Celebrate bonfire night and takeover a museum: our pick of the best free events around the UK this month
Free fireworks, baby seals and the best photos in the world – there’s something for everyone in our monthly bumper round-up
1. Free fireworks
Most Guy Fawkes Nights celebrations are paid-for these days but there are some great chances to see fireworks for free too, including:
Blackheath, London (4 November), which has a fun fair from midday, and fireworks from 8pm. Or climb to the top of Primrose Hill or Hampstead Heath any evening, 3–5 November, and look out across the displays right across the whole city.
Heaton Park, Manchester (5 November) has a fun fair from 5pm and the bonfire and fireworks from 7.30pm.
Bristol’s Trinity Centre promises free entertainment and activities and a small firework display from 6pm on 4 November, with free live music inside from 8pm.
The River Mersey in Liverpool (5 November) the fireworks being staged by the team behind London’s spectacular New Year’s Eve displays. Street entertainment along the Pier Head and the Strand from 5pm. Fireworks from 6.30pm.
Sussex is arguably the capital of Guy Fawkes celebrations, with the season having started back in September. There are processions and displays across the county throughout the month, generally free though donations are welcome.
In Scotland, Cameron House, on Loch Lomond, has fireworks from 6.30pm on 4 November.
2. A walk in the park
The National Trust has dozens of suggestions for free country walks this month, taking in not just beautiful autumn colours, but also the chance to see the hundreds of bird species migrating to the UK for the winter, red squirrels and, if you’re in the right place, seal pups.
3. Kids Museum Takeover Day
Across the UK, 17 November
The under-16s take over the UK’s museums, galleries and heritage attractions for the day, with children leading guided tours, running quizzes and more. See the map here to find out your nearest event.
4. Children in Need
Nationwide, dates around 17 November
Since 1980, the BBC’s Children in Need has raised over £600m for good causes in the UK. This year’s theme is ‘Do Your Thing’: do something you’re good at, or have always fancied doing, and raise money for charity. You can download free fundraising kits, full of ideas and inspirations for organising your own events at school or work, from the Children in Need website.
5. See new films for free
Show Film First organises free screenings for the film industry: register to get on their list and find out about what’s coming up.
LONDON AND THE SOUTH EAST
6. The Lord Mayor’s Show
11 November, from 9am, City of London
A full day of events to celebrate as the new Lord Mayor of London makes his trip to swear loyalty to the Queen – a tradition that dates all the way back to 1189. Kicking off with a river pageant at 9am (Tower Bridge will be opening at 9.25 if you’ve never seen it…) the main procession starts at 11am and features (among other curios) 20 bands, hundreds of vintage vehicles, giant robots, penny farthings and over 7,000 people, with the Mayor in his gold coach as the centrepiece. There are free walking tours of the city of London in the afternoon and fireworks on the Thames at 5.15pm.
In addition to watching the free procession, Boundless members can get tickets for the Lord Mayor’s Show experience, which includes lunch and a boat trip where you can enjoy the fireworks from the river.
7. London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
The unique spectacle of over 400 pre-1905 cars making the 60-mile jaunt from London’s Hyde Park to Brighton seafront remains the world’s largest gathering of vintage cars.
If you can’t make it to the roadside to cheer them on, visit the free Regent Street Motor Show on Saturday 4 November, where many of the cars will be on display, alongside other motorised attractions. (Note: this year, the Run takes a different route through south London, due to roadworks in Brixton…)
Clapham Common, London, from 23 November
Get an early taste of Christmas with this pop-up festive village full of fairground attractions, ice-skating, a roller disco, street food and a Christmas-themed cinema.There’s also a heated, indoor kids area. Soaking up the Winterville atmosphere is free, though many individual attractions are not.
9. World Press Photo
Royal Festival Hall, 2–20 November
One of the exhibitions of the year: the greatest press photographs of the last 12 months, selected from entries submitted by 5000-plus photographers from 126 countries.
MIDLANDS AND THE EAST
10. Literary Leicester
A roster of big names come to Leicester for a series of mainly free book-related events (though advance booking is advised): Private Eye’s Craig Brown and Anne Robinson discuss the late newspaper columnist Alexander Chancellor; bestselling children’s author Jeremy Strong has an event for 7-11-year-olds; a talk at the King Power Stadium by Leicester City’s club historian and much more.
