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GritFest hailed a roaring success as town's beach village is celebrated in style

PUBLISHED: 18:09 31 May 2018 | UPDATED: 18:09 31 May 2018

Zeb Soanes speaks at The GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Pictures: Mick Howes

Zeb Soanes speaks at The GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Pictures: Mick Howes

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Hundreds of people turned out to honour Lowestoft's historic beach village.

The GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. The Rising Sun pub in Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick HowesThe GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. The Rising Sun pub in Lowestoft. Pictures: Mick Howes

Organisers of GritFest have hailed the success of a Grit Celebration Day after crowds of families descended on Sparrows Nest Gardens.

People had the chance to reminisce, relax in fine conditions and enjoy a free family festival as numerous activities were showcased.

The GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Glennis Wigg (nee Baldry), who lived on the Beach Village. Pictures: Mick HowesThe GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Glennis Wigg (nee Baldry), who lived on the Beach Village. Pictures: Mick Howes

The event forms part of Poetry People’s year-long community-driven words, film and music project about the town’s almost forgotten fishing village – known as The Grit.

In 1997 Lowestoft-born poet and writer Dean Parkin co-wrote ‘The Grit: the story of Lowestoft’s fishing village’ with Jack Rose. That book has been at the heart of this project, which has been devised by Poetry People and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, that has been taken into primary schools across the town as The Grit’s history has been taught to future generations.

The GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Poetry People co-directors Dean Parkin and Naomi Jaffa. Pictures: Mick HowesThe GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Poetry People co-directors Dean Parkin and Naomi Jaffa. Pictures: Mick Howes

Mr Parkin has been heavily involved in the project, and he was thrilled with the “amazing turnout.” He said: “Its incredible to see – there is an association and real passion for the Lowestoft beach village.

“A lot of children are here today, learning about the past, and they’ve found out lots of information about the fishing community.

GritFest concluded with a grand finale from The Austin Beats, Picture: Mick HowesGritFest concluded with a grand finale from The Austin Beats, Picture: Mick Howes

“It is lovely to see the park so full and it has been a real team effort. The response to The Grit project has been staggering and the next part of it will see Pearls From The Grit showcased later this year, as Beach Village characters and stories are brought to life in a new touring show.”

BBC broadcaster Zeb Soanes launched the event in style on Sunday, May 27 by reading ‘The Grit’ news headlines.

The GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Pictures: Mick HowesThe GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Pictures: Mick Howes

Later, Mr Soanes read the Shipping Forecast from the park’s bandstand. Afterwards he said: “To read the Shipping Forecast in my hometown, being so close to the sea, was really special. When I read the Shipping Forecast it always takes me straight back to home, so to be here by the sea, where the information is needed, was amazing.”

With dance workshops, live music, performances, special talks, exhibits, information about The Grit and a range of stalls and demonstrations on display, the popular park was transformed. Family scavenger hunts, lighthouse tours, patchwork quilt making, face painting and much more was showcased before the event concluded with a grand finale from The Austin Beats, as the 1960’s heydays of the Dockside Dandies was recalled.

Fun activities at The GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Pictures: Mick HowesFun activities at The GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Pictures: Mick Howes

History of The Grit

The GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. The Rogues Shanty Buoys and Chorus perform. Pictures: Mick HowesThe GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. The Rogues Shanty Buoys and Chorus perform. Pictures: Mick Howes

In 1900, Lowestoft was a leading fishing port and tourist resort.

The GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Patricia Day, seaside heritage officer at Making Waves, with the herring display. Pictures: Mick HowesThe GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Patricia Day, seaside heritage officer at Making Waves, with the herring display. Pictures: Mick Howes

The town’s fishing village, which was known to locals as The Grit or The Beach Village, was the most easterly community in the country.

The Grit was home to 2,500 people, 13 pubs, three schools, two churches, shops and cafés.

The GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Visitors look at the beach village plans. Pictures: Mick HowesThe GritFest - a celebration of Lowestoft's beach village. Visitors look at the beach village plans. Pictures: Mick Howes

The Gritsters were known for their spirit and independence, but by the early 1970s few houses remained after many new industrial buildings occupied the site.

Glennis Wigg, nee Baldry, lived on the beach village.

Crowds of people descended on Sparrows Nest in Lowestoft for GritFest. Picture: Mick HowesCrowds of people descended on Sparrows Nest in Lowestoft for GritFest. Picture: Mick Howes

She was photographed in one of the old images that was displayed in the marquee at GritFest.

She said: “There is a great turnout here and it has been really good to reminisce and see lots of friendly faces again.”

Children’s illustrator, author, artist and storyteller James Mayhew has supported the campaign to keep our region’s beaches clean.
Picture: Mick HowesChildren’s illustrator, author, artist and storyteller James Mayhew has supported the campaign to keep our region’s beaches clean. Picture: Mick Howes

By the early afternoon, more than 300 people had gone through the doors at Lowestoft Maritime Museum.

The museum was pleased with the turnout - a spokesman adding they had seen “a good footfall.”

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