Tall ships ahoy!

Gloucester Tall Ships

Gloucester Tall Ships - Credit: Archant

The majestic craft will once more be making their way along the Gloucester-Sharpness Canal this month for the 2013 Tall Ships Festival

Gloucester Tall Ships

Gloucester Tall Ships - Credit: Archant

The award-winning Gloucester Tall Ships Festival, which is organised by Marketing Gloucester, has firmly established itself as a leading festival in the south west and a must-see event in the Cotswolds calendar. This year’s event, which takes place over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend from Friday, May 24 to Monday, May 27, 2013, will see a flotilla of sailing vessels make a grand entrance into the UK’s most inland port via the Gloucester Sharpness Canal at around 12 noon on Friday, May 24.

Gloucester Tall Ships

Gloucester Tall Ships - Credit: Archant

It seems fitting that a Tall Ships Festival should take place against the stunning backdrop of Gloucester’s Historic Docks with its rich heritage. The aesthetic appeal of cities built next to water is easy to understand in Gloucester’s case. The perfectly restored lofty warehouses which line the waterfront provide an evocative picture of how Gloucester Docks would have looked in Victorian times.

Gloucester Tall Ships Festival

Gloucester Tall Ships Festival - Credit: Archant

When the 16-mile Gloucester Sharpness Canal was opened on April 26, 1827, a huge crowd gathered to watch the first two vessels enter the Main Basin of the Docks to the sounds of guns firing and church bells ringing. People’s natural fascination with water and boats is an enduring one and the 80,000 visitors who came to the Tall Ships Festival in 2011 are a testament to this.

Gloucester Tall Ships Festival 2011

Gloucester Tall Ships Festival 2011 - Credit: Archant

What many people might not realise is that the first Tall Ships Festival came about as a result of the devastating floods which hit Gloucestershire in 2007. The inaugural Gloucester Tall Ships Festival was organised by Gloucester City Council and Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Company to lift the spirits of local residents following the crippling floods which hit the city and the county in July of that year. A Flood Recovery Grant was made to the city which helped fund the first festival in October 2007, which was organised and delivered in just 6 weeks! The 2007 event was a two-day affair which attracted around 30,000 people including artists and photographers all keen to capture the magnificent ships in the historic setting of the Docks. The organisers were overwhelmed by the numerous letters of support which they received after the event and the decision was made that the Tall Ships Festival must happen again.

The 2009 Tall Ships Festival took place over an exceptionally hot May Bank Holiday weekend and included more attractions and a circus stage in addition to the tall ships. Visitor numbers grew to 50,000 as more people heard about this unique festival in The Cotswolds. The next Festival in 2011 attracted record visitor numbers and saw the introduction of wristbands which enabled visitors to board all the Tall Ships and see the Docks from the perspective of a mariner.

Ships confirmed for this year’s Festival include the magnificent brigantine, Phoenix, with its square-rigged foremast; Amazon, which took part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant last year; Ruth, a gaff-rigged sailing ship, Matthew and the traditional rigged French ship, La Belle Angèle. Visitors to this year’s Tall Ships Festival may also catch a glimpse of the mighty Kaskelot: a ship which featured in the 2009 Tall Ships Festival and which is currently undergoing a re-fit at T. Nielsen’s boatyard in Gloucester Docks before she embarks on a round the world voyage.

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The Tall Ships Festival in May is FREE to attend and appeals to visitors of all ages. Besides the tall ships, there will be plenty to see and do including Steam Traction Engines, on-water Viking battles, live entertainment, family activities, a wide variety of arts, crafts and food stalls plus Captain Jack Sparrow and his band of pirates!

Visitors to the Festival on Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26 will be able to purchase a wristband for £5 which, besides allowing access onto the tall ships, will also provide admission into both the Gloucester Waterways and Soldiers of Gloucestershire museums. n

The Gloucester Tall Ships Festival is on from Friday, May 24 to Monday, May 27 2013. Visit www.gloucestertallships.co.uk for more information.