News, Culture & Society

Your guide to this summer’s top arts, comedy and family festivals

There’s more to festivals than the bands, so this summer why not have a chortle with Harry Hill, listen to Margaret Atwood spinning a Handmaid’s Tale or banquet with the Hairy Bikers… all moshpit-free!  

 

The Color Toner Experts

History and books

Hay Festival

If you’ve been glued to the nail-biting TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, make a beeline for author Margaret Atwood’s talk tomorrow. Elsewhere, the annual books bonanza hosts an embarrassment of arty riches, including Bill Nighy (next Sunday), Salman Rushdie (Tue), Ruby Wax (Tue), Colm Tóibín (Sat), Philip Pullman (Sat) and Judith Kerr (Mon). Tickets from free. Hay-on-Wye, Powys, until Jun 3, hayfestival.com

Dance delights at the lakeside festival include all-male company Balletboyz – who perform a new piece about balance – and a waterfront show from Sadler’s Wells artists

Chalke Valley History Festival

Speakers range from Jacob Rees-Mogg and Simon Schama to author Kate Mosse and Dan Snow at the history festival where the country’s most eminent thinkers lead a programme of tributes to Britain’s enthralling past. Don’t miss storytelling from beloved children’s author Michael Morpurgo. Family day tickets from £35, extra charge for some events. Broad Chalke, Salisbury, Wiltshire, Jun 25-Jul 1, cvhf.org.uk

Theakston’s Old PeculiEr Crime Writing Festival

Plan your holiday reading with Val McDermid’s hotly anticipated annual fiction showcase. A thrilling line-up also includes John Grisham, Nicci French and Sophie Hannah. Weekend tickets from £197. Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, Jul 19-22, harrogateinternationalfestivals.com

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale. If you’ve been glued to the nail-biting TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, make a beeline for author Margaret Atwood’s talk at Hay

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale. If you’ve been glued to the nail-biting TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, make a beeline for author Margaret Atwood’s talk at Hay

Julia Bradbury ‘Port Eliot is wonderful. It’s small and it’s beautiful. It’s got a stately home, which is still family-owned, and you don’t really get lost because no tent is ever too far away.’

Julia Bradbury ‘Port Eliot is wonderful. It’s small and it’s beautiful. It’s got a stately home, which is still family-owned, and you don’t really get lost because no tent is ever too far away.’

Balletboyz will be performing at Latitude

Balletboyz will be performing at Latitude

Port Eliot Festival

Afua Hirsch explores race and identity in contemporary Britain while Peep Show’s Robert Webb talks about his simultaneously hilarious and heart-rending memoir How Not To Be A Boy. There’s also poetry from Hollie McNish, journalist Lucy Mangan celebrates the power of childhood reading and author Nina Stibbe discusses her sparky novels. Weekend tickets from £170. St Germans, Cornwall, Jul 26-29, porteliotfestival.com

Edinburgh International Book Festival

The programme hasn’t yet been announced for the global literary highlight but the list should be suitably illustrious, if previous bookings such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Siri Hustvedt, Andrew O’Hagan and Irvine Welsh are anything to go by. Tickets go on sale Jun 26. Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh, Aug 11-27, edbookfest.co.uk

Come and get it: five foodie festivals

Smoked & Uncut

Swanky hotel chains The Pig and Lime Wood jointly host four food festivals this summer. The likes of Razorlight perform as guests gorge on al fresco feasts masterminded by star chef Angela Hartnett – that’s presuming they’ve resisted the piquant offerings of Mark Hix’s Indian takeaway pop-up, of course. The Pig, Hampshire, June 16; The Pig, Bath, June 30; Lime Wood, New Forest, July 14; The Pig At Combe, Devon, July 28; Adult tickets £37, smokedanduncut.com

Alex James’s culinary bash isn’t only dishing up performances from Craig David and Paloma Faith. There's also demos, talks and tastings from chefs including Gizzi Erskine

