Elvis impersonators, dance lessons and tours of 10 Downing Street: there’s something for everyone in our bumper monthly round-up
1. Heritage Open Days, 7-10 September
Thousands of free events across the country, with many giving access to places and spaces usually closed to the general public. For your nearest event, see the searchable map.
2. See new films for free
It works like this: major film distributors want to build word of mouth about their new films by showing them for free to preview audiences they think will like them. Show Film First organises free screenings for the film industry: register with them to find out about what’s coming up.
3. Tour of Britain cycle race
Starting in Edinburgh and finishing in Cardiff, this year’s Tour of Britain route goes down the east of England to Hertfordshire before heading west towards the finish in Wales. A roster of cycling’s biggest names will be there, including Team Sky (though Tour de France champ Chris Froome will be away at the Vuelta a Espana) and Team GB. Free to watch at roadside, with plenty to enjoy in the stage towns, beyond the racing itself.
4. Start your bucket list young
The National Trust’s 50 things To Do Before you’re 11-and-three-quarters is a free download packed with a big tick-list of outdoorsy ideas to inspire your children (and you) at the weekends.
5. Get fit, make friends
Park Run is a roster of free, organised runs open to all – so, you can bring your dog or bring your pram but possibly keep your Olympic ambitions under your hat. Friendly and fun, it takes place in parks across the UK every Saturday morning at 9am. See the Park Run website for details of your nearest run.
London and south-east
6. Open House London
Free guided tours of hundreds of London buildings usually closed to the general public, from 10 Downing Street (pictured) and the Foreign Office to Lloyd’s of London, recycling plants and Buddhist temples. See the full programme here.
7. Faversham Hop Festival
Faversham, Kent, 2-3 September
The bringing in of the Kent hop harvest has always ended with a big celebration and in Faversham, the tradition continues, with five stages of music, street performers, processions and general merriment in the medieval streets of the town over the first weekend of September.
8. NFL on Regent Street
London W1, 30th September
Regent Street closes to traffic for its annual celebration of all things NFL, as the capital gets set to host four American football games across September and October, more than ever before. There will be marching bands and cheerleaders, big stars of gridiron, the chance to have a go at NFL skills yourself… and much more.
9. Take to the water
St Katharine Docks, London E1W 1LA Climb aboard and poke around 40 vintage yachts; have a go at canoeing; enjoy live music from the National Youth Jazz Orchestra: all this and more at the free ninth annual Classic Boat Festival – part of the month-long Totally Thames festival, which features dozens of events, both free and paid-for.
Midlands and East
10. The Birmingham Weekender
A packed weekend of mainly free outdoor theatre, music, art installations and performance across the city centre. It’s Birmingham’s biggest arts festival, centred on Victoria Square, which will have family dance classes and shows in the day (on a specially installed wooden dancefloor) and DJs (led by BBC 6Music’s Don Letts) and live music at night. But there’s stuff going on everywhere, from live music in Selfridges food hall, to pop-up cabaret on the trams. There’s even an orchestra in a car park, but that one’s a fiver… See the full Weekender programme here.
11. Hinckley classic car show
24 September, 10am-4pm
Hundreds of classic cars and other vehicles fill the streets of Hinckley for the seventh annual show. Free to enter, free to watch.
12. Worcester Music Festival
Not just hundreds of free gigs across the city but also free interactive music events and workshops, from drum clinics to instrument-taster sessions to the chance to sing in a pop choir. See the full line-up here.
13. Lincoln Morris Festival
Central Lincoln, 2 September, 10.30am to 4.30pm
More than 20 Morris dancing teams converge on Lincoln to dance, sing and clash sticks in colourful costumes to the accompaniment of accordions at the annual festival.
South-west and Wales
14. Porthcawl Elvis Festival
Porthcawl, 22-24 September
Thousands of Elvis fans hit the south coast of Wales, 25 miles west of Cardiff, for what organisers claim is the biggest festival of its kind in the world. The centrepiece is ‘The Elvies’, a competition to find the world’s best Elvis impersonator, but there’s over 100 Elvis shows over the weekend, many of them free.
15. Celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday
Torquay seafront, 13-17 September
It’s the 127th anniversary of the world’s best-selling author’s birth on 15 September. Why not celebrate by taking the free self-guided walk around the Christie landmarks in her hometown of Torquay? There is also an Agatha Christie Festival in the town, running 13-17 September, with a roster of paid events.
16. Bristol Festival of Puppetry
Venues across Bristol, 1-10 September
The celebration of puppetry and animation on stage and film includes many free shows and events, including a parade of carnival creatures and puppets (pictured).
17. Step back to the time of Jane Austen
Bath, 9 September, 11am-12.30pm
A fancy dress parade of more than 600 Austen fans dressed in the Georgian fashions of yesteryear kicks off Bath’s annual festival devoted to the author. Among a packed programme of paid-for events, one other free highlight is the daily public reading at Waterstones on Milsom Street from Northanger Abbey, Austen’s first novel: go back for 90 minutes every day at 2pm from 10-17 September and hear the whole thing!
18. Yorkshire Wolds Walking and Outdoor Festival
Dozens of guided walks and cycle rides exploring the countryside of East Yorkshire. Many of the walks have an historical theme; almost all are free – and even though, say, the Boots and Beer walk on 14 September costs £10, it does include a brewery tasting at the award-winning Wold Top brewery and a savoury buffet. Download the full programme here.
19. Museum of Liverpool
The paid-for Beatles Story museums are great but there’s plenty of Fab Four stuff in the free Museum of Liverpool too – things like John Lennon’s suit. Not just that, but an exhibition about Gerry and the Pacemakers; the dress Colleen Rooney wore on her 21st birthday, great Liverpool/Everton/Tranmere football material; and much more in a beautifully designed museum that, six years on from its opening still feels very fresh, energetic and entertaining.
20. Blackpool Illuminations get switched on
Tower Festival Headland, Blackpool, FY1 1AP, 1 September
The cast of Dad’s Army (1971), The Muppets (1979), the Bee Gees (1995), the presenters of Top Gear (2008) and, oddly, pop-Goth movie visionary Tim Burton (2015) have all switched on the Blackpool Illuminations (pictured), which run to a million bulbs over 10km of seafront. This year’s celebrity switch-flicker is still to be announced, but acts confirmed for the ensuing free concert include Example, Louisa Johnson and Diversity. Find out more here.
21. Hull International Carnival
King Edwards Square, Hull, 3 September, 2-7.30pm
Spectacular costumes, music and dance fill the streets of Hull for an afternoon. It’s all part of the Hull Freedom Festival (1-3 September), which includes many free events throughout the city over the weekend, in celebration of William Wilberforce, the Hull-born MP who helped end the slave trade in the early 19th Century.
Scotland and Northern Ireland
22. Culture Night
Belfast, 22 September, 1-10pm
Belfast city centre is transformed as hundreds of events take place in and out of venues across the city centre. There will gigs, talks, tours and activities, and organisers promise this year’s event will be the biggest yet.
23. Free audio tours of Scottish cities
Archaeologist Neil Oliver guides you round the sights and stories of Scottish cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh (pictured) and Dundee, as well as more rural areas, in an excellent series of 30-minute podcasts. Produced by the Open University and free to download.
24. Children vs computers
Museum of Childhood, Edinburgh, until 4 September
Is exposure to screens killing the imagination of our kids? Or is it expanding it to a new level? Artist Wendy McMurdo’s photo project looks for answers as she spends time with an Edinburgh primary school class, exploring their relationship with the imaginary digital worlds that surround them.
25. Hear first-hand tales of rock legends
Cardonald Library, Glasgow G52, 5 September
Rock insider Tom Russell, who has spent time with purveyors of rock’n’roll music such as Robert Plant, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica and Iron Maiden, shows us behind the scenes of rock and radio as he promotes his new book. Free talk. Refreshments will be served.