I have had an extremely busy summer. One of the most rewarding things I did this summer was participate as a volunteer in the Southampton Maritime Festival. I learnt about it through the University website and I attended a training session, where I learnt exactly how it had been organised to celebrate the long and fascinating maritime history of Southampton
As its name suggests, the festival commemorates the maritime history of Southampton, with particular reference to its role in the First and Second World War. Naturally, most of the attractions were nautically themed including period-based entertainments, music from local talents, as well as popular band Kingsland Road, and a number of presentations were hosted, discussing the contemporary challenges mariners currently face.
There was also a number of rides that I suspected had been loaned from a nearby theme park, and even some period buses. There was also a second-hand bookstall, where I purchased an entertaining historical fiction novel on the Napoleonic Wars. Overall, the festival felt like a cross between an early twentieth century fun fair, and a nautical themed theme park, and I hope one day to return as a visitor.
The boats themselves included the Tenacious, the Caronia and the HMS Medusa. All of these represented the nautical ages of history, the Tenacious is a recreated wooden sailing ship, the Caronia was one of the ships used in the Dunkirk evacuations, and the Medusa was used during the D-Day landings.
As a volunteer, we were encouraged to dress up in costumes from around the World War periods, and I did exactly that. Since only the Royal Navy permitted beards, and since I had no desire to shave off the work of many months, for the sake of historical accuracy I accordingly purchased a sailor suit that can be seen in the picture below.
My duties as a volunteer included directing cars to parking spaces, telling guests that arrived at the station where to find the bus that would take them there and selling guides to the event. The event itself was all things considered a success. The highlight was unquestionably the dramatic flyover of two World War II planes, a Hurricane and a Spitfire.
As an event, the Southampton Maritime Festival is one of the most interesting I have ever attended. The experience itself I valued, and I hope that it continues to interest its visitors in the maritime history of Southampton.