Longest Running Shanty Festivals

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

More 2018 Sea Shanty Festivals

Are you looking to see some shanty music this year?

Unfortunately, the Gloucester Shanty Festival will not be running this year, however we’ve searched high and low to find a few more festivals that should help you scratch that shanty itch.

Shanty festivals  are family-friendly events that are perfect for people from all walks of life. Whether you’re an expert of oven cleaning or a butcher from Shaftesbury, anyone can appreciate the simple pleasures involved with attending shanty festival such as this one. Although most of these festivals are within the UK, there are a couple that are a little further afield.  If you plan far ahead and book your accommodation well in advance you could find yourself singing a merry tune with a crew of new mates in a foreign land – just like a real sailor!

The majority of these festivals are free of charge, but it’s always worth checking out their websites before you make your plans:

Rosses Point Shanty Festival

Traditional seafaring music collides with Irish culture at this well-established international shanty fest. Rosses Point is a truly enigmatic location to visit that’s made even more atmospheric when hundreds of maritime musicians descend upon it. With a tiny population of less than 1000, this tiny Irish festival has a strong relationship with the sea; no less than three lighthouses are dotted along the coastline, warding passing ships away from the treacherous rocks at night. The festival is free of charge but you will need to book your accommodation well in advance as there are not many options in such a small village.

15th – 17th June 2018, Rosses Poing, Co. Sligo, Ireland

Sea Chantey Festival

Now in its 26th year, this national festival gives you the perfect excuse to jump on a plane to San Diego. Run by the city’s Maritime Museum, this curated event is both historically accurate and several barrels of laughs. Maritime musicians from across America travel to the Sea Chantey Festival to perform at this one-day event which also sees the harbour occupied by a historical sail boat. Enjoy a whole day’s worth of maritime music and also learn what it was like to work and live aboard a seafaring vessel!

26th August 2018, San Diego, California, USA

Folk on the Dock

Once a successful port city, Liverpool’s Albert Dock no longer serves the city in that capacity. Since its regeneration in 1984 the waterfront location has served as both a tourist attraction and a perfect venue for live music events. Although Folk on the Dock, as the name suggests, is concerned with Folk music in general it also incorporates the Liverpool Shanty Festival, curated by long-time shanty performers Julia and Derek Batters. Performing under the name of Trim Rig & Doxy, this duo invite musicians from Norway, Belgium and Ireland to perform on stages all around the Albert Dock including inside the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

25th – 27th August 2018, Liverpool, UK

St. Ives Shanty Shout

Run in support of the RNLI and Children’s Hospice, this shanty festival was only started in 2016 but it has quickly become a favourite annual event amongst the Cornish locals. 2017’s edition saw an impressive lineup of performers assembled including Figurehead, Oggymen and Nauti Buoys – all of whom helped to raise £1830 for the two charities. Pubs around the popular tourist town open up their doors to visitors and proceeds from beer sales contribute to the fundraising making this event a real winner in our eyes.

23rd – 24th November 2018, St. Ives, UK

Folky Festivals from Around the Country

Folk-minded Festivals were you can see Sea Shanty acts

We’ve got a strong tradition of Folk music here in the UK, something that’s represented in the fantastic Sea Shanty bands that we have on offer at Folk festivals all across the country.

The folk scene in England embraces all aspects of traditional music including Maritime culture, Trad-folk, Skiffle music and even British Blues – this makes British folk festivals fantastically diverse events to go to; where you can guarantee that you’ll be seeing a variety of excellent acts in the company of like-minded people.

Whilst dedicated Sea Shanty music festivals might be rather thin on the ground here in the UK, there are still plenty of Folk music festivals that are eager to have Maritime music represented on their bill. Here are just a few of the Folk festivals that regularly feature Sea Shanty performers along with a recommendations for places to stay in the area:

A Break in the Clouds Festival

Folk music, jazz and psych-fusion sits alongside seaside shanty music at the first inaugural Break in the Clouds festival in the Forest of Bowland. Marking the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, this a family-friendly festival combining a huge mashup of music genres and arts activities. Weekend tickets (including camping) start at £50.

Harwich International Sea Shanty Festival

Although many consider October a bit too cold to brave the elements for a music festival, the Harwich International Sea Shanty Festival has been running successfully for the last four years now. Set up by local singers The Naze Shanty Crew, this well-established Festival has become a huge draw for European acts and British singers alike. Over the course of a chilly weekend, the small town of Harwich is packed to the rafters with Folk groups and Sea Shanty singers – get your booking in early to stay at the popular Alma Inn, a perfect base for the weekend’s antics.

