Our Story

SO Festival has been running for a wonderful nine years, take a look back through the years and re-create those memories.

2009 - Where it all began

2009 - Where it all began

East Lindsey District Council in partnership with Arts Council England, launched a summer festival in Skegness in 2009, called SO.

The title ‘SO’ comes from the famous 1908 John Hassall poster which features the town’s Jolly Fisherman dancing along the beach with the slogan of ‘Skegness is SO Bracing’.

The first SO Festival included a night of Opera relayed on to a 46m Beach via satellite from the neighbouring Embassy Theatre. A comedy showcase, an evening of Berlin Cabaret and the conclusion of the festival was the first performance on the beach of Full Circle, presented by ‘The World Famous’ and Slovenian musicians Terrafolk, a spectacular music and pyrotechnic show that took everyone’s breath away.

2010 - Four days of exhilarating performances in Skegness

2010 - Four days of exhilarating performances in Skegness

SO Festival returned to Skegness this summer, but unlike the previous year, 2010 offered twice the excitement…

SO Festival returned to Skegness this summer, but unlike the previous year, 2010 offered twice the excitement, with four days of exhilarating performances, which transformed Skegness into an international arts venue bringing a colourful carnival of dance, visual art, street theatre, music, world-class performances and celebrity music acts.

2010 kicked off with a 10-day collaboration between international artist Ra Kajol, and an army of volunteers painting “Traffic Art”. This UK premiere of Ra’s work was big and bright, a celebration of Skegness’s own vibrant colours.

Highlights included Jools Holland at the Embassy Theatre, who was joined on stage by drummer Gilson Lavis, vocalists Ruby Turner and Louise Marshall and special guest, Marc Almond, a showcase of Lincolnshire’s most talented musicians thanks to BBC Introducing’s live ‘battle of the bands’ and exceptional dance performances.

Visitors were also wowed by acclaimed French street theatre company Transe Express perform Mobile Homme suspended 40m in the air and silhouetted against the night sky.

On the Saturday, Skegness turned into an aquatic wonderland, when Plasticiens Volants performed their critically acclaimed mobile show, Perle, which will launch the 2010 illuminations display – where massive inflatable sea creatures and giant marine puppets floated and danced over the crowds, transforming the Skegness skyline into a magical oceanic display.

The festival drew to a close with music performances in Tower Gardens before West End star Lee Mead closes the festival in style with a performance at the Embassy Theatre.

2011 - Final countdown for London 2012 Open Weekend

2011 - Final countdown for London 2012 Open Weekend

SO Festival 2011 was a three day festival of amazing shows, events and culture that took place in Skegness.

An exciting element of this celebration was being part of the London 2012 Open Weekend, marking the final countdown until the opening of The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

SO Festival 2011 celebrated connections with people across the UK and Europe, by sharing projects with partners in Helsingborg (Sweden) and Helsingor (Denmark).

The programme included;

  • Launch location for GamesTime, the UK premier’s by Deda Producing, funded by Legacy Trust UK.
  • Architects of Air
  • Coastal Flood Exhibition – a digital media platform to raise awareness of flood risk along the East Coast
  • SO Festival Fringe programme of community dance and music
  • Granny Turismo
  • Second UK presentation of “All Hands” by The World Famous
  • Circo Rum Ba Ba
  • International co-commission Moving Colour by SO Festival, The Passage Festival, Helsingborg Sweden and Helsingor Denmark which brought together four groups of dancers and fashion designers from Lincolnshire and Helsingborg

Previous Partners included:

2012 - A great year for United Kingdom #London2012

2012 - A great year for United Kingdom #London2012

SO Festival 2012 expanded to a district wide, nine day festival, travelling to market towns of the district, which furthered its continuous ambition to engage people and communities in a cultural programme that aims to deliver events that enhance education and lifelong learning; grow the local economy; improve health and wellbeing; and create volunteering and community involvement opportunities.

In 2012, East Lindsey was the first district in the East Midlands to welcome the Olympic Torch on its relay through the country; exciting and inspiring communities and residents across the district.  The Olympic Games was a driving force of inspiration for 2012’s festival.

Programme included:

Partners and supporters included:

2013 - A festival to enjoy by the whole district

2013 - A festival to enjoy by the whole district

SO Festival 2013 created ten days of amazing art, culture and sport events for East Lindsey to enjoy and brought new and innovative work to the area.

This year, as well as street theatre and music, we showcased an amazing programme of dance and honoured to have attracted some of the UK’s most acclaimed outdoor performers – a real testimony to the high regard in which SO Festival held on a national level.

SO Festival once again successfully travelled to a number of Market Towns working closely with communities and local schools.

It is estimated the Festival has contributed approximately £1m in Economic impact to the District per year since 2009, to develop other strategic events and partnerships that have allowed both the festival and other events to flourish.

Programme included:

2014 - Created more and more opportunities for communities

2014 - Created more and more opportunities for communities

SO Festival 2014 was a nine day festival that brought spectacular outdoor art to Lincolnshire and the Midlands…

SO Festival 2014 was a nine day festival that brought spectacular outdoor art to Lincolnshire and the Midlands. Our goal was to engage with and inspire people to participate in art. We aimed to connect with hard to reach groups and people from the least engaged places across the Midlands.

Download our SO Festival 2014 Highlights Brochure

2015 - We became a National Portfolio Organisation

2015 - We became a National Portfolio Organisation

SO Festival 2015 was an eleven day spectacular that brought extraordinary outdoor entertainment across six different market towns in East Lindsey…

2015’s festival was slightly different to previous years as we visited Louth, Alford, Woodhall Spa, Mablethorpe & Spilsby in the early evening, making sure as many people as possible were able to enjoy the wonderful acts we had lined up as well as our opening extravaganza in Horncastle and finale in Skegness.

In 2015 the festival was inspired by traditional entertainment – something that has long been associated with the East Lindsey coastline.

Download the SO Festival 2015 Programme

2016 - We launched in Mablethorpe for the very first time

2016 - We launched in Mablethorpe for the very first time

In 2016, the Festival took place across nine days and within seven market towns in East Lindsey.

It launched for the first time at the coastal seaside town of Mablethorpe followed by visits to Horncastle, Alford, Louth, Spilsby and Woodhall Spa, finishing with a finalé weekend in Skegness.

2016 saw;

• 94% of visitors rated the festival as excellent/good

• 90% would return again

• 75% of attendees surveyed were local residents or day visitors, with 25% staying overnight

• 22% of audiences were visiting SO Festival for the first time

• 69% of groups who attended brought children aged 0-15

• Opportunities for participation in the Festival grew by 317%

• There were 7 new commissions created specifically for SO Festival

• SO Festival presented over 70 shows

“There is a buzz of activity, people smiling and everyone being very helpful”

“Everything is a highlight – the whole thing is excellent”

“Was great to see underused spaces like Marine Lake being brought back to life”

“SO Festival brings the community together – thank you”

Take a look at the SO Festival Programme 2016 and 2016 Highlights

2017 - East Lincolnshire’s leading arts & culture festival

2017 - East Lincolnshire’s leading arts & culture festival

SO Festival continued to establish itself as East Lincolnshire’s leading arts & culture festival & a key event in the summer for all the family.

SO Festival 2017 was six days of explosive outdoor entertainment and brought a fantastic display of outdoor art to the streets of Skegness. From a project made entirely of cake to a community & professional speakeasy & an explosive Saturday night performance.

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