First Light Festival 2023
Across Saturday 17 & Sunday 18 June 2023, First Light Festival welcomed audiences of 40,000+ for a spectacular feast of creativity and celebration on South Beach. Marking the 70th and 10th anniversaries of significant flooding events in Lowestoft, the festival took a fresh perspective on our relationship to the sea with a programme of music, poetry, installations and community projects that look out beyond our horizons, and up to a vast sky of stars.
A big highlight of this year’s festival was the Welcome to Lowestoft Opening Parade that told the story of Farrah, a 5-metre high fox, and Sol, Lowestoft’s Spirit of the Sea. As part of the nationwide Historic England/Arts Council England Hi!Street Fest project with Emergency Exit Arts, the parade worked with schools, local groups and organisations to bring thousands of people into the high street and down to the beach as we met the humans and animals that call our town home.
The Sunlight Stage once again housed big musical names, including DJs Luke Una and DJ Paulette, folk royalty Eliza Carthy (presented by FolkEast), Berlin-based 7-piece Jembaa Groove, Tom McRae and new work from HighTide Theatre celebrating the legacy of the infamous 1930s Herring Girls protests.
Our packed First Word tent featured new and more familiar faces, including Josie Long, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Luke Wright. Visual arts came to the fore, with live sculpture from acclaimed sculptor Laurence Edwards and a pop-up protest with prominent climate photographer Gideon Mendel. Our Planet Positive zone was once again a hub of science, ideas and debate, with our partners from Natural History Museum, University of East Anglia and Cefas presenting the latest research with hands-on games and activities.
New areas for 2023 included Power Positive, showcasing the most exciting new technology from the region’s renewables sector, and Everyone Active, a centre of sports and fitness on the beach.
A beautiful, serene high point of the weekend was our Dawn programme, that this year featured new music and dance work from Nic Pendlebury, Hannah Rudd and Kerenza Peacock, enjoyed on the shoreline alongside a free communal fish feast, shared by onlookers as the sun broke across the horizon.