About Us



Harwich International Shanty Festival

8-10th October 2021


This year marks the 16th anniversary of Harwich International Shanty Festival. It has journeyed a long way since its small beginnings with a bunch of friends meeting up in a couple of pubs to drink good beer and sing good shanties, but we like to think that the initial idea of a cosy pub atmosphere, real ale, good friends and rousing shanties is still where our core values lie.

In those sixteen years the Festival has grown to become the Premier UK Shanty Festival and over the Festival weekend the historic town of Old Harwich resounds with the sound of Shanties and Sea songs, with pub sessions, concerts, barge trips, street theatre, maritime crafts, pirates, a Shanty train and much more. 

With the continuing uncertainty over the Covid pandemic, our Festival will have to be a little different this year, but we will be continuing with what was to be the theme for our 2020 Festival; namely our towns links with the Mayflower 400 Anniversary. Here in Harwich we are particularly well placed to be involved as Christopher Jones, Master & part owner of the Mayflower was born and lived in the town. The Mayflower was a Harwich ship, plying its trade from this port for many years before that historic voyage. This means that Harwich is at the forefront of international celebrations for this event.  We at the Festival have several Mayflower themed events taking place over the weekend, so look out for these in the Programme, due to be published in the Summer.

In addition, the Shanty Train, is again scheduled to run return trips between Harwich Town and Manningtree Station and Barge Trips aboard Sailing Barge Victor are expected to continue. We hope that many of our towns historic sites, such as the wonderfully restored Redoubt Fort can be visited over the weekend and we have a varied and exciting programme of events on offer throughout the whole three days of the Festival.

A full programme and tickets for priced events will be available via this website from July.

Meanwhile keep up to date by subscribing to our email newsletter .

Background Info:

The Harwich International Shanty Festival was set up in 2006 to organise and co-ordinate an annual sea shanty festival over a weekend in October. Through concerts, ‘singarounds’, pub sessions, talks and workshops, the history and heritage of Harwich as part of the British seafaring nation is celebrated, promoted and perpetuated by local people and groups. This is unique for the county of Essex and is attracting audiences countrywide and beyond. 

Why the community needs us

The festival celebrates Harwich’s unique, important and sometimes overlooked great maritime past. Shanty singers from all over the world come to Harwich on the second weekend in October and the whole town is filled with music and colour. The people from Harwich have taken the festival to their hearts and large numbers come every year to enjoy the atmosphere. Local businesses also benefit from a large influx of tourists from farther afield, especially at an otherwise quiet time of year

Our impact on the community

Through the years over which the festival has been running a huge amount of interest has been generated locally in singing and in shanties in particular and their relevance to the residents of Harwich. Workshops have been run which have resulted in a special Song for Harwich being created and Harwich now has its own Shanty Group, following workshops at a previous festival. In 2013 local Primary Schools worked together to create new Shanties, which were sung over the festival weekend. A book with a CD of these new songs was also produced. In 2014 we commissioned visiting artists to write new songs concerning Harwich links with the Mayflower’s trip to the New World, captained by a Harwich Man, Christopher Jones. Seventeen new songs were performed and a CD of these songs has been produced. We have run several workshops with local schools, teaching them shanties and how to play the Bones, both activities always popular.

Further information

Please Contact Us if you require any further information. We also have a links page to local attractions, companies and partner organisations.