Volunteers behind one of the largest heritage festivals in the country have hailed a phenomenal response from the public as they revealed that over 18,000 visits to took place as the award-winning ten-day celebration of bounced back this year, with attendances topping pre-Covid pandemic numbers.
Lowestoft Heritage Open Days Festival, which was backed by the Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership and the Lowestoft Central Project, was staged during September featured more ‘free to enjoy’ activities than any other town or city in England with 118 events taking place around the town as well as in Corton, Carlton Colville, Oulton Broad and Pakefield.
Festival highlights included music recitals, talks, guided walks and exhibitions as well as opportunities to visit buildings rarely open to the public along with a free vintage bus service connecting the railway station with other festival locations and free entry to one of the region’s top transport museums on the opening Saturday. The festival, for which this year’s national theme was Edible England, culminated in a special Herring and Ale Fayre held on Oddfellows Green, Pakefield which attracted over 4000 people.
Chair of the Lowestoft Heritage Open Days Festival steering group, Diana Moore said, “We have been absolutely thrilled with the response this year with a phenomenal 18,000 visits taking place across over 100 events staged in just ten days. It is gratifying to be able to showcase the rich diversity of attractions that Lowestoft, so often undervalued, has to offer and we thank every individual and organisation that helped us to curate such a varied series of events and the public who came along in their thousands to both celebrate and learn more about the unique heritage of our town.”
The festival was last fully staged in 2019, attracting some 15,000 visits, going on to win a prestigious national Community Rail Tourism & Heritage Award for its collaboration between the Lowestoft Central Project, Wherry Lines CRP and Network Rail which included public tours of the town’s signal box. During 2020, the event had to be scaled back considerably due to the Covid-19 pandemic with many activities moving online. This year’s festival attendances surpassed organisers expectations with the tourist information facility at Lowestoft Railway Station, which hosted the festival information hub welcoming scores of visitors, both local residents and those that had travelled from across the UK.
Martin Halliday, community rail development officer said, “We were delighted to support the Lowestoft Heritage Open Days Festival again this year. This is the fourth year running that we have been able to assist, utilising our Lowestoft Central Project and Wherry Lines Community Rail Partnership facilities at the station.”
This year’s festival was financially supported by a single £1000.00 grant from Lowestoft Town Council. Cllr Andy Pearce said, “Lowestoft Town Council was pleased to provide financial support to the festival this year and we were absolutely astounded by the sheer range and quality of activities available and the incredible response from the public. Our sincere thanks go to Diana Moore and members of the festival steering group for their hard work in curating, organising and promoting such a terrific series of events.”
Planning has already begun for the 2022 event with more details to be revealed later this year.