25 Free things to do in the UK in October 2016

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Something for everyone in our monthly bumper guide

1. Pick your own pumpkin

Dates throughout October. Sevington, Kent, TN24 0LL

As we count down to Hallowe’en, what could be better than a trip out into the country to pick your own pumpkin? Farmers Jake and Mark Thompson in Sevington, near Ashford, Kent, grow over a million pumpkins for supermarkets at Hallowe'en (the overall total of pumpkins sold in the UK at Hallowe'en is an incredible four million).

Throughout October, they open up one of their pumpkin fields to the public. Pumpkin-picking is open on 8-9 October, then 15 & 16, and 22-30. It's free to go in, just pay for what you pick – and a donation is made from the proceeds to the Cherished Gowns charity. Find out more at: facebook.com/Pickyourownpumpkin/#

There is a similar arrangement – free entry, pay for what you pick, charity donation – at Beluncle Farm, near Rochester ME3 9LU: pyopumpkins.com

2. Get involved with the Big Draw

1-31 October. Venues nationwide

Dozens of places across the UK are staging their own Big Draw events in October – it's the world's biggest festival of drawing. Sir Quentin Blake, David Hockney and Gerald Scarfe are among the patrons of this event designed to get the nation making art. Not all events are free, but many are. For a searchable map of events nationwide, go to thebigdraw.org/uk-events

3. The inside story of the Stones

Proud Galleries, London SW3 5XP. 19 October - 27 November

Just around the corner from the Wetherby Arms on the King's Road, where he first met the rest of the band in 1962, Rolling Stone Bill Wyman celebrates his 80th birthday with an exhibition of his photographs. 'Around the World in 80 Years' has many previously unseen pictures documenting the Rolling Stones' life and times from the inside.


Photo: Bill Wyman (second left) in 1968 with (back row) Pete Townshend, Charlie Watts, Keith Moon and Brian Jones; and (front row) Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon, John Lennon and Eric Clapton, ahead of the Rolling Stones Rock'n'Roll Circus show.

4. Wildlife Photographer of the Year

To 19 February 2017. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, EH1.

The 100 most breath-taking shots from an original entry of 50,000 photographs worldwide are on display for the next four months in Edinburgh. It's a touring exhibition but this is the only chance to see it in Scotland.


5. Make your own entertainment

All through half term. 

A few ideas for free and nearly-free ways to entertain children: Forest school. Obstacle races.

Paper aeroplane championships. Home cinema with a twist. A feast of things to delight (and maybe educate) kids.

Or brave it and go camping for the last time this year. Check our guide to all the best camping gear so you can make it a luxurious affair. 


6. Late at Tate

Tate Britain, 7 October, 6-10pm.

The  bi-monthly ‘Late’ events show the Tate in a new light, with the galleries full of talks, installations, performances, DJs and events – as well as the chance to, simply, look round the gallery. The theme for October is Mantra and you’re invited to question reality, to think about how we perceive ourselves and the world we live in. Seriously!


7. Watch the radio

Royal Festival Hall. To 7 October

To celebrate 70 years of BBC Radio 3 (previously knownas The Third Programme), the classical music station is broadcasting many shows live from a pop-up studio at the Royal Festival Hall from 26 September to 7 October, with an accompanying programme of free events, activities and live performances. One of the many highlights: a chance to create a multitrack mix of an orchestra inside a BBC Outside Broadcast truck.


8. Loogabarooga Festival, Loughborough 

19-24 October

The very first Ladybird book was produced in Loughborough 100 years ago, and the town has maintained its literary heritage right up to the present day. October’s Loogabarooga Festival will feature lots of free (and some ticketed) events at all sorts of venues around Loughborough for book fans of all ages. 


9. A Hull of a fair

7-15 October. Walton Street, Hull, HU3 6JU.

Rides and attractions from a variety of different companies come together for the massive Hull Fair – which has been running for over 720 years (Yes: 720 years.). Half a million people will attend the fair over the week, to experience the stomach-churning rides – it boasts the highest rides in Europe, apparently – and take part in time-honoured fairground activities. Fish. Chips. Candy-floss. More.


10. Step inside your own mouth

There's an exciting new, interactive science-themed attraction coming to London in 2018, right next to London Bridge. In the countdown to the opening of the Science Gallery, there are a series of pop-up seasons giving you a taste of what's to come: quite literally in the came of Mouthy, an installation that runs until November: it offers a series of surprising interactive experiences that invites you to connect with your mouth in new ways. Intrigued? Find out more here: london.sciencegallery.com/mouthy/

11. Find out about money

Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm. Bank of England, London EC2R 8AH 

To mark the launch of the new polymer fiver and the Bank of England Museum’s new Banknote Gallery, a free exhibition at Threadneedle Street is looking at the stories behind the folding stuff, from Nazi forgeries and the counterfeits that cost lives, to artwork featuring everyone from Queen Elizabeth to the Ming dynasty. bankofengland.co.uk

Picture: Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney dips one of the new polymer five-pound notes into his lunch, to demonstrate its indestructible qualities.

12. Discover the shoe hat

To 23 October. Manchester Art Gallery. 

Fashionistas will enjoy a free exhibition celebrating the work of surrealist designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, at the Manchester Art Gallery.

