Grim Falfest has run for two years in late summertime. In its first year, it attracted more than 22,300 visitors, and last year it won a prestigious National Outdoor Event Award. An independent survey at last year’s event also found 99 per cent of visitors wanted it to return, with one visitor saying it was the best thing in the town for years.
That will not happen in 2024, organisers have announced. However, it may return next year.
Grim Falfest was created and delivered by VESR CIC, the Visitor Economy Services and Retail group, in partnership with Heritage Lincolnshire. It aims to celebrate the town’s proud Viking heritage and continuing links with Scandinavia. The 18-month project was supported by £250,000 in National Lottery Heritage Funding. This has seen a range of workshops and activities delivered in schools and to groups in Grimsby, as well as the two Grim FalFests.
Julia Thompson, Festival Director and Chair of VESR CIC said: “The current project has sadly come to an end, but Grim Falfest has been so popular we would be delighted to see it return in the future and discussions are ongoing.” The three-day Grimsby Falfests each opened with longship displays by Grimsby’s waterfront.
More than 200 Viking re-enactors descended on the town and set up camps in St James Square and People’s Park. Visitors were able to explore Viking villages, take part in weapons training and watch battle re-enactments, ending with a parade of local people led by Grim and Havelok. Local traders who took part in the event sold out, with extra footfall from visitors giving a boost to businesses across the town centre.
Julia continued: “As a Grimbarian, it’s been great to see our unique Grimsby story brought to life. Events such as Grim Falfest take an army to deliver, from the business community who support as sponsors, to event team and volunteers, but the rewards go way beyond the three-days, boosting our community and local economy.” Grim Falfest prompted the launch of a new Viking re-enactment group called Lindesiga Saeward. The group meet regularly to train in Grimsby, and take part in events across the UK.
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The independent survey carried out at last year’s festival was full of positive visitor feedback. “It is the best thing that has happened in the town in years and it made me proud to live here,” said one visitor. “It needs to be an annual event every single year,” said another. “All the kids I talked to over the weekend were so excited and loving the villages and all the new facts they’d learnt. The heritage of our town is far, far more than fishing (important as that is too) and our children need to know this.” The same visitor added that people came from all over the country for the festival.
While Grim FalFest is not happening in 2024, the festival may return next year. Talks are ongoing about its return in 2025.
North East Lincolnshire Council were not involved in the festival’s running, but have supported the event being held in Grimsby. The council leader even referenced it as the kind of event that could take advantage of a transformed Riverhead Square. A council spokesperson said: “We were delighted to see Grim Falfest receive £250,000 from Heritage Fund to deliver the festivals and associated activities in 2022 and 2023. Naturally, all time limited projects must come to an end and we would like to thank all involved in Grim Falfest for their ambition, hard work and determination to deliver the event. We will continue to work with the event organiser and external funders to explore options regarding future opportunities.”
In October last year, the National Lottery Heritage Fund announced North East Lincolnshire would receive a share of £200 million for heritage-based projects over 10 years, as one of 19 designated Heritage Places in the UK. Consultations are currently ongoing with the council about the administration of this new fund.
Events that are taking place in North East Lincolnshire this year include a new, 5,000 capacity live musical festival, DocksFest, in July and Armed Forces Weekend over the final weekend in June. UK Shared Prosperity Funding (UKSPF) ‘Love Your Town’ events will take place in Immingham on Friday, February 16, and Cleethorpes on Saturday, February 17. Grimsby had its version on Saturday.
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