25 fabulous free events you can attend in May 2021

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Free events in May 2021 Gregory Porter on stage

From music festivals to motor shows, gardening talks to guided tours, there are lots of free events for you to enjoy this month – and a few are even happening in person!

With two bank holidays and a half-term week in May, we're sure you'll be looking for things to do over the next month.

Happily, there's no shortage of free events to attend, and to help you plan your itinerary, we've put together a list of our top choices. Want to hear two literary legends in discussion? Learn how to take better holiday photos? Boogie on down to some live jazz? You can do all of those things and more – and we've even listed one or two events that you can attend in person... 

1. Create a sustainable masterpiece

Painting With Nature Virtual Program, 1 May

Free events in May 2021 paintbrush fruits spice

Enjoy painting? Well, this virtual class will teach you how to do it sustainably using natural paints made from berries, leafy plants (such as cabbages), spices, coffee grounds and more. The session will begin with a tutorial on how to make the paints, and then you'll be given the opportunity to experiment. 

2. Learn to shoot like a pro

Peter McKinnon: A Live Interactive Experience, 1 May 

Free events in May 2021 Pete McKinnon

Credit: Peter McKinnon/YouTube

Best known for his YouTube photography and video tutorials, Peter McKinnon will be revealing some of his trade secrets in this online webinar. Hosted by Canon Creator Lab, the live stream will begin with a talk by Peter, after which people watching at home will get the chance to ask questions.

3. Jive to some free jazz

Free events in May Cerys Mathews

Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 1 & 2 May

Jazz is best heard in the flesh, of course, but until restrictions are lifted we'll have to make do with listening and watching online. Streaming live on YouTube, this year's Cheltenham Jazz Festival will be hosted by Gregory Porter (main pic) and Cerys Matthews (above), and will feature acts including Yelfris Valdes, Lara Jones and Sarathy Korwar.

4. Watch a family theatre show

How To Save A Rock, 1, 2, 3 & 8 May

Free events in May 2021 Bigfoot Theatre How to Save a Rock

Credit: Pigfoot Theatre

This award-winning – and carbon-neutral – show by London-based Pigfoot Theatre follows a group of young men and women as they attempt to rescue the world's last-ever polar bear, who's somehow ended up in northern Scotland. While the production is technically free to watch, you're encouraged to “pay what you can”. 

5. Stroll around Venice... without leaving home

Venice: Free Virtual Walking Tour, 2 May 

Free events in May 2021 woman in Venice

With its extraordinary architecture and iconic canals, Venice is one of the world's most stunning cities. This guided tour on Zoom will show you some of its best sites, such as the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square. Once the tour is complete, there will be a chance to ask questions. Note that you'll need to pre-register to take part.

6. Enjoy some edgy entertainment

The Cabaret Of Dangerous Ideas, 3 May

Free events in May 2021 hand holding microphone

To celebrate International Workers' Day, The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh is hosting an evening of live comedy, spoken word performances and music – all of which will be streamed online. JoJo Sutherland, Vladimir McTavish and Victoria McNulty are among the names who will be appearing on the stage.

7. Cook some tasty Indian food

South Indian Cookery With Chef Kanthi Thamma, 4 May

South Indian food

If you love the exotic flavours of Indian food, then you might want to sign up for this online event, available exclusively to Boundless members. Chef Kanthi Thamma, best known for setting up Brighton's Curry Leaf Café and Easy Tiger restaurants, will show you how to make vibrant Kerala veg curry with lemon rice and a selection of side dishes. To find out more, click here

8. Hang out with the stars

Virtual Planetarium: May Show – LUniverse Online, 5 May 

Free events in May 2021 stars in the night sky

Take a whistle-stop tour of the night sky during this planetarium show – hosted by Lancaster University on Microsoft Teams. You'll get some tips on the astral activity you should look out for in May, as well as learning about aurorae, the beautiful lights visible around the solar system. There will be a chance to ask questions at the end. 

9. Delve into some post-war culture

Tonic To The Nation: The Festival Of Britain 70 Years On, 7 May

Free events in May 2021 women drinking beer festival of Britain

In May, it will be 70 years since the opening of the 'Festival of Britain', an arts, science and technology event intended to inspire the nation following the Second World War. In this fascinating online event, you'll get the chance to explore highlights from The National Archives' and the Southbank Centre's collections. 

10. Explore the sights of Tuscany

Free Virtual Tour: The Best Of Tuscany, 8 May

Free events in May 2021 group of people sat on hill overlooking Florence

We can't travel to Tuscany just yet, but this free guided tour will take you around some of the area's most famous cities, including Florence, Pisa – home of the famous Leaning Tower, of course – Siena and Lucca. To make the experience more authentic, why not pour yourself a nice glass of Italian wine.

11. Soak up some ancient history

Greece aLIVE! An Exhilarating Virtual Tour To Athens, Crete & Santorini, 9 May

Free events in May 2021 Acropolis of Athens

Until Greece re-opens to holidaymakers, join a virtual guided tour of this spectacular country and its islands. This particular excursion is ideal for fans of ancient history, since it explores the Acropolis of Athens, along with Crete and Santorini – two islands that have been closely linked to the legend of Atlantis.

