25 free things to do in May

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25 free things to do in May - Stuart Roy Clarke National Football Museum

Our pick of the best free events around the UK this month

Morris dancing, football photography and Eurovision bingo: there’s something for everyone in our bumper monthly round-up of days out for May


25 free things to do in May - Rock Choir

Add your voice to the many at Rock Choir. It doesn’t have to be good (they say).

1. Hold a Eurovision party

Your house, nationwide. 12 May.

Want to add a little extra to your viewing of the annual song/endurance contest? What if there were a free place to download recipes from every country, cocktails themed around national flags, downloadable Eurovision bingo cards and plenty more to add to the entertainment?

The UK has only finished in the Top 10 twice in the last 20 years. So maybe don’t get your hopes up for this year’s entry SuRie bringing Euro glory to Brexit Britain: bookmakers have her as 26th favourite and are offering odds of 100/1 and upwards.

2. Play tennis for free at your local club

Great British Tennis Weekend. Nationwide, 12-13 May.

Fancy your chances as the next Kyle Edmund (Andy who?) but never got round to buying a racket? Twice a year, over 1000 tennis clubs around the country offer everyone the chance to play tennis for free – rackets and balls are provided and all ages are welcome.

3. Rise and shine

International Dawn Chorus Day. 6 May.

What could be nicer than rising at dawn to join the worldwide celebration of what IDCD organisers call nature’s symphony? IDCD falls on 6 May this year and there are “early-morning events”, many free, nationwide on and around this date.

4. Sing!


Belt out classic rock/pop tunes in unison with dozens of like-minded others: Rock Choir has branches across the country and all offer regular free taster sessions. You don’t even need to be a good singer (they say).

5. Run with friends and strangers

Nationwide. Saturday mornings.

Who are all those happy, mixed-age groups you see running in the park on a Saturday morning? It could be you. Park Run is a free, organised running club open to all – including runners with dogs on leads and babies in pushchairs – taking place at 9am every Saturday in parks across the country.

London and the south east

25 free things to do in May - Alresford Watercress Festival

Last year’s Watercress King and Queen at the Watercress Festival in Alresford.

6. Celebrate Morris dancing...

Trafalgar Square and around Westminster, London. 12 May, 2-5pm.

The streets of central London will be filled with hankie-waving, stick-bashing and the shaking of legs with bells on, as teams from across the country gather for the annual celebration of traditional English dancing.

7. Watercress Festival

Alresford, Hampshire. 21 May.

Head to the Hampshire market town, seven miles from Winchester, for the annual festival celebrating the local crop. The town is taken over by dozens of food stalls, live entertainment and all the fun of the May fair, including a petting farm, circus skills workshops, cookery demonstrations and more – plus the chance to tour a watercress farm.

8. The Hanwell Hootie

12 May.

The UK’s largest one-day free-entry music festival takes place in the west London village-suburb of Hanwell, in memory of local music shop owner Jim Marshall, who, back in 1962, started producing his iconic guitar amps there. 11 local pubs, plus a giant bubble-tent on the green and a London bus host free music from 4pm ‘til late.

9. Star Wars exhibition

Hove Museum. To 26 June.

Vintage Star Wars toys and memorabilia from the first phase of the franchise in the 1970s and 1980s.

PLUS there’s plenty more free events close by in Brighton this month at the Brighton festival, starting with the children’s parade on 5 May.

Midlands and East England

25 free things to do in May - Valerie Petts Oxfordshire Artweeks

Artist Valerie Petts’ oils and watercolours will be exhibited at St Barnabas church, Oxford, during Oxfordshire Artweeks.

10. Ride to Reach May Fair

Cambridge to Reach, Cambridgeshire. 7 May.

The Reach Ride sees hundreds of cyclists of all ages on an organised ride from Cambridge through the countryside to the village of Reach and its traditional Bank Holiday May Fair. The full return journey is 29 miles so it may be a test for younger (or less serious) riders but there are various points along the route where you can join in. The Reach Fair dates back 800 years and has Morris dancing, stalls, fairground rides and – of course! –penny-throwing.

11. Café International – Al Fresco

Beacon Park, Lichfield. May 5, 10am-8pm.

A new one-day open-air food festival with live entertainment and children’s activities. The event will also be running on 28 July and 27 October.

12. Endon Well-dressing

Endon, Near Leek, Staffordshire. 26-28 May, 1-7.30pm.

