CROWDS were as big as they had ever been in Caerleon at the weekend as the annual arts festival held its two-day Big Free event.

Pubs along both banks on the River Usk hosted more than 40 performances of music, from rock to reggae, while the festival field hosted stalls offering arts, crafts, sculpture, exhibitions and music.

The weekend was the culmination of the 10 day arts festival which started as an international sculpture symposium and is now in its 14th year.

Rain or shine, since 2003 the festival has drawn crowds of people to its varied programme of events which includes drama, literature, poetry, comedy, music, dance, arts, crafts and sculpture.

This year again failed to disappoint with organisers saying crowds were as big as ever.

Max Perkins, festival committee member and one of the organisers, said: “I would say it was as good a crowd as we have ever seen it in the last 13 years. It was heaving.

“We’ve had no real problems and everyone seems to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. We have had a bit of rain now and again but it turned out quite nice in the afternoon.”

At lunchtime on the festival's last day he told the Argus: “I would say on a good day we have 1,500 people and it’s already heading that way.

“Through the day the crowds are building up outside the Hanbury quay.”

Among those attending the festival this weekend were four Caerleon men who are aiming to compete in one of the world’s top rowing events – a 3,000 mile journey across the Atlantic for charity.

This year’s programme was varied throughout the 10 days with jazz and blues gigs, a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ballet sessions, the Wales comic verse finals, middle eastern dancing and Samba drumming.

On Twitter people praised the “wonderful” event, calling it a “great success” with “fantastic organisation”.