Seafest – Dorset Seafood Festival – called off for 2024 amid rising costs

SEAFEST – the Dorset Seafood Festival – has been cancelled for 2024.

Organisers of the event, which took place in Weymouth each year, said they had gone “with our heads and not our hearts” amid spiralling costs and a drop in sponsorship.

The festival was founded in 2008 and grew to become Weymouth’s biggest event, originally based around Weymouth Harbour and more recently relocated to the Peninsula.

Attracting seafood-lovers from across the country and even foreign shores, as well as thousands of Dorset locals, a study of the economic impact of the 2022 festival showed the event brought in more than £3 million in to the county.

In 2021, the festival relocated from the open harbour setting to the Peninsula, due to concerns over possible Covid restrictions.

Then came layout changes to the Harbourside, and a sharp downturn in the economy – resulting in increased costs and significantly reduced sponsorship.

Organisers said they had no way forward other than to continue at the Peninsula in 2022 and 2023, where ticketing could help secure the funding necessary to cover costs.

Record crowds of around 10,000 festival-goers gathered in 2023 at the Peninsula.

However, Laura Avant, festival director, said the small team behind the event, had found things getting more difficult as costs increased each year.

For example, she said, recent increases to car parking prices from Dorset Council have seen the site fee alone surpass £15,000.

“We are very proud that we found a way to keep the festival going through difficult times over the past few years – first the Covid pandemic where we lost a whole year, then the funding problems caused by the worsening economic climate,” she said.

“We know ticketing wasn’t an approach approved of by everyone, but it just about enabled us to cover costs and keep the event going.

“The new format came with some great benefits too, with a less crowded space and the ability for us to provide much more seating, children’s cookery workshops, art activities etc, we’ve had some amazing feedback.”

But she said the time required from the team behind the event, combined with increasing costs, had prompted the decision to cancel.

“The festival has always been a labour of love, everyone who gets involved ends up putting in more time than they really should,” Laura added.

“The reward for our small team has always more about a sense of achievement than anything else.

“However, the recent cost increases are such that we must now go with our heads and not our hearts.

“The festival has raised more than £90,000 for the Fishermen’s Mission charity over the years and has been the biggest annual event contributor to their funding.

“The charity is close to the heart of everyone involved with the festival, and we’re truly sorry that fundraising efforts won’t continue next year.

“Thank you to everyone who has attended the festival over the years, please continue to enjoy sustainable local seafood.

“A huge thank you to our sponsors, stall holders, partners, chefs, musicians and local contractors too – it’s been a real team effort hosting the event and we couldn’t have done it without you.”

Donations to The Fishermen’s Mission can be made via their website at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *