Brixham Pirate Festival returns for 2019

As Brixham harbour transforms into a pirate shanty town for the revered Brixham Pirate Festival, we talked to Alison on the organising committee, to get the low down for all ye hearties looking to know more!

When did Brixham Pirate Festival start?

2019 is the 11th anniversary of the first one! So it’s the 12th actual festival taking place...it started very small, as a sea/folk/shanty pirate themed music festival, and has grown year on year to what it is now.

What is Brixham Pirate Festival all about!?

Three whole days of festival, where you can find a wide range of great live music, visiting pirates in costume, authentic re-enactment, family entertainment and spectacle for all the family. It’s a free festival, run by volunteers, taking place in and around a historic and picturesque port, and we try to improve it each year.

It’s the first pirate festival of the year across UK, so it’s the first time all the followers who love dressing up as pirates, and making new kit, can wear their outfits and meet up with all the others. Huge numbers of visitors dress up; watching all the costumes is one of the festival attractions. It has a wide range of excellent live music, from bands, all with a pirate or seafaring link… from a capella (no instruments) through to folk and shanties, to Celtic pagan pirate rock. The event will host 12 different bands this year!

Last year we added a concert on board El Galeon on the Saturday evening. This year we have added TWO evening concerts: both with The Dolmen, our headline band, at different town venues.

Unfortunately the Saturday Pirate Ball is already sold out. The Sunday Survivors’ Soirée is currently selling, tickets £10 a head. Email brixhamdolmen2019@gmail.com for more info.

We have twice daily professionally choreographed and arranged skirmishes and firepower demonstrations on the Saturday and Sunday, with large numbers of re-enactors who may be a press gang, or pirates, the navy or militia.

In 2017 and 2018 we added visits from replica historic galleons from the NAO Victoria Foundation; this year Trinity Sailing are offering tours of one of their vessels. We have increased the Living History: in 2018 a coin striker came and this year he returns, Ed Fox, historian, re-enactor, and storyteller will be here again, and for the first time we also have Bartholomew Leach, ship’s surgeon. Consult him on the Golden Hind!

We have changed our family entertainment this year, bringing a major new family attraction ‘Mermaid Cove ‘. And for the first time the Brotherhood of the Black Festival are bringing stalls with traditional games.

What is on and where during the weekend?

The Pirate Muster at 10.00am and Grand Opening at 10.15am at the head of Fore Street on Saturday, followed by The Pirate Parade.

This is led by musicians and comes down Fore Street and The Strand to the Main Stage at the Old Fish Quay, on The Quay. You can join in as everyone walks down! (There will be a Pirate Parade on Sunday too, muster at 10am at the head of Fore Street)

At the Old Fish Quay you’ll find the Information Booth where you can pick  up a Festival Map & Programme, Bays Brewery outdoor festival bar, Pirate Grog the rum seller, and Mythworks selling cosplay and larp gear as well as the quayside pubs, shops and cafes.

Music starts at 10:45 on Saturday. Music ends at 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, a bit earlier on Monday.

Big bangs! At 11:45am on Saturday and Sunday there will be a demonstration of cannon and firepower around the Inner Harbour

More bangs! At 4:15pm on Saturday and Sunday there will a skirmish on The Golden Hind, in the Inner Harbour

Walk along The Strand to find more street traders, then go up into town along Middle Street or Fore Street to find street stalls and street entertainers. Find Larp and cosplay gear at Honest Jim’s on the slipway at the head of the Harbour walk onto South Quay to see the stalls and the re enactment area..unusual drink, interesting foods, curios, traditional games, living history, crafts, enactment display stand walk up to The Knuckle /Kings Quay, where The Breeze will be set up walk on up to the Prince William and the Town Pontoon where you can tour The Leader, then walk a bit further… Find more food & drink stalls outside the shops by the Prince William and find the marquee with Mermaid Cove and its enormous swim tank, mermaids and mermen

We know that what visitors enjoy most are dressing up & watching everyone else who is dressed up; the live music; the atmosphere, surroundings and general good humour

What successes have you had since starting?

We won Silver (2016) then Bronze (2017) and then Gold (2018) at the Herald Express Award, for Tourism Event or Festival of the Year. Last year the means of judging for this category changed, to public vote...we have fans spread far and wide, declaring us to be the best pirate festival!

Special tips for families visiting to get the most out of the experience?

  • If it’s hot...hats and suntan lotion, as the harbour is a sun trap!

  • If you are coming over from elsewhere, allow time… there are roadworks to get through, if you are driving.

And once you are here;

  • There’ll be some very loud bangs so children and pets may need some ear covering...

  • Beside Main Stage on The Quay is loud because of the live music...halted when there’s a skirmish or firepower display, so loud anyway.

  • There will be a cannon (stationed on Middle Quay) and guns firing on Saturday and Sunday at 11:45 am and 4:15 pm during skirmishes and firepower displays

  • There MAY be cannon fire to mark the opening of festival too...10:45am on Saturday

  • We are making a “Re-enactment Area” on South Quay, for  re-enactors ...who may have some extra fights there if they want. It will be fenced off, no one unauthorised will be allowed to take part, but fun to watch. And nearby will be a display area for the Society of King George 3rd

  • You’ll see Wimbourne Militia, Sheppey Pirates, Society of King George 3rd, 43rd Battalion of the Monmouth Regiment and other re-enactors

  • If you go on The Golden Hind, (tour fee payable) you can meet Bartholomew Leach, ships surgeon...with all his grisly equipment

  • If you go on The Leader (tour fee payable) you can look around one of Brixham’s historic fleet

  • There will be 6 traditional games set up on South Quay...and further out, beyond the Prince William pub and opposite the Event Pontoon at Grenville Square, is the marquee containing  Mermaid Cove.... acrobatics, mermen & mermaids and a huge swim tank and a show inside and outside the tank several times a day

Hunting for loos for your little ones?

Plan your loo stops!

  • Harbour loos on New Quay, you’ll walk past them if coming by ferry.

  • Extra loos in the bottom (harbour end) of the central car park...there’s an alleyway through to them, off The Strand, beside Fullers Pasties

  • Council loos at the top (bus station end) of central carpark;

  • Extra loos in Grenville Square, near the marquee and Mermaid;

  • Council loos at the Breakwater, by the beach carpark

Are there any guest boats coming to the Bay?

Sadly, the ships of the Nao Victoria Foundation can’t come. They came to the festival for free for 2 years…

But you can go aboard The Leader, one of Trinity Sailing’s 3 historic vessels, moored on the Town Pontoon. There is a charge of £1 a head. And you can tour The Golden Hind, tickets £7 adult, £5 child, £20 family. The ship’s surgeon will be onboard with all his tools and grisly exhibits.

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