From musicals to masterclasses, festivals to family fun, we've put together a whole list of free things for you to enjoy over the next few weeks
Scouring the internet for fun things to do in summer can be quite exhausting – but don't worry, as we've done all the work for you!
Here, we've compiled 25 fantastic events that you can enjoy over the month of August, including art exhibitions, online discussions, car shows, festivals and more. And best of all, every single event we've listed is free of charge!
1. Discover a dramatic diaspora
Watch Again: Journeys Late, until 31 August
Featuring a Palestinian dance workshop, Eastern Europe folk music, and poetry and prose from all over the world, Journeys is a celebration of migration, identity and movement – presented by London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery. It premiered back in June as part of Refugee Week, but is back this month by popular demand. A fascinating watch for anyone interested in the intersection between British and international cultures.
2. Support your local bookshops
Summer Bookshop Crawl, until 31 August
It’s all too easy to buy your novels from a certain online retailer (you know the one), but real book lovers champion their local independent sellers. The Summer Bookshop Crawl shines a spotlight on some of the UK’s best retailers, via a downloadable pack – with discounts, perks and freebies available on selected dates. Locations include Cambridge, Cardiff, Bath and Brighton; it’s free to access, but a donation is welcome.
3. Find some treasure!
Julian House's Big Summer Scavenger Hunt, until 7 September
Over the summer, the homeless charity Julian House is running a series of scavenger hunts across the city of Bath. There are trails for both kids and adults/teenagers, and those who crack the code will be entered into a live draw. While the events are free to take part in, donations to the charity are encouraged.
4. Catch a movie... outdoors
IQL Summer Screen, until 5 September
What could be better than enjoying a film in the fresh air? Throughout the summer, International Quarter London (IQL) – next to Stratford's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – will be showing a series of movies on a huge outdoor screen. As yet, the schedule for August hasn't been released; however, if previous showings are anything to go by, expect a mixture of classics and modern blockbusters.
5. Find that holiday feeling
British Summer Time Begins: The School Summer Holidays 1930–1980, 4 August
From the tinderbox summers of wartime, to the swinging summers of the Sixties, the sunniest months of mid-20th-century Britain are filled with stories and landmark events. In this online talk, author and historian Ysenda Maxtone-Graham looks back at the summers that defined a nation – and reminds us how our fair-weather pastimes and pleasures have changed over the years.
6. Catch a classic tale, reimagined
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: The Musical, 4 & 5 August
When a new schoolteacher arrives in Sleepy Hollow, she shoots down the local superstitions with science and reasoning – but you just know the Headless Horseman has other plans. The Guildford School of Acting presents this murderous musical online: with its dark script and professional-standard drama, it was described by the Musical Theatre Review as "a fine addition to the musical theatre canon". High praise indeed.
7. Glean some expert garden tips
Plant For Places You Thought Plants Wouldn’t Grow, With Nick Bailey, 5 August
As glorious as your garden may be, chances are it has some troublesome spots too: where the ground is too soggy, too shaded or too windy for most plants to thrive. But Nick Bailey, BBC Gardeners’ World presenter and landscape designer extraordinaire, will share his top tips for hard-to-grow areas in this exclusive Boundless online event – recommending the colourful, hardy species that flourish where others fail. Your garden will thank you!
8. Get your kicks with bricks
LEGO City, 5 August
Budding architects, look this way! This free workshop in Lincoln's Inn Fields (opposite London's Sir John Soane's Museum) will give you the chance to help create an entire miniature city out of LEGO bricks. Have a go at making some of the world's most iconic buildings – and you might even make some friends at the same time.
9. Scout a new star
Free Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 6–30 August
Credit: Festival Fringe Society / Wikimedia Commons
The Fringe Festival is back! Edinburgh’s world-famous feast of comedy, cabaret, dance, theatre and music will feature both in-person and virtual shows – including 653 Free Fringe performances. All events are ticketed, with the option to pay what you want: whether that’s £10 or absolutely nothing. All funds go straight to the performers.
10. Watch a ‘play in a day’
24 Hours In Wakefield, Planet Earth, 7 August
This play will be written, rehearsed and performed in just one day – so who knows what it will entail? We do have some details: it’ll be a two-person show, staged in the spectacular outdoor setting of Pontefract Castle, and penned by National Theatre Award-winning writer Isabel Hague. Everything else will be decided in the 24 hours leading up to the performance...
11. Learn how to draw
Art Workshop: The Mighty Trees of Eaton Park, 8 August
Hosted by The Art Practitioner, a new art school in Norfolk, this interactive drawing workshop will take place in lush, leafy Eaton Park – with its towering trees as your focus. You’ll learn the techniques of observational drawing, put them into practice (with charcoal and quality paper provided), and hear from a Norwich Castle Museum curator about the woodland-inspired works of local artist John Crome.
12. Unearth some treasures (hopefully)
Hidden Heritage Online: Dig To Display, 10 August–14 September
Love history – and don’t mind getting your hands dirty? The Falkirk Community Trust is looking for local volunteers to join its six-week online archaeology programme. It’s aimed at beginners: you’ll learn how to carry out digs, how to write up reports on excavations and artefacts, and what to do if you unearth something notable – whether that’s bones, pipes or buried treasure...
