A FREE festival of art, food and entertainment is set to celebrate everything that’s special about the Yorkshire Coast’s magnificent maritime culture from May 18-19 and make the most of Whitby's sensational seafood bounty. Yorkshire’s own Brian Turner and fellow chef Jean-Christophe Novelli will be cooking up a storm in the festival kitchen.

They will demonstrate how to prepare and cook the daily catch along with some of the coast's award-winning seafood heroes, including Rob Green, Paul Gildroy, Martyn Hyde, Matt Leivers, Ryan Osborne, and Fishmonger of the Year, Andrew Barker.

“Having visited Whitby, one of the great fishing ports of the UK, as a child, I am so excited to be coming back to demonstrate in the food theatre,’ said Brian. ‘I’m looking forward to using some fantastic local produce as well as joining some great talented local chefs.”

"From the building of its boats to its multi award-winning fish restaurants, Whitby is one of the few places left in Britain where you can still experience the seafarer's way of life from sea to shore, as it's been for hundreds of years," explains Janet Deacon, the festival organiser and Tourism and Corporate marketing manager for Scarborough Borough Council and area director for Welcome To Yorkshire. "Whitby was once an international maritime centre and visitors will be able to explore first-hand how today's seafarers are building on tradition to put top quality seafood on Britain's plates, in their own unique and sustainable way. As you'd expect from the seaside, there's also plenty of top-notch entertainment, including live music, madcap street theatre, inspired artworks, and a grand firework display."

The festival promises to be a feast for the eyes as well as the taste-buds, when artists bring the spectacle to the seaside town. Internationally-celebrated sculptor Emma Stothard and Virpi Kettu, animator for the Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit films, will feature alongside local craftspeople, schoolchildren and college students.

“From boat-building to Britain’s finest fish restaurants, sea-faring is in our hearts and souls, and this is what artists, both young and older, will be capturing during Whitby’s Fish & Ships Festival,” Janet adds. “The festival’s not just a celebration of the past - artists will also be recreating the town’s relationship with the sea today. From traditional craftsmanship to digital wizardry, visitors will be able to explore an astounding range of artworks, from the harbour to the library. And, if you’re inspired by what you see, you can even get creative yourself in fun festival workshops or activities.”

Virpi will share her film-making skills during animation workshops on May 18 (10am-12pm and 1-3pm), when families will be able to create magical, underwater aqua-worlds in the famous Aardman modelling style in fun 30-minute ‘drop-in’ sessions.

Meanwhile, Emma – whose sculptures are in demand across the globe, appearing in gardens and galleries from Highgrove to the Chelsea Flower Show – will create a new wire sculpture for the festival weekend.

“I grew up on the Yorkshire Coast, and we spent our family holidays around Whitby,” says Emma. “I’ve never lost my childhood wonder for this very special place and its magnificent countryside inspires my work today. My dad used to make crab-pots and go fishing on the Yorkshire Coast, so I was instantly drawn to Whitby’s Fish & Ships Festival. Fishing’s such an important part of the local character, and I was surrounded by it as a child.

“For my new work, A Whitby Fisher Lass, I wanted to pay tribute to the women of Whitby’s fishing families, whose story may not be as well known. As a local lass myself, it’s impossible not to be fascinated by the fisher lasses - and overawed by the back-breaking work they did alongside the men to support local industry. I’ve been researching Frank Meadow Sutcliffe’s remarkable photographs of Victorian Whitby to find out more about the town’s women, and I may even have someone in mind to bring to life - but you’ll have to visit the festival to find out more.”

During the weekend, visitors will also be able to follow a new Whitby Fish & Ships art trail with highlights including:

• ‘Harbour’ street art, where students from Caedmon College & Eskdale School are joining forces to bring a new imaginative approach to the old fishing warehouses on Pier Road, in what will become a permanent installation

• Local artist, Serena Partridge will be cooking up a felted fish supper, served with a scoop of imagination, in family felt-making workshops on Sunday 19 May at Whitby Library, followed by a chance to make ships sail the seas in flip-book animation sessions.

• Local schools and college students are recreating fish & ships in intricate origami in an exhibition for Whitby’s Pannett Art Gallery.