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Maritime Festival celebrates 18th birthday with cocktail of ships and shanties

El Pony Pisador in action at last year’s festivalSights and sounds capturing Great Yarmouth’s rich seafaring heritage are set to sail back into the port this autumn with the return of the popular Maritime Festival.

The free two-day event, which attracts 30,000 people with its mix of ships, displays and entertainment, is this year “coming of age” and marking its 18th birthday.

Over the weekend of September 9th and 10th, the quays will again be alive with a foot-tapping programme of sea shanties that add authentic atmosphere to the event.

This year’s headline act is a Spanish group returning by popular request – and using a borrowed guitar linked to pop legend Sir Cliff Richard!
El Pony Pisador, whose name means The Prancing Pony, “went down a storm” on their debut last year said festival chairman Aileen Mobbs.
But a transport hitch meant they arrived without instruments, which they had to hire and borrow.
Hotelier Mrs Mobbs said: “They borrowed my guitar which we bought from a charity auction hosted by comedian and folk singer Richard Digance who said it was once owned by Sir Cliff.
“It normally sits in our attic, so it was wonderful to hear it played, although they did break a few strings. And they are planning to use it again this year.”

The festival is staged by the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement Area (GYTABIA), as part of its drive to attract visitors and spending to the borough.

El Pony Pisador, are a five-strong group from Barcelona, they play a mix of international music styles from traditional Irish tunes to Tuvan throat singing and yodelling.

Other shanty groups this year – a mixture of returning favourites and newcomers - are: the Sheringham Shantymen, Kimber’s Men, the Blakeney Old Wild Rovers, the Norfolk Broads, the Longest Johns, Capstan Full Strength, and the Mollyhawks.

Mrs Mobbs added: “These groups play for the love of the music, and stay on to perform in the pubs in the evening. We are really pleased to welcome El Pony Pisador back because the crowd really took them to their hearts.”

The Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival, which was first staged in 2000, features visiting ships moored at the quayside for visitors to go aboard, as well as stalls, exhibits, street entertainment, and militia re-enactors. There will also be quayside barbecues cooking herring, the fish which made the port a hive of activity before the days of tourism.