More and more festivals are being announced for the summer and this year Bristolians will also see the return of Bristol Harbour Festival, which is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The festival, which attracts over 250,00 visitors, is one of the city’s most popular events and this year will be its first event since 2019 due to the pandemic.
From July 15-18, a fleet of feature vessels are expected in the Bristol harbour as well as over 300 visiting boats, yachts and ships. As well as a multitude of vessels docked up at the harbourside, festival goers can enjoy over 120 hours of entertainment, across seven stages from spoken word to the latest Bristol musical talent, local dance performers, world class circus and on-water activity.
Covering a mile of the harbourside, each area of the festival is carefully developed by the Bristol Harbour Festival programmers Cirque Bijou, Thekla, Trinity Community Arts, Tony Benjamin, My Future My Choice, Rebecca Tantony, Grain Barge, SS Great Britain and Jelli Records. To celebrate its 50th anniversary year, organisers will introduce the theme of ‘Ebb and Flow’ to the festival, looking at the changing face of the city in line with the transformation of the harbour over the last half a century.
With many from outside of the city making Bristol their home, this year’s festival will look to engage the diverse range of communities that exist here and bring these to life throughout the four day event. Eight artists will work with seven communities and community partners to bring to life stories reflecting the ebb and flow of the people of Bristol through installations around the harbour, creating a performative and interactive trail.
Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities and Bristol One City, said: “As the city continues to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and we all begin to rediscover life outside of COVID restrictions, the return of one of our flagship festivals marks a turning moment in Bristol’s recent history. It represents a new beginning by celebrating the backbone of the city’s heritage.
“The festival will provide opportunities for communities across the city to get involved through art and music projects whilst providing the chance for individuals or groups to perform to an audience of tens of thousands. With over one mile of entertainment planned across the harbourside, this year’s festival provides the perfect setting for us all to reconnect with the city and our communities.”
Accessibility is top of the agenda for festival organisers this year with changing place toilets including a Mobiloo in Millennium Square, raised and designated viewing areas installed in key areas and a new respite area launched in M-Shed for those requiring a break from the action packed programme. WECIL and SENSE will also be in place in Millennium Square to provide sensory play and inclusive workshops for young people.
The festival has also opened an Expression of Interest programme for those wanting to perform and get involved with the festival this year, hoping to attract new performers into the festival from all corners of the city once again. With 80% of performers coming through the expressions of interest application in 2019, all kinds of performances are welcome, from all communities of Bristol. Expression of interest applications close on March 31 and those wishing to bring a vessel into the harbour for the festival, applications will open on April 1.