Alex James’s culinary bash isn’t only dishing up performances from Craig David and Paloma Faith. There’s also demos, talks and tastings from chefs including Gizzi Erskine

Cornbury

The main course for food lovers at this mannerly summer fixture is undoubtedly the Hairy Bikers, who are cooking up Mediterranean banquets inspired by their recent book and TV show. Adult weekend tickets from £180. The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, Jul 13-15, cornburyfestival.com

Wilderness

Tear yourself away from the dulcet tones of Bastille and Nile Rodgers to sample food from favourite urban eateries, including wood-fired pizza joint Homeslice, Petersham Nurseries and Middle Eastern chain The Good Egg. Don’t forget to save space for a sweet treat from cult dessert brand Happy Endings. Adult weekend tickets from £179.50. Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, Aug 2-5, wildernessfestival.com

Cornbury: The main course for food lovers at this mannerly summer fixture is undoubtedly the Hairy Bikers

Cornbury: The main course for food lovers at this mannerly summer fixture is undoubtedly the Hairy Bikers

River Cottage Festival

There’s music from folk-rock sextet Mad Dog Mcrea and play art and pottery for kids, but food is, predictably, at the heart of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s East Devon farmhouse affair. Speakers include Prue Leith and Caroline Lucas and guests can indulge in artisan cocktails and smoked meats cooked over the festival fire pit. Adult weekend tickets from £95. River Cottage HQ, Axminster, Aug 24-25, rivercottage.net

The Big Feastival

Alex James’s culinary bash isn’t only dishing up performances from Craig David and Paloma Faith. Demos, talks and tastings from chefs including Gizzi Erskine, Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White are also on the menu. Adult weekend tickets from £159.50. Alex James’s Farm near Kingham, Oxfordshire, August 24-26, thebigfeastival.com

Comedy

Wells Comedy Festival

Look out for Swedish comedian Evelyn Mok and Hal Cruttenden at this weekend of comic japes. Welsh joker Rhod Gilbert also makes a comeback after six years off the circuit. Tickets from £6. Wells, Somerset, until tonight, wellscomfest.com

Bristol Comedy Garden

Affable surrealist Ross Noble is joined by Radio 4 stalwarts Miles Jupp and Shappi Khorsandi, along with Lolly Adefope and Josh Widdicombe at this four-day West Country fixture. Tickets £20-25. Queen Square, Bristol, Jun 6-10, bristolcomedygarden.co.uk

Revellers at Henley. Take a break from being serenaded by Rita Ora and Grace Jones to catch comics including Paul Merton’s Impro Chums and Dead Ringers impressionist Jon Culshaw

Revellers at Henley. Take a break from being serenaded by Rita Ora and Grace Jones to catch comics including Paul Merton’s Impro Chums and Dead Ringers impressionist Jon Culshaw

Henley Festival

Take a break from being serenaded by Rita Ora and Grace Jones to catch comics including Paul Merton’s Impro Chums and Dead Ringers impressionist Jon Culshaw. Tickets from £50. Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, Jul 11-15, henley-festival.co.uk

Kaleidoscope

Zany Canadian comic Katherine Ryan and punk-rock poet Dr John Cooper Clarke supply the laughs at this music and arts festival taking place at London’s imposing Alexandra Palace. Adults from £50.75. Alexandra Palace, London, Jul 21, kaleidoscope-festival.com

EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE

With more than 50,000 performances across some 300 venues, the comedy behemoth blends up-and-coming acts with seasoned performers. Take a break from the first-timers at shows from old hands such as Marcus Brigstocke and Tony Slattery. Tickets from free. Edinburgh, Aug 3-27, edfringe.com

A new hip-hop musical about the suffragettes is given its premiere at Latitude and there’s comedy from Harry Hill and Bridget Christie

A new hip-hop musical about the suffragettes is given its premiere at Latitude and there’s comedy from Harry Hill and Bridget Christie