The Italian artist – and arch rival of Coco Chanel – lived from 1890 to 1973 and was one of the leading lights of between-the-wars fashion, collaborating with the likes of Salvador Dali and Man Ray on her avant-garde designs, including the shoe hat and the lobster dress... manchesterartgallery.org

13. Crewe Cosmopolitan Food Festival

30 October.

With live music and activities for kids, the Crewe Cosmopolitan Food Festival is a great, free family option. Head to the centre and eat your way around the global food stalls.


14. Lancaster Music Festival

13-17 October. Across Lancaster

Over 200 acts come together for a huge family-friendly, free festival, taking place across 40 venues, including the city’s outdoor squares and Lancaster Castle.


15. Stay late at Britain's biggest auction house

4 October, 6-8.30pm. London SW7

On the first Tuesday of every month, the UK's biggest auction house opens its doors. Have a tour behind the scenes, listen to free talks, have a drink in the bar (not free).

Tonight's theme is contemporary art, design and furniture - there's a panel discussion and a prize competition...


16. Early bonfire nights in Sussex (and Hampshire)


Remember, remember the fifth of November? Not if you’re in Sussex, where Guy Fawkes and firework celebrations are serious business and enjoy a whole season, running from early September to the end of November. You’ve already missed Uckfield (3 September)  and Crowborough (10 September), but there’s a good run of them in October including Hastings (15 October) and Littlehampton (29th).

Unique events that feel like a step back in time – really worth checking out if you have never been before. The event that many consider the highpoint is the Lewes bonfire – and that really is on 5 November. There’s a full itinerary for every town here: http://www.hbbs.info/index.php/traditions/sussex-bonfire-dates

Alternatively, head to Hampshire’s Titchfield Carnival on 23 October, for processions, floats and stalls lining the historic Hampshire town’s streets. titchfieldbonfireboys.co.uk

Picture: Lewes Bonfire Night

17. Folk music on the train 

October 25. From Sheffield station, platform 7.

Leave Sheffield on the folk train and get a free concert, this month by the Sheffield band Isembard's Wheel, who will provide "vividly poetic lyrics, soaring choruses and a mighty big attitude".

Everyone gets out at Edale, where the show continues in the pub, before everyone catches the 9.28 back to Sheffield. The Sheffield folk train is always on the fourth Tuesday of the month. The entertainment is free, but you do have to buy your own train ticket. folktrain.org.uk

Picture: Click on the link to hear a song by Isembard's wheel

18. Falmouth Oyster Festival

13-16 October, Falmouth, TR11.

Falmouth Oyster Festival celebrates the start of the oyster-dredging season, the diversity and quality of Cornish Seafood and, in particular, the last remaining traditional oyster fishery in Europe still dredging by sail and hand punt.

Expect cookery demonstrations by local chefs, wine and local ale, children's shell painting, sea shanties, a town parade, live music, an oyster shucking competition, a Falmouth Working Boat race and marquees brimming with Cornish produce.


19. Manchester Science Festival

20-30 October

Science-themed larks for all ages in venues across the city, run by the Museum of Science and Industry, who promise that you can “be immersed in virtual reality, see exciting new research in astronomy, help make a giant megapixel display and watch a robot orchestra made from recycled junk. And take part in lots of wacky experiments, of course...” Sounds good, no?


20. London's Roman Amphitheatre

Guildhall Yard, London EC2V

Beneath the courtyard at the front of the Guild Hall in the City of London lie the ruins of London's Roman Amphitheatre, where thousands once gathered to watch animal fights, public executions and gladiatorial combats.

The little-known site is bolstered by museum-style interpretations and is open daily, for free. Afterwards, you can take in the recently refurbished Guildhall Gallery, another hidden London gem, also free.


21. Marconi radio museum

Sundays 1.30-4.30; Tues and Fridays. 7-9pm.

Mullion, Cornwall

Small but acclaimed museum high on the Cornish cliffs that celebrates the first-ever Transatlantic radio signal - sent to Marconi in Canada from this spot in 1901. Staffed by enthusiastic local volunteers, the Centre will give you an insight into one of mankind's greatest inventions - and you'll get the chance to send some Morse code yourself. It's not open every day, so be sure to check the website before you set out.


22. Celebrate the NFL in Regent Street

1 October, Regent Street, London W1.

Regent Street is closed to traffic for the day as London celebrates the start of the NFL season, with a day of American and American football-themed events and activities for fans and families. Plenty of shops have special American-themed offers and experiences, plus there’s cheerleaders, live entertainment… loads. See more info here: regentstreetonline.com/

23. Mull Rally

Isle of Mull, 14-16 October

The beautiful peace of the Isle of Mull is broken for three days every year by the Mull Rally – involving rapid racing on the single-lane roads round the island, with some stages taking place in the dark. A unique event.


24. Snowdonia marathon

29 October

Free to watch (but not to enter), this is one of the toughest marathons in the UK, and one of the most scenic. Enjoyed from roadside as thousands of local runners raise money for charity. Full info on the route here: marathonrunnersdiary.com

25. Celebrate England winning the World Cup

National Football Museum, Manchester. To 23 April 2017

A special exhibition at the excellent National Football Museum to mark the 50th anniversary of English football's finest hour.

The match ball and the Jules Rimet Trophy are the star attractions, but, as you'd expect, there's loads more, including stories from a roster of players, staff and fans in the stadium that day – and a re-creation of the Wembley '66 atmosphere using the latest immersive technology. There is also a version of the same exhibition at Wembley Stadium.



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