The first event of its kind in the UK, March of the Mermaids emerged from the ocean in 2012. Once a year, the shores of Brighton & Hove are invaded by mermaids, mermen, pirates and sea creatures of all kinds. A family-friendly event, it raises awareness of marine conservation and environmental issues, supporting associated campaigns, charities and groups. With an expected 1,300 participants, this year’s March of the Mermaids takes place on Sat 18 July.
Inspired by New York’s famous Coney Island Mermaid Parade, the event’s core aim is to be an inclusive and colourful celebration of our seas and sea life, raising awareness of marine conservation issues, right on the city’s beach. “I realised this was the perfect place to do it,” says organiser and mermaid obsessive Hannah Chilton. “I contacted Dick Zigun the organizer of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, who is my absolute hero. He was very supportive of us doing a similar event here.”
Every year the crowds grow and costumes become more elaborate, from lobster ladies to dogs wearing shark fins. “The most impressive was a huge pink octopus. It took up the whole width of the parade. I hear the lady who wore it came all the way from Devon with it!” For 2015 the event enjoys the support of WhaleFest, another Brighton-based organisation who share objectives with the Mermaids. “It seemed like a perfect fit that we should do something together.” This year the March will donate funds to the World Cetacean Alliance, a charity set up by some of the WhaleFest founders. Each year they set up a new campaign, last year focused on freeing whales in captivity.
As a city by the sea, it’s important everyone becomes aware of the dangers to our seas and sea life. It’s very easy for people to take it for granted and not to realise the fragilities of a very local eco-system, still Brighton’s beach is repeatedly covered by litter throughout the year.
The dream is for March of the Mermaids to expand, introducing parades or events around the country. Now the search is on to funding and sponsorship to help expand the reach of this important message. There’s also an idea to organise beach cleans along Brighton & Hove’s seafront, offering more days out for the campaigning mermaids and mermen. “My other big dream is to set up a mermaid swimming school in Brighton, if only I had more hours in the day!”
March of the Mermaids makes people more aware of marine conservation issues, and the campaigns working to resolve them, but it’s also plenty of fishy fun.
The third annual March of the Mermaids takes place on Sat 18 July, 2015.