Scilly Folk Festival

Whilst it might feel like a bit of a trek for anyone who lives on the mainland, the Scilly Folk Festival is an experience like no other in the United Kingdom. 28 miles from the Cornish peninsular this isolated community (only 2,300 or so live on the archipelago) opens its doors to visitors from all across the world for whole weekend. Over the course of five days in May events take place over the entire archipelago offering Folk fans the chance to hop from island to island enjoying a truly varied line up of folk. Set yourself up in one of many self-catering cottages to get the true Isles of Scilly experience.

Folk in a Field

One of the most celebrated weekends in Norfolk, the annual Folk in a Field Festival exemplifies the best parts of the British folk spirit. Each year thousands of locals turn up to make the most of the bountiful local ale, fantastic food and varied Folk lineup. In addition to an eclectic lineup of folk performers there are also some great practical demonstrations of traditional crafts such as wood turning, basket weaving and pottery. Keep an eye out for some more unusual demos as well like chainsaw carving and smithing. Camping is really the best option for this one as, it’s free with the purchase of a weekend ticket!

The Stars of 21st Century Shanty

These bands are taking shanty music to a whole new level.

Although shanty music is older than most forms of popular music it has maintained its relevance around the world thanks to a handful of acts around the world who are willing to innovate and share their love for the genre.

Thanks to the film series Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as video games like Assassins’s Creed there has been a resurgence in all things seafaring, including the music that goes along with it. The sharing culture of the internet has also played its part in the forming of new shanty groups as young people have easy access to sheet music, recordings and videos for reference. Older generations of shanty bands can now rest easy as their traditions have been immortalised in forums, video series and websites, ensuring that their culture will stand the test of time whilst drawing in newcomers who are willing to take on the mantle of shanty music players.

Just take a quick look at any sea shanty festival line up and you can see the sheer wealth of variety on offer here, the organisers are clearly not wanting for acts to choose from. Collected below are just a handful of what we consider to be the current stars of the shanty world, whilst some of these acts may well be still gaining notoriety, we believe that they are well on their way to success. We’ve listed any upcoming gigs that they’re playing in case you fancy seeing them for yourself this year:

The Longest Johns

Bristol-based acapella singers The Longest Johns might have only been around for a few years but they’re already becoming mainstays on the sea shanty circuit. Their repertoire comprises of a string of time-worn maritime tunes, whilst they also plumb the salty depths of traditional English folk to find songs that even the most experienced of connoisseurs might not have heard before. Their YouTube channel has been one of the keys to their success, with the band ratcheting up an astonishing 776,250 views on their channel and over 7,000 subscribers: not too shabby for a niche folk group!

Catch them at: The Three Tuns, Bristol on 12th April 2018/Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival, Falmouth on 22nd-24th June 2018

Fisherman’s Friends

Probably one of the most recognisable names in the world of maritime music, Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends have been performing their unique brand of sea shanty music for over 20 years now. After getting signed by Universal Island in 2010 the group has released three full-length albums and toured the UK extensively including a major performance at Glastonbury Festival. With their self-titled record going Gold in 2010, the group has remained popular and even received an award from the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards recognising their commitment to keeping Folk traditions alive.

Catch them at: The Minack Theatre, Porthucurno on 14th May 2018/The Royal Cornwall Show, Wadebridge on 9th June 2018


Blending traditional sea shanty music with heavy metal is something that the world was clearly not ready for when the multi-national group Alestorm initially formed. Signed to heavy metal label Napalm records in 2007, the band has since coined the term ‘pirate metal’ claiming it for their own and toured their music extensively around the world. Often lampooning metal sub-genres with the addition of their own maritime lyrics, Alestorm have continued to be one of the most established shanty-based bands in the world with a number of their records charting in the UK, American Austria and Germany.

Catch them at: Bloodstock Open Air, Walton-on-Trent on 11th August 2018

Set Sail to these British Pirate Festivals

Arr’ you ready to parr’ty like a pirate?

Part of shanty music’s continued popularity is thanks to the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, a series of movies that propelled maritime culture into the mainstream.

Since the success of the first movie in 2003 communities around the world have organised special pirate-themed events that draw in huge crowds of families who dress up for the occasion. All good events require entertainment and what better performers to have than a shanty band?

Whilst some purists question the authenticity of pirate-based shanty bands, it can’t be denied that the success of Pirate festivals has introduced sea shanty music to a whole new audience. These British Pirate-themed events are mostly free and also help raise money for worthy causes:

Brixham Pirate Festival

Taking place over the May Bank Holiday weekend, this is one of the biggest events of its kind in the UK and dressing up is certainly encouraged. Brixham is a popular tourist town. famous for its industrious fishermen, during the Pirate Festival you’ll see many of these fishermen dressed in convincing pirate garb adding a real note of authenticity to the occasions. In addition to a solid lineup of shanty bands there are also loads of fun activities for kids and plenty of grog for older pirates.

