Our Story

SO Festival has been running for an entire decade! Take a look back through the last ten, wonderful years and re-create those memories.

2009 - Where it all began

2009 - Where it all began

In 2009 East Lindsey District Council, in partnership with Arts Council England, launched a summer festival in Skegness 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. Other performances included; a comedy showcase, an evening of Berlin Cabaret and the first beach performance of Full Circle by The World Famous and 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, and offered twice the excitement with support from Arts Council England. Four days of exhilarating performances 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.

This year we celebrated connections with people across the UK and Europe, by sharing projects with partners in Helsingborg (Sweden) and Helsingor (Denmark).

Skegness was the launch location of GamesTimes  this spectacular outdoor stage show combined music, dance, video, fireworks and members of the local community by Deda, Derby.  The project was supported by Legacy Trust UK and Arts Council England.

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.

Other highlights of the programme included; Architects of Air, Granny Turismo, All Hands by The World Famous, Circo Rum Ba Ba, Coastal Flood exhibition, SO Festival Fringe programme of community dance and music.

Partners included Arts Council England, Magnetic Events, Lincolnshire County Council, Helsingor Teater, Dunkers Kulturhus, Helsingor Kommune, This Is Art, Championing the East Midlands, Legacy Trust UK & Environment Agency.

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. This helped us to further engage communities in a cultural programme. Therefore enhancing education and lifelong learning; growing the local economy; improving health and wellbeing; and creating 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.

We were part of Shauna Richardson’s Lionheart Project, which saw three giant lions tour the country in a 16 metre long illuminated glass case which was part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad

Highlights of the programme also included; Peep Box by John Byford, Bicycle Ballet, As The World Tipped by Wired Aerial Theatre, The Strongman by Bash Street Theatre, BBC Introducing in Lincolnshire and La Perichole, live from Garsington Opera, Oxfordshire.

Partners included Arts Council England, Magnetic Events, Lincolnshire County Council, East Lindsesy Live, University of Lincoln, European Union, Helsingor Teater, Passage Festival, Dunkers Kulturhus,  This Is Art, Championing Lincolnshire, Legacy Trust UK, National Trust, Garsington Opera, Serendipity, Mahogany, Cultural Solutions UK and Golden Fables 2012.

2013 - ten days of amazing art, culture and sport

2013 - ten days of amazing art, culture and sport

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.

Highlights of the programme included; BBC Radio Lincolnshire Touring Music Stage, Premier of Lancaster Film, Horncastled  with Horncastle Festival Committee, The Fragile Shell with Sinfonia Viva, SO Festival Fringe Programme, International Cricket: England Woman Vs Pakistan, Lincolnshire Schools’ Prom, BBC Lincolnshire Introducing Outdoor Concert,  The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, Big Bang by Plasticiens Volants, Dream Engine by Heliosphere and Garsington Opera performed Humperdinck’s “Hansel & Gretel”.

Partners included; Arts Council England, Centrica Energy, Siemens, Dong Energy, Magnetic Events, East Lindsey Live, Lincolnshire Co-Op, University of Lincoln, National Trust, Garsington Opera, England Cricket Board, Gone in 20 Minutes, Remarkable Productions, Stockton International Riverside Festival, Without Walls Associated Touring Network and Shoreditch Festival.

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. 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

In 2015 we became a National Portfolio Organisation with Arts Council England.

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

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.

This year we 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.

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 visiting Spilsby, Horncastle, Alford, Mablethorpe and Skegness bringing a fantastic display of outdoor art.

Les Commandos Percu from France and Deabru Beltak from Spain performed Danbor Talka (Clash of Drums), an explosive promenade performance combining their talents and know-how with a clear objective – to reclaim the streets. They also performed at the 2012 Olympics!

Othe highlights of the festival included, The Strong Lady, Urban Astronauts, Cake Fest by Simon Preston (a giant edible map of East Lindsey), Life’s a Beach by Black Country Touring.

Magna Vitae Trust for Leisure and Culture co-ordinated the festival partnered by East Lindsey District Council, Arts Council England, Garsington Opera, Without Walls Associate Touring Network and Coasters Touring Network.


2018 - NPO for the second time

2018 - NPO for the second time

SO Festival became a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) with Arts Council England for the second time from 2018-2022.

This has brought some changes to the festival; moving to 3 days on the last weekend of August and a new appointment of the Artistic Director, Jens Frimann Hansen.

Jens brings a Nordic and continental direction that provides a fantastic display of outdoor art and entertainment to prompt both community engagement and thought.

SO Festival has become an innovative and ambitious outdoor arts festival that introduces new arts and cultural experiences; bringing art to more culturally isolated locations within East Lindsey (Coast), Lincolnshire for audiences who do not always have the opportunities to see or experience exceptional outdoor performances.

Of the 60-plus continental and UK performances in Mablethorpe and Skegness, a number of them featured ‘pop-up’ street art and theatre – which surprised and delighted both audiences and passers-by in equal measure. Other artists looked at modern life in a different way with their static shows, from a spectacular headline ‘villains and heroes’ act – Wanted, from Italian artists eVenti Verticali to Amor, by French artists Bilbobasso, which saw an arguing couple explode in a fantastic fire show.

Magna Vitae Trust for Leisure and Culture co-ordinated the festival, partnered by Arts Council England, East Lindsey District Council, Passage Festival, Helsingor Teater, Without Walls Associate Touring Network, Coasters Touring Network and Lincs FM.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.