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
Leigh Art Trail guides are available from late April.
For further information tel. 01702 472117 or 01702
or visit: www.leigharttrail.co.uk
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 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
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.
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
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
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 www.leigh-on-sea.com,
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.
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
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.
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.