Dorset Seafood Festival ‘saved’ by local businesses

Just three weeks ago organisers announced that the popular festival, traditionally held at Weymouth Peninsula in September, was cancelled.

Rising costs was the reason given for the cancellation, with former festival director Laura Avant announcing she was taking a step back from her role at the beginning of January.

However, after a public outcry a group of local businesses decided to intervene – allowing the popular event to go ahead this year.

The group includes Weymouth harbourside fishmonger Weyfish and PR firm In The Bag.

A statement from former festival director Laura Avant said: “This is a prestigious event for the town and the festival is enormously important to the area, and to all of us who live here.

“I’m delighted to be able to leave the festival in safe hands, and that it can be enjoyed once again this year – to show off this wonderful part of Britain and to help raise money for the Fishermen’s Mission.”

The Dorset Seafood Festival, now in its 16th year, is recognised as one of the country’s landmark food and drink events, promoters say, attracting upwards of 10,000 visitors to Weymouth a year.

Sean Cooper, owner of Weyfish, is amongst those taking on responsibility for the event.

He said: “When we learned the festival was in doubt, phones buzzed, conversations started, and everyone agreed we simply had to act.

“The festival is a very special platform for our spectacular local seafood, as well as the many growers and producers that make Dorset such a fantastic food and drink lovers’ destination. It really puts us on the map.

“Importantly also, it’s a celebration of sustainability. The Weymouth fishing fleet is the archetype of sustainable fishing. Small, inshore day boats, using nets, pots and lines, catching enough to meet demand, with little or no waste. This town is an example for coastal communities nationwide.”

The Dorset Seafood Festival will be held on September 7 to 8 at Weymouth Peninsula.

New event director Pippa Gibb said: “We are already in conversation with many of the event’s committed sponsors, exhibitors and supporters and we’re discussing how to ensure the 2024 festival achieves everything last year’s event did for the town – plus more.

“In particular, we want to make the most of the location. In the past, the harbourside provided a lot of freedom, but post the redevelopment of Custom House Quay this location simply isn’t suitable for such a large and popular event.

“The Peninsula is a fantastic location for live music, improved seating and family friendly activities.”

Previously locals shared their disappointment in the event moving away from the harbourside and introducing a £10 entry fee.

Portland resident Dale Challinor said: “If it is brought back on the harbour where it belongs then we will all flood back and support the traders.

“I stopped going to the Seafeast when they started charging, I feel sorry for the traders and would rather give my money to them rather than entrance fee.”

Over the years the festival has also raised more than £90,000 for the Fishermen’s Mission, becoming the charity’s largest annual event contributor.

The return has been welcomed by Weymouth Mayor, Cllr Kate Wheller, who said: “It’s a very popular event and I am sure that the local businesses will all be delighted that it has been rescued.”

Tickets for this year’s event will be available soon.


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