‘We want to give young people a voice’ - new festival coming to the Suffolk Coast this summer

PUBLISHED: 13:41 02 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:41 02 July 2019

Inflatable whales, doplins and seals are coming to Aldeburgh Picture: Daniel Cook

Inflatable whales, doplins and seals are coming to Aldeburgh Picture: Daniel Cook


The organisers behind an exciting new environmental festival being held in Aldeburgh hope to give young people the skills to run the event themselves in years to come.

The Siren Festival will feature a silent disco Picture: Richard BollThe Siren Festival will feature a silent disco Picture: Richard Boll

The organisers of Siren Festival, which is due to run over three days in early August, plan to create an underwater world in Aldeburgh's Jubilee Hall, complete with life-sized inflatable whales, dolphins and turtles, and all lit by blue lights for that Jacques Cousteau effect.

In this space, a programme of artists, musicians and scientists are expected to perform - each act imparting knowledge, or expressing hopes and fears about the key environmental challenges facing the region, such as climate change, ocean plastics and coastal erosion.

But the team backing Siren want the initiative to be more than just a one-off event and are planning a rolling series of regular activities focussed at galvanising local people, especially young people, around these themes.

They say they want to give young people a forum where they can learn more about the important environmental issues of the day, and to empower them to express themselves through art, music or whatever medium they choose.

Ian Rowlands  Picture: Gina GowIan Rowlands Picture: Gina Gow

READ MORE: 'It's scary' - what do young people in Suffolk think about climate change?


"We feel there is this great movement going on with young people waking up to the fact that their future is imperilled by what the adults have done to the environment, so we started to think about what we could do to give young people on this coast a voice," said Ian Rowlands (inset above), one of the people behind the festival, who says the idea came earlier this year on the back of the school climate strikes and Extinction Rebellion demos.

"We saw young people standing up and asking: 'What are we going to inherit' and the politicians struggling to find an answer," added John Davies, a retired countryside manager who is also involved.

The Ocean Dome will be part of the event  Picture: Gina GowThe Ocean Dome will be part of the event Picture: Gina Gow

"We felt locally it would be helpful if young people had a focal point, a place where they could come and get to understand more about the issues affecting the coast and the environment, and how they could go about trying to effect change, so they are moving forward in a positive way, putting energy into positive activities beyond climate strikes."


Mr Davies and Mr Rowlands are part of a team, hastily assembled, to make the Siren Festival a reality.

"We've called the festival Siren because it has a sea-theme, of mermaids luring people onto the rocks, but it also signals a warning that what we are doing to the oceans will ultimately affect us," continued Mr Rowlands, who has a background in organising environmental events through his not-for-profit company Incredible Oceans (that's where the inflatable cetaceans come from).

An underwater world will be created at the Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh during August. Picture: Julia ClaxtonAn underwater world will be created at the Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh during August. Picture: Julia Claxton

But both men only see their involvement as temporary - they hope they can start a groundswell of creative action that after three years will allow them to melt into the background and enable young people to carry it forward.

Mr Rowlands continued; "There is a team with a variety of skills to give the festival a bit of a push and a flying start but we very much see this as a thing created for and by local people, especially young people, to give them a chance to be part of things, to run things and perform."

READ MORE: East Anglia has 'huge amounts to do' to adapt to climate change, warns outgoing Environment Agency director

Marine specimens will be on view Picture: Daniel CookMarine specimens will be on view Picture: Daniel Cook


And there is a chance for people to participate a week before the main festival with a three-day workshop at Jubliee Hall called Making Space for Siren - a trio of drop-in days where people can join local artists and creators to make bits to dress the hall, such as beds of kelp seaweed made out of plastic and mural painting.

Beyond this summer, a follow-up event, named Siren Calling, is also planned, involving local businesses working with young people to boost their self confidence, teach them how to give presentations or make videos - the kind of skills they will need to get heard by politicians or to put on the festival themselves.

READ MORE: Suffolk county councillors vote to declare a 'climate emergency'

Music will also feature at Siren Festival Picture: Richard BollMusic will also feature at Siren Festival Picture: Richard Boll

But first comes the inaugural festival in August, during the school holidays and a place to be for young people in East Anglia - from school age through to university - concerned about the environment.

Mr Rowlands is keen to emphasise that the event is not a conference and that they intend to use science, art and performance to reach people.

"We want to appeal to people who think they aren't interested in this kind of thing," he added

"The idea is that they will come in because they want to be entertained and go out having been inspired and with something to think about.

"We want to capture people who would not normally go to an environmental event."

Making Space for Siren takes place from July 29 -31 at Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh and the Siren Festival is to be held in the same location from August 7-9. Visit for more information.

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