Whitstable has always been famous for it’s native oysters and since Norman times our oystermen have always celebrated some kind of holy festival. Back then it wasn’t only a wish for a successful harvest, but also a thank you for having been kept safe at sea. Nowadays we celebrate our famous produce with the annual Whitstable Oyster Festival.
Eagle-eyed readers and oyster experts will notice that the festival occurs about 3 months before the Whitstable Native Oysters are ready. It always has done, as the oystermen would celebrate during the slackest time of the year. As a result, you are less likely to eat a Whitstable Native during Oyster Festival, but there is never a shortage of alternative oysters to be found and consumed.
Nowadays, the festival has moved on to become a huge, week long celebration, incorporating oyster eating competitions, live music, parades and grotter building on Whitstable beach.
Over the last few years the festival has welcomed big name acts such as Craig Charles, Sean Locke, Finlay Quay and Johnny Borrell, who have played to packed audiences for extremely reasonable prices. Alongside this, there is a wealth of smaller musical acts playing in various venues around the town and at the Harbour.
Apart from the music, there is a distinct family feel to many of the other organised events in Whitstable, which include a free outside cinema on Tankerton Slopes and kite making and arts based workshops for children.
Additionally, there is the Grotter building evening, which provides visitors and locals to use oyster shells to build little shell grottos on the beach, which are later illuminated by candles. It is a really beautiful sight to behold.
The end of the festival is celebrated with a stunning fireworks display and masquerade walk, which combines the eccentricities of the town with the spectacle of fireworks being launched from a boat. Most families select their spot on the beach hours before and enjoy the afternoon with a barbeque. Alternatively, the Old Neptune Pub has a fantastic view of the celebrations and great staff serving behind the bar.