Record-breaking crowds for Harbour Festival as sun shines on Bristol
THE sun finally shone on Bristol as hundreds of thousands enjoyed a record-breaking weekend of music, entertainment and culture at the Harbour Festival.
The free annual summer showpiece organised by the council was an outstanding success as the city centre buzzed with beaming families and tourists all weekend.
From Friday to last night, an estimated 300,000 enjoyed the heady mix of attractions on offer, making it the most successful festival ever.
"It's been very busy and over the three days we've probably seen record-breaking audiences this year," said festival director Mike Richmond.
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"We estimate we've had 30, 40 or 50,000 more than last year, when about 250,000 came to the festival.
"The harbour – what a stage to put on an event! It really is the jewel in the city's crown."
The managing director of Richmond Event Management added: "The beauty of the festival is it takes in the whole of the city centre, from Castle Park all the way down to the ss Great Britain and we try to put something different on every corner."
With bunting and flags flown proudly yesterday, the harbour echoed the pageantry of the Diamond Jubilee flotilla on the Thames, but without the torrential downpour.
Pero's Bridge funnelled a constant stream of people, many of whom relaxed by the water as boats of all shapes and sizes manoeuvred around each other.
Boat trips on The Matthew, which returned to Bristol following her appearance at the Jubilee Pageant, were sold out all day as she made her way up and down the Floating Harbour with smiling faces on board.
Admiring the nautical scene was Shirley French, 68, of Toronto Road, Horfield.
"It's very impressive," she said. "There are hordes of people here and it's lovely to see everyone coming together and enjoying themselves.
"I'm sure the weather has made a big difference.
"I love the docks area and I'm always down at the ss Great Britain and the M shed with my nine-year-old grandson Reef."
Jenny James and Mike Watkinson, of Hennessy Close, Whitchurch, also had a wander around the jam-packed harbour.
"The festival is something that makes Bristol stand out and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves," said Mike, 72.
Jenny, 71, added: "It's been a lovely atmosphere and it really makes you feel part of the community."
One of many boats that could be boarded was HMS Cattistock, a Royal Navy clearance vessel.
The English family – Stephen, Tracy and their sons Edward, nine, and Oliver, six – had come up from Monkton Farleigh, Wiltshire, for the festival.
Edward said: "The boat was really cool, especially seeing all the guns and spraying the big hose."
Dad Stephen added: "The boys love boats so they're really enjoying it and the weather is perfect."
Castle Park was also packed all weekend as families were enthralled, amazed and entertained by fantastic feats on the circus stage, programmed by Cirque Bijou.
Acrobats showed off their physical prowess and dangerous stunts sparked nervous "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd.
While some sat on deck chairs in the sunshine, others settled down on the grass with picnic blankets and enjoyed a real family day out.
Marty Cummins and Jim Reynolds, two dads from Southville, had taken the kids.
Marty, 46, said: "It's great to be out in the sunshine for a change. We also went to the opening of the festival in Queen Square on Friday night and that was great, too."
His children Joe, eight, and five-year-old Rose thoroughly enjoyed their day.
When asked about his favourite performances, Joe said: "I liked all of them, but I really liked it when they threw the darts from up high."
Jim's daughters Jasmine, seven, and Molly, five, were equally excited.
"I liked the man who made the sound of all the different instruments," said Jasmine, referring to a human "beat box" who entertained with his vocal gymnastics.
"It's all been good so far," added Jim, 37. "We come to the Harbour Festival every year but this is the first time we've been to the Castle Park circus events and we've all really enjoyed it."
Streams of people made their way between Castle Park, Queen Square, the Cascade Steps and the harbourside, with many taking in the scores of market stalls on their way, sampling a selection of foods from around the globe, gifts and crafts and locally produced art.
Helium balloons could be seen bobbing along in the air as smiling children licked ice creams.
Numerous buskers took up spots on roadsides, holding intimate mini concerts.
The ss Great Britain attracted visitors all weekend and hosted live music, storytelling, rocket building and launching workshops, as well as dressing up sessions.
Once again thousands upon thousands enjoyed the varied styles of the live music acts and food and craft stalls in Queen Square all weekend.
Hattie Crabb, 25, of Alma Vale Road, Clifton, said: "The weather helped make the festival really memorable.
"It was a great atmosphere and seemed busier than ever. It is a lovely event showing Bristol at its best, for all ages to experience."
The council's executive member for communities, Councillor Guy Poultney, said: "This international event, set against a backdrop of Bristol's harbourside, attracts people from all over the world.
"The festival showcases Bristol's past, present and future as a vibrant and dynamic city.
"The Harbour Festival is one of the highlights of Bristol's busy cultural calendar, with a phenomenal array of events that truly offers something for everyone."
Presenting the best of local and national dance artists was the Millennium Square Dance Village.
The Cascade Steps in the centre were packed all weekend as festival goers mingled and enjoyed what was on offer at the festival's longest-running stage, which had a varied mix of music from drum and bass to country rock 'n' roll.
A Happy City Zone was held in the Amphitheatre, offering a "low-cost, high-community glimpse of the future".
Dance performances wowed the crowds at the Arnolfini, while its cafe bar hosted the Twinning Zone, where activities and entertainment were inspired by Bristol's seven twin cities. Music venues including Thekla, Grain Barge and Louisiana all hosted live acts all weekend.
Chris and Mel Rogers, from Fishponds, enjoyed the festival with their son Pip, 33, his partner Lisa Holbrook and their children Finley, four, and one-year-old Lily.
Among the entertainment they enjoyed was Chris' sister-in-law Sue Derrick singing with the Out There choir.
Mel, 69, said: "It's been a great day and the weather makes such a difference."
Lisa, 30, of Fitchett Walk, Henbury, said: "We come down most years but it's been a really lovely atmosphere this time."