city slicker Whitby

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The Independent Culture
The 30th Whitby Folk Week takes place this week (until 25 Aug), boasting more than 1,000 hours of folk events. Here's how to get the best out of an all-singing, all-dancing week by the sea

What's on where?: There are gigs, ceilidhs and workshops in every available hall, from the Conservative Club to the Fisherman's Rowing Club. Programmes (pounds 1.50) from the Festival Office, Church House, Flowergate (9.30am-5.30pm). Best pubs for a finger-in-the-ear warble are the Plough, Middle Earth and Black Horse.

Gig guide: Don't miss Karen Tweed and Ian Carr (guitar and accordion), the Kirkburton Rapier Dancers (traditional Yorkshire longsword dancing), The Lakeman Brothers (precocious New Folk talent), Chris Wood and Andy Cutting (virtuoso fiddle and accordion) and Les Barker (silly songs).

How to blend in: Sing constantly, even when ordering drinks. Wear clogs. Say knowledgeable things to complete strangers ("Of course, you know the hammered dulcimer is only his second instrument?"). Don't shout "Can you do 'Puff the Magic Dragon'?".

What to wear: During Folk Week you can happily sport beards, sandals, beads, pigtails and Nepalese skullcaps, without risking a good pasting. Afterwards, it's safety first: you'll need to resemble either a typical summer visitor (impenetrable Teeside accent, third-degree shoulder burns, ship's anchor tattoo, crate of lager) or the local youth (impenetrable North Yorkshire accent, Quicksilver beach gear, custom surfboard, wraparound Ray-Bans, wet suit).

Other attractions: The 199 steps to the abbey, the crazed architecture of St Mary's (yes, it does look like the vicar's added a conservatory), the Dynamic Motion Simulator, bingo at the Coliseum and the Cracky Crab machine in Fun City Amusements.

The beach: Whitby has three miles of sandy beach, allowing plenty of room to avoid parents shouting: "Kylie, Dean, I won't tell you again, you little buggers!". Top beach pastimes: sheltering from the rain; donkey riding; drinking lager and pretending to shag the donkey.

Best spectator event: Watching the traffic wardens enforcing the "No Waiting" regulations on Church Street, or the opening of the swing-bridge across the river, which separates children from mothers, or bursting pensioners from toilets, and tattooed men from cans of lager.

Eating: Fish and chips, obviously. The Magpie is in The Good Food Guide but the queues can be horrendous. Trenchers is better, or try the Silver Street chippy. For proper fish dinners it's the splendid White Horse & Griffin in town (cheap to middling) or the Endeavour in Staithes (expensive).

Drinking: Real-ale types frequent the Tap N' Spile. Surfies, trendies and tourists drink in the Duke of York and Little A(ngel); fishermen in The Star; rufty-tufty boys and girls in The Buck or the Big A(ngel Hotel); mums and dads in the Elsinore.

Overheard conversations (and correct answers): "Wossisname, Wicksy, Nick Berry, films Heartbeat just up the road in Goathland" (he does); "I'm sure that was Martin Carthy/Steve Phillips/Brendan Croker in the pub" (almost certainly); "a Whitby man invented the crow's nest" (he did, Captain WJ Scoresby; "the best existing authority on Greenland whales", according to Melville's Moby Dick); "and Whitby is the cod capital of the world" (tell that to Newfoundland).

Famous local events: 1965, Whitby Town FC lose 3-1 to Hendon in Amateur FA Trophy; 1916, town shelled by German warboat; 1747, James (later Captain) Cook sails on his first ship out of the harbour; 664 AD, Synod of Whitby determines the date of Easter and the shape of monks' haircuts.

JAMIE WATSON

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