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Maritime Festival to showcase shanties as well as ships

Bob FoxWaves of seafaring folk music will fill the salty air at Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival this autumn.

The major event, which is set to attract 30,000 people to the resort’s harbour over a weekend in September, is a showcase for the area’s nautical history - which includes links to Lord Nelson and being a key hub in the heydays of the herring industry.

Shanty songs were traditionally sung by sailors as they hauled up the sails as they set off to sea – but the timeless tunes remain popular today with their blend of lilting tunes and folksy words harking back to bygone days on the briny.

The music is an integral part of the festival, adding to the atmosphere at the quayside, as performers take to three stages alongside the array of historic and modern ships providing static displays and pleasure trips as the town showcases its maritime past, present and future.

Acts visiting the September 10-11 festival come from the UK, Europe and Canada. They include:

• Four ‘n’ Aft - Chris Lock, Ian Tupling, Helen Pitt and Steve Dawes, an acapella group who sing in four-part harmony, who have appeared twice before at the festival and have sung at festivals across Europe. They perform a mix of contemporary and traditional shanties and sea songs sung with a sense of fun.

• Blakeney Old Wild Rovers – The shanty and folk band formed in 1999, who have raised nearly £200,000 for a range of national and local charities. They perform a mix of traditional tunes to humorous local songs at festivals, events and one-off concerts as well as in pubs in north Norfolk.

• Inner State – A duo, Christine Bissell and Andy Andrews, who do music spots on stage ranging from skiffle to rock and roll - but are mainly a walkabout mini theatre company, with a “leaning towards historical and maritime related nonsense”, who have been regulars at the maritime festival.

• Jenkins’ Ear – Formed by a group of Guernseymen, passionate about the sea and its traditions, in 1992. They have built up a large repertoire of British, American and French sea songs and have performed at regattas, festivals and folk clubs across Europe, blending authenticity with entertainment and humorous anecdotes.

• El Pony Pisador – Spanish folk group, The Prancing Pony, whose set includes a mix of international music styles. The five strong band from Barcelona were launched in 2013 and will be playing songs from their first album released this summer. They have been touring in Ireland where they also won a busking competition.

• Baggyrinkle – Nine-member shanty group from Swansea singing three-part harmonies with concertina accompaniment. They were formed in 1994 to host the Welsh city’s maritime and shanty festival but have gone on to tour events in the UK and Europe. They sing mainly shanties but also some drinking songs which go down at beer festivals.

• Tom Lewis – Irish-born Canadian solo act Tom sings contemporary nautical songs delivered with a dash of wry humour, and accompanied by his button accordion and ukulele. He had a 24-year naval career, which he combined with playing in folk clubs. He now tours festivals and intimate venues worldwide and has done a string of recordings.

• Bob Fox - Bob has toured the world for 40 years mostly solo but also alongside musical heavyweights such as Ralph McTell and Fairport Convention. The guitarist and melodeon player has twice been nominated as Best Folk Singer in the BBC Folk Awards. Bob also played the role of Songman in the award winning stage production of WarHorse.

• Capstan Full Strength – A long established East Anglian singing group, taking their name from a cigarette brand, with a wide repertoire, best known for songs of the sea. The group from Woodbridge are regulars at the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival.

• Mollyhawks – Great Yarmouth shanty duo Sue and John Griffiths, who devise the festival music programme, also perform as the Mollyhawks duo, formed in the late 1990s.They aim to provide a programme of festival music that is traditional and entertaining.

Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival, which has been running for 17 years, also features militia re-enactors, and quayside barbecues cooking herring, the fish which made the port a hive of activity before the days of tourism.

Visiting vessels include the Earl of Pembroke which has been used in feature films, and the Regal Lady pleasure steamer making a homecoming to where she was built

The free-entry festival is staged by the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement District, as part of its drive to attract visitors and spending to the borough using a levy from local traders.

Souvenir guides including details of the shanty acts will be available for £1 during the weekend.