Celebrating Norfolk’s finest coastal classic

Combining history, entertainment and a sea of spectacular flavours, the Cromer Crab & Lobster festival shines a spotlight on an exquisite local delight

Prized for its exceptional flavour and tenderness, Cromer Crab is a North Norfolk delicacy held in high regard throughout the nation. The unique chalk shelf surrounding this vibrant coastal town provides a nutrient-rich habitat, resulting in succulent shellfish that is particularly plump and fragrant.

The crabbing industry has provided valuable income for the local area for centuries; generations of skilled fishermen have ventured out in their trusty wooden boats to set and haul barrel-shaped pots known as creels. It’s an industry driven by traditional techniques that continues to thrive today, with Cromer Crab garnering a reputation as one of Norfolk’s most delicious and renowned exports.

This reputation is bolstered by the fantastic annual Cromer Crab and Lobster Festival, a fun-filled event that livens the streets of Cromer each May. Hosted to celebrate the proud seafaring heritage and active fishing community of this delightful coastal town, it’s a vibrant occasion attracting thousands of visitors with a love of history, art and seafood.

The first Crab and Lobster Festival was organised in 2010, inspired by an inquiry received by Cromer Carnival Chairman Tony Shipp. Crab catching was one of the most popular contests run during carnival week at the time, so an event championing these iconic crustaceans was given some dedicated thought. Enthusiastic meetings between representatives from Cromer and nearby Sheringham resulted in plans for a joint venture, uniting passionate volunteers from two towns that had long been in competition with one another.

Kicking off with a spectacular Friday evening concert at Cromer Pier’s Pavilion Theatre and continuing into a weekend of bright smiles, fresh flavours and heritage exhibitions, the new function was a sound success. It swiftly grew to become a highlight in North Norfolk’s cultural calendar, attracting a growing number of local residents, fishermen, cooks, creatives and entertainers as well as tourists and seafood enthusiasts from further afield.

Following a break of three festivals caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the much-loved event made a fabulous return in 2023.

“We’d lost several of our original committee members, so this was almost a new start, but an excellent team came together thanks to the enthusiasm of old and new volunteers. They organized a very successful event centred in Cromer which incorporated many elements of the former festivals, including the cookery theatre, family activities, stalls, music and more,” says Tony, who continues to serve as festival and carnival Chairman.

“The Crab & Lobster Festival is important to the town because it celebrates what makes Cromer special and instils pride in those of us who are lucky enough to live here,” he continues. “We hope to build upon the function’s successful revival this season with even more marvellous attractions, offering visitors a chance to discover how the town has been influenced by the sea over the years in an entertaining and informative way.”

Many aspects of the event capture Cromer’s unique character and heritage, with demonstrations of traditional crab pot making, craft activities such as gansey knitting and enthralling storytelling sessions from proud locals. It also showcases the versatility of crab and lobster through the preparation of a multitude of dishes, which are crafted by talented chefs in live displays, sold fresh at an array of food & drink stalls or served as specials at local eateries supporting the event.

“The crustaceans we catch here are celebrated for being some of the best in the world; it’s phenomenal what our area turns out,” says festival regular Richard Matthews who has been fishing in North Norfolk for over 45 years, providing excellent crabs and lobsters to many local businesses and his family-run seafood restaurant Rocky Bottoms. “You can’t beat a freshly dressed crab, it’s simple yet sensational. I love delighting customers with my catches at the festival; it has such a friendly feel as people come together to share an appreciation for quality shellfish.”

The 2024 event is set to be a special occasion, with the grand opening concert returning to the pier Pavilion after a break of five years. The fabulous variety show is for anyone who loves a classic seaside spectacular, featuring irresistible humour, songs of the sea from the renowned Sheringham Shantymen and a variety of dance styles.

An increased number of stalls will offer a superb array of stock over the weekend, brilliant children’s entertainers will bring joy to younger visitors and imaginative activities like crab dressing competitions will add to the excitement. Attendees will also be able to follow the town’s annual Art Trail, scouring shop windows around Cromer for lamps decorated as mooring posts. Designed by local artists, these striking pieces will be displayed until August before being auctioned for charity.

“It will be an amazing weekend to be in Cromer; we look forward to welcoming visitors to experience what the town has to offer,” says Tony. “I love being involved with delivering such a successful event, working with like-minded people and seeing smiling faces. It’s a wonderful celebration of where we live.”

The 2024 festival will take place on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th May, with stalls centred at Evington Lawns in Cromer. Tickets for the opening concert on Friday 17th May can be booked at the Pavilion Theatre box office, by calling 01263 512495 or online.

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