“ Free festival in Eastbourne, East Sussex. „
Lammas (loaf-mass) day falls at the beginning of August, and is essentially a sort of harvest festival, celebrated by sharing food, drink, music and stories . Eastbourne seems an unlikely place for such a festival, but every year, at the start of August, a festival is held over two days on the western lawns, to raise money for the RNLI. This year was my second attending the festival, and I had a great time .
The festival is entriely free to attend - there is no need to book tickets of any kind, or to pay any entry fees. There are collectors walking about shaking buckets for your loose change, with all money in the buckets going towards the RNLI. The festival itself is largely run by volunteers, with many of the acts, the stewards, and the St Johns ambulance all providing their time for free!
The festival kicked off this year on Saturday the 30th of July, with a parade from the pier beginning at midday . Hundred of people, in a myriad of elaborate costumes, and representing all walks of life, march the short walk from the pier to the Western Lawns, just next to the Wish Tower.The parade itself is wonderful to watch, especially the straw giants, and the Harvest Moon Morris Dancers, pictured below. These are not just any old morris dancers - no jumping about in cricket whites tapping the willow here - instead, these fearsome looking black clad dancers screech, shout, and cheer loudly as they perform elaborate dances.
Once you get to the Western Lawns area, there are a variety of tents and stalls ranged around the lawns in a square, with the centre being left open for picnics and relaxing. The largest tent here is the beer tent, selling local beers from the 1648 brewery. These are all real ales and ciders, though if you prefer lagers, you can bring your own in a cooler, so long as you don't bring it in glass bottles. This tent has a few tables and chairs, but these do quickly get filled up, and you are likely to find yourself sitting cross legged on the lawn as you drink - which is fine, as it gives you the best view of the adjoining music tent, where a variety of musicians, from folk to metal, performed over the two days.
My favourite tent (also pictured below) was the storytelling tent, where a fellow dressed as a jester regaled children and adults alike with traditional folk tales from all over the UK. He was brilliant, telling the tales from memory and really engagingthe audience.
As well as these two performance tents, there were a range of other displays throughout the day - Harvest Moon performed many times, a group of language students performed some French folk songs, and there was a display of greek dancing. However, it was the lifeboat demonstration that really impressed me . A boat was sent out with a fire on , and the people on the boat sent of a flare, as did one person who had leapt overboard. We saw the lifeboats arrive, rescue the distressed swimmer, and put out the boat fire, before bringing a dummy on a body board to the beach for resuscitation. It was fabulous to be able to see where the donations were going.
There were a variety of options for food - a couple of stalls selling cold drinks and sweet, a popcorn vendor, a pancake stall, one selling chinese food, and a hot dog/bacon sandwich type van. However, I opted to try the fishcake stall, and had an excellent brie,bacon, and haddock fishcake in a bun, with salad and sweet chilli sauce, for a very reasonable £4.
The side stalls were good too, many displaying local crafts . The wood turner was particularly impressive, ad he had set up a second tent in which to display his skills. There was an aunt sally, that my daughter very much enjoyed having a go on, which raised money for the Eastbourne Bonfire Society, and a hook a duck, as well as many alternative clothing stalls, and stalls selling wicca supplies. I ended up purchasing a small velvet cushion stuffed with bay leaves, designed to aid easy sleep and promote psychic powers. I don't know if it has worked, but it was certainly pretty.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Lammas festival this year. It isn't the biggest festival around, but as a free local event, suitable for all the family, it was well worth dropping in! My one criticism would be that the portaloos get filthy , and if you do attend I would recommend making the extra couple of minutes walk and using the loos at the wish tower!