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From carnival-style celebrations, to prestigious opera in a refined setting, creative nature-inspired family fun, to waterfront shenanigans, both Bath and Bristol are serving up stupendous sounds and plenty of South West sparkle this summer. Here’s our round-up of the best summer festivals in the cities and surrounding area...
River Town, Bristol & Bath (11 June-28 July)
Saddle up for six weeks of foot-stomping sounds from the deep South, presented by Colston Hall and St George’s Bristol. The annual celebration of roots and country music from America’s heartland features global icons and up-and-coming artists in venues across Bristol and Bath. Look out for k.d Lang, Kiefer Sutherland, The Mavericks and lots more. Yee Haw!
Bath on the Beach, Bath (14 June - 3 August)
Head to Royal Victoria Park for Caribbean vibes in the heart of Bath throughout the summer. Sip rum punch under swaying palms, tuck into Mexican street food again, sink your toes into the sand and chill out in hammocks and cabanas. For extra fun in the sun, challenge your buddies to summer games - beach volleyball, boules, table tennis and more!
Forest of Imagination, Bath (20-24 June)
Working in collaboration with the Holburne Museum, this free family-friendly festival will be constructing fantastical multi-sensory installations and architectural artworks areas around the Holburne and Sydney Gardens. Explore art, nature, wellbeing and the environment in playful and creative ways.
Pub in the Park, Bath (21-23 June)
Tom Kerridge’s festival returns to Royal Victoria Park for three days of scrumptious food, Michelin-starred chef demonstrations and live music. Some of the best UK pubs will be serving up tasty grub while the likes of Basement Jaxx, Gabrielle, Texas, Will Young set the groove.
Bristol Sounds (26-29 June)
Shimmy the night away on Bristol’s Harbourside in a series of al fresco, waterfront gigs. This year’s stellar line-up includes Tom Misch (26 June), The Cat Empire (27 June), Bloc Party (28 June), Elbow (29 June) and The Cinematic Orchestra, (30 June).
Bristol Pride (1-14 July)
Dig out your brightest, sparkliest togs for the annual celebration of the city’s LGBT+ community. The fortnight-long festival features theatre, comedy nights, parties, art exhibitions and gaming events, culminating in Pride Day's rainbow-coloured march through the city centre as well as headlining musical acts (including Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Sonique, Melanie C and Sink the Pink) on The Downs.
Bristol Shakespeare Festival (1-31 July)
This summer celebration of The Bard's plays sees Shakespeare’s works brought to life in unusual spaces around Bristol. Venues include parks, playhouses, city farms and Brunel’s SS Great Britain - expect traditional and fresh interpretations, interactive, musical and choreographic productions.
Bristol Comedy Garden (3-7 July)
Bristol’s annual gigglefest brings a stellar line-up of comedians to pretty Queen Square. Headlining in 2019 are 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown team captain Sean Lock and the legendary Stewart Lee. Also on the Big Top bill are the star of Channel 4’s ‘Catastrophe’ Rob Delaney, the hilarious Sara Pascoe, Mash Report host Nish Kumar and many more! There’s also onsite bars and gourmet street food to tickle your fancy.
NASS Festival, Royal Bath & West Showground (11-14 July)
Adrenalin junkies will go mad for this festival of music, street art and high octane urban sports. Heavyweight Drum n'Bass, Hip Hop, Grime and Dance acts including Tom Misch, Rudimental and Cypress Hill are all gracing the line-up, globally-renowned BMX and Skaters will be battling it out for a top prize and there'll be a site-wide celebration of live and curated street art in partnership with Upfest (founders of Europe’s largest street art festival). Bangin'.
St Pauls Carnival, Bristol (6 July)
This iconic Bristol festival celebrates the best of African Caribbean culture, with over 1000 people set to take part in an eye-poppingly colourful, costumed procession. Dance the day away to dancehall, reggae, calypso or drum and bass and feast on authentic Caribbean fare at one of the many street food stalls in this spirited community celebration.
Clifton Fest, Bristol (6 July)
Head to Clifton Village for a fantastic day of live music and scrummy grub at some of the area's best venues, including Bar44, Avon Gorge by Hotel du Vin, The Fringe (with French Crepes and galettes from Lucies Creperie) and No.4 at The Rodney Hotel (accompanied by Afternoon Tea and PIMM's) and more! Delightful.
Bath Carnival (13 July)
Celebrate carnival culture with this vibrant street procession of fabulous costumes, dynamic dance moves and live music as Bath is transformed into one big colourful parade. Sydney Gardens will also play host to a free Party in the Park with music, workshops, kids’ activities and food and drink stalls.
