From a Game of Thrones tapestry to Enid Blyton’s birthday: something for everyone in our bumper monthly round-up
Use our list of 25 free things to do and discover something different this August
1. See the Red Arrows
The highlight of any air show, the RAF’s Red Arrows display team are appearing right across the UK throughout August, including at County Down’s Newcastle Festival of Flight (5 August); the Blackpool Airshow (12–13 August); three of the four days of the Eastbourne International Airshow (17–20 August) ) and the Rhyl Airshow (27 August). See the full Red Arrows schedule here.
2. Ride bikes with new friends
British Cycling’s Let’s Ride scheme has hundreds of free, weekly, guided rides all across the country, to suit all ages and abilities from young families to full-on wheelers. Some rides trace traffic-light routes through towns; others get you out into the glorious countryside. Find your nearest one here.
3. See amazing films not available on YouTube
At BFI Mediatheques across the country, great chunks of the national film archive are available to see for free in eight venues across the country. Turn up, log on at a viewing station and choose from over 2,500 films and clips: not just documentary footage of Victorian street scenes, but forgotten TV sitcoms, pre-war football l– and the first episode of doomed BBC soap El Dorado. The British Film Institute has Mediatheques in London, Birmingham, Bradford, Cambridge, Glasgow, Wrexham, Newcastle and Manchester.
4. Celebrate Enid Blyton’s 120th birthday
On 11 August the best-selling children’s author (Blyton 600m; JK Rowling 400m) would have turned 120, and it’s also 75 years since the first Famous Five book. Celebrate her work by taking a self-guided walk around the countryside that inspired her; by joining an Enid Blyton picnic (or one of many other Blyton-related activities) at one of five Royal Horticultural Society gardens (free to RHS members); or by putting together your own Famous Five picnic, though be warned: kids treats of yesteryear (hard-boiled eggs, pickled onions, potted meat) may not have the same allure as they once did.
5. A family walk in the park
The websites of the UK’s 15 National Parks have a roster of routes and suggestions for walkers of all ages and abilities. Start your exploration here.
London and the southeast
1. Broadstairs Folk Week
Broadstairs, 11-18 AugustIf the idea of walking the winding streets of a tiny seaside town and investigating the free live music spilling out of every bar (and plenty of other buildings besides) sounds slightly magical to you, head to Broadstairs Folk Week. Among the 70 events on per day, many are ticketed - but there’s plenty of busking and dancing in the streets and other free family entertainments, too.
2. Boundless Basecamp at Eastbourne Airbourne
Visit the Boundless Basecamp bar, where members can enjoy discounted drinks or try out one of our virtual reality units.
3. See a West End musical for free (if you’re under 16)
Throughout August, West End shows are offering free tickets to children. Conditions apply (you have, generally, to buy a full-price adult ticket to get one free child’s ticket and another at half-price), but still: if a family theatre outing would normally add up to silly money, this is a great offer.
4. Bognor Birdman
Bognor seafront, 12-13 August
Can humans fly without the aid of machines? Since 1971, people have been running off the end of Bognor Pier attached to various bike/bird hybrids to find out. The answer – spoiler alert – has usually been ‘no’ but there have also been successes at Birdman: the record distance ‘flown’ has stood at an implausible 89 metres for over 20 years. Alongside the tech/idiocy main event, there’s a full day of other entertainment, including stalls, music and an air display of 1930s Tiger Moths.
Southwest England and Wales
1. British Fireworks Championships
Plymouth, 9–10 August
Six of the UK’s top firework display teams go head-to-head over two days at the Championships, with a full supporting cast of entertainment along the seafront, including a fun fair and live music from the Heart FM roadshow.
2. Research your family’s WWI history, exhibition
Bristol Cathedral, 2–28 August
As the various centenaries of the 1914–18 War have rolled out, a whole roster of new archive documents have been made publically available. This exhibition tells you where to start piecing together your own family’s WWI story and also has experts on hand on 5th and 12th August to answer questions and offer advice.
3. Mid-Somerset Agricultural Show
Shepton Mallet, BA4 5RT, 20 August
Most county shows charge an entrance fee, but, for pedestrians, the Mid-Somerset show is free (and if you must go by car, it’s £10 to park). Alongside the prize cattle, flower show and giant marrows, this year’s attractions include show jumping, falconry-on-horseback and the Somerset Cider Championship. All round, a great day out!
