Ditch the woolly jumpers and reach for the Pimm’s – Emma Payne looks forward to another Bristolian summer
If you live in Bristol, adopting Lionel Richie’s ‘fiesta forever’ mantra is an easy enough feat this summer, as there seems to be a large-scale celebration of some sort taking place every five minutes. From interactive children’s workshops and diverse musical line-ups including top international acts, to quality art, forward-thinking film and high-octane sports, over the next few months there’s more fun to be had in and around Bristol than you can possibly keep track of.
So, over the following pages, we’ve put together a brief preview of just some of what’s to come – of course, there are plenty more events that we simply couldn’t cram in, and many line-ups are still to be fully announced, but here’s a starter pack, so you can get those diaries out, begin planning and booking, and ensure you have the best Bristol summer, like, ever…
1 – 31 May
Yes that’s right, Bristol is home to the biggest city-based walking festival in the UK, offering the perfect chance to see our hometown from a new perspective (and get some much-needed exercise, in our case). Don your walking boots and wellies for a series of guided tours and themed events suitable for every age and stage.
Thatchers’ one-day music event returns to Passenger Shed with Bristol-based trio Elder Island, Dub Mafia frontwoman Eva Lazarus, and Britain’s answer to The Vampire Weekend, Little Comets, bringing the biggest beats around. Completing the festival vibe, Thatchers will be offering free samples of their latest brew, the cloudy Haze – the perfect accompaniment to the lineup.
Eva Lazarus performs at Thatcher’s Haze Sessions
11 – 13 May
The UK’s biggest and longest-running touring festival entirely dedicated to gin really needs no introduction – just arm yourself with a Fever Tree tonic, lime or slice of fresh grapefruit, and one of 100 gins; peruse the stalls and acquire some impressive skills at an expert-led masterclass; then wash it all down with a spot of musical entertainment.
Fