Yarmouth Maritime Festival draws up the sails and draws in the crowds

MORE than 27,000 people enjoyed two days of nautical-themed fun at the weekend as Great Yarmouth held its 12th annual Maritime Festival.

Over Saturday and Sunday, large crowds thronged South Quay to get up close to a fleet of vessels that had dropped anchor – and visitors donated �18,000 to the festival.

Forecast rain had threatened to throw a wet blanket over the whole event, while strong winds joined in the battle of the elements to delay one its star attractions.

However, most of the event was staged in bright sunshine and hot weather, helping visitors enjoy all the breezy quayside had to offer.

A strong maritime ‘cast’ was headed up by the tall ships Oosterschelde and Lord Nelson, supported by the perennial favourite, the steam drifter Lydia Eva, the coastal survey vessel MV Confidante and the UK Border Agency cutter Vigilant.

And festival goers could be forgiven for having sore necks as they craned their heads upwards to marvel at the amazing aerial antics of the No Fit State Circus performing in the Lord Nelson’s rigging.

The quayside was alive with the sound of music with groups such as the Sheringham Shantymen, DPA and East Norfolk Operatic Society thrilling the crowds.

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Children were also well catered for with the largest amount of craft activities based on nature to date and the comical antics of festival mascots, such as Horatio Herring.

And as well as the examining the towering ships on the quayside visitors could inspect mini versions of vessels, including HMS Hood and the liner Normandie, at a display by the Gorleston Model Boat Club.

The weekend’s scenes of a jam-packed South Quay were a welcome sight to festival chairman Aileen Mobbs, who had feared bad weather forecasts would put people off from coming.

Mrs Mobbs said: “I am delighted to see the forecasts were inaccurate. I am really pleased as the festival has gone well.

“So many people have shown their support for the festival by coming along, and the weather has been fantastic.”

Mrs Mobbs said about 27,000 people visited this year’s festival over the two days.

She said this was slightly down on the 30,000 people who came to last year’s event which raised just over �19,000; but she said the average amount of money given per person had increased this year.

She said: “We are banking about �18,000 in donations. People have continued to be generous and support the event, so we are really pleased. The weather was kind and people were kind. We are very happy.

“We have had very, very positive feedback from locals, visitors and the sponsors about the Maritime Festival – which is brilliant.”

Malcolm Bird, who has been a director of the Greater Yarmouth Tourist Authority for 12 years, said: “The festival is for the people of the town – but it also draws in a lot of people from across the country. It is nice to put something back into Yarmouth.

“I think it has gone very well indeed.

“We had a bumper year last year and this looks to be the same.

“For me the added sparkle this year were the circus performers.”

Mr Bird went on to praise Mrs Mobbs’s organising efforts which, he said, were “fantastic” every year.

Every year the festival is sponsored by firms in the borough eager for the event to be a smash hit with visitors to help boost Yarmouth’s profile.

Among the sponsors in hospitality tent over the weekend was Blair Ainslie, managing director of Seajacks, which was supporting the festival for the third year.

He said: “We are a Yarmouth-based company, and we support everything that goes on in the town. Of course, as a marine company, we have a vested interested in anything that is maritime-based. The festival is a great event and Aileen and the organisers put in such much hard work to get it ready. They and the festival are a real asset to the town.”

Mrs Mobbs said: “It is always pleasing to see how well the festival is supported. Our sponsors have been fantastic.”

Next year’s festival will take place on the weekend of September 1 and 2.