The 14th-16th June 2019 saw another year of the world-renowned Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival.
We introduced a unique and fun new design to the shanty festival’s re-usable cups, which featured our very own Pepé the cockapoo, plenty of pirates and of course fellow sponsor Skinner’s Brewery’s very own Betty Stoggs! We’re encouraging everyone who bought a cup to re-use theirs at home in weird and wonderful ways – so make sure you let us know how you’ve re-purposed yours!
Where there are thousands of people all together, there will always be a bit of a mess left afterwards. We’re committed to acting as responsibly as we can, so a team of fantastic Seasalt Volunteers headed down to Falmouth Town the day after the festival to collect rubbish and recycling in collaboration with Clean Cornwall.
- Gin and tonic must have been a popular choice at this year’s festival – we collected scores of lemons and limes!
- When we’d finished cleaning the streets we headed down to Gylly beach to do a mini beach clean, where we found chip forks, fishing wire and one lone sock!
- We collected up five full bags during the shanty clean-up, which were split out so that they could be collected for either disposal and recycling.
- We didn’t see a single re-usable cup on the floor, so festival-goers did brilliantly in taking home their cups for re-use. We’d also like to thank Plastic Free Falmouth and Clean Ocean Sailing for all their work cleaning up after the event.
With this year’s festival better than ever, we caught up with some of the people who make the festival what it is today.
Jules and John Warren – Shanty Festival Committee members
How did the Shanty Festival get started? In 2003, three members of Falmouth RNLI including John, the Treasurer, were discussing ways of raising funds. A shanty festival was suggested and the rest is history!
Why/how did you become involved? We were both shanty singers with a local group, Falmouth Shout, and it seemed natural that our group should organise this new festival.
What makes the festival so unique/special? Firstly, it’s free! It involves the whole town from churches to cellar bars, the groups all perform for free for the RNLI and we give them Cornish pasties and beer. Every year we have to turn away about 60 groups, because the festival is so full.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen over the years? Definitely its size and immense international popularity.
What’s your favourite memory of all the years you’ve helped to run the festival? For us, it’s always the closing finale when all the groups come together to sing the ‘Farewell Shanty’ – we have seen grown men in tears!
What’s your favourite shanty song and why? Jules likes Drunken Sailor because everyone knows it, including young children, but John’s favourite is Carrying Nelson Home, which isn’t actually a shanty, but a lovely sea song about Lord Nelson’s final voyage home after Trafalgar – even the French like it!
Shanties were originally sung by sailors. Do you enjoy getting on the water yourselves? Yes, we have a boat in Falmouth and we enjoy fishing.
What’s the furthest a group has ever travelled to take part? From near Chicago USA.
What’s the food and drink of choice for festival goers? It has to be Skinner’s beer, pasties and fish and chips.
Which is your favourite venue to watch bands? Or do you travel around lots of the venues over the weekend? We are too busy to see much; it’s a travesty!
Are there any new traditions that have come about since the inception of the festival? We have noticed a huge increase in the number of new shanty groups and a revival of the singing of the traditional Cornish songs. We sincerely hope the festival has been part of this.
Tom Lewis – Songwriter
When did you first visit the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival?
2013; when I was barely four months returned from a 30-year sojourn in British Columbia.
How did you hear about it?
In the international nautical song community, Falmouth is second only to the Mystic Seaport (Connecticut) Sea Music Festival. Coincidentally: each year they take place on the same weekend!
What makes the festival so unique/special?
The good-hearted performers, who give generously of their time, to support a truly worthwhile cause … our very own RNLI.
What’s your favourite memory of the festival?
My Father’s Day tea-time show, in the lounge of the Falmouth Hotel in 2015. Whilst many of the fathers were well aware of the songs, many of the children – and grandchildren – had never before heard their fathers and grandfathers singing!
Which is your favourite venue at the festival to watch other bands?
The smaller, more intimate venues give me the opportunity to observe, up close, many performers I greatly admire.
Which is your favourite venue in Falmouth to perform in?
The old cellar that is The Front. This is exactly the sort of venue in which my songs come alive. It’s not hard to imagine them being sung there a couple of centuries ago.
Do you have a favourite shanty group who are here at the festival?
My old friends: The Portsmouth Shanty Men; though I am a huge admirer of Kimber’s Men (not at this year’s festival, sadly!).
What’s your favourite shanty song to sing and why?
Whichever one I can get everyone singing with me. My old buddy, Bob Zentz (Norfolk, Virginia) is fond of saying, “It ain’t over until the whole audience sings!”.
Your biography mentions your seafaring background. Tell us more!
I joined the Royal Navy in May 1959 as an engineering apprentice, AKA a ‘tiffy’.
24 years later, having been all over the world, (mostly in diesel submarines) I mustered-out and, with Lyn, went to Canada for the next adventure. I didn’t realise back 36 years ago, that I was just commencing on what was to become my ‘real career’. It is one which has been even more fun; and an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s not over yet!