HEARTY songs of the sea rang out across Harwich as an ever-growing festival made its return.

The 12th annual Harwich International Shanty Festival saw a record number of visitors descend on the coast for a weekend of live music.

A wide range of bands gathered from across the world to celebrate the lost art of the shanty, which were songs formerly sung by sailors to accompany work aboard large ships.

The festival uses concerts, pub sessions, talks and workshops to convey the importance of Harwich’s place in Britain’s history as a seafaring nation.

This year, for the first time, shanty crews from Italy and Russia joined the roster as dozens of groups performed across the town.

Organiser Pam Fitzgerald said: “We now have shanty crews visiting the festival from across the world. They enjoyed it so much this year every group wants to come back.

“This year was definitely the biggest and best festival we had - it was fantastic.

“Our visitor who had travelled the furthest came all the way from Minnesota, USA, just to enjoy the festival."

Thousands of visitors stopped in at pubs in Harwich and took in the sights, which included visits from sailing ships Excelsior and Victor at the Ha’penny Pier.