Tony Glynn finds out more about an increasingly popular local festival.
SEA Ilfracombe was an idea first conceived by musicians Tom and Barbara Brown after a visit to Scarborough SeaFest. On seeing what the Yorkshire town had to offer in terms of music, arts and culture, they quickly realised that their own town – with its ancient maritime history, impressive scenery and wealth of local talent – was more than qualified to host its own seaside festival.
Now in its fourth year, this brainchild is growing in stature and popularity. It provides art and entertainment for residents and visitors, showcases Ilfracombe culture and is a stage for musicians and performers from all over the country.
One of Sea Ilfracombe's directors, Peter Cooper, explains the ethos behind the festival: "Our aim is to create the most diverse maritime festival in the country by bringing together voluntary organisations, businesses and education around a maritime theme. Even those whose work is not directly maritime can pick up on the theme and contribute."
The festival is all-inclusive and appeals to a wide variety of folk but emphasises the maritime connection.
"Ilfracombe's entire history and culture centres around the sea," says Peter. "From the early settlement through fishing, to trade, to becoming a holiday resort. We want to celebrate it – past, present and future.
"We are lucky to live near the sea, and want to show it off to those who live inland or elsewhere in the country. We have much to be proud of."
The all-inclusive nature of the event is reflected in its busy programme. For children there is The Fish Trail (a kind of treasure hunt), pirate-themed fun activities, face painting and theatre, while for adults there is a rowing demonstration, lifeboat trips, art displays, guided rambles and music. The list is endless, and the weekend's organisation has been assisted by a variety of local groups and businesses.
"With such a wide spectrum of activities, there's something for all the family – from kids to grannies," says Peter. "But you don't have to be a family to enjoy what's on offer.
"Everyone will find their own highlight, whatever their interest."
Sea Ilfracombe is a not-for-profit limited company and has no core funding for the event, so relies on the hard work of the community in making it happen. As such it is very much for the people, by the people. Yet these people are not just from Ilfracombe and North Devon. It has attracted the help of entertainers and musicians from all over the country who are keen to help, so that a large number of the events are free or by donation. This year's sponsors are Ocean Backpackers, Mr and Mrs James and Shammick Acoustic, but support has also been given by local groups such as Bicclescombe Mill Community Group, Combe Martin Sea Angling Club and Ilfracombe Academy.
"Each year, more and more local people get involved in the festival," says Peter. "We believe it has universal appeal. Whether you come from North Devon, the UK or from abroad – all are welcome and will find many things to enjoy."
Sea Ilfracombe will be held in many venues across the town. The quay, museum and Landmark are just three. With a programme running from 10am on Friday to 11pm on Sunday, it will be an exciting weekend for everyone – be they residents or visitors.
"It's the most diverse maritime festival in the country," says Peter. "Some maritime festivals are just shanty-singing, some are really arts festivals with a maritime theme, others are purely commercial enterprises.
"Sea Ilfracombe is designed to celebrate all aspects of a maritime town – its history, science, food and culture."
Sea Ilfracombe begins with Go With The Flo at the Landmark Theatre on Friday, September 6, 10am. Visit website www. seailfracombe.co.uk for all details.