SOUTHEND Pier is marking English Tourism Week with some extra perks for visitors.

Everyone who visits the Pier on Saturday and Sunday, March 29 and 30 is being invited for another visit between Monday, March 31 and Friday, April 4 absolutely free.

This marks the three-fold celebration of Southend Pier’s bumper start to the year, the beginning of English Tourism Week, and the thrilling Spring Thyme Folk and Ale Festival.

Southend Pier has enjoyed such a fantastic 2014 so far, with monthly figures in January and February both up 11.99 per cent on the same time last year.

The festival staged by the Leigh Folk Festival Association in conjunction with Southend Council, begins in the Royal Pavilion at the end of the pier at 7.30 pm on Friday, March 28 with a Ceilidh led by The Creeksiders and their caller Alexandra Parker.

From noon on Saturday, March 29 there will be an array of folk talent delivering six hours of spectacular entertainment, including Mick Denny, Sing Out Loud, Crafting for Foes, Hoy Polloi, Kaz Simmons, Dave Symonds, Tony Prior and others.

Then from 7.30pm on Saturday March 29 there will be a special performance of Jack Forbes’ celebrated ‘Down the Hill to the Old Town’ a folk musical based on events and personalities in Leigh over the past 150 years.

Derek Jarvis, councillor responsible for culture and tourism, said: “Southend Pier is an iconic landmark attracting many thousands of visitors every year. We are thrilled that more and more have been coming along to enjoy it at such an early stage in the year.

“As a result we hope as many people as possible who visit the Pier on March 29 and 30 will be able to take advantage of the special offer to come back again free during the week after. We have also arranged this offer to herald English Tourism Week and the wonderful Spring Thyme Folk & Ale Festival.”