Welcome to the birthplace of the festival phenomenon

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Glastonbury Festival, the mother of modern music festivals, was born in a Somerset field in 1970. The Bath Festival has an even longer history: established as the first English arts festival in 1948, a year after Edinburgh, it’s still going strong. Bristol’s Upfest is now  Europe’s largest street art festival. This is festival central, and there are cultural events and outdoor gatherings to meet all manner of tastes.

Calypso to Quadrille

Started in 1968, St Paul’s Carnival – Bristol’s answer to Notting Hill – takes to the streets in July with a vibrant and inclusive celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture. On an entirely different note, Bath’s Jane Austen Festival attracts a more sedate, but equally passionate festival-goer for a ten-day homage to all things Austen. Regency dress is encouraged.  

See something different

Bristol’s In Between Time takes a ‘we are Bristol’ approach to a programme that blurs the boundaries between performance, art and radical ideas. Mayfest’s mix of playful, contemporary theatre is, says the Guardian, ‘so tasty it makes you want to up sticks and move to Bristol permanently’. 

Among hundreds of lit fests, Bath Children’s Literature Festival is one of the few dedicated to the younger generation, offering children and young adults opportunities to fuel their imaginations and meet the creators of their literary heroes.

Bach to Buster Keaton

Aside from the mega Bath Festival, the city has festivals dedicated to Mozart and Bach. In Bristol, there’s the genre-busting Simple Things, dance extravaganza, Love Saves the Day and Americana fest, River Town. Watch out, too, for big-name concerts staged at Bristol’s waterfront amphitheatre or up on the Downs.  

On the big screen, Bristol also presents the international short-film festival, Encounters, the Wildscreen festival (devoted to the world of film-making and photography in the natural world) and Slapstick, which honours Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton among other comic stars of the silent movies.


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