Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival

A group of musicians playing sea shanties at Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival in Cornwall.

Wandering around Falmouth during the International Sea Shanty Festival is almost like stepping back into the past. As the strains of traditional songs drift towards you on the breeze it’s not hard to imagine what it would have been like in this coastal town back in the 19th century when the Packet Ships still plied their trade.

Each year the festival gets bigger and better – this year, there were 48 shanty groups, 21 venues and an impressive 261 hours of shanty singing. Gigs ranged from intimate gatherings in some of the smaller pubs to performances on the outdoor stage at Events Square which attracted huge crowds. It’s the type of music that’s easy to listen to and infectious – as the tempo increases, everyone starts clapping along and joining in with the songs.

Shanty groups came from near and far to perform during the festival, with some travelling all the way from Brittany to take part. There was a huge variety of styles, from the large all-male groups who created a wall of sound with their voices to small groups with musical accompaniment and those entertained the crowd with seafaring lore and a bit of banter. Skinner’s Brewery mascot Betty Stogs was also throughout the weekend, playing up to the crowds and doing a grand job of collecting money for the RNLI.

The festival is probably one of the best Cornwall has to offer. Hugely atmospheric, it’s an ideal time to visit Falmouth and soak up its seafaring past. For sailing enthusiasts, there’s also the added bonus of the Falmouth Classics, which runs at the same time.

With the beaches, cafes, restaurants and the Maritime Museum nearby, it makes a great day out – although you might find yourselves singing ‘What shall we do with the drunken sailor’ for several days afterwards…

Useful information

The 2014 Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival took place Friday 13 June – Sunday 15 June. Photos of the festival are now online.

The 2015 festival is expected to take place around the same time in June – keep an eye on the festival website for more information nearer the time.

Getting there

Falmouth is approximately 45 minutes’ drive from Bosinver. There are frequent trains from St Austell (change at Truro) if you prefer to leave the car behind and use public transport.

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