Sail away with me

harbour fest 376

The Harbour Festival is one of the highlights of the summer and brings together dazzling waterborne entertainment and music, says James Higgins

Last year’s Harbour Festival was a wash out (quite literally), but with temperatures riding high and set to stay that way, this year’s instalment is shaping up to be one of the best ever for this summer stunner. This three-day weekend event brings together maritime entertainment with music, street performances and market stalls in a family-friendly fiesta.

Filling the harbour will be an impressive itinerary of races, competitions, demonstrations and parades. The waterside of Hannover Quay will be packed with spectators as the Western Boat Show gets underway and showcases everything from dinghies to motor boats, not to mention the equipment to go with them. The festival fleet is a classic sight as 250 vessels pack out every corner of the harbour and fill the eyeline with fluttering flags and bunting. It will also feature the impressive Pyronaut which played a significant role during the Bristol Blitz of the 1940s – a scene to be re-enacted when it unleashes its powerful water jets high into the sky.

After lunch, the competitions kick off. To date, the young shipwright’s boat race has attracted over 7,000 competitors and this well-worn tradition sees hundreds of children building their own model boats to compete in a cross-harbour dash. Next comes the cardboard boat race which sees tons of competitors clamber inside corrugated constructions in a paddle for supremacy. Naturally, there is a high sink rate but will a team repeat the success of last year’s winners and make it there and back afloat?

The harbourside will be filled with the sound of music from stages dotted along its length. Shanties, jazz, choirs, orchestral, reggae, funk, rock and hip-hop offer a little something for everyone and the impressive demonstration of circus skills will be a feast for the eyes. But there is no better feast than that served up by the numerous lunch and drink stands!

When: July 20–22, Free

Where: Bristol Harbourside


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