In 2016 HemingwayDesign embarked on a project to produce a Vision for Lowestoft South Beach, with aim to rejuvenate the seafront and help enliven the town’s leisure and tourist attractions.
With its extensive sandy beach, two levels of promenade, seafront parks and gardens, all flanked by handsome period buildings, it quickly became apparent that Lowestoft was not short of possibility. Everything clearly pointed to a coastal town that was ready to welcome a new generation of climate change aware and thrifty travellers looking closer to home for day trips and holidays.
Fast forward to 2017, following a year of in-depth consultation with local stakeholders, creatives, and community groups, and a thorough design period, the Vision for Lowestoft South Beach was published. Happily, several recommendations have since been, and are in the process of being realised. HemingwayDesign’s DNA is at the heart of two of these.
The Vision included the idea of a festival to celebrate sunrise to sunset on the magnificent beach and promenade. This proposal really started to fly when we assembled a group of local creative minds in a seafront hotel and brainstormed the concept. Thankfully within this group was the wonderful Genevieve Christie of Flipside, who had been delivering cultural arts events locally for many years. It was discussed that Lowestoft is Britain’s most easterly town and has Britain’s most easterly beach, leading us directly to the idea of First Light Festival – a free 24-hour multi arts festival, celebrating one cycle of midsummer sun setting and rising over the beach in Britain’s most easterly town.
Learning from other events that HemingwayDesign have devised and founded – The National Festival of Making and The Festival of Thrift – First Light was registered as Community Interest Company and the team, headed by Genevieve, embarked on a mission to shine a ‘first light’ on local creative talent, and to celebrate arts and culture as a way to build opportunities for, and support the local community.
First Light took place for the very first time over 24 hours of midsummer weekend on 22nd/23rd June 2019 on Lowestoft’s South Beach and seafront, with free access and over 160 innovative and engaging events, performances, installations, and workshops. Highlights included a headline set from BBC Radio 6 DJ Gilles Peterson, a talk led by Simon Mayo, a midnight screening of Danny Boyle’s Sunrise, accompanied by a Q&A discussion with the director himself and Talvin Singh performing just as the sun came up over the sea.
It is estimated that 30,000 people came along to get involved over the course of 24 hours, with visitors rating their experience as 9.4 out of 10. The economic impact was fantastic, specifically, an investment of £90,000 of business rates retained by East Suffolk Council was converted into between £700-£900k of direct spend at the festival. This is in addition to wider financial benefit to local hotels, restaurants, and bars, which all sold out!
First Light started to bring positive attention and tangible benefits to Lowestoft:
“The announcement of funding for the town’s flood defences has followed on from planning approval for the third crossing and the plans for the rejuvenation of the town centre also herald a new dawn for Britain’s most easterly town. East Point Pavilion will open in time for First Light 2022 and there can be no doubt that the creative and arts led ‘noise’ that was amplified massively by First Light is sounding loud and clear nationally and helping the town receive its long overdue share of national infrastructure budgets”
– Head of Regeneration, Kerry Blair
After a three-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, First Light Festival returned on the 18th and 19th of June 2022. With music, dance, poetry, comedy, science, art, storytelling, DJs, beach bars, outdoor cinema and much more, we welcomed both locals and visitors to South Beach for a full weekend of activities. We introduced an additional night of wild camping on the Friday evening, and extended the celebrations right up to the Sunday evening where the fun continued at East Point Pavilion.
First Light 2022 coincided with the re-opening of East Point Pavilion – a key seafront building and one of the first structures you see when visiting Lowestoft South Beach from the town centre.
Part of the 2017 Vision was to re-think East Point Pavilion as a building for creative and cultural uses. In June 2022, following a 3-year design, procurement, and construction period (delayed through Covid-19), East Point Pavilion reopened its doors. The once dated and underperforming faux Victorian building has been transformed into a stand-out destination for Lowestoft seafront, offering an assortment of independent street food traders, house bar, and the space and infrastructure for a developing year-round schedule of live music, DJs, performances, and events curated by First Light Festival CIC.
Prioritising accessibility throughout the refurbishment process, the Pavilion opens a world of possibilities to individuals and local communities through their newly installed Changing Places Toilets. These larger facilities offer right equipment, including a changing bench and a hoist, designed to support people with disabilities who need assistance. East Point Pavilion is one of few Changing Places facilities in modern, multi-use seafront venues in England.
Head to the East Point Pavilion website to discover more about the traders, venue, and developing events programme.
“The announcement of funding for the town’s flood defences has followed on from planning approval for the third crossing and plans for the rejuvenation of the town centre also herald a new dawn for Britain’s most easterly town. East Point Pavilion will open in time for First Light 2021 and there can be no doubt that the creative and arts-led ‘noise’ that was amplified massively by First Light is sounding loud and clear nationally and helping the town receive its long overdue share of national infrastructure budgets”– Kerry Blair, Head of Operations at East Suffolk Council.