Preparations are now well underway for a festival in Ramsgate to celebrate 200 years of the town’s Royal Harbour status.
After enjoying his time in the town so much following an international trip to Hanover, Germany via Ramsgate, King George IV, on his return, gifted the harbour Royal ascent. 2021 marks the 200th anniversary of King George IV officially declaring Ramsgate harbour as ‘Royal’ in 1821. It is still the only royal harbour in the country to this day.
In recognition of the anniversary, a festival will take place around the seafront and harbour from September 24-26. The main event includes the Royal Navy bringing two of their fleet to the harbour, and the world-famous Tall Ship ‘The Royalist’ will also be anchored within the harbour during that weekend.
It will also host the 80th-anniversary celebrations of the World War Two Little Ships’ Dunkirk repatriation. Ramsgate Harbour and the Ramsgate tunnels played a significant part in the rescues but the anniversary event had to be delayed last year due to COVID restrictions. Around a dozen of the original Little Ships that helped rescue 331,000 British and French troops will arrive at harbour.
There will be parades and activities going on in Ramsgate’s inner harbour, as well as Harbour Parade in front of The Royal Victoria Pavilion and parts of Ramsgate Main Sands, which will all be used to host this significant event for the town and UK maritime history.
There will be an opportunity for children to operate a multi-million-pound submarine simulator supplied by the Royal Navy, a funfair, market stalls, costumed walks, vintage vehicles, music and entertainment and a variety show called ‘The Royal Harbour of Ramsgate Gala Show.’ The Royal Cadets will also be bringing an 80-piece band, plus carnivals from around Kent will be parading through the town and seafront area.
The event will include special workshops, historical tours and shows, fancy dress parades, a Gala variety performance, a grand harbour parade, a celebration banquet and children’s parties.
Festival director Ralph Hoult OBE – aka Mr Ramsgate – has spent years planning the historical event.
He said: “There is great anticipation about the town at the moment, and I’m proud to be a part of it all. We hope this historic event will give people a chance to make up for the tough times people have been through during the pandemic. This will bring together the whole community and people from all over the world to celebrate this unique milestone.”
The festival will also be helping to raise funds towards the completion of a bronze statue of King George IV, which will stand right beside the Royal Harbour as a permanent landmark.
Renowned sculptor Dominic Grant planned to gift the statue to Ramsgate once finished but sadly passed away in November 2020. Some £50,000 is needed to complete the bronze casting of the statue and provide site groundworks and a plinth.
Ralph said: “Upon receiving my OBE from Her Majesty, The Queen, I took the opportunity to explain the 200th anniversary Royal Harbour festival and suggested it would be very special if a member of the Royal Family could unveil the bronze statue of King George IV once we have raised enough funds.
“We have been talking directly to the Lord-Lieutenant of Kent about whether we could get young Prince George to unveil the late King George IV statue sometime after the 200th-anniversary festival.”
Actress Brenda Blethyn OBE, who lives on Ramsgate seafront, is this year celebrating ten years of ITV’s most successful detective series ‘Vera’, which has become ITV’s largest export and seen by over 500 million people.
Brenda grew up in the town and is supporting the festival along with fundraising efforts to complete the statue of King George IV. She feels passionate about the regeneration of the town and is also patron of the international film festival for Ramsgate, which is now in its fifth year.
She said: “My head and heart are in Ramsgate, and I absolutely love it here. We’ve got a beautiful harbour, and we’re about to celebrate its 200th anniversary.”
Ramsgate mayor Cllr Raushan Ara said: “200 years ago, King George IV enjoyed Ramsgate’s hospitality so much, that he bestowed “Royal” status upon our harbour. We are so fortunate to have such a friendly and welcoming community in Ramsgate, and I love living in my town.
“It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to this celebration of 200 years of this unique “Royal Harbour” status. My heartfelt thanks go out to all the people and organisations, who have worked so hard, to enable this event to take place.”
Blueberry Homes, which is working on the Royal Sands development on the seafront, is one of the main sponsors of the three-day event.
Ralph said: “We’re thankful for the financial support and sponsorship from Royal Sands Ramsgate and its developer Blueberry Homes. We are very grateful for their support, as well as their efforts to help us with our fundraising project and commitments to the regeneration of Ramsgate and its surrounding areas.
A Blueberry Homes spokesperson added: “We’re proud to be a part of such a historic and exciting event, Ramsgate is such an amazing town, and we can’t wait for the community to celebrate such a unique occasion.”