THE streets of Harwich will come alive once more with music and song when the 17th International Shanty Festival returns to the town.

There will be a huge range of entertainment on offer at this musical celebration of Harwich’s rich maritime heritage.

The official opening by Jenny Tolhurst, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, will take place on Friday, October 13, at 11.30am on the Ha’penny Pier, and shanty singing will commence at 12noon.

This year’s festival features 47 acts with artists travelling to Harwich to perform from the Spain, Netherlands, France and all over the UK

Entertainment takes place in local pubs and clubs, St. Nicholas Church, the Electric Palace, The Masonic Hall, Harwich Museum, on the Ha’penny Pier and on Thames Barges 'Victor' and 'Excelsior' and there are many events at the Redoubt Napoleonic Fort.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Band - Les Brouilleurs

There will be concerts, singaround sessions, workshops, illustrated talks, guided walks, maritime crafts, street theatre and enactments and of the 251 events taking place this year, 192 are free.

This year’s programme includes some special events. On Friday October 13 set in the Edwardian splendour of the Electric Palace there will be a Sea Shanty Musical written by John Sanders.

This entertaining event will be packed with fun, flair and sea shanties and performed by the Stane Street Players.

The Strictly Shanties concert in the Electric Palace on Saturday, October 14, takes teh festival back to its roots and features the Rogue Shanty Buoys, Short Drag Roger and the Silver Darlings.

Workshops will include Jig Dolls, with several opportunities to learn how to operate these traditional and appealing percussion instruments, with Martin Judkins and Corine Nugteren.

Spokesman Debbie Jones said: "Our acts include the return of the humorous, quirky, entertaining and hugely talented El Pony Pisador from Barcelona.

"This is the third time they have visited our festival and we can’t wait to welcome them back."

"The Rogue Shanty Buoys, based in rural Suffolk are returning, with their unmistakeably bold sound and emphasis on strong vocals, tight harmonies and unfussy arrangements, giving fun and energetic performances with a fresh and dynamic approach."

"From La Rochelle in France, Les Brouilleurs d’Ecoutes describe themselves as a Franco-British group with an Irish flavour.

"With their upbeat multi-instrumental approach to shanties, they made a huge impression on their last visit to Harwich and we are delighted to welcome them back.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Shantyman - Steve TurnerShantyman - Steve Turner

"Steve Turner will be joining us for the first time and has been described as majestic, brilliant, sheer genius – and the foremost concertina player of his generation and we can’t wait for him to entertain us with his maritime set."

The Jolly Grogsters, despite being formed far from the sea in their hometown of Oxford, are a young crew who have been making their mark on the sea shanty scene with their own brand of traditional and original folk songs performed in a fresh and innovative way.

Also from Oxfordshire, Short Drag Roger now in their 20th year will entertain us with their mix of traditional shanties, modern sea songs and self-penned numbers.

She added: "We welcome back the Silver Darlings, an all female crew from Southend-on-Sea, who have delighted audiences since their debut in 2017 with their beautiful harmonies, interweaving traditional shanties and other songs of the sea.

"We also welcome for the first time the East Anglian all female trio, The Columbines, known for their striking use of close harmony singing and their own arrangements of traditional folk songs, shanties and sea songs which are performed a capella or accompanied on instruments including guitar, Irish bouzouki, cello and concertina."

From the Netherlands, Hans Weehuizen aka Dutch Uncle will be joining again, running his popular Bones Workshops as well as performing, sometimes solo, sometimes with Ken Stephens, singing and playing concertina or melodeon.

The innovative and energetic Yorkshire based Jack Tars will be joining for the first time and will give us rousing vocal harmonies, crisp fiddle lines and a foot-stompingly good time

Other new artists include the Shotley Wailers, a locally inspired shanty singing and instrumental group from across the water, the Suffolk based singing and playing duo Salty Groyne who made their debut last year, and 2 Bitts featuring Pete Stockwell performing as a duo with Dave Ellis.

Also appearing will be UK regulars Ken Stephens, Swinging the Lead, Tyburn Road, Hog Eye Men, Motley Crew, Mains’l Haul, Felix Stowaways, Hoy Boy, Pot of Gold, Isle ‘ave a Shanty’, Shotley Crue, Salt Water and Beer and The Hoolies.

Harwich's own Black Deep, Harwich Shanty Crew, Golden Rivets and Rattlin’ Winches as well as Harwich Sing and the Dovercourt Ukelele Group will also perform.

A 90 minute trip aboard the Thames Sailing Barge “Victor” and featuring entertainment from our festival artists isa lways a highlight of the weekend.

There will be two trips on the Friday of the Festival and three on both the Saturday and Sunday.

There will also be a Shanty Train with entertainment on board and activity packs for children, running backwards and forwards between Harwich Town and Manningtree Station.

Debbie added: "We are pleased to announce that we have secured the use of Harwich Green again for use as an overnight site for self-contained vehicles.

"This is in a central position close to all venues. Access is via Harbour Crescent. However, we regret to say that it is now fully booked."

Trinity House car Park will be available again for use by festival visitors on the Saturday and Sunday and there will also be a Shanty Bus to transport people around the town.

She added: "We are actively looking for stewards at the Festival. Join in with a great team of people and see the festival ‘from the inside’.

"In return for some help over the weekend you will receive a Steward’s Wristband offering free access to most events. If you are interested, email:

Full details of all events and advance tickets are available via the website at