Brixham Pirate Festival, UK

I be Tiger Lee, here be a tale of my visit to the old world. I boarded the Brixham Pirate Festival in its 5th year. Not sure what to expect, I arrived at the old seaport village, with about 40,000 visitors. Maybe 10% dressed in that they call “fancy” outfits, what we call cheap Halloween costumes. About 60 pirates were dressed in authentic pirate kits. Most of them re-enactors be very knowledgeable about pirate history and what they be wearing. There be a surprising number of them that actually be carrying n using black powder firearms, as you must have a hard to come by firearm’s license. Black powder is classified as an explosive, so special requirements are required fer storage. They also have firearms converted to fire regular 9mm pistol blanks to avoid the black.

They had two stages of entertainment, one fer kids n another one for adults. They had a mixture of regular musicians playing some pirate like music, plus a number of dedicated pirate bands, some were quite good, just like in the New World. They only had one vendor sell some leather items. My guess be that the hundreds of shop keepers around the harbor didn’t want competing vendors around.

At 5:30pm they had a skirmish at the Golden Hind, a replica of the ship that Sir Frances Drake used to circumnavigate around the world. There are two of the ships, one in London, which be the more authentic one. The ship here is more of a floating museum, except that half of the time during low tide, it sits on the mud bank. I be told that 30 or 40 years ago the Golden Hind in London wanted to dock at St Augustine, but the city told them NO. After 300 years they are still holding a grudge against Sir Frances Drake fer burning down the city, even though they hold a re-enactment called Drakes Raid every year for the past 20 years.

The skirmish (we call an re-enactment) starts out with the authorities check the papers of the English merchant, to discover they be French pirates, so the garrison opens fire to the pirates on board. They have a large wall gun, muskets, blunderbuss, and pistols blasting away at each other. Then the port side troops attack and board the ship. There be a melee aboard an actual wooden tall ship. Cutlasses be clashing all around the ship, with the outnumbered pirates killed or taken prisoners. It was truly wonderful to watch gunfire and sword fighting on a tall ship with pirates and British soldiers in a historic seaport harbor. So much better than most pirate re-enactments that happen in an open field, nowhere near water or ships around. Even pirate event that have tall ships, they normally just have ship to ship cannon firing, but never a boarding action. View Melee Video

This Brixham Pirate Festival once held the World records fer most pirates at one location in 2009, but Hasting currently holds the title with 14,231. This event always happens during the 3 day Bankers Holiday weekend. There be no formal pub crawl event, but the area is filled with a tons of great little pubs and restaurant, just like it must have been during the great Age of Sail two hundred years ago. The pirates here didn’t seem to drink as much as the pirates in the new world. The local shops sold plastic swords n cheap pirate hats to the tourists; there wasn’t much a serious pirate could find to plunder.

Blimey, I did come across an interesting place call Smugglers and Pirates Experience, a large red building that consist of 4 pirate businesses in one place. All the graphics and building be modern n very professional looking. The first be an olde tyme pirate studio, similar to my old business, but the costumes used to dress up be of the fancy pirate outfits shot against a photographic background.

The next business is a 50-minute multimedia experience that cost 7 pounds. It consist of a series of room and tunnels that are set up with a series of screen with project talking characters that tell a story of one certain smuggler, which this area had much real history with. At the end it talks a bit about pirates. I think the pirates be recently added as a marketing pull. It seems that smuggling doesn’t get the respect that pirates get. There be a pirate gift shop of mostly plastic pirate stuff. I was hopping to find a good book on smuggling, but didn’t fine one. The last be a pirate themed restaurant called the Smugglers Retreat. Very targeted to the common tourist and kid market, but not very exciting fer a seasoned pirate re-enactor.

So how does pirating in the New World differ from that in the Old World? In the UK, pirates have been growing; there are currently about 2 dozen events. There is almost no middle class of pirates here, just tourist dressing up in cheap Halloween costumes and serious re-enaactors. It might have to do with the fact that there don’t seem to be vendors for people who want better stuff to buy from. In the New World there is a growing group of pirates that want to wear something better than a quote-unquote “fancy” costume, but is not wanting to spend the time n’ effort of learning to make yar own authentic garb. I think the growth of this middle ground is important fer the overall growth of the pirate market.

The event didn’t have as much to do as pirate festival in the states side, but there be no cost. For the common tourist and even the experienced pirate this be an event worth travelling fer. Overall I be pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy it, yarrrr!



January 24, 2019

Brixham pirates music CDs

- Chris Palmer

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