THE sun came out for the first Grays Village Beach Festival yesterday as the masses of Thurrock descended upon Grays' biggest festival so far.

More than 6,000 people turned out to party as revellers were entertained by a mass variety of acts, from CBeebies Rastamouse to Essex's best rock'n'roll talent.

The free event was the first of its kind in Thurrock, and was organised by arts group Metal, who also run the popular Village Green event in Southend.

Residents commented on the great atmosphere and the huge variety of acts - with 'something for everyone' - from beatboxers to a performing theatre troupe - in a tank.

The biggest talking points were the Circus Raj, Floriferocity - an Indian performing flower troupe who were helped by Alice in Wonderland, headline act beatboxer Schlomo, as well as Bollywood dancing and funk bank Primo Nelson, who got everyone dancing.

Volunteer Billy Burroughs, 17, Copperbeach Road, said: "Grays doesn't always have the best reputation, but this has brought everyone together and everyone is having a great time!"

Many residents said they were surprised at the level of local talent and cited less well-known or up-and-coming acts as the highlights of their day.

Metal director Colette Bailey said: "We are really delighted at how the whole day went and couldn't be more pleased. I was blown away by the phenomenal level of talent in Thurrock - my favourite acts were on the busking stage. 

"Best of all, we really felt all the different parts of Thurrock were represented - we had people from Stanford-le-Hope, Tilbury, from all across Thurrock."

Organisers also said they were thrilled at how the event went - with a 'less edgy' atmosphere to similar events in the past, and a friendly, family feel on the day.

Project Manager Yogesh Taylor said the secret was the organisers purposefully kept the event open to all ages.

Other highlights of the day included a resident 'Bake Off' judged by the Mayor and followed by free cake for all at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

Schoolchildren marched in the Thurrock 100, a magnificent display of 100 giant flags, along with African dance routines and many other performances.

Local celebrities including Russell Brand and Scroobius Pip had designed beach huts, from inside which storytellers performed.

Artists also ran mask-making workshops for kids. 

The event was part-funded by Thurrock Council.

A full report and pictures will be in this week's Thurrock Gazette.