Three days of traditional celebrations to mark the arrival of spring: classic cars, children’s entertainment, Morris dancing, arts and crafts, a May parade and, of course the well-dressing itself.

13. Oxfordshire Artweeks

Towns across Oxfordshire. 5-28 May.

The UK’s oldest and biggest open-studio event: studios and galleries across the county open for free throughout the month, with pop-up exhibitions and the chance to meet artists and see them at work. Towns including Bicester and Banbury have their open-house studios from 5-13 May; from 12-20 May, over 200 art spaces in Oxford itself are open; from 19-28, the focus moves to towns along the Thames, including Henley and Wantage.

South-west England and Wales

25 free things to do in May - Swanage sailing taster session

Sailing on the open sea: start with a free taster at Swanage.

14. Bristol Walk Fest

1-31 May.

The UK’s largest urban walking festival, featuring 150 walks, mostly for free.

15. Free sailing taster session

Swanage Pier. 26 May, 2-5pm.

Ever fancied trying to tame the ocean gales with your nuanced use of a piece of cloth? Start here, as Swanage Sailing Club offer a free opportunity to experience sailing – their surprisingly hard, invigorating (and enjoyable) sport.

16. Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza

5-7 May.

A Victorian street fair with live entertainment, fairground rides, vintage cars and plenty of people dressed up in 1800s gear. There’s also a parade every day over the bank holiday weekend, starting at midday, as Llandudno stages its 32nd annual Extravaganza.

17. Burnham-on-Sea Food and Drink Festival

26 May.

Over 140 food and drink stalls, along with street entertainers and buskers, take over five streets and five indoor venues in the middle of Burnham-on-Sea. There’s also an Eat Festival in Taunton on 12 May and others across the south-west throughout the summer.


25 free things to do in May - Stuart Roy Clarke National Football Museum

Stuart Roy Clarke’s photos of football over the last 30 years focus on the fans.

18. LightNight Liverpool

18 May.

Over 100 free events, exhibitions, talks and workshops in Liverpool’s huge, one-night free arts festival. The full programme is being unveiled on 1 May.

19. The Late Shows

Across Gateshead, 19-20 May.

More than 70 local venues open their doors after dark for two nights of hands-on workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, pop-up performances and parties as part of the annual Late Shows.

20. Tour de Yorkshire

Around Yorkshire. 3-6 May.

So big a success was the 2014 visit of the Tour de France to Yorkshire that the Tour now stages a top-level race there every May. Doncaster, Ilkley, Richmond, Scarborough, Halifax and Leeds (among others) are among the stage start and finish towns for the women’s (3-4 May) and men’s (3-6 May) races. There’s also three organised rides for the public, going out from Leeds on 6 May, with the shortest a highly achievable 29km.

21. Great football photography from the last 30 years

National Football Museum. Until March 2019.

'The Game: 30 Years through the Lens of Stuart Roy Clarke’ traces the changing face of football over the last 30 years, with fans and grounds – rather than on-field action – at the heart of the story. The exhibition runs for a year with the selection of pictures changing over the months.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

25 free things to do in May - North West 200 motorcycle race

The Limavady exhibition highlights the best of the NW200 races.

22. NW200: Racing Through the Years

Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre, Limavady. To 23 June.

The North West 200 is Ireland’s largest outdoor sporting event: a week of motorcycle racing around the roads between the towns of Coleraine, Portstewart and Portrush that draws crowds of 150,000 (this year it takes place from 13-19 May). This free exhibition brings together photos and memorabilia from the event’s 89-year history.

23. See Tim Peake’s spacecraft

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. To 4 August.

See the capsule in which Tim Peake descended the 250 miles back to Earth from the International Space Station back in June 2016 – and, for £5, you can see that descent through his eyes on a specially produced virtual reality adventure…

24. The story of France, May 1968

Alliance Francaise de Glasgow, Glasgow. 1 May to 29 June.

The civil unrest in France 50 years ago this month nearly brought the country to revolution. For the first time, photographs of these remarkable events by Phillippe Gras are collected for an exhibition, with accompanying films and talks.

If that’s too high-brow for you, Glasgow also has two weekends this month (May 5-8 and May 12-13) of Inflatable Fun City in Victoria Park. Free for adults (but not for children).

25. Edinburgh International Children’s Festival

26 May to 3 June.

A week of (paid-for) shows and events kicks off with a weekend of free performances and activities at the National Museum of Scotland (26-27 May).

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