Falmouth’s International Sea Shanty Festival

You know it’s coming into prime tourist season when every weekend is full of events, concerts and street festivals. A few weekends ago we had not only Murdoch Day in Redruth, but it was also the time of year when Falmouth becomes one big performance venue for shanty singers from across the county, country, and Europe – the International Sea Shanty Festival of course!

We first discovered this festival our first summer here in 2014, when we quite literally stumbled across the stage on Customs House Quay after going out for dinner. The memory of a couple of hundred slightly worse-for-wear Cornish folk singing along to traditional shanty songs stuck in our heads and we were determined to see more of it the next year. Well we blinked and missed 2015, and barely managed to make this year’s thanks to various work commitments. We eventually got down to Falmouth around 3pm on the Sunday, with yours truly in a foul mood, feeling like we’d missed everything and were just going to waste our time…

Thankfully that wasn’t the case, and despite the mizzly weather we managed to see two groups on the high street, one outside the Seasalt shop and another outside Roly’s fudge shop. Their spirits certainly weren’t dampened (badumtish) and we gladly stood for a while listening to their songs of the sea, of the mines, of Cornish life.

Making our way along towards Events Square, we were heading for the inflatable pub, being run by our friends at The Brig. We popped in for a quick dark&stormy and break from the rain, and tried not to laugh too much at the very disappointed children who came running in, expecting a bouncy castle! We also used this opportunity to book a table for dinner at The Brig, who very kindly squeezed us in before their fully-booked evening service.

One of the main performance areas for the festival is Events Square, where there was also a big beer tent and smaller food and crafts marquee. Unfortunately it was just a bit too busy for us, so we turned round again and headed to Customs House Quay. There, despite the persistent rain, we managed to catch the last performance of the festival from the Treverva Male Voice Choir who were fantastic, rousing the crowd to join in with their shanties. I’m not sure how everyone knew the words (apart from us), but it was quite a sight to see! I loved the mix of old, traditional songs and more recently written ones, harking back with nostalgia and hoping for a renaissance of Cornish industry.

By the time the choir ended their set we were feeling rather chilly and damp and so made our way to 8-bit gaming bar for a quick play on their retro gaming consoles (I’m just as awful at Tony Hawk skateboarding as I remember) before heading to The Brig for an appropriately nautical-themed dinner. I’m so glad we managed to catch the end of the festival, and hopefully we’ll be able to see even more next year!

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the choir on Customs House Quay
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