25 free things to do in the UK in August 2016

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Olympic fanzones, kids holiday activities and street parties: something for everyone in our monthly bumper guide

1. Visit an Olympic fanzone

Nationwide, 6 – 22 August

Experience all the action and atmosphere of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and support the Team GB athletes [Jessica Ennis, pictured] in their quest for glory. There are 11 official Olympic fanzones across the UK, with big screens, activities and giveaways. Bear in mind, though, that some events take place in the early hours of the morning, so check event (and bus/train times) before setting out. Show your colours at fanzones in: Bradford, Bristol, Belfast, Coventry, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Plymouth, Swansea. Full details: teamgb.com/fanzones

2. Enjoy the London Riviera

The Scoop, SE1, to 31 October

You can watch the Olympics on the Big Screen here, too – and have a go at some Olympic sports yourself – but there's also a packed summer-long programme of free live entertainments and films, with food stalls, fitness sessions and more, right outside City Hall.

lbcsummerfestival.com or morelondon.com

3. Eastbourne Airbourne

Eastbourne Seafront, BN21 3YN, 11 – 14 August

Voted the best free airshow by Airscene for the last two years, Eastbourne Airbourne is four days of the best in military and civilian aviation on display along the seafront, all led by the Red Arrows. The Boundless Basecamp will be in attendance – offering Boundless members the chance to drop in for a drink or a snack in our great new hospitality facility.


4. Bournemouth Air Festival

18 – 21 August

With the Red Arrows appearing on all four days, plus a flotilla of Navy ships and county show trading stalls, Bournemouth has a feast of family entertainment over the third weekend of August. The Boundless Basecamp will again be on hand for members to enjoy drinks and hospitality.


5. Dress up as a bridesmaid and dance the night away

The Southbank Centre, 27 August

Take part in one of artist Sadie Hennessy's Never The Bridesmaid parades at 12.30pm, 2.30 or 4.30 – or dress up in one of her collection of fabulous bridesmaids' dresses at any other point during the day. In the evening, a 15-piece Big Band will play Swing classics... it's all part of the Big Wedding Weekend on the South Bank – in itself part of the Festival of Love that runs throughout August and includes many other free events, shows and activities. southbankcentre.co.uk

6. Learn everything you need to know about bikes

430 venues across England and Wales

A free, fun activity for 7 – 11 year-olds in the school holidays, run at Halfords' 430 UK branches, teaching them everything they need to know about keeping their bike in good nick: from fixing a puncture to adjusting the saddle. Everyone gets a free goody bag and discount vouchers, too. The workshops run every Wednesday in August at stores in England and Wales. Check the link for your local event. halfords.com

7. Foyles' Storybox children's book festival

Book shops in London, Bristol and Birmingham, to 14 August

A series of great book-related events for children of all ages, with activities ranging from meet-the-author events to drawing workshops and even a chance to script and perform your own radio drama. Some events have ticket prices but many are free, though reserving a space in advance is advisable.  There's a full list of events here: foyles.co.uk/storybox

8. Dance all day

Happy Feet at Dreamland, Margate, CT9 1XJ, 7 August 

DJs and dancers will take you on a non-stop dance-a-thon through decades of dance crazes: no experience or partner needed.dreamland.co.uk/

9. Friday artisan drinks market

777 Shelton Street, Covent Garden, Friday evenings until 26 August

From organic beer to vodka jelly, this new ‘alcoholic market’ offers a fresh range of brewers, vintners and distillers each week.


10. Rochdale Feel Good Festival

Free music and food celebration in the heart of Rochdale, 19 – 20 August, 10am – 11pm

Two days of free entertainment in Rochdale town centre includes live music from established names, must-see rising stars and first class cooking from world renowned chefs.



11. Explore the Serpentine Pavilion

Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Galleries, W2 3XA, until 9 October 

The annual unveiling of the Serpentine’s temporary pavilion means the London summer season is fully up and running. Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) have created an 'unzipped wall' constructed from 1802 fibre-glass frames. The pavilion will be a focal point for events throughout the summer.



