We bring you a host of free things on your doorstep for kids and grown-ups this July, to help you make the most of summer
1. Great British Tennis weekend
Ever fancied playing tennis but never got around to it? The week after Wimbledon, tennis clubs throw their doors open for free, for all ages to come and have a go. Rackets and balls are provided, with various accompanying events and activities across the country. Find your nearest club here.
2. See TV’s biggest stars for free
Who are those people going crazy in the audience on the X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and Clarkson, May and Hammond’s new Amazon show? Well… they could be you. Apply for free tickets for show recordings here.
3. National Parks Week
There’s a roster of events taking place this week across the UK’s 15 National Parks, including many free family activities, guided walks and open days. Find details of your nearest event here.
4. Watch live opera on the big screen Venues across the UK
4 & 14 July
From Aberdeen to York, Coventry to Newcastle, BP Big Screens brings culture to the masses, with its live relays of performances from the Royal Opera House: La Traviata (4 July) and Turandot (14 July). Check the website for your nearest screen.
5. National Table Tennis Day
Since 2010, you may have noticed that outdoor ping pong has been sweeping the nation: this summer, over 750 free tables will pop up across the country. Find your nearest table here.
London and South-east England
1. Go to the beach in London!
London’s Royal Docks, E16
17 July–31 August
Ice cream, deckchairs, tonnes of sand and a view of one of the world’s major commercial centres: everything you could want from a beach, 15 minutes from central London at London’s Royal Docks urban beach.
2. Giant pub quiz (and much, much more)
The London Riviera, City Hall, SE1 2AA.
Every day throughout July, and August
Free films, free dance lessons, free Reggae Aerobic sessions… it’s all happening at the London Riviera, a festival with free entertainment daily at The Scoop, next to Tower Bridge. Among the many highlights, one of the most fun might be the Last Man Standing quiz, from 7pm on 12 July, which is promised as a cross between a giant pub quiz and traditional party games.
3. Bexhill Roaring Twenties Day
De La Warr Pavilion, TN40 1DP Bexhill-on-Sea
Learn to do the Charleston (and even take part in a mass Charleston world record attempt), watch a fly-past of vintage planes, or witness, bizarrely, a recreation of a Prohibition-era police raid. Bexhill celebrates the 1920s, with stalls and a music stage and fun for all the family.
4. Alice in Wonderland day in Oxford
Lewis Carroll dreamed up Alice in Wonderland on a boat trip in Oxford in July 1862. To mark the anniversary, the city comes alive with a range of events inspired by the children’s classic, including street theatre, live music and circus skills.
Midlands and eastern England
1. 36 knights in Lincoln
Venues across Lincoln
As you might know, 2017 marks the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln and to celebrate, 36 knight sculptures have been scattered across the city. Each one includes a hidden symbol: get them all to complete the treasure hunt. Find out more here.
2. Jewellery Quarter Festival
Birmingham, B18 6JW
A weekend of live music, food stalls, walking tours and open days at artists’ studios – plus a free helter skelter. Find out more about the festival here.
3. Foyles Storybox Festival
Foyles, Grand Central, Birmingham B2 4BF
23 July–14 August (Also at Foyle’s shops in London and Bristol)
A festival of children’s books at Foyles shops nationwide, with many free events, including treasure hunts and writing workshops. The centrepiece comes on 31 July, with the release of the new Harry Potter book.
4. Soap Box Derby
A definitive British mix of the genius and the ridiculous as home-made, engine-less go-karts go head-to-head in time trials through the (closed-off) streets of a Midlands town. You are welcome to enter – or just to come along and admire the ingenuity. Find out more.
1. Pele: Art, Life, Football
National Football Museum, Manchester, M4 3BG
Until March 2018
Who was the greatest footballer ever? Lionel Messi has his champions and Maradona, too – but there’s really only one answer: Pele. Forty years on from his last game, the Brazilian No. 10 remains iconic. This major exhibition brings together memorabilia illustrating his story and art inspired by his life.
2. South Tyneside Festival
South Shields, NE33 3NB
Sundays throughout July
KT Tunstall, Busted, Sister Sledge and X Factor winner Louisa Johnson all play for free at Sunday afternoon concerts on South Shields seafront this July. Not to mention, on 23 July: the mighty Jedward. If you are determined to be near the front, a limited number of paid-for priority tickets are available.
3. Walk in the footsteps of Wordsworth
Lake District, CA11 0PD
A short, free and easy guided walk along the shore of Ullswater, exploring the landscape that inspired the poet William Wordsworth – just one of many free events laid on by the Lake District National Park. (Note: the ‘walk’ begins with a steamboat trip from Glenridding to Aira force waterfalls, for which there is a charge – 50% of the usual price.)
4. Appalachian Clog Dancing on the Folk Train
1914 train From Platform 7, Sheffield station
The Folk Train runs monthly from Sheffield: a music club in a railway carriage, with live music entertaining you on the trip out to the Peak District. The entertainment continues when you get off at Edale and, after a couple of hours in the pub there, on the return trip to Sheffield. This month, the Feet First Appalachian clog dancers (actually from Chesterfield) will be whipping up the acoustic storm.
South-west England and Wales
1. Bristol Harbour Festival
A huge festival that genuinely seems to have something for everyone: from a launch event with a 20-piece orchestra playing a live mix of dance hits to baby races (yes, that’s babies, racing) and tall ships in the harbour. Maritime history, circus performances, things to make and do – and a storytelling tent.
2. See Wimbledon in Plymouth
The Piazza, Plymouth, PL1 2AA
Cheer on Andy Murray, Johanna Konta and, if you’re quick, the rest of the British entrants, as Wimbledon coverage comes to Plymouth’s big screen. The Piazza is dressed in artificial grass for the duration, with vintage deckchairs, picnic benches, an activity zone – and plenty to eat and drink.
3. Upfest: Europe’s largest street art festival
Europe’s largest festival of street art, with over 300 artists involved – the festival in Bristol, home of the world-famous street artist Banksy, centres on Ashton Gate stadium, where over 100 artists will be painting live.
4. Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival
Roald Dahl Plass, Cardiff
Wales’ biggest food festival with free entry sees 100 local, national and international producers come to show (and sell) their wares in the heart of Cardiff, with free live music (and plenty of free samples).
Scotland and Northern Ireland
1. Mardi Gras: New Orleans takes over Edinburgh...
The Grassmarket, Edinburgh
Saturday 15 July, 1–4pm
Central Edinburgh turns into a mini New Orleans for the afternoon, as the Edinburgh Jazz Festival launches with a massive street party. Not just that: the day after, Sunday 16, there’s a carnival.
2. Merchant City Festival
Centred on Merchant Square, Glasgow, G1 1NY
Kicking off with a Carnival procession at midday on 22 July, the Merchant City Festival (pictured) celebrates the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology – but manages to include free circus skills workshops, free parkour sessions and a self-proclaimed middle-aged disco (though that’s not free).
3. Clyde Life photo exhibition
Riverside Museum, Glasgow West End G3 8RS
Until December 2017
An evocative collection telling the story of the last 200 years of Glasgow’s river: from its heyday as the world’s greatest shipbuilding centre to its industrial decline, and its rebirth and regeneration in the 21st Century.
4. Family fun at the Irish Open
Portstewart, BT55 7AB
As the Irish Open golf takes place up the road (with a field led by Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter), there are accompanying family events on the seafront in Portstewart: screenings of films including Shrek, Star Wars and Back to the Future, plus live music every evening and assorted fun including face-painting, balloon modelling and a fireworks display on Saturday night.