Fabulous fish festival confirms Swanage dates for 2024

Prince Albert Gardens was the plaice to be as Swanage Fish Festival returned after three years away – and the event was such a success that dates for a 2024 show have already been confirmed.

Thousands of people wound their way through town on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th June 2023 to end up at the gardens overlooking the pier, for a celebration of Swanage’s fishing heritage and a chance to enjoy some seafood in the open.

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Aerial of Swanage fish festival 2023
Cenk Albayrak-Touye

The view from Swanage Bay as crowds arrive for the fish festival

The sound of Swanage Jazz Machine welcomed visitors to Prince Albert Gardens

Thousands attended over a perfect weekend

Despite earlier forecasts of thunderstorms, the weather stayed mostly warm and dry – perfect for a picnic on the grass, but not hot enough to tempt people onto the beach.

Swanage Jazz Machine kept music going through the weekend as the crowds sampled local food, watched informative cookery demonstrations and browsed arts and crafts stalls, much of it with a fishy theme.

And there was one very special announcement – the weekend was so well attended and well received that dates for another festival have already been confirmed for the weekend of Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th June 2024.

Although no official count was made of visitors to the free to enter event, a pizza stall which was at the festival on Saturday sold all but 200 of the 3,000 pizzas they had brought along and had to miss the Sunday show as they had no time to make the same quantity of dough again.

Swanage’s father and son business Pantastic Paella was cooking up a storm

Monster crab Roger was donated by fisherman Jeff Lander to raffle for charity

Ceramic fish modelled by an artist in Sicily and brought to Dorset by The Shoal

“Fantastic to be back after a three year hiatus”

Fish festival spokesperson Jackie Lane said:

“It is absolutely fantastic to be back after a three years’ hiatus, there was such a demand for it and a lot of the food stalls found the same thing – they almost sold out on the first day and had to restock ahead of Sunday.

“It has been very well attended, the ambiance is amazing – the chefs’ demonstrations have been very popular, the band was fantastic and we have had so much support from the town.

“Saturday evening was a lovely atmosphere as the first day wound down, it was a lovely warm evening and people sat on the picnic benches, listening to the music and having a drink, it was lovely.

“We are a quaint little festival, we don’t want to get big and brash, but this feels absolutely perfect and we want to keep it this way.

“It does take a lot of work to put on and as a committee we are really tired, but so happy – and we must thank all of our volunteers who have been amazing, we couldn’t have done it without them.”

Man on a (Fishermen’s) mission – spreading the word about the charity’s good works

The Fishermen’s Mission mascot Albert on a meet and greet at the festival

Providing eyes along the coast, just one of the ways that Swanage Coastwatch helps keep the town safe

Live cooking shows from guest chefs

Proceeds from the events will be split between the three main charities supported by the Fish Festival – Swanage Lifeboat Station, the Fisherman’s Mission and the National Coastwatch Institution Swanage, all of whom had a presence at the show to spread the word about the good work they do.

Although no entrance fee is charged for the festival, money is raised through stall rentals, a well supported prize raffle and even the appearance of Roger, an outsized Swanage crab donated by local fisherman Jeff Lander.

Live cooking demonstrations were given on both days by guest chefs including Swanage Bay master fishmonger Julia Noone, award winning chef and part of the England national culinary team Christian Omer of the Salt company, and Pig on the Beach chef director James Golding.

Head chef of the Grand Hotel Marek Ludwin, Shannon, George and Olly from the Italian Bakery, Swanage Top Cat from the Anchor Inn, Ali Lotib of the Golden Bengal and Claire and Andy Burnet of Chococo also held the crowds spellbound with their culinary expertise.

Fishmonger Julia Noone and Swanage Bay Fish led a live cooking demonstration

Ali Lotib of the Golden Bengal and his team of chefs made a Bengali fish curry

Celebrating Swanage’s maritime history

Music was provided throughout the festival by Andrew Cannon, John Bentham and Keith Lockett – better known as the Swanage Jazz Machine, vocalist Eliza Alder and sea shanty band Kelp, a group of local sailors, lifeboat volunteers and friends.

And in keeping with the theme of the festival, there was also a fascinating display of old photographs celebrating Swanage’s maritime history featuring characters who are still talked about on the town’s remaining fishing boats.

Part of the maritime history display, a picture from Peveril Point in the 1950s

Swanage fisherman and lifeboat coxswain Bill Dyke, born 1878 and pictured here aged 80

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