Beach festival to return after inaugural event attracted 30,000 people

First Light Festival Lowestoft

The inaugural First Light Festival on Lowestoft's South Beach in 2019 - Credit: Kate Ellis

Funding of £200,000 has been committed by East Suffolk Council’s cabinet for the First Light Festival to return to Lowestoft beach next summer, with the council expecting it to be a “joyful nexus of cultural recovery” for the town.

The inaugural event attracted 30,000 people to the town’s South Beach, but Covid-19 forced the event to be postponed in 2020 and 2021.

Councillors are pushing ahead with the festival’s return next summer, and at Tuesday night’s cabinet meeting committed the six-figure sum to ensure it can go ahead.

Conservative cabinet member for economic development, Craig Rivett, said: “Clear of Covid restrictions, the beach full of visitors and residents alike, bigger and better than before – that’s what we want to see.”

“The First Light Festival 2022 will be bigger and better than before with the youth focus and the clear message of leaving no trace.”

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The cash includes £114, 277 available from the 2019/20 business rates retention programme, coupled with an additional £85,723 from growth funds.

The event is expected to cost around £414,000 in 2022, with the remainder of the funding coming from earned income and grants.

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The inaugural event gave the town an economic boost of around £900,000 as festival-goers flocked to the beach.

That year featured a 100% booking rate with hotels and B&Bs for the night of the event, while car park income shot up 183%.

Cafes, bars, restaurants and stallholders all benefited from the footfall, too.

More than a third of visitors – 35% – had never visited the town before, with 96% saying they would visit again, according to research by the council.

Cllr Rivett said that “so many bought into what, at the time, was an idea on a piece of paper,” while Labour councillor for Pakefield, Louise Gooch, added: “Nobody who went would ever forget it – it was phenomenally beautiful.”

The 24-hour festival will once again feature music, dance and theatre performances; art and science activities; DJ sets; comedy routines, open mic sets; poetry readings; community swims and film broadcasts.

Elsewhere, large illuminated artworks are being planned to light up the beach at night, while schools will also be involved in a host of collaborative programmes.

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