12. Walk the walk in Edinburgh


The walking trails of the World Heritage Sites of Edinburgh allow you to discover the hidden gems of the Old and New towns, including iconic buildings and streets. A great thing to do on a summer's day. For a local's tips on other great things to do around Edinburgh, see our Insider's Guide.


13. Caribbean Carnival of Manchester  

13 – 14 August

Manchester Carnival is the North-West's largest celebration of Caribbean music and carnival arts, a vibrant concoction of Caribbean music, dance, theatre and costume.

14. Urban Gardening

Leake Street Pocket Park, London SE1 7NN

Free lunchtime workshops with an urban gardening theme for workers in Waterloo. How to make herbs thrive, terrarium building and a summer planter-making workshop. 

We Are Waterloo website

15. Free yoga

St Stephen with St John Church, London SW1P 1LE, Tuesday mornings in August

A free early-morning yoga class open to all abilities with mats provided and no advance booking needed. Free tea and coffee following the class gets you off to work with the best start.


16. Watch the Changing of the Guard


Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA, every day from 11.30am

See the New Guard exchange duty with the Old Guard in the famous ceremony outside Buckingham Palace. It lasts around 45mins.


17. Free film screenings

Paddington Central, every day in August

Paddington Central hosts free film screenings throughout August, on the Grand Union Canal near Little Venice. Free, just turn up, weekday screenings begin at 6.30pm, weekend screenings begin at 3.30pm


18. Indonesia Day

Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN, 14 August

Celebrate all things Indonesian and learn more about the Southeast Asian nation with Indonesia Day in Trafalgar Square. Tuck into delicious treats from the food stalls, enjoy traditional music, get hands-on with cultural arts and crafts activities, and catch the elegant Indonesian folk dancers and more performances on the main stage.


19. The Architecture Centre 

Bristol BS1 4QA, until 21 August

Last chance to see the winning entries to the Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize, the UK’s most prestigious architectural award.


20. Notting Hill Carnival

August 28 – 29

Europe’s biggest street festival, representing London's colourful multicultural past and present, is a vital date in any party-lover's diary. thenottinghillcarnival.com

21. Edinburgh Free Fringe Festival

4 – 28 August

Hundreds of free-entry comedy and music events across the city, at this festival-within-a-festival that has been running since 2004.


22. Summer by the sea

Boathouse 4 Summer Festival, Portsmouth, 5 – 7 August, 10 – 5pm

Watch a tree being turned into planks using centuries-old tools like those on the Mary Rose, see boats being restored, make some rope, have a chat with boat-building experts... Lots to see and do for all ages and every level of maritime enthusiast.


23. Bolton Food and Drink Festival

26 – 29 August

Cooking demonstrations from celebrity and regional chefs – including John Torode (pictured) – over 180 artisan traders in speciality markets, live music, entertainment and family fun over Bank Holiday weekend.


24. 50 things to do before you're 11 and three-quarters

Countryside across UK

The National Trust protects and runs more than 350 historic houses, gardens and ancient monuments, forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, downs, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, castles, nature reserves, villages – many of which are free to visit. Its project '50 things to do before you're 11-and-three-quarters' is just that: a project for kids to sign up to, offering ideas for free outdoors activities. You might start by flying a kite at White Horse Hill, for instance...


25. Late at Tate

Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG, 5 August, 6 – 10pm

The Tate Britain comes alive in a new style on the first Friday of alternate months – August, October, December 2016 – as the galleries play host to music, performance, talks and events between 6pm and 10pm. There's usually a great atmosphere, it's all free and it feels like a real London secret. 

This month’s event is a carnival-like evening celebrating cultural diversity, all inspired by Rang Baranga, a multi-coloured 1969 sculpture by British Pakistani artist Rasheed Araeen.


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