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Falmouth England Sea Shanty Festival


Sea Shanty Group Singing in Falmouth England, UK Travel
A Sea Shanty Group in Song - Falmouth

The Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival is an exuberant celebration of folk music in Cornwall England. Since the 17th century, the alehouses of Falmouth’s deep-water port have been hosting sailors and their songs. One of the best things to do in Falmouth UK is to experience the festival’s colorful characters and sea shanty songs.

Parade on Arwenack Street | Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival, Cornwall England
Parade on Arwenack Street

Falmouth England Sea Shanty Festival At A Glance, Cornwall UK

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Quays of Falmouth Harbour at the Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival, Cornwall England
Quays of Falmouth Harbour

ABOUT THE FALMOUTH SEA SHANTY FESTIVAL

The Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival is an annual event with a mission to keep the history of the sea alive through maritime music. Each year the event coincides with the Falmouth Classics sailing competition. At the festival there are singing contests, boat competitions, street performers, and parades to enjoy.

Street-side Sea Shanty Concert | Things to do in Falmouth England, Cornwall UK
Street-side Sea Shanty Concert

The Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival is the largest maritime folk music event in Europe. Over 60,000 people attended in 2023. The festival has drawn sea shanty groups from Canada, France, Holland, Ireland, and Spain as well as across Cornwall England and the United Kingdom.


Hair Garlands for Sale | Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival, Cornwall England
Hair Garlands for Sale

We attended the Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival in June of 2022. The town was packed with revelers. Many locals came dressed as pirates. The atmosphere was friendly and fun. We watched a number of acts on the quays (wharfs) and in churches. Some of the most memorable performances were on street corners where sea shanty groups broke into song. There were food truck and craft tables on every corner. It was a wonderful day.

Food Truck on Falmouth Harbour | Best things to do in Falmouth England
Food Trucks on Falmouth Harbour

WHAT IS A SEA SHANTY

Traditional sea shanties were songs sung by sailors on large merchant sailing ships. The word “shanty” is thought to have come from the English word “chant” or from the French word “canter” (to sing). Between the 16th and 19th centuries this type of folk music flourished.

Revelers in Falmouth Town | Things to do in Falmouth England, UK Travel
Revelers in Falmouth Town

Work on the large sailing ships was back-breaking and monotonous. Sea shanty songs helped sailors coordinate repetitive tasks such as hoisting sails and winching anchors while alleviating boredom. Some shanties cued sailors on when to perform an action with phrases such as “haul away.” Others, recorded adventures in distant ports.

View of Falmouth Harbour & Town | Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival, Cornwall England
View of Falmouth Harbour & Town

Sea shanty lyrics are typically call and response verses where one person (the ‘shantyman’) calls out a lyric and others in the group respond in chorus. Sea shanty songs are rhythmic with a constant tempo and heavy beat. The songs are generally sung a cappella, but may be accompanied by a string instrument such as a fiddle or mandolin.

Stage on Event Square at the Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival, UK Travel
Stage on Event Squaire

WHERE IS THE FALMOUTH SEA SHANTY FESTIVAL

The Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival is held in the town of Falmouth on the southwestern tip of Cornwall England. Contests and concerts take place at a number of venues across the village and Falmouth Harbour including Event Square, pubs, hotels, parks, and quays.

Fish & Chips in Falmouth UK | Best things to do in Falmouth England
Fish & Chips in Falmouth

WHEN IS THE FALMOUTH SEA SHANTY FESTIVAL

The Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival is usually held the 3rd weekend in June of each year. In 2024, the contest will be Friday 14-Sunday 16.


FALMOUTH SEA SHANTY FESTIVAL COST

Most events at the festival are free. There are charges for some ‘gala’ special events and parking.

The Shantyman and His Singers | Folk music at the Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival, Cornwall England
The Shantyman and His Singers

WHAT TO SEE & DO AT THE FALMOUTH SEA SHANTY FESTIVAL

  1. Watch sea shanty contests and concerts at venues around town. In 2023, over 78 sea shanty groups performed in over 27 venues throughout Falmouth.

  2. Attend a parade. Singing groups parade through town and boats parade along Falmouth Harbour.

  3. Observe street performers in action along Church and Market Streets.

  4. Find a spot to follow the Falmouth Classics sail boat races.

  5. Enjoy a meal of fresh seafood at one of the many taverns and restaurants.

  6. Explore the shops and kiosks of Falmouth Harbour and village.

  7. Visit the National Maritime Museum Cornwall by Event Square.

  8. Walk Falmouth Harbour and take in Pendennis Marina, North Quay, Custom House Quay, and the Prince of Wales Pier. See our article Falmouth Harbour Walk for route details.

  9. Visit Pendennis Castle on the edge of town.

  10. Go pub hopping.

Shopping the Streets of Falmouth Town at the Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival, Cornwall UK
Shopping the Streets of Falmouth Town

CORNWALL ENGLAND WEATHER IN JUNE

In June, foliage is in bloom and the beginning of summer brings warm, sunny days. The average temperature 62 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius). However, Cornwall England is a maritime climate and fog, rain, and wind blow in quickly throughout the year.

National Maritime Museum Cornwall | Things to do in Falmouth England, UK Travel
National Maritime Museum Cornwall

WHAT TO PACK

Casual, comfortable dress is appropriate for the festival (anything pirate themed is popular). Many of the venues are outside so bring sunscreen, a hat, and light rain gear.


Expect a crowded festival atmosphere. Bring a small bag that can be secured close to the body and use RFID blocking technology to secure personal information. Leave expensive jewelry at home.

Pendennis Marina on Falmouth Harbour | Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival, Cornwall England
Pendennis Marina on Falmouth Harbour

Dyw genes (goodbye) from Cornwall, Laura and Randy

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Sea Shanty Group in Concert | Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival, Cornwall England
Sea Shanty Group in Concert


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