The Oldest Sea Shanty Festivals from Around the World!
It might surprise you to find out that there haven’t always been music festivals celebrating sea shanty culture.
For a long time the songs of the sea were confined to the boats and ships that they originated on. Only when these songs started to fall out of popularity with sailing folk did these festivals start popping up as a way of keeping shanty music as a genre alive. The advent of these sea shanty music festivals in the mid-to-late 70s coincided with a resurgence in popularity for folk music which helped establish the first New Wave of shanty music – which has continued to this very day.
The following music festivals have been running for a number of years, have established a solid fan-base and consistently feature a variety of shanty performers who have international renown:
Mystic Seaport Music Festival
This is one of the largest and oldest sea music festivals in existence. First started in 1979 by museum curator Dr Stuart M. Frank as an event for performers of sea music to gather and be studied by historians and ethnomusicologists, such as himself; the Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival attracts the ‘highest caliber of sea music performers, scholars and fans’ each and every year. The village of Mystic sits on the mouth of the Mystic River, looking out onto Mason’s Island and the North Atlantic Ocean: the perfect setting for an international sea festival.
When? Usually in June. Where? Mystic, Connecticut, USA
Shanties: Polish Maritime Festival
With 36 years of salty shanty history behind it, this European festival is one of the largest of its kind. The biggest stars of sea music make their way to Krakow every year to perform at some truly iconic locations including the Main Square, KS Studio and the Kijow.Centrum Cinema. There’s something for everybody at this event, but it’s important that you book ahead of schedule in order to avoid disappointment. All events at this festival are ticketed, so make sure you buy yours well in advance!
When? Annually in February. Where? Krakow, Poland
Shanty Festival: Langesund
Northern Europe has long been strongly associated with the shanty genre and for over 25 years Langesund has acted as a Mecca of sorts for lovers of maritime music. Once a year the small town of Langesund is swarmed with hundreds of shanty performers, all of whom are eager to swill as much beer and sing as many shanties as they can muster. Public places are scattered with wooden crates to form make-shift crates and soon hundreds more visitors come to enjoy the live music.
When? Early June. Where? Langesund, Norway
Festival du Chant Marin
One of the younger marine festivals on our list here, this French event started in 1989 and is a true celebration of marine music from all around the world. No other festival embraces the international nature of shanty music more than the Festival du Chant Marin as over 150 performing groups from all around the world convene at the port town of Paimpol, in the North of France. Further authenticity is added with up to 200 traditional ships mooring at the harbour for the event.
When? Mid August. Where? Paimpol, France