MORE THAN 10,000 people flocked to the West Parade seafront for Bexhill’s first ever sea angling festival.
Visitors enjoyed the vast array of seafood on offer, cooking demonstrations, activities and the chance to have professional angling coaching.
Experienced anglers were kept busy with the string of fishing matches that took place alongside the festival lawn event.
Torrential rain and gale force gusts meant an early closure on Sunday for health and safety reasons, but the weather did little to dampen spirits as organisers had already smashed their attendance estimates the previous day.
In stark contrast to Sunday’s wet and windy conditions, Saturday brought perfect warm and flat calm conditions.
More than 40 stallholders offered fish dishes from a range of countries and cultures. Many of them reported having sold out as the event came to a close.
Crowds flocked to the Billingsgate seafood cooking demonstrations on the Ashdown Hurrey and Spectrum stand, where eager-to-learn cooks discovered the secrets of fish filleting and preparation from skilled chefs.
Plenty of people had an arm-wrenching battle with a bonito or sailfish, all from the safety of dry-land, thanks to the innovative SIMFISH simulator which had arrived all the way from France.
Novices to angling and fishermen keen to improve their skills got some expert tips from the England Junior Sea Angling Team. Families also tried their hand at casting rubber balls into nets positioned tens of yards away on one of the jubilee lawns.
Free of charge coaching sessions for people wanting to learn how to fish were fully booked within hours, with dozens of families now having gained a taste for the popular past time.
Meanwhile almost 60 anglers did battle on Bexhill’s beaches in a match that was covered by Sky Sport’s ‘Tight Lines’ TV show.
More hardy anglers braved the conditions to take part in Sunday’s bass match, with plenty of the species being caught.
The event concluded nine days of celebrations and fishing matches in the town.
The Bexhill Sea Angling Festival was organised by Rother District Council, Hook Line and Sinker tackle shop in Sackville Road and the Angling Trust, with support from Bexhill Sea Angling Club and tackle firm Daiwa.
Cllr Martin Kenward, who developed the idea of a sea angling festival with local anglers, said: “On the sheer number of visitors alone we can safely say this event was a huge success.
“Sadly we can’t control the weather, but, in the end, Sunday’s rain didn’t matter, Saturday’s sunny celebration was magnificent and the response from the public and local businesses was staggering.
“It shows what the council and the community can do by working together. We listened to what the anglers wanted and we both delivered with this event.”
MP Greg Barker attended and said: “It was wonderful to see so many people enjoying the Bexhill Sea Angling Festival on the Metropole Lawn last weekend. The event was a fantastic success with such a wide variety of high quality local stalls and attractions offering something for everyone including the most delicious food. The refurbished Bexhill sea front was the perfect setting for this festival which I hope will become an annual event for Bexhill.”
Event sponsors also included: Tesco, 1066 Country Marketing, Novo Photography, Bexhill Sea Angling Club, Rush Witt and Wilson estate agents, Bexhill Observer, Aquamarine Sports, Hastings and St Leonards Sea Angling Association, Fladen, Leeda, Masterline, Optilabs, Bexhill Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Tronix, the Dunselma Guest House, Eve’s Bed and Breakfast and the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Agency.