Whirligig Festival of Outdoor Arts, Weston-super-Mare (13 July)
Get your twirl on at Whirligig, Theatre Orchard's free family-friendly festival featuring an eclectic mix of outdoor entertainment. From walkabout acts to circus workshops and dancing in the streets, there'll be all sorts of weird and wonderful artistic antics. Don't miss the giant stegosaurus, smoothie bike, crafts and face painters too.
Bristol Harbour Festival (19-21 July)
This family-friendly maritime extravaganza spans a two mile stretch of Bristol’s Harbourside, snaking all the way from Underfall Yard to Queen Square. Launching one of the city’s biggest summer weekends with outdoor gigs in Lloyd’s Amphitheatre, Colston Hall presents New Order on 18 July, with The Specials keeping the party going the next day. As well as plenty of water-borne action, there’ll be an eclectic mix of live music, circus acrobatics, street theatre, food market stalls and family entertainment.
Farm Fest, Bruton (25-27 July)
Set against a spectacular Somerset backdrop, this small-scale festival manages to pack in seven music stages. Favouring electronic, indie, folk and world music, this year's line-up includes Morcheeba, Craig Charles, Portico Quartet and James Holden among the 100 confirmed artists. Popular with families, there's also kids' workshops, comedy and poetry and a chilled-out vibe.
Cinema Rediscovered, Bristol (25-28 July)
Cinema Rediscovered delve deep every year to dig out contemporary film classics, digital restorations and some silver screen rarities from the archive and showcase them on the big screen. This year’s festival, which takes place at venues across Bristol, will be celebrating the city’s status as a UNESCO City of Film as well as exploring the invention, innovation and mystery of cinema.
WOMAD, Malmesbury (25-28 July)
Ok, you might have missed out on Glastonbury tickets (also nearby), but the smaller-scale WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) can certainly fulfil your summer festival cravings. Taking place in the picturesque Charlton Park in Wiltshire, the festival brings together artistic performances from all over the world, across seven separate stages. Hear the likes of Ziggy Marley, Macy Gray, Orbital and Robert Plant, listen to fascinating talks, inspirational authors and debate, let kids run free in the space-themed childrens' area (expect space unicorns, spiders from Mars and the like), feel revitalised in the World of Wellbeing or unwind in the spa, plus so much more!
Weston-super-Mare Pride (27-28 July)
This seaside town will be bursting with pride at the end of the July with a jam-packed weekend of live music, cabaret, family activities, food and drink, pride parade and colourful after-party.
Redfest, Bristol (3 August)
This vibrant community festival held in East Bristol draws artists and performers of all kinds. Expect an exciting line up of family-friendly fun, live music, DJs, art, dance and film.
Valley Fest, Chew Valley (2-4 August)
If you’re after a spectacular soundtrack served up with lashings of Somerset spirit, head to this unbelievably scenic family-friendly festival in the heart of the Mendip Hills. Huge headliners Basement Jaxx, Razorlight, Tom Odell and Leftfield will be dazzling the crowds. A wonderland of fun for kids (veg picking, mini raves and even a hobby horse gymkhana), there’s also a huge foodie focus, with festivities including a six-course root-inspired menu from Josh Eggleton of Michelin-starred The Pony & Trap.
Colston Hall’s Hoo-Ha! Festival, Bristol (1-8 August)
Music, merry-making and messiness are the order of the day at Colston Hall’s annual family festival. For the first time ever, Bristol Old Vic will be joining in the shenanigans, presenting Robin Hood from 1-3 August, before three, free jam-packed days of mayhem, games, workshops and splendiferous silliness in Colston Hall foyer.
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta (8-11 August)
Held in Ashton Court Estate, this four-day family-friendly event revolves around mass ascents of over 100 hot air balloons at dawn and late afternoon each day - an unforgettable sight. The famous Night Glows also draw the crowds, when the balloons are illuminated in time to music. While the balloons are the stars of the show, arena aerial displays, trade stands and fairground rides keep visitors entertained throughout the day.
The Downs Festival, Bristol (31 August-1 September)
How's this for a scorching hot line-up? Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones, Loyle Garner, IDLES and Neneh Cherry will be dropping in on Bristol on 31 August for this highly-anticipated concert on Bristol's Clifton Downs. Pop legends Madness will also be performing a one-off gig the following day. As well as a star-studded bill of performers, there'll also be panel discussions and debates on the burning issues of the moment.
L’Elisir D’Amore, Bradford-on-Avon (31 August - 7 September)
Immerse yourself in Iford Arts' intimate opera recitals of Donizetti’s comic masterpiece, L’Elisir D’Amore, in the beautiful grounds (rarely open to the public) of Belcombe Court near Bath. Performances, sung in English, will be staged in-the-round, in a specially-commissioned geodesic dome. All events offer a chance to picnic before the show in the 18th century gardens with views across the valley.
Summer in the South West
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