events & fesitivals in leigh-on-sea

Leigh Art Trail

The Leigh Art Trail was established in 1997 by a group of local contemporary artists as a showcase for the prolific artistic talents at work in the town of Leigh on Sea in Essex.
The Leigh Art Trail aims to stimulate excellence and innovation in the visual arts and promotes lifelong learning in, through and about the arts. It encourages access to arts and artistic expression for the widest range of people, and seeks to sustain and stimulate growth in the region’s cultural economy.

Leigh on Sea has long been home to a large artistic community and the annual Leigh Art Trail, now in its 9th year, attracts thousands of visitors. The event includes around 50 selected artists and designer-makers who will exhibit work in their homes, gardens, studios, galleries, shops and restaurants, a total of about 40 venues, normally in early June (2005, from 4th to 11th June). Art can be purchased and entry is free to all venues.

The Leigh Art Trail offers a unique opportunity to walk around the town and sample the amazing creativity and diversity of work including painting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, photography, printmaking and jewellery produced by artists living and working in Leigh. Visitors are able to meet and talk to the artists and at selected venues demonstrations will take place.

Many new artists will be exhibiting for the first time, and having established cultural links with Southend’s twin town of Sopot in Poland, the Leigh Art Trail will feature the work of two Polish artists.

‘Sculpture Street’, in the centre of Leigh proved a success in it's first year and installations occupy the front gardens in West Street on Saturday and Sunday of the rt Trail.

Leigh Art Trail guides are available from late April.

For further information tel. 01702 472117 or 01702 712807
or visit: or

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Leigh Christmas Lights Switch-on

Every year, when the Leigh Lights are switched on, the Town Centre is transformed with light, colour and spectacle for young and old alike.

The Switch-on usually takes place at 5.00 p.m. on the last Saturday in November, and is accompanied by a wide range of entertainments, which lasts from about 4.30 to 7.30 in the evening, taking place in the central area which is closed to traffic for the evening.

The procession with bands, majorettes, dancers, carnival queens, vintage cars and, of course, Father Christmas, goes through the centre of the town from the end of Marine Parade along Broadway West, The Broadway and into Leigh Road.

Before the switch-on, we have carols from the Salvation Army outside St. Clements Church and other entertainers either in fixed positions, or more mobile, such as jugglers and stilt walkers to entertain the crowds, and they come back for a second session after the procession has finished.

The Grand Hotel car park is transformed into a funfair, and there is also a smaller funfair outside Leigh House in Broadway West.

Either St. Clements Church, or Wesley Methodist Church (usually both) will have a Carol concert or other seasonal entertainment inside, and Leigh Road Baptist Church also join in the festivities in one way or another.

Many of the shops stay open late on the ‘Night of the Lights’, and there are stalls run, mostly, by local voluntary groups to raise money or to inform the many thousands of people who come each year.

The lights last for over a mile, and must be one of the best displays in the whole of Essex. The lights and the celebrations are organised by Leigh Town Council, who value the support received from local traders who donate either in cash or in kind, and other organisations who lend their support, particularly Southend Borough Council Special Events and Highways, and the local Police.

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Old Leigh Regatta

The Old Leigh Regatta goes back over 100 years when it was a yearly celebration of the harvest from the sea organised by the fisherman of Leigh. For some time the regatta ceased to exist until in 1973 it was re-introduced as a charity event organized by the three scout groups based in Old Leigh.

The ‘new’ Old Leigh Regatta is held annually over a weekend in September, with the exact date altering slightly depending on the tide, the 2005 Regatta weekend is the 17th/18th .

During the weekend the High Street in Old Leigh is closed to traffic and bunting is erected along its length to help create a ‘street fayre’ atmosphere.

Stalls of all varieties line the street together with a Coconut Shy, Crazy Kitchen, Darts in Envelopes, Bottle Stalls, Tombolas etc. etc.

Children are well catered for with Bouncy Castles, Face Painting, Lucky Dips, Tombolas, Slides, Trampolines, Roundabouts, Punch and Judy Shows, Banana Eating and Cracker Eating competitions and a Childrens Party (Sunday)

For adults there are Bands, playing a wide variety of music, at each end of the High Street from 12.00 until 5.00pm, Morris Dancers, Banana Eating, Cracker Eating and Cockle Eating competitions.

On the water there are sailing races, Canoe races, Dinghy Races, Sculling Races and a dinghy Tug-o-War. We have a clown in the High Street, a Greasy Pole to climb on the beach, Bow Sprit Pillow Fighting off Bell Wharf, Cubs and Scouts in a Tug-o-War Competition etc.

In fact, there is something to keep the family happy (including food) on both days. Come along and enjoy yourselves.

Information can be found on the internet, on a range of web sites; try, or

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Leigh Fishing Festival

The inaugural Fishing Festival in Leigh was held in 2004. Leigh Town Council is indebted to the help, assistance and participation of many Leigh fishermen whose endeavours helped to ensure a successful well attended event.

The aim of the festival was to increase public awareness of the local fishing and cockling industries and related activities. Fishermen were on hand to talk to the public about the industry, the fishing methods used, the different types of boats used and how the industry has changed over the years. Boats were moored from Bell and Victoria wharves to illustrate the different types of vessel used for flatfish and shellfish fishing.

