate to get out and sing again at this musical celebration of Harwich’s rich maritime heritage, the UK’s premier Shanty Festival.

The official opening by Nigel Spencer MBE, Deputy to the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, will take place on Friday, 8th October at 11.45 on the Ha’penny Pier, and shanty singing will commence at 12.00 midday.

This year’s festival, despite travel restrictions preventing the booking of many overseas artists, still features over 32 acts with artists travelling to Harwich to perform from the Netherlands and all over the UK. Entertainment takes place in local pubs and clubs, St. Nicholas Church, Harwich Museum, on the Ha’penny Pier and on Thames Barges “Victor” and “Excelsior” and there are many events at the Redoubt Napoleonic Fort. There will be concerts, singaround sessions, workshops, illustrated talks, maritime crafts, street theatre and enactments and many events are free! Of course, everything is still subject to whatever Covid restrictions might be in place at the time.

The theme of this year’s festival will be the Mayflower, as 2020 was intended to be a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower to the New World. As the birthplace of both the Mayflower ship and its master, Christopher Jones, Harwich is an important part of that story. Many towns in England, the Netherlands and the USA were planning to celebrate this historic occasion and the festival team have managed to secure shanty singers and crews to represent most of the Mayflower towns and have several special events and concerts lined up following this theme.

The acts include the return of Kimber’s Men whose superb harmonies and great arrangements make them one of the most sought after shanty groups in the land. As true Yorkshire men they are representing the town of Austerfield, Doncaster as part of the Mayflower celebrations. 

Shanty veteran of over 30 years, Shanty Jack (Pete Hayselden) spent a large part of his life working on tugs in the Humber and was instrumental in establishing the Hull Sea Fever Festival. Visiting the festival for the first time, he represents Boston, Gainsborough and Immingham in his adopted home county of Lincolnshire. 

Another first for the festival, Act of Mutiny, hail from Leiden in the Netherlands where many of the pilgrims settled before making the historic crossing. They have a versatile repertoire of traditional and modern shanties, singing mainly in English, sometimes in French or Spanish and often accompanied by guitar, banjo, flute, cello and percussion in their lively performances.

Sound Tradition will be joining the festival for the second time, singing in glorious four part harmony anything from gentle lilting ballads to lively choruses.

The Silver Darlings, an all female crew from Southend, proved very popular at our 2019 festival with their great voices and lively performances and they are glad to welcome them back.

They are also pleased to welcome back Capstan Full Strength, a six strong vocal harmony group who have sung songs of sea, land and work since 1998 and have been welcomed at festivals in Europe, Scandinavia and the British Isles with their beautiful harmonies.

From the Netherlands, Hans Weehuizen aka Dutch Uncle will be joining them again, running his popular Bones Workshops as well as performing, sometimes solo, sometimes with Ken Stephens, singing and playing concertina or melodeon.

Also appearing will be UK regulars Ken Stephens, Old Gaffers, Swinging the Lead, Tyburn Road, Silver Darlings, Charlotte and Spong, Hog Eye Men, Motley Crew, Mains’l Haul, Salt Water and Beer, Felix Stowaways, Malcolm Ward, Pete Stockwell, The Hoolies and Shotley Crue. They also have their own Harwich based crews, the Naze Shanty Crew, Harwich Shanty Crew, Golden Rivets and Rattlin’ Winches.

New artists include Hoy Boy from Canvey Island, Pot of Gold from Swaffham, Norfolk, ShantyFolk from the Lavenham area and Isle ‘ave a Shanty from Ely.

Johnson Girls were all set to come from the USA to our 2020 festival representing the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Travel uncertainties and increased costs make their Atlantic crossing impossible this year but they will be sending a video of a special live performance!

A 90 minute trip aboard the Thames Sailing Barge “Victor” and featuring entertainment from the festival artists is always a highlight of the weekend. There will be two trips on the Friday of the Festival and three on both the Saturday and Sunday. There will also be a Shanty Train with entertainment on board and activity packs for children, running backwards and forwards between Harwich Town and Manningtree Station.

Harwich Shanty Festival are pleased to announce that they have secured the use of Harwich Green again for use as an overnight site for self contained vehicles. This is in a central position close to all venues. Access is via Harbour Crescent. Tents cannot be accommodated. For details of how to book your space visit our website www.harwichshantyfestival.co.uk. We have an Accommodation List that we can email to interested parties. Email info@harwichshantyfestival.co.uk for details.

Trinity House car Park will be available again for use by festival visitors on Saturday and Sunday 9th and 10th October. There will also be a Shanty Bus to transport people around the town. 

They are actively looking for stewards at the Festival. Join in with a great team of people and see the festival ‘from the inside’. In return for some help over the weekend you will receive a Steward’s Wristband offering free access to most events. If you are interested please email: info@harwichshantyfestival.co.uk.

Full details of all events and advance tickets are available via the website:  www.harwichshantyfestival.co.uk.

Please note that the always popular tickets to all cruises are selling fast!

Programmes, 2021 T-shirts, new hooded sweatshirts, CDs, and re-useable pint mugs are also available from our website.

You can also follow the Harwich Shanty Festival on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.