5th – 7th May 2018, Brixham, UK

Pirates on the Prom

Cornwall is famed for its piracy and towns like Penzance exemplify this, especially when events like the Pirates on the Prom roll around. Unlike other events on this list, this festival has a strict dress code: pirate dress is compulsory. Each year an attempt is made to break the Guinness World Record for ‘Largest of Gathering of Pirates’, a crown that was initially wrested away from the town of Hastings in 2011. Since then Hastings have reclaimed the title with an astonishing number of 14,231, a record that the pirates of Penzance have yet to break (though not through lack of trying). Entrance is £2 which goes towards the funding of the event and local charities.

26th August 2018, Penzance, UK

Whitby Pirate Festival

There’s a strong correlation between British coastal towns and a fascination with pirates; Whitby is no exception. In fact, the people of Whitby are so besotted with pirates that they have an entire society dedicated to them. Behind the contemporary & modern doors of The Endeavour, the Whitby International Pirate Society congregate once a month in pirate-dress to drink their fill and share bawdy stories. This same society are integral in the organisation of the Whitby Pirate Festival an annual event that raises hundreds of pounds for the RNLI each year. Thanks to the rambunctious enthusiasm of the locals, the revelries continue through the night with the town lit up by local lighting manufacturers.

12th – 14th September 2018, Whitby, UK

Weymouth Pirate Festival

Shanty singers the Dorset Wrecks will be providing the musical accompaniment to what promises to be an exciting day of battle re-enactments and ad hoc pirate duels! Members of the Dorset Buccaneers, The River Rogues and the Pool Re-Enactment Society will be on hand to provide plenty of nautical action throughout the day, the crew of the TS Pelican will also be present to show visitors around the tall ship and provide refreshments in the ship’s mess. All donations collected during the day will go towards Adventure Under Sail, the charity that operates the TS Pelican. (Those looking to get the real pirate experience can book a night’s stay on the ship itself by emailing enquiries@adventureundersail.com)

1st October 2018, Weymouth, UK

European Shanty Festivals in 2018

Maritime Music Festivals across Europe for you to get stuck into!

The Gloucester Shanty Festival has been postponed until next year, in the mean time we’ve had a look around for some other festivals that you’ll be able to get your Sea Shanty fix at.

Although there might be dozens of Folk Music Festivals where Sea Shanty music would be able to slot nicely in at, these festivals are purely dedicated to Maritime Music and Seafaring culture, making them rare and unique events that are well worth attending.

Take a glance at this list of European Sea Shanty Festival and see if there are any that take your fancy:

Coastliners Sea Shanty and Sea Folk Festival

Offering a variety of free and ticketed events in the space of a day, Coastliners is a great day out for families looking to soak up some maritime culture. Poole is one of England’s oldest port towns that still retains its maritime charm of yore. Students from the Arts University Bournemouth have been working on this event all year and have organised a stellar lineup of activities that should keep families entertained all day. Expect plenty of shanty bands, film screenings, exhibitions and cultural talks.

21st April 2018, Bournemouth, UK

Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival

Officially one of the biggest Maritime music festivals in Europe, the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival is an annual event that draws in thousands of people each year to the charming seaside town. All events (bar the ticketed Gala Concerted event) are absolutely free with donations being collected for the RNLI throughout the course of the weekend. Multiple venues play host to a huge variety of Maritime bands including many big international acts.

22nd – 24th June 2018, Falmouth, UK

Baltic Shanty Festival

The wonderful thing about Maritime music is that you can find it all over the world! Throughout the centuries sailors have shared their sea shanties with each other, this has led to a set of standards developing that most Maritime music fans will be familiar with. Just take a trip out to the stunning Åland Islands during the Baltic Shanty Festival and you’ll soon find out for yourself. Situated between Sweden and Finland, this festival is one of the most authentic Maritime festivals in the end – not to be missed!

29th June – 1st July 2018, The Åland Islands, Finland

Clovelly Maritime Festival

Besides being a lovely seaside village with enough old world charm to sink a small vessel, Clovelly also hosts an annual Maritime Festival in aid of their local Sea Cadets groups. There’s more than enough to keep you entertained for the day: the Clovelly Cup Rally brings together competitors from the North Devon Yacht Club, live music from Shanty bands will also be out in force along with traditional seaside performers. One standard admission will cover all entertainment, whilst Under 16s can go free if they come in Maritime themed fancy dress.

14th July 2018, Clovelly, UK