One of the UK’s biggest free festivals is set to offer a fantastic weekend of entertainment in the historic waterside city location of Bristol.
Up to 200,000 visitors now head for the annual EDF Energy Bristol Harbour Festival, which this year runs from Friday July 27 to Sunday July 29 and has 250 boats taking part, including tall ships and replicas of historic boats.
Set against the backdrop of the city’s harbour, the rapidly expanding festival features maritime events, displays on water, live music, dance, circus and street theatre across five stages, children’s entertainment, continental food including a French market and local craft stalls. There will be an opening concert by reggae legends Toots and the Maytals and a spectacular Saturday night firework finale, launched from the top of the city’s Industrial Museum, close to the water’s edge.
Tall ships appearing at this year’s festival include the Irish famine ship the Jeanie Johnston and the Kaskelot, a three-masted barque and star of the film ‘Shackleton’.
Also visiting for the first time will be the Pelican, a 150ft converted square rigger sail training ship, with the mast and sails of a design last used by pirates nearly two centuries ago.
Bristol’s own replica of John Cabot’s ship Matthew, which sailed to Newfoundland in 1497, will be doing trips around the harbour from its base by the ss Great Britain, Brunel’s 19th century ship and now an award-winning visitor attraction.
Moored near the SS Great Britain will be a replica of Discovery, the tiny ship that took settlers to the ‘New World’ in 1607 and now visiting Bristol 400 years on as part of a tour around the English coastline to tell the story of the early Virginian settlements. Also on display will be a number of beautiful Bristol Channel Pilot cutters.
Next to the Dockyard Café Bar, live music from the Harry Brown Shanty Men and the Panama Jazz Band will entertain visitors along with face painting and Victorian games for children.
On the quayside there will be an exhibition of traditional maritime skills such as rigging and various types of boat construction techniques. And nearby will be the recently commissioned Bristol rowing gig “Isambard” which was successfully crewed by a women’s team at the world championships held in the Scilly Isles in May this year.
The event is planned to be the greenest yet, with organisers Bristol City Council setting an ambitious target to recycle more than 40 per cent of the waste generated.
The festival is funded by Bristol City Council and title sponsors EDF Energy with additional support from Wilmott Dixon and Abolition 200 – the partnership co-ordinating the city’s programme commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act.