13. Pick up some rare vinyl
Leeds Record and Book Fair, 14 August
Have you been on the lookout for a rare Beatles LP? Or perhaps a signed copy of a Harry Potter book? Then this large event at Leeds' Kirkgate Market could be the place to find it? With around 40 stalls selling a range of genres, it's a great place to have a browse even if you're not planning to buy anything.
14. Listen to the classics
HPO Open Doors, 14 August
Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra have played a number of ticketed shows over the summer, but they've decided to make their last performance of the season free of charge. This afternoon, on the bandstand in Hastings' Alexandra Park, the talented ensemble will run through some of the world's best-loved classics: Ravel's Bolero, Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, and Saint-Saens' The Carnival of the Animals.
15. Join a children’s literary legend
Julia Donaldson: Songs and Stories for Little Ones, 14 August
Bestselling children’s author Julia Donaldson – creator of the Gruffalo books – presents a show full of storytelling and songs, with live drawing from her illustrator partners Lydia Monks and Axel Scheffler. A treat for young bookworms, this online event will feature tales from The Magic Paintbrush, The Woolly Bear Caterpillar and The Ugly Five – plus a sing-along of The Scarecrows’ wedding song.
16. Witness the magic of Medway
Festival at the Fort, 14 & 15 August
The amphitheatre at Fort Amherst, Medway, will provide the impressive setting for this outdoor festival celebrating the Kent town's diverse range of performing talent. The two-day programme of entertainment will include everything from live music and theatre to DJs and family workshops. Why not bring a picnic blanket and join in the fun.
17. Admire classic cars
Retro Warwick Classic Car Show 2021, 15 August
Credit: Vauxford / Wikimedia Commons
Whether you’re an owner, an aficionado or simply love retro things, this outdoor classic car meet-up will feature over 100 vintage vehicles – along with a fun, friendly atmosphere where everyone’s welcome. If you have a car that you’d like to display, simply arrive and park up as per the marshalls’ instructions – there’s no pre-booking required.
18. Enjoy a beer and a bite
Hertford Castle Beer & World Food Festival, 15 August
When the weather is fine, there's nothing quite like spending an afternoon supping fine ale and nibbling artisan goodies – all the while listening to live music. Set in the grounds of what once was a Norman castle, this festival will feature a large beer tent selling local and international brews, a gin and prosecco area, and over 15 international food stalls. Our mouth is watering just thinking about it!
19. Perfect your patisserie skills
Choux Pastry Baking Masterclass, 17 August
As every budding baker knows, making choux pastry is a hard skill to master – but patisserie expert Charlotte Fuller is here to spill the secrets. In this practical workshop for Boundless members, she’ll show how to make a classic choux pastry and a decadent cream filling, with a step-by-step method that you can follow along at home.
20. Take in a free family show
The Fisherman and His Wife, 17–21 August
Credit: Anna Pasternak
Stratford-upon-Avon is best known for hosting productions of classic Shakespeare plays, but for five days in August you can enjoy something a little more lighthearted. This free 20-minute show, created by Toucan Play Productions and staged in The Play House's courtyard, is a heady mix of interactive comedy, puppetry and live music. A treat for the whole family.
21. Find out whodunnit
Summer Crime Wave, 19 August
If you love thriller fiction, it would be criminal to miss this Q&A with some of Scotland’s top ‘Tartan Noir’ novelists – screened live from the Edinburgh Book Festival. The stellar line-up features Val McDermid, Doug Johnstone, Chris Brookmyre, Mary Paulson-Ellis and Marisa Haetzman; as well as introducing their latest works (all published this year), they’ll be taking questions and offering insights into their next projects. Cliffhangers guaranteed.
22. Explore the mysteries of the universe
Spacescapes: Postcards from Our Solar System, 20 August–8 October
As part of its ‘Year of Space’, London's Geological Society presents an outdoor exhibition of extraterrestrial photography – zooming in on the landscapes and geology of our solar system. You'll get a thrilling, high-definition glimpse of the mountains of Pluto, impact craters on the Moon, storm clouds on Jupiter, and much more. The event will take place at Burlington House Courtyard, five minutes’ walk from Piccadilly Circus and Green Park tube stations.
23. Delve into the past
Fur Coats and Overalls: Clothing and Munitions Workers in World War One, 23 August
If you're a fan of history, then we strongly recommend you head online for this fascinating discussion. Using a series of illustrations as evidence, the presenter will explore the role of female production workers during the Great War, and how they were ridiculed by certain newspapers and cartoonists for their class, manners and extravagant tastes.
24. Enjoy some festival fun
Parklife Weekend, 28 & 29 August
A lot of music festivals have been cancelled this summer, but here's one that's going ahead. For two days, Vale Park in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, will host a programme of entertainment on two large stages, including rock bands, classical music artists and astronomy activities. The weekend culminates on the Sunday night with Proms in the Park – bring a blanket and a picnic, and sing your heart out.
25. Find some new wheels
Commercial Vehicle Show, 31 August–2 September
Credit: Commercial Vehicle Show
Get up to speed at the Commercial Vehicle Show, featuring the latest truck and van models from the likes of Ford, Maxus, Isuzu and Toyota. Held at Birmingham's NEC, this is the country’s biggest gathering of commercial vehicle manufacturers, with demonstrations and events hosted by all the top suppliers. If you’re looking to upgrade your workhorse, or simply want to scout for new options, this is a great place to start.
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Photos: Getty Images, unless otherwise stated