Volunteers behind one of the largest heritage festivals in the entire country have hailed a ‘phenomenal response’ from the public.
Over 18,000 visits took place this year as the award-winning ten-day celebration of Lowestoft’s culture and heritage bounced back, with attendances topping pre Covid pandemic numbers.
Lowestoft Heritage Open Days Festival which was staged during September on a budget of just one thousand pounds, contained more ‘free to enjoy’ activities than any individual town or city in England with some 118 events taking place across north and south Lowestoft, Carlton Colville, Corton, Oulton Broad and Pakefield. In addition, with several live events playing to capacity audiences, some content was also streamed via the internet.
Festival highlights included music recitals, talks, guided walks and exhibitions as well as opportunities to visit buildings rarely open to the public along with a free vintage bus service and free entry to one of the region’s top transport museums on the opening Saturday. The festival, for which this year’s national theme was Edible England, culminated in a special Herring and Ale Fayre held on Oddfellows Green, Pakefield which attracted some 4000 people.
Chair of the Lowestoft Heritage Open Days volunteer steering group, Diana Moore said, “We have been absolutely thrilled with the response this year with a phenomenal 18,000 visits taking place across over 100 events staged in just 10 days. “It is gratifying to be able to showcase the rich diversity of attractions that Lowestoft, so often undervalued, has to offer and we thank every individual and organisation that helped us to curate such a varied series of events and the public who came along in their thousands to both celebrate and learn more about the unique culture and heritage of our town.”
The festival was last fully staged in 2019, attracting some 15,000 visits, going on to win a prestigious national award. During 2020, the event had to be scaled back considerably due to the Covid-19 pandemic with many activities moving online. This year’s festival attendances surpassed organisers expectations with the tourist information facility at Lowestoft railway station which hosted the festival information hub welcoming scores of visitors, both local residents and those that had travelled from across the UK.
Martin Halliday, development officer at Community Rail Norfolk said, “We were delighted to support the Lowestoft Heritage Open Days Festival again this year, with Lowestoft station hosting both the festival information hub and a series of talks, film screenings and exhibitions inside the Parcels Office. “This is the fourth year running that we have been able to assist, utilising our Lowestoft Central Project and Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership facilities and it was gratifying to hear so many positive comments about the festival and welcome so many visitors from both within the area and further afield, many of whom arrived by train.”
This year’s festival was financially supported by a single £1000.00 grant from Lowestoft Town Council. Councillor Andy Pearce said, “Lowestoft Town Council was pleased to provide financial support to the festival this year and we were absolutely astounded by the sheer range and quality of activities available and the incredible response from the public. Our sincere thanks go to Diana Moore and members of the festival steering group for their hard work in curating, managing, and promoting such a terrific series of events.”
Other highlights of the festival included a chance to look around the Grade 2 listed Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, celebrations marking the 100th Birthday of historic Lowestoft fishing smack Excelsior, behind the scenes tours of the St John Ambulance station, Lowestoft Town Football Club and the last surviving smokehouse on the Beach Village, talks by leading local historians and tours around Corton village, once home to the Colman family who created the iconic mustard brand, and a special talk and dinner celebrating Lowestoft’s fishing industry and its relationship with top chef, Madame Prunier.
Planning has already begun for the 2022 event with more details set to be revealed later this year.