Performing arts

Glyndebourne

Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier is one of the early productions in the programme, and it’s accompanied by a showcase of Art Deco artist Erté’s original costume and set designs from the 1980 production. Operatic offerings also include Madama Butterfly, Giulio Cesare and Pélleas Et Mélisande. Tickets from £10 (standing). Glyndebourne, East Sussex, until Aug 26, glyndebourne.com

Latitude

Dance delights at the lakeside festival include all-male company Balletboyz – who perform a new piece about balance – and a waterfront show from Sadler’s Wells artists. Elsewhere, a new hip-hop musical about the suffragettes is given its premiere and there’s comedy from Harry Hill and Bridget Christie. Adults from £77. Henham Park, Suffolk, Jul 12-15, latitudefestival.com

 Author Ed Stourton ‘The rural setting of Chalke Valley is spectacular and the quality of the chat in the writers’ tent is always high. Plus, audiences ask clever questions and – critically – buy books if they like the answers.’

 Author Ed Stourton ‘The rural setting of Chalke Valley is spectacular and the quality of the chat in the writers’ tent is always high. Plus, audiences ask clever questions and – critically – buy books if they like the answers.’

Green Man

The Einstein’s Garden area is a hub of live comedy, music and theatre, with Citrus Arts staging performances that blend circus and dance, cabaret from quirky collective Kitsch & Sync and high-flying fun from trapeze artists Dash Panache. Weekend tickets from £180. Brecon Beacons, Aug 16-19, greenman.net

Festival No 6

A dance troupe-led carnival wends its way through Portmeirion’s ravishing Italianate village, The Brythoniaid Welsh male voice choir mix choral classics with pop covers, and a percussion-heavy musical procession celebrates the centenary of women’s suffrage. Weekend tickets from £180. Portmeirion, North Wales, Sep 6-9, festivalnumber6.com

Family

Deer Shed Festival

Under-fives can spend educational stints making mosaic art or in musical shaker workshops, while older children can try out a presumably non-airborne version of Quidditch, tree-climbing and canoeing. For screen addicts, Wilderwild nature sessions are a welcome corrective. Adult weekend tickets from £145. Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, Jul 20-22, deershedfestival.com

Camp Bestival

The de facto ruler of the family festival circuit, the theme of this year’s Lulworth Cove shindig is Sail Away. But with music from Simple Minds and Rick Astley – as well as theatre, comedy and author talks – you’d be better off letting the anchor down and staying put. Adult weekend tickets from £197.50. Lulworth Castle, East Lulworth, Dorset, Jul 26-29, campbestival.net

WOMAD

The vibrant, long-running global music celebration is packed with family-friendly activities. There’s costume-making for the fancy dress parade, a storytelling tepee, slacklining and circus skills. Adult four-day tickets from £225, children under-13 free. Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, Jul 26-29, womad.co.uk

Carfest

Texas, Jools Holland and Status Quo are performing at this dual-site family festival founded by Chris Evans – above with Kevin and Karen Clifton and Tom Kerridge – but no matter how many times you blast I Don’t Want A Lover in the car, kids will no doubt prefer wreaking havoc in the vintage village or marvelling at the show jumping. Weekend tickets from £173. CarFest North: Jul 27-29, Bolesworth Castle, Cheshire. CarFest South: Aug 24-26, Laverstoke Park Farm, Hampshire, carfest.org

Carfest! Texas, Jools Holland and Status Quo are performing at this dual-site family festival founded by Chris Evans

Carfest! Texas, Jools Holland and Status Quo are performing at this dual-site family festival founded by Chris Evans

Just So Festival

Budding bookworms will be enchanted by the literary treats at this whimsical woodland weekend. There’s storytelling, poetry and theatre in the Spellbound Forest, while you can hear talks from children’s authors in The Forgotten Courtyard.  Weekend tickets from £140. Rode Hall, Cheshire, Aug 17-19, justsofestival.org.uk

 

 



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