4. World Bog-snorkelling championships
Waen Rhydd Peat Bog, Llanwrtyd Wells
Scores of self-styled eccentrics from across the globe snorkel their way down a narrow ditch against the clock, in the middle of the beautiful Welsh countryside while you watch. What’s not to like? Learn more here.
Midlands and eastern England
1. Visit Birmingham’s nearest beach
Bosworth Water Park, every day
Traditionally, the nearest beach to land-locked Birmingham is regarded as being Weston-super-Mare, a whopping 105 miles away. But that’s ignoring Bosworth Water Park, a mere 30 miles north-east of the city, with golden sands, clear waters for swimming, pedalos and even crazy golf. Free to go in, car parking just £2.
2. Art in the Park
Jephson Gardens, Royal Leamington Spa, 5–6 August
Over 160 artists create, demonstrate and sell their artwork, with some circus skills and activities thrown in at Art in the Park.
3. Hunt for bears in Birmingham
Throughout Birmingham and surrounding areas. Until 17 September.
A trail of 100 bears, each with its own uniquely themed artwork, has been scattered around Birmingham (and as far out as Solihull and West Brom too). It’s free to follow the trail but donations in aid of Birmingham Children’s Hospital are very much encouraged. It’s all called the Big Sleuth because ‘sleuth’ is the collective noun for a group of bears. Who knew?
4. Riverside Festival
Victoria Embankment, Nottingham, NG2 5FB. 4–6 August
Three days of family entertainment spread out over a mile along the banks of the River Trent, including a Children’s zone, live music, street theatre, dragon-boat racing and fireworks at 10.30pm on Saturday night. Learn more here.
Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, M3 4FP. 19–20 August
Artists, makers, crafters and coders take over the Museum of Science and Industry for a weekend to show off their skills. There’s lots of chances for you to get involved and try out some of the crafts yourself, too, from the traditional (embroidery) to the not-so-traditional (toy-hacking). See what’s on here.
2. The Magic of Illustration exhibition
The Witham, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8LY, until 12 August
A group of well-known illustrators of children’s books come together for this exhibition showing the creative process, from original story idea to finished publication. There’s also an illustration workshop on Wednesday 9 August.
3. The best of Lancashire food and drink
Ciltheroe Food Festival, 12 AugustOver 100 producers come together to showcase their wares at Clitheroe Food Festival, which is getting bigger every year: last year it had over 20,000 visitors. Clitheroe town centre is taken over for the day by stalls offering an array of foods and drinks (including free samples) – plus there’s live music and, in the castle grounds, funfairs and children’s entertainments.
4. Free family films
The Oast House, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3AY, every Tuesday eveningFree open-air screenings of classic films including Jurassic Park, Inception, Beauty and the Beast, ET and Mean Girls. Get the line-up here.
Scotland and Northern Ireland
1. Game of Thrones as you’ve never seen it before
Ulster Museum, until 28 February 2018
What better way to retell the story of TV’s cult sword-and-sorcery saga than via the cutting-edge art technology of the Middle Ages? Yes, the Ulster Museum has a 77-metre long linen tapestry depicting the story of the first six seasons of GoT, with new sections to be woven in as Season 7 wears on. The preview looks amazing and while you’re in the area, you might like to tour the many local locations used in the series. Get more information on the tapestry here.
2. See free shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
There are more than 400 free shows at the Festival, playing for a total of around 8,000 performances. More details here.
3. The secret story of showpeople, exhibition
Riverside Museum, Glasgow G3 8RS
A look at the intriguing history of Scotland’s showpeople who, for hundreds of years, have travelled the land with fairs, funfairs and markets. The exhibition features fairground attractions – funhouse mirrors, carousel horses – alongside archive film and recorded interviews with showpeople themselves.
4. World Gold Panning Championships
Hope Johnstone Park, Moffatt, DG10 9HY, 7–12 August, from 9am
Maybe you’ve never heard of it but this is the 41st running of the World Gold Panning Championships, in which competitors come from over 20 countries come to sift local sand and gravel for precious metal against the clock. There’s various accompanying stalls and entertainment and if it doesn’t sound like much of a spectator sport, then why not have a go yourself? Competition entry fees start at just £5 and there are free classes on how to do it.