Falmouth's all-inclusive International Sea Shanty Festival set to take place

Falmouth in Cornwall where the all-inclusive International Sea Shanty Festival is set to take place As the award-winning Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival returns to the streets of Falmouth, Cornwall, bringing with it sea shanty singers from around the UK and across the continent, we look at the evolution of the tradition and the new demographics that are adding a certain saltness whilst raising their voices to be heard.

From Friday 16th to Sunday 18th June 2023, more than 78 local, national and international sea shanty groups will perform in 27 venues, in what has become the largest free nautical music and song festival in Europe. More than 50,000 visitors are expected to see sea shanty groups come together to perform on stages, in cafes, pubs, hotels, and community venues, bringing the history, heritage and culture of the maritime song to life in this vibrant Cornish port.

Richard Gates, the festival chairman said, "The International Sea Shanty Festival gets bigger and better every year, and we are delighted to be able to bring the event back live to our special town this year. It is incredible to see the variety of groups that come through year-on-year which is a testament to the growing popularity of this tradition."

Sea shanties were originally songs of sea labour, devised by sailors to accompany certain arduous tasks onboard merchant sailing vessels. They were helpful for ensuring coordination as well as boosting team morale. Today, sea shanty singing is a popular leisure pastime, enjoyed amongst laypersons and performed in a variety of contexts. The popularity of sea shanty singing can be demonstrated by the global stardom achieved by the original 'buoy band', The Fisherman's Friends.

Since entering popular culture, the sea shanty scene has been dominated by a male demographic. However, in very recent years, it has evolved to become far more inclusive for different sectors of society. The Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival sees a rise in the number of female-only shanty groups, more children who are being taught songs of the sea from a young age in schools, a wider appeal amongst the Gen Z population and for the first time this year, an LGBTQI+ group is performing.

Naturally alongside this emergence of new and exciting group genres, sits the original shanty groups, who have been performing at festivals for countless years, keeping this age-old tradition alive for such an evolution to take place. The LGBTQIA+ sea shanty choir Seaweed in the Fruit Locker has talented Plymouth-based artist, Rhys Morgan at the helm. Inspired by his upbringing in a rural, coastal community, where he felt both excluded and deeply intrigued by the seafaring songs of his region, he decided to put a call out in 2022. He immediately received a strong response and now has a 15+ strong choir of wonderful choristers. The group's repertoire consists of cleverly reworked sea shanties, using their shared collective life experiences to inspire new themes. The choir's lyrics include new odes that cover contemporary LGBTQIA+ topics.

Founder Rhys said, "We're so thrilled to perform at Falmouth's International Sea Shanty Festival and to be the first LGBTQIA+ group to do so. We have found that since bringing Seaweed in the Fruit Locker together, there has been a real excitement and demand for an opening up of folk music, exploring its traditions from new perspectives".

Headed by musical director, Claire Inglehart, Femmes de la Mer is a group of 14 strong, diverse women, from Cornwall. Its truly unique blend of acapella voices and rich harmonies really make this group stand out, gaining them much acclaim amongst the folk and sea shanty communities. Femmes de la Mer share inspirational stories of Cornish women, bringing songs of the sea into the 21st century by adding the odd feminist twist. Demand is great as they are regularly booked up with gigs in incredible locations and venues, including Cornwall's iconic Minack Theatre. They also recently toured with renowned musician Ben Howard. Founder Claire Inglehart said, "We have loved being a part of the shanty festival for the past nine years and welcome the current wave of diversity. We're passionate about including traditional songs that have been sung for many years and extending our repertoire with new songs, particularly including stories of Cornish Women. We're really grateful for this platform."

The founders of Falmouth's International Sea Shanty Festival are Falmouth Shout. One of the founding members, Gordon Kelly said, "As the group that started the festival with the RNLI Falmouth station and, for more than years, ran the event, it's safe to say it is incredibly special to us. It is remarkable to see how the event has evolved and grown exponentially over the years. It is now a firm favourite event on the Cornish cultural calendar and we couldn't be prouder. We are also so proud that the tradition of sea shanty singing is opening up to be enjoyed and performed by so many sectors of society, it is truly marvellous."

For information on the festival including the detailed schedule, visit the website, www.falmouthseashanty.co.uk

Image of Falmouth courtesy of www.gettyimages.co.uk

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