Swanage Pirate Festival welcomes record crowds to town

Batten down the hatches – Swanage has been overrun by pirates again for a good natured festival which has attracted hundreds of landlubbers into town on a glorious bank holiday weekend.

Although Swanage Pirate Festival has been running for several years it continues to get bigger and better and has established itself as one of the major events on the South Coast, with exhibitors and reenactors coming from as far afield as Oxford to take part.


Watch out for pirates who have taken over Swanage for the weekend

Buccaneers took over Sandpit Field

The event, which costs around £1,400 to stage, is funded by charging stall holders in order to allow the festival to be free for families attending.

All manner of pirate stalls selling plunder and booty were set up in Sandpit Field, alongside living history stalls which demonstrated many aspects of pirates’ lives, from cooking over open fires to writing on parchment with a quill and ink.

More than 700 people attended the festival on Saturday 27th May 2023, with the same number expected to turn up for a second day on Sunday 28th May. Entertainment included sword fighting, a display of firing cannons and teaching the children how to become a pirate or a redcoat.

All pirates and militia at the festival hold a shotgun licence – which also covers cannons – and are professionally trained to use firearms, many of them by the Sealed Knot society.

Swanage Pirate Festival organisers Dawn and Colin Honey

Plenty of pirates have made their way to Swanage for the bank holiday weekend

Taking to the field of battle to repel all invaders

Pirate arts and crafts – not to mention the odd treasure chest

A living history show for families

Organiser Dawn Honey said:

“We are making sure that the Swanage Pirate Festival is a living history event and more of a show and tell which is very much aimed at families.

“We wanted to keep the festival free to attend as we are aware that many families don’t have the spare money to go out for the day.

“We have a strict no alcohol policy at the festival – we think that the town has enough bars which need local custom and also reenactors don’t drink when they are fighting as no-one is allowed on the field of battle unless they are fully competent!”

Swanage’s very own Jack Sparrow was out to recruit helpers

All manner of loot and booty was on sale at Sandpit Field

Lovely to see children turn away from screens

Dawn added:

“It is a lot of work, but also very much a labour of love staging the festival. Swanage is a beautiful place and groups are eager to come here from all over the country to take part – it is such a friendly atmosphere.

“We are delighted that the town is so happy to host us, and it is wonderful to see so many people here enjoying themselves, especially when the beach is so close on such a beautiful day.

“So many children spend so much time on their iPads, for them to turn away from their screens for a while, show interest in our history and interact with other children is lovely to see.

“We would like to be able to get a tall ship to come into Swanage Bay, but the cost of that would be horrendous, so it will just have to be our dream for the future!”

Swordfighting skirmishes sorted out the women from the girls at the festival

Handwriting lessons using quill and ink kept the youngsters busy

Skirmish on the beach by the Banjo Pier

A morning skirmish on the beach was held near the Banjo Pier for the first time, close to the Sandpit Field where all the other events of the day took place.

Six reenactor groups, the Wimborne Militia, the South Sea Buccaneers, the River Rogues, the Greyhounds of St Edmund, the Broadside Gunners and the DeWarrens took part in the event.

Redcoats from Wimborne Militia were on hand to repel buccaneers

Eat like a pirate and cook over an open fire

Defending Swanage against scurvy pirates

The Wimborne Militia, under a town charter dating back to the 17th century, are employed as Britain’s only town standing army by Wimborne Town Council as the town’s first line of defence.

Spokesperson Jen Compiani said:

“We are here as the King’s army and custom men armed with cannon and musket, defending Swanage against scurvy pirates trying to steal our pay chest!”

When the skull and crossbones flies over Sandpit Field, you know the pirates are in town

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