A first-of-its-kind winter festival is set to breathe new life into Albany’s rich maritime history next month with a stacked line-up of free events and international folk music hitting our shores. The inaugural Albany Maritime Festival will run from July 5-16, bringing visitors from across the country to the Great Southern. The Boatshed, Museum of the Great Southern and Albany’s Historic Whaling Station are some of the locations that will host free events across the two weeks. Market stalls, live performances, workshops, art installations, wood fires and food will help immerse festival-goers in Albany’s nautical history. The Albany Maritime Foundation will host its Build a Boat competition, giving teams five hours to craft a vessel before racing across the Albany Waterfront Marina. Coinciding with NAIDOC Week, a Menang Noongar Hub will ensure Albany’s Aboriginal history is front and centre, with five days of cultural experiences, demonstrations, storytelling, and art installations. City of Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington said the festival was a great opportunity to celebrate Albany’s maritime history and build on the success of the Albany International Folk ‘n’ Shanty Festival. “We have a rich maritime history dating back to 1791 when George Vancouver described King George Sound as the best natural harbour in the world, and even before that through the connections the Menang people had with the sea and coastal places such as Binalup, which we now know as Middleton Beach,” he said. “This will be the first year we’ve had the Maritime Festival and it has really been a community exercise to come together and plan something that is unique to Albany and can attract visitors at a time of year when tourism is traditionally slow.” The centrepiece of the festival is the Albany International Folk ‘N’ Shanty Festival from July 9-11. The festival will bring some of the world’s best folk and shanty talent to town, with more than 50 acts travelling from around the country to perform. Groups from the UK, Spain, Netherlands, Poland, France and the US will also perform live from their home cities, live streamed to the Albany Entertainment Centre and Boatshed. Festival organiser and Albany Shantymen member John Henderson said among the international acts, the group was excited to have The Longest Johns, one of the UK’s most famous shanty groups, take part. “These are all world-class artists who have jumped at the chance to be part of our festival. And we are sure that, once travel restrictions around the world are lifted, these acts will want to come here in person to play at the festival,” he said. Mr Henderson said many great established and new Australian acts would be heading to Albany. “We know that the 20-strong Anchormen from Bunbury are guaranteed to whip up a storm, 40 Degrees South are a veteran crew from Sydney who have toured all over the world and will be great value,” he said. “There’s a very strong contingent coming from Perth with the Lost Quays, The Fo’c’s’le Firkins and the She Shants.” Alongside The Albany Shantymen, locals including the Shantylillies, Rob Zielinski, Jude Iddison, Rod Vervest and Simone Keane will also take to the stage. Mr Henderson said shanty music’s recent viral popularity meant there had been more interest from the general public in this year’s festival. “But we think that maritime folk music has intrinsic value beyond social media,” he said. “The songs were written for sailors — not professional singers — and as such, anyone can have a go. “I challenge anyone to go to a shanty session and not come away with a smile on their face.’’ Mr Henderson said the festival could bring in more than $1 million to Albany. Although events are free, people can buy a festival pass for $50 to secure seats at the major events, entry to Albany’s Historic Whaling Station, and a shuttle bus between venues. For the full program visit cityofalbanyevents.com.