12. Hear a first-person account of love and war

Photographing The Beauty Of Life In The Shadow Of War With Ami Vitale, 12 May

Free events in May 2021 Ami Vitale

Hosted by National Geographic, this event will revisit an old talk by explorer Ami Vitale (above), who found herself becoming a war correspondent after being caught up in the Gaza-Israel conflict. Ami recounts stories of love and beauty in the midst of war – including a wedding she came across while documenting the devastation.

13. Be regaled by some live poetry

Poetry Collection Launch: Elizabeth-Jane Burnett's Of Sea, 12 May

Free events in May 2021 ocean life

Devon-based poet Elizabeth-Jane Burnett is about to launch her latest collection, Of Sea, a sequence of 46 poems paying tribute to the extraordinary wildlife that lives underwater. This free online event will see Elizabeth-Jane read excerpts from her book. Be sure to order a ticket now, as places are expected to fill up quickly.

14. Improve your holiday snaps

Travel Photography (Getting Started) With Sony Alpha, 12 May

Free events in May 2021 couple taking photos of lake

Now that lockdown restrictions are starting to be lifted, many of us will be thinking about going on holiday soon. Hosted by Sony Alpha, this online photography tutorial for beginners will cover the basics of taking holiday snaps, and will also cover some of the best photography kit you can buy right now.

15. Master some snack hacks

Cheddar & Chives, 16 May 

Free events in May 2021 cheese biscuits with topping

We're getting into picnic season, so why not learn how to make some tasty treats for your hamper? Run by BAKE IT UP!, this online masterclass will give you all the guidance you need to make delicious cheddar and chives drop biscuits, loaded with cheese. To attend this YouTube tutorial, you'll need to book a ticket.

16. Listen in on an eco-talk

The Net Zero Series: Towards A Sustainable Future – Sustainable Transport, 18 May

Free events in May electric car charging

There's been a lot of talk about sustainable transport, but what exactly will the benefits be? Part of the Net Zero Series run by UK Research and Innovation, this online discussion will explore how using new classes of electric, hydrogen and autonomous vehicles could lead to a much healthier environment.

17. Make the most of your natural surroundings 

Spring Into Nature, 18 May

Birds among flowers

Timed to co-incide with the start of BBC Springwatch, this online talk – exclusive to Boundless members – will see plant and wildlife expert Simon Ginnaw homing in on the natural world you can find right on your doorstep, from animals and birds to plants and herbs. To find out more, click here

18. Get a buzz for a bee discussion

Wonderful Things About Bees – A Talk By Professor Robert Pickard, 19 May

Free events in May 2021 honeybee on flower

Hosted on behalf of the Cambridgeshire Beekeepers Association, this online talk will see Professor Robert Pickard discussing the evolution of honeybees and their impact on other species. Find out more about how we can work alongside bees to create a sustainable future for ourselves by booking your ticket for the talk now.

19. Eavesdrop on two literary giants

Philip Pullman 'In Conversation' With Michael Rosen, 21 May

Free events in May 2021 Phillip Pullman and Michael Rosen

Legendary children's authors Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials) and Michael Rosen (We’re Going On A Bear Hunt) get together to discuss the stories and ideas behind their most loved books. Whether you're fans of their work or are looking for inspiration for your own novel writing, you won't want to miss this.

20. Get revved up for an in-person car show! 

Magnificent Motors, 22 & 23 May

Free events in May 2021 vintage car show

It's seems like a lifetime ago that we were able to attend in-person car shows – but finally the chance has come. Eastbourne Seafront is the venue for this two-day event, which will see dozens of vintage cars, buses and motorbikes on display, along with food and drink stalls – all socially distanced, of course!

21. Zoom in on a new telescope launch

Online Astronomy Talk: Countdown To Launch, 24 May

Free events in May 2021 James Webb Space Telescope

Due to be launched later this year, the James Webb Space Telescope should give us a much better understanding of how the stars and planetary systems were formed. In anticipation of the launch, Dr Olivia Jones from the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh is hosting an online talk about how it could revolutionise astronomy. 

22. Meet a TV driving legend

Ben Collins: Stories From A Stig, 25 May

Ben Collins Stig

You'll know Ben Collins even if you don't recognise him – he was one of the drivers who played the famous Stig on TV's Top Gear. In this fascinating online talk – exclusive to Boundless members – Ben will be sharing some of the best anecdotes from his life and career. To find out more, click here


23. Book your tickets for a literary festival

Hay Festival, 26 May-6 June

Free events in May 2021 Hay Festival

One of the world's most popular literary gatherings, the Hay Festival moved online last year. This year's event is likely to follow suit, although there is a small chance that audiences will be allowed to attend. Either way, the programme will include 200 writers, thinkers and performers, making it a must for book lovers. 

24. Tuck into a sustainable food and craft festival

Plastic Free & Vegan Festival, 29 May 

Free events in May 2021 vegan falafel

Taking place online for the second year running, this eco-friendly event will provide a showcase for makers, ethical indie brands and artists. During the day, you'll be able to attend creative talks, vegan cookalongs and craft workshops – and you may even get to meet some likeminded people. 

25. Rock out at a free music festival

This Is For The NHS, 31 May

Free events in May 2021 rock guitarist

Newcastle's massive music festival This Is Tomorrow is being held in September. But before then, the organisers are running a free, in-person festival to say thanks to NHS workers who've put their lives on the line during the pandemic. Healthcare staff can bring their friends and family, though they'll have to pay for their tickets.

Photos: Getty Images, unless otherwise stated

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