New Felixstowe festival celebrating our connection to the sea launches this spring

Taking place on 18th-20th March in Felixstowe in Suffolk, Channel Festival will explore the profound role of the sea in our lives and its impact on our mental and physical wellbeing.

The weekend will see a combination of arts and health events in celebration of our innate connection with the sea, including art exhibitions and installations, workshops and film screenings.

The theme for this pilot edition is ‘Open Water’ and is dedicated to the brave and bold sea swimming community in Felixstowe. This long-standing interest in mind-body connections is epitomised by Pier Projects co-founder Louise Stratford, an experienced open water swimmer, who has navigated the English Channel solo.

Curator Natalie Pace of Pier Projects said: “The idea of a small-scale festival has been bubbling away for several years now. Against the backdrop of the pandemic – when we sought to connect with nature and were forced to physically disconnect from one another – the theme also asks timely questions about what ‘health’ means to us now.

We hope it will offer an antidote to the overwhelm of day-to-day life, a slow space to reconnect with the elements and consider the potential of the sea to make us feel human.”

Reflecting the fluid, dynamic nature of the sea, events will take place in multiple locations across the town and online. To launch the festival on Tuesday 15th March, an online discussion will take place exploring ‘Blue Health’.

The introduction will be led by author, academic and wellbeing practitioner Dr Catherine Kelly, whose book ‘Blue Spaces: How and Why Water Can Help You Feel Better’ has been featured in Outdoor Swimmer and looks at the positive mental and physical benefits of being by water.

An exhibition of Lynn Dennison’s film ‘Sea Swimmers’ will take place at Hamilton Micro Arts Space (Hamilton MAS) and includes projection so that aspects of the film are visible at night. The artist will work directly with the town’s open water swimming community through a participatory workshop using Go-Pro Cameras, gathering footage and insights about what open water swimming means to them.

Natalie said: “This first edition offers a compact programme, intended to offer an introduction to some of its ideas and offer a platform for discussion and feedback about what the festival could be in the future. Small in scale but mighty in meaning, we hope people will help us shape Channel Festival into an inspiring, annual event that pulls people to the sea from near and far.”

Channel Festival poster

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