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March of the Mermaids is an annual summer event which fills Brighton seafront with a colourful crowd of merpeople and sea creatures. It’s an exciting day where people can dress up as their favourite fantastical beings and fill the city’s streets with music, whilst they also raise awareness and money for the UK’s seas.
The first March of the Mermaid’s was held in 2013. It was started by Hannah Chilton, a self-confessed mermaid fanatic. She was inspired by the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, a similar march held in New York City since 1983. Coney Island is a neighbourhood which was once known for its amusement parks and beaches, but which had become very rundown since the 1970s. Dick D. Zigun, founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow and unofficial ‘Mayor’ of Coney Island, decided to found the Parade to give the local residents something to be proud of and a way to express themselves. The main aim of the Parade is artistic expression, with a big emphasis on the many lavish homemade costumes and floats.
Brighton’s March of the Mermaids also features many beautiful costumes. It doesn’t take much to persuade the people of Brighton and Hove to put on a silly outfit and cover themselves in glitter but people also travel from across the country to take part. Many are professional or semi-professional mermaids with highly realistic tails (see image) whilst others are content with outfits inspired by the fantastic sea-dwellers. Sea mammals, crustaceans, pirates, sailors and all forms of sea life are all also welcome to take part. Rubber fish head masks are a particularly popular item!
Brighton’s Mermaid March shares the flamboyant pageantry of its Coney Island inspiration, but it also has a more serious side. Since its beginning, the March has raised awareness for marine conservation issues and has raised money for many different charities. March of the Mermaids 2016 was jointly run by WhaleFest and collected money for the World Cetacean Alliance. This charity works to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises, who face many threats from hunting and pollution.
In July 2017 the fifth March of the Mermaids will be raising money for Surfers Against Sewage (SAS). SAS is an environmental charity which tackles many issues from marine litter, to sewage pollution and climate change. They aim to raise awareness of these issues and teach people about the importance of our seas and keeping them clean, both for our sake and for the many special animals which call the ocean home. SAS spends a lot of time talking to the government to make them take these problems seriously and to put laws in place to stop them from happening. They also organise a big group of volunteers who do things like beach cleans and fundraising.
March of the Mermaids is free to take part in but they are very happy to receive a donation of £3 from people who want to help the cause. If you can get down to Brighton then wear your best mermaid-inspired outfit and spend a day in the sunshine raising awareness. If you can’t, Surfers Against Sewage organise many beach cleans across the UK. Visit www.sas.org.uk/campaign/beach-cleans for information on how to join one, or how to organise a Mini Beach Clean of your own!
Images taken from the March of the Mermaids facebook page.