Thousands of people have flocked to the first day of the Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival in a mixture of bright sunshine and heavy showers.

Marlborough, King Charles and Falmouth schools kicked off the day with a parade from the Moor to the main stage on Church Street car park to join Falmouth singer Will Keating on stage for the opening.

Falmouth school children joined Will Keating on stageFalmouth school children joined Will Keating on stage (Image: Paul Armstrong)

There was plenty of pirate and sailor costumes with young and old joining Will in the singing of Wild Rover.

The festival take place over three days Friday, Saturday and Sunday at various venues across the town with shanty groups from all over the world and different element of the community.

Full details of the line-up can be found at For two decades, the port of Falmouth has played host to the International Sea Shanty Festival.

These three were very happy to have their photo taken for the PacketThese three were very happy to have their photo taken for the Packet (Image: Paul Armstrong)

The Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival, one of the largest, free nautical music festivals in Europe, celebrates Cornwall's rich seafaring heritage and draws thousands of visitors from around the globe to this ‘port with a purpose’.

This year’s special event will see over 80 groups perform their shanties across over 20 venues and three large main outdoor stages.

So cute!So cute! (Image: Paul Armstrong)

Additionally, there will be two commemorative performances to celebrate two decades of the festival by the five original groups that performed at the very first event in 2004.

The award-winning festival started back in 2004 as a grassroots event with a modest five groups popping up around the town’s Custom House Quay to make their voices heard.

Awwwr!Awwwr! (Image: Paul Armstrong)

Today it is the largest free nautical event in Europe and in 2024, more than 50,000 visitors are expected to see over 80 sea shanty groups from all over the world come together to perform on stages, in cafes, pubs, hotels, and community venues, bringing the history, heritage and culture of maritime song to life in this vibrant Cornish port.

It is safe to say that over the years, there has been an evolution of the tradition and a new wave of demographics that are adding a certain saltness. Alongside the more traditional groups which are heavily male, today there are ‘new world’, typically younger, LGBTQ+, female and international groups taking up sea shanty singing in their own way and style, bringing fresh interpretations to the tradition.

These friends started early!These friends started early! (Image: Paul Armstrong)

The organisers highlight the significant contribution from the main sponsors and partners, including The Greenbank Hotel, Seasalt Cornwall, Sharp’s Brewing Company, Falmouth Town Council, and event production partner, South West Bars and Events. Public relations support is via the Falmouth Business Improvement District (BID).

This one was enjoying a bird's eye view of Will KeatingThis one was enjoying a bird's eye view of Will Keating (Image: Paul Armstrong)

Furthermore, none of this would be possible without the strong support from the local community, including volunteers working on the organising group. All have been pivotal in enhancing the quality and coordination of the event. Their contributions have enabled the festival to grow and thrive, becoming a cornerstone of Falmouth's cultural calendar and an essential driver of local economic activity.

Children from King Charles School get into characterChildren from King Charles School get into character (Image: Paul Armstrong)

The ever-growing success, and the volume of inbound staying national and international visitors, means that across the 2024 weekend there is very little overnight accommodation available either in Falmouth itself or in the towns and villages around the port. The vital secondary economic benefits to the businesses in Falmouth, at these challenges times, are all the more appreciated right across the town.