Entertaining the kids in the school summer holidays can be expensive, so give your budget a break with the best of the summer's free festivals.
1. Faversham Hop Festival1-2 September
Traditional celebration of the hop harvest in the beautiful medieval heart of the Kent market town. There are 60 live bands playing across five stages over the course of the weekend, plus plenty of Morris dancing, a parade through the town, tours of Shepheard Neame brewery – Britain’s oldest brewer – and a street market with loads of local food and drink on offer. There’s camping – but it’s only an hour from London, making it an enticing day trip too.
2. Porthcawl Elvis Festival28-30 September
Every September, 25 miles west of Cardiff along the south Wales coast, something remarkable happens: Europe’s biggest annual celebration of Elvis sees the streets and bars of Porthcawl filled with Presley fans and impersonators for three days. There’s hundreds of Elvis shows across the town over the weekend, and most of them are free.
© Andy Chapman
3. Bristol International Balloon FiestaAshton Court Estate, 9-12 August
Europe’s largest annual gathering of hot-air balloons will see the skies above Bristol transformed, with flights at dawn and dusk as well as night-glows, where balloons light up the night sky in time to music. A full supporting programme of events on the ground includes a funfair, stalls and live entertainment.
4. Culture Night, Belfast21 September
Massive annual one-day festival that sees over 300 events in 150 venues, with live performance, exhibitions and interactive happenings across Belfast city centre. Last year, there were over 100,000 visitors. Among the attractions this year: your chance to take part in a record attempt for the world’s largest tap dance. Check back nearer the date for details of the rest of the programme.
5. Out There FestivalGreat Yarmouth, 14-16 September
The streets and parks of the Norfolk seaside town are filled with 100 hours of entertainment over the weekend, with performers coming from Spain, Colombia, the Netherland, France, Belgium and more (as well as the UK). This year there is a special celebration of the 250th anniversary of the invention of the circus, with French street arts company Generik Vapeur producing a show involving 250 local people.
6. Feel Good Festival, Rochdale18 August
A one-day music festival fills the streets of the Lancashire town, with 11 hours of music on the main stage outside the town hall, with a strong line-up led by rock-pop crowd-pleasers Feeder, Britpop giants Cast and Manchester ska band The Uplifters. There’s a food and drink village and a Family Zone that includes an arcade where grown-ups and kids can step inside 10 classic arcade games (seriously!), among plenty of shows and activities.
7. Ipswich Maritime Festival18-19 August, Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 10am-6pm
A two-day celebration of all things nautical, with a flotilla of vintage vessels, historical re-enactments and pirate-themed fun – alongside live music, street performers, a funfair and, naturally, plenty of food and drink stalls.
8. Saltaire Festival7-16 September
The ten-day festival in the village on the outskirts of Bradford concludes on 15-16 September with a weekend of free live music: the main stage is in Roberts Park (the bandstand will also host music), and there’s also a full programme at the Caroline Street Social Club and other pop-up venues. The full festival programme includes many more free (and some paid-for) events, all in an intriguing venue: Saltaire itself is a designated UNESCO heritage site, having been built as a ‘model village’ by Victorian mill-owner and philanthropist Titus Salt.
9. Worcester Music Festival14-16 September
Over 250 bands play across Worcester in 20 venues, including pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes, record shops, historic buildings and breweries – and on the streets too. There’s a huge diversity of music on offer across the weekend – and a range of free music workshops, too, from taster sessions on different instruments to Q&A events with music industry insiders.
10. Bermondsey Street FestivalLondon SE1, 15 September
One-day festival, a stone’s throw from both Tower and London Bridges, described by organisers as a village fete in the city: there’s two music stages, street entertainers, kids activities and a dog show – as well as plenty of food stalls and drink from Bermondsey’s own Beer Mile of micro-breweries.