The event was organised to attract the interest of all age groups and a number of organisations who participated provided literature and people to assist residents and visitors to understand the marine environment in which Leigh exists and the problems faced by the industry and associated seafood activities.

There were opportunities to taste fresh locally caught cockles and oysters from West Mersea.

Craftsmen from traditional marine activities demonstrated their skills in net mending and sail making together with demonstrations of knots and splicing.

The sea scouts opened their ‘den’ to visitors, provided a display of sailing, showed their boats and answered questions from wanabee scouts.

The Southend Natural History Museum displayed details of local marine life and how species and numbers have changed over the years. Sealife Adventure exhibited a rock pool of various local crabs and starfish and a tank of local flatfish.

The RNLI’s lifeboat arrived on the tide and their hovercraft sped across the mudflats in the afternoon, rested on the beach, from where the crew allowed onboard visits and was only too pleased to answer questions from the inquisitive youngsters.

Representatives from Southend Borough Council’s Pier & Foreshore, Biodiversity and Environmental Health departments featured displays and distributed leaflets explaining how their respective areas influence and assist the local fishing industry.

Other organisations who exhibited were the RNLI, The Endeavour Trust who are near to completing the restoration of the locally built cockle boat, Endeavour, The Seafish Industry Authority, Kent and Essex Sea Fisheries Committee and Thames Estuary Partnership.

The Festival will be held again this year on Sunday 4th September between 11am and 4pm, under the SeaBritain 2005 banner, a major national event celebrating the nation’s relationship with the sea, all of which climaxes with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar at the end of October.

Most, if not all, of last year’s participants will be present and a number of other organisations have been invited to attend. A fully restored Endeavour fresh from participation in the 65th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation in June will take a pride of place in her home port.

Again, the main theme is an event of interest to all age groups, helping promote the Fishing Industry in Leigh for the mutual benefit of residents and visitors and the companies and people employed in the industry. Leigh has been a fishing port for many centuries and we trust that the Festival helps to ensure it’s continuance as a working port in the years ahead.

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Leigh Folk Festival

In 1992, to promote the importance of music for everyone, the call went out for people to participate in a first National Music Day. Members of the local Hoy at Anchor Folk Club were determined not to let the opportunity pass and charmed and cajoled about 40 performers to stage the first Folk Festival in Leigh. From these beginnings the Festival has gone from strength to strength with an increasing variety of attractions all working towards the original 1992 aim of promoting the importance of music for everyone. The Festival has now grown to become one of the favourite highlights of the town’s cultural calendar with more than 500 gifted performers appearing over a full weekend. The Festival is not only a popular local community event, it also attracts visitors from all over the South East and even further afield.

With its many performers, stage events and attractions, the Festival is a vibrant and colourful celebration of both the traditional and the contemporary. Its varied music programme includes country, folk, jazz, blues, reggae and many other styles and always includes a number of international groups. Variety is also manifested in the range of dancing on display: country, Morris, clog, Irish and Scottish dancing as well as performances from Exotic Dancers and Egyptian troupes. There are also opportunities for people to join in, especially at the two barn dances included in the weekend’s programme.

In addition to being a prime showcase for local musical talent, over the years the Festival has also hosted many headline musicians and singers - Martin Carthy, Ralph McTell, Julie Felix and Richard Thompson, to name but a few.

To ensure that the Festival is fun for all the family, special entertainments are also provided for children. Punch and Judy, clowns, face-painting, circus workshop, storytelling, country-dance lessons, maypole dancing, puppets and other activities all guarantee that the Festival is exciting for the younger family members.

The Festival takes place over the last weekend in June each year. On Friday evening various sing-arounds and music sessions take place in the local pubs. On Saturday stage and dancing events are centred in Leigh Library Gardens which, with its enclosed, child-friendly environment, ideal for bringing a picnic, gives the occasion a truly traditional “village green” feel and “family day out” atmosphere.
The evening offers a barn dance, music in Old Leigh pubs, and a concert which, this year, will be in the beautiful Parish Church of St Clement.

On Sunday Leigh Old Town hosts a packed programme of music, song and dance along the full length of the High Street and on the adjacent wharves. Full details are usually available in the weeks prior to the Festival on the Internet at

What sets the Leigh weekend apart is that the great majority of events take place in public spaces around the town and consequently are free of charge and open to all. The participation of both the local community and visitors goes to the heart of what this Festival is all about; it represents the true meaning of “folk music” as being music of and for the people. With the generous support of Southend Borough Council, Leigh Town Council and local businesses, the Festival not only aims to bring the community together to enjoy a rich cultural event but also aims to promote music, song and dance particularly amongst the youth of the town.

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Other Festivals in Leigh-on-Sea

In the last couple of years, the Old Town has hosted Carols on Strand Wharf, for about an hour or so on the 2nd or 3rd Saturday in December.

The Carols on Strand Wharf is a very informal affair, and intended to be a friendly sing along of familiar carols interspersed with Christmas stories. The setting, round a Christmas Tree (from which children can take home the lights!) on the wharf overlooking the estuary is idyllic, and the event is followed by mince pies.

2005 saw the first May Day Festival. This features maypole dancing, a folk group, a traditional mummers play and Morris dancing on the Wharf in Old Leigh.

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