11. Norwich’s Northern Lights
Norwich City Centre, 16 November–5 January
Norwich’s unique 45-metre long LED tunnel, with its changing colours echoing the patterns of the Northern Lights, returns for a second year.
12. Oxford Christmas Lights Festival
Venues across Oxford, 17–19 November
A three-day free festival beginning with a children’s lantern procession on the Friday evening and featuring light installations, live music, food stalls and arts workshops across the city throughout the weekend.
13. Frankfurt Christmas market
Victoria Square & New Street, Birmingham, 16 November–24 December
The largest German market outside Germany or Austria returns to Brum, featuring free live music (in Victoria Square) as well as 120 food, drink and craft stalls
SOUTH WEST ENGLAND AND WALES
14. Cornwall Film Festival
Newquay, Falmouth and across Cornwall, 10–19 November
Alongside the paid-for programme of screenings and industry events, the festival has free workshops for aspiring photographers (11 November) and young vloggers (12 November) to get tips from the professionals.
15. Somerset’s illuminated Carnivals
Across Somerset, throughout November
Somerset offers eight illuminated processions this November, each featuring dozens of floats made from thousands of lights, parading through village streets for 2–3 hours ahead of a firework display. The first parade of the season, Bridgwater Carnival (4 November), attracts crowds of 150,000-plus, while the finale comes to Glastonbury on 18 November, with events across the county in between.
16. Stories from the British Empire
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, until 31 August 2018
Selections of images and films from the gallery archive [https://visitbristol.co.uk/whats-on/empire-through-the-lens-at-bristol-museum-and-art-gallery-p2237193], selected by groups and individuals each with their own unique perspective on Empire.
17. Your mind in a box
Wales Museum of Modern Art, Machynlleth, until 18 November
Just at the south of Snowdonia National Park, the Wales Museum of Modern Art is always worth a visit. Among the current exhibitions is Tim Iliffe’s installation, ‘In Our Minds, There are Many Rooms’: Illife sent out 1,000 boxes to volunteers, asking them to re-style them to reflect the current contents of their minds. The intriguing exhibition is compiled from what he received in return…
NORTH OF ENGLAND
18. Manchester Christmas lights switch on
Albert Square, Manchester, 4 November
Fireworks and live music to celebrate the switching on of Manchester’s Christmas lights, with a show featuring Britain’s Got Talent winner Tokio Mayers, the cast of ELF: the Musical and X-Factor nearly-men Yes Lad.
19. Freedom City festival
Venues across Newcastle
13 November marks the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King coming to Newcastle University to receive an honorary degree. The Freedom City festival has been a year of events to mark that occasion. There’s plenty still going on, but the free exhibition about Dr King’s trip and acceptance speech at the University’s Philip Robinson Library may be a good place to start.
20. Premier League logo art
National Football Museum, Manchester, until 31 January 2018
Since its inception in 199, 249 clubs have played in the Premier League. Artists who support each club have been invited to create new artworks celebrating the spirit of their clubs, to appear alongside a full exhibition of each club’s crest/logo throughout its history. (While you’re there, the excellent main National Football Museum collection is also free to view.)
21. A Hall for Hull
Until 12 November
Explore the changing views from within 16 giant steel columns, arranged in grid formation outside Hull Minster. Just one of many free events in the always-packed and intriguing monthly programme of Hull City of Culture 2017.
SCOTLAND AND NORTHERN IRELAND
22. Edinburgh Light Night
19 November, 3–5pm
Crowds exceeding 20,000 are expected as Edinburgh’s Christmas tree lights are switched on, to the accompaniment of choirs from across Scotland and, at 5pm, a massive firework display.
23. Edinburgh winter windows
Venues across Edinburgh, 18 November–6 January 2018
Thousands of young Edinburgh artists designed posters on the theme of Edinburgh’s 2050 vision. The best are displayed at five locations across the city, including 25 at West Parliament Square.
24. Big Bird Bus, Glasgow
Hogganfield Park, 25 & 26 November
Join Glasgow’s Countryside Rangers for a free guided tour of the city’s wetland areas and the chance to see the migrant birds newly-arrived around the city from Scandinavia.
25. Gingerbread Alley
Armagh, 25 November–22 December
If you love the Great British Bake Off and you love Christmas, this is for you: the annual exhibition (and competition) of gingerbread creations by local chefs and bakers.