Lowestoft First Light Festival: Organisers look at future

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Lowestoft First Light Festival

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Gilles Peterson performed a DJ set on Lowestoft beach once the sun had gone down

Designer Wayne Hemingway said organisers of a 24-hour beach festival in Britain’s most easterly town would consider making it a permanent fixture.

The inaugural First Light Festival in Lowestoft, Suffolk attracted some 10,000 people, pumping up to £1.4m into the local economy, he said.

The arts and music event lasted throughout the summer solstice, starting at midday on Saturday.

Hemingway, organiser, said Lowestoft was “a town with so much potential”.

He praised East Suffolk Council as “brave and supportive” for backing the event, including with funding of £80,000 in addition to the £100,000 grant from the Arts Council.

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The First Light Festival attracted more than 10,000 visitors, including children who took part in traditional beach activities

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Wayne Hemingway (second from right) behind the decks of the silent disco, with BBC Music Introducing in Suffolk’s Richard Haugh (middle)

The festival was created to help regenerate a “neglected” seaside town, according to organisers, and it included films, readings, music, a community feast and a silent disco.

Among the highlights was the Pakefield Man – an iron and straw sculpture which was set on fire in the sea at 02:00 BST on Sunday.

Hemingway said the organisers, local council and businesses would now sit down and consider the next steps.

“Lowestoft is a town with so much potential, a white sandy beach, lower promenade and beach huts. It’s so old school and British,” he said.

“We’ve been blessed with the weather – it’s a big worry always when you put on a festival outdoors, never mind on a beach – would the numbers turn up? Will the people want it?”

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The straw “Pakefield Man” was set alight at 02:00 BST on Sunday

He said an economic impact report was being compiled, but initial estimates suggested the local economy benefited to the tune of £1.2m-£1.4m.

Kerry Blair, head of operations at East Suffolk Council, said the event will help showcase Lowestoft as a tourist destination.

“We wanted to do something that was really spectacular that brought people in from Norwich, Ipswich, Cambridge and London,” he said.

“This is a really exciting time for Lowestoft and we want to encourage that.

“It was successful.”

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