Frinton on Sea: A unique seaside day out
PUBLISHED: 10:22 27 June 2016 | UPDATED: 10:22 27 June 2016
Our Great British seaside resorts come in all shapes and sizes, but few are quite as unique as Frinton on Sea. Petra Hornsby speaks to some of the key players who make Frinton a summer sensation
Those of us who love a beach trip will have an idea of what makes the perfect visit and, along the Essex coastline, we have seaside towns that, between them, cater for all tastes. Among them is Frinton on Sea – conservative to some, but beautifully special to others.
Whatever your view, Frinton remains one of the most popular and highly-rated beach resorts for family visits and certainly during the summer season it is easy to see why, with pretty painted beach huts, magnificent sandy beaches, an expanse of greensward ideal for picnics and kite flying, and for great sea views. Some people visit for a week or two, many more for the day, but residents of the town, of course, have this on their doorstep throughout the year. One man, professional musician Robert Max, has made it his mission to also deliver the beautiful sounds of classical music to the town’s doorstep, making it accessible for visitors and locals alike.
The Frinton Festival emerged following private concerts given at the Homestead in Frinton – a special venue which was designed by architect Charles Voysey and which is home to Robert’s parents.
Robert explains: ‘The concerts were first held around five or six years ago at the Homestead and featured my own ensemble – the Barbican Piano Trio. They were so well received that I was urged by people to, in future, either do each concert twice or organise a festival.’
So he organised a festival and now acts as its artistic director, organiser and in his words, ‘chief bottle washer’.
‘My goal is to bring top-notch classical music to Frinton, where we have some attractive venues that serve as great backdrops to super music,’ says Robert. ‘It is purely a classical music festival, as I want to share my love of this genre with the community and to offer them something they don’t have to travel miles to hear. Some people have been greatly touched by the fact they can hear such beautiful music so close to home. For some it has been their first experience of classical music, and just at the end of their road too! I have had people tell me that they have been moved to tears.’
Frinton Festival has been going since 2014 and this year offers six concerts across five venues including the Homestead, The Old Church, McGrigor Hall and All Saints Church in Great Holland.
Robert adds: ‘This year, our third year of the festival, I am delighted that we will be holding a special family concert featuring children from two local schools – Frinton Primary and Hamford Academy. I will be composing a special animal-themed piece and I hope the children will also be reading some of their poems about animals at the beginning.’
The festival runs from June 2 to 5 and the full programme, with information on purchasing tickets, can be found at www.frintonfestival.com.
So is the summer season the be all and end all for Frinton? Resident Amber Bruce, owner of the Spinning Strawberry Toy Shop, elaborates: ‘There are visitors throughout the year, even in winter, and the locals are all very supportive of the businesses and shops in the town, so the famous Connaught Avenue is always quite busy. Of course, in summer, we do enjoy having more people around and, on a warm day, it is lovely to have the doors of the shops open – it gives the town a cheerful feel.’
Amber, who has lived in Frinton since she was a child, clearly loves the town. ‘Frinton is a happy, sunny seaside town with a wonderful atmosphere,’ she says. ‘We are lucky to have some great traditional shops here, such as butchers, bakers and delis, as well as boutiques and gift shops.”
Amber is also chair of the Frinton Business Group, formerly the Chamber of Commerce, which comprises a group of local business leaders ranging from crafts people to representatives from the banks.
‘We wanted an informal way to get together to not only offer support, but to come up with ideas of how to promote our town and celebrate it too,’ Amber adds. As well as holding annual late night shopping events, the Frinton Business Group is planning a special celebration in June in honour of The Queen’s official 90th birthday – with a special Frinton street party planned.
‘We decided to plan something for all to enjoy and, on June 11 from noon to 5pm, the Avenue will be closed to cars so picnic tables can be arranged along the street. People can bring their own picnics and there will be refreshments available, including cake stalls. Entertainment will also be provided by actors and singers and there will be a dance competition. Children can enjoy the story corner, fairground rides and take part in a fancy dress competition. For the grown-ups, there will be a classic car show.’
Amber is hoping that such an event will become a regular feature of Frinton’s summer calendar, along with the music festival and the summer theatre. Summer in Frinton simply wouldn’t be the same without its theatre. In 2014, Frinton Summer Theatre celebrated an impressive 75 years of bringing great plays and acting talent to the town.
Clive Brill, explains more about its origins. ‘It was started in 1937 by the Cambridge Academic TP Hoar as an amusement while he studied corrosion,’ says Clive. ‘It quickly developed a life of its own, employing many famous actors at the start of their career. Michael Denison, Vanessa Redgrave, Timothy West, Jane Asher, David Suchet, Gary Oldman, Owen Teale, Linda Bellingham, Jack Klaff and Neil Dudgeon all started their careers at Frinton. Richard Wilson, who is our patron, will be returning this year to preview his show I Don’t Believe It, a monologue taken from One Foot in The Grave.’
Clive himself became involved after appearing in a production of Charlie’s Aunt and Art four years ago and became hooked on Frinton, buying a flat and a beach hut there which he now visits several times a year. He took over as producer and artistic director last year.
Clive explains: ‘We have a fiercely loyal local audience, bolstered by the excellent Friends of Frinton Theatre who help raise money to keep the theatre going every year. The money they raise helps rent The McGrigor Hall – the home of the theatre. ‘We often play to full houses and people regularly buy season tickets and build their holidays around our programme. We are the only theatre in the UK to play the national anthem before every show.’
This year, the programme runs from July 12 to August 27 and includes favourites such as Noel Coward’s Hayfever, Dial M for Murder and Whose Life is it Anyway? There will also be a world premiere of A Match Made in Heaven by Jon Canter, which is a tale of marriage, weddings, religion and love. On August 5 and 6, there will be a special performance of Oliver! in the Mission Tent on the greensward.
There may only be one pub and no ice-cream kiosks by the beach in Frinton, but really – so what? Thanks to the dedicated people and enterprising businesses of Frinton, any summer sunshine is welcome icing on the already rather perfect cake.