Inspired by its famous Scottish counterpart, the brand-new Southend Festival has ambitions to become the 'go-to place’ for some of Britain’s top comedians as they warm-up for the famous Edinburgh Fringe. The festival’s organisers, Southend BID, also hopes its exciting, six-week programme of events, including art, music, literature, performance and more will put the Essex coastal town on the wider cultural map.
Opening on Sunday 1 July and running until Wednesday 15 August, there’s a ton of fun to be had. For families, there are three unmissable events which will keep creative kids happy; Art Trail (12 July – 15 August), Paint Jam (30 July – 3 August) and Chalk Fest (31 July).
The Art Trail is a free event that will turn Southend High Street into a gallery. Local artists, will display their works in a variety of locations, including the Royals and Victoria shopping centres, Legend Deli, Grosvenor Casino and McDonald’s. Visitors can see these pieces – ranging from digital art, sculpture and painting, to performance and crafts – created by artists ranging from those who have never shown before, through to seasoned exhibitors.
Paint Jam sees a welcome return to Southend of some of the leading exponents of street and graffiti art working in Britain and Europe right now. London-based Mr Cenz is coming back to create one of his signature portraits. Cenz’s distinctive work features shapes, abstracted line work, photorealism and illustration. Southend’s very own Scotty will also be creating eye-catching murals. Joining in the spray-based fun will be another local graffiti artist, Karl Sims.
Renowned for his passion of involving youngsters with art, John Bulley is hosting Chalk Fest. Weather-permitting, of course, John says this event promises to be fun, bright and spontaneous, with unique artwork created on the pavements outside the Victoria Shopping Centre.
Comedy fans can watch the likes of Kate Lucas, Stephen Bailey, Patrick Monahan and Hal Cruttenden, who will be using the Southend Festival as a warm-up before they perform their new shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. There are nearly thirty such preview shows – all organised by Little Smash Comedy - taking place in locations ranging from Dick De Vignes and the Railway Hotel, to The Alex and Twenty-One.
Local authors and writers will join young performance poets to entertain festival goers with a particular interest in the written word. There will be appearances by the likes of renowned local cookery writer and campaigner Jack Monroe, who headlines the Fighting Talk event, and Poetry World Cup finalist, Aislinn Evans. Evans is an East London poet and artist, former SLAMbassador and the youngest ever UK poetry slam champion. Just 18-years old, Aislinn covers broad-ranging issues, from playground romance to religious persecution.
Other highlights of the Festival involve Southend Pride (14 – 21 July) – which features an appearance and comedy performance by Britain’s Got Talent sensation, Robert White - the 30th annual Puppet Festival (4 August) on the iconic Southend Pier. Cabaret Finale (29 July) at the Park Inn Palace hotel will feature no less than eleven acts.
Southend BID manager Alison Dewey said: "By creating the Festival, we hope to raise both the profile of Southend on a regional and national level, whilst also creating an exciting and dynamic showcase for all the incredible, creative people we have living and working in and around Southend.
“We’ve tried to create a programme that really does have something for everyone; from politics to poetry, comedy to child-friendly fun days, I think people really will notice a new buzz and vibrancy around the town centre during the six weeks of the Festival.”
For more information about the Southend Festival, click on www.visitsouthend.co.uk, like the Facebook page @VisitSouthendonSea, or follow @VisitSouthend on Twitter.