6 best places to hear sea shanties in Devon and Cornwall

Fisherman's Friends performing at Port Isaac Shanty Festival

Fisherman's Friends are the South West's best known exponents of sea shanties. - Credit: Port Isaac Shanty Festival

Here's our round-up of great ways to hear sea shanties being sung up close and personal in the South West this year.

Sea shanties became the surprising viral hit on social media earlier this year - and host Jack Whitehall could be seen trying his own version at the 2021 Brit Awards

With Devon and Cornwall’s rich maritime culture and history, it’s no wonder that the South West is one of the best places to listen to sea shanties, so we’ve compiled a list of festivals we’re looking forward to this year.  

The Back Beach Boyz shanty band.

Teignmouth’s very own sea shanty singing group, the Back Beach Boyz, will appear at the town's festival. - Credit: Benjamin Mitchell

Teign Maritime Shanty Festival 

September 4 to 5, 2021 

This family friendly festival is predicted to be even bigger than its predecessor in 2019, with around 40 sets of sea shanty singing groups from over all the UK and overseas taking part. One of the groups attending in previous years, The Longest Johns, were featured in Gareth Malone’s television program The Choir. The full festival line-up will be announced soon, but definitely performing are Teignmouth’s very own Sea Shanty singing group, the Back Beach Boyz. 

The festival is free but volunteers will be collecting donations over the festival weekend for the RNLI, Rowcroft Hospice, Teign Heritage Centre and the Alice Cross Centre.  

Sea shanties being sung at Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival.

This year's singers at Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival will be online. - Credit: Simon Culliford

Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival 

Saturday June 19, 2021 

Falmouth attracts visitors from all over the world with its spectacular international festival. The festival normally brings in over 65,000 visitors to see over 70 shanty groups, but organisers have opted for a virtual event this year. However shanty enthusiasts can still look forward to a variety of fantastic music sets.  

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The virtual evening will be presented by Betty Stogs, John Warren, and Richard Gates, Falmouth Town Manager, and will take place in the Cornwall Channel Studios. There will be a selection of live and pre-recorded performances, alongside competitions, fabulous footage of Falmouth from 3Deep Aerial, and in true shanty tradition, will raise money for the Sea Shanty’s chosen charity, the RNLI and future festivals. 

The festival will take place live on Facebook and YouTube at 6pm Saturday so make sure you tune in.  

Sea shanty group Femmes de la Mer.

The second Port Isaac Shanty Festival will follow on from the huge success of the first one in 2019. - Credit: Port Isaac Shanty Festival

Port Isaac Shanty Festival 2021 

September 17 to 19, 2021 

The first Port Isaac Shanty Festival in 2019 was a huge success, and organisers are hoping for an even bigger and better event for 2021 with over 30 acts from across the country booked to perform. The opening night is Friday September 17 and is followed by two whole days of singing. 

To comply with national restrictions, this year the festival will be relocated to the Port Isaac Playing Field at the top of the village. The new location means amazing views of the North Cornwall coastline and festivalgoers can enjoy on site street food stalls from local businesses, a marquee with a bar and an acoustic stage.  

And best of all, entry is free - although there will be plenty of collecting buckets as the festival is a fundraiser for Port Isaac Village Hall and this year the profits will go towards a badly needed new roof.  

Sea shanty group The Pirates of St Piran.

The Pirates of St Piran will appear at Mevagissey Sea Shanty Festival. - Credit: Mevagissey Sea Shanty Festival

Mevagissey Shanty Festival  

October 15 to 17, 2021 

Mevagissey is a 13th century fishing village nestled into a small valley facing east across Mevagissey Bay. The inner and outer harbours thrive with a mixture of working fishing vessels making the port the second largest fishing port in Cornwall.   

In October the village will come alive with the sound of rich harmonies produced by shanty crews from all over Britain. This year’s will be bigger than ever with 34 groups registered and organisers aiming for 50 performing groups in total.  

Favourites of shanty circuit such as Cousin Jack, CASK, Barnacle Buoys, Severn Whalers, Barrett’s Privateers, The Pirates of St Piran, The Harry Browns and Stuns’ls are signed up to perform at pubs, museums, the Jubilee Hall, street performances and the main stage on the Harbour jetty.  

The Severn Whalers sea shanty group.

Pubs, hotels and cafés around St Ives will be hosting the musical sets. - Credit: St Ives Shanty Shout

St Ives Shanty Shout 

November 19 to 20, 2021 

Over 20 groups including Cobweb Crew, Old Gaffers and Mariners Away are keen to play at St Ives so look forward to venues filled with rousing tunes and magical melodies weaving lyrical stories of the sea. 

Pubs, hotels and cafés around the town will be hosting the musical sets free of charge, but you can show your support by buying a pint or two whilst you listen to shanty groups with a diverse range of sizes and styles. Whether you like your singers dressed in civvies, as sailors or even pirates. there should be something special for you. 

The festival is dependent on support from the hosting venues and guidance as lockdown eases; so please visit the website for the latest information. 

Sea shanty group Fisherman's Friends.

Fisherman's Friends will perform two Devon gigs on their 2021 tour. - Credit: Fisherman's Friends

Fisherman’s Friends  

Torquay Princess Theatre – Sunday September 26 , 2021 

Plymouth Pavilions – Saturday December 4, 2021 

And finally, what about the pros of the sea shanty world? Whilst not exactly a festival, folk music lovers will delight at the new concert tour announced by famous shanty group, Fisherman’s Friends. 

The male singing group from Port Isaac will be performing their traditional folk songs in Torquay and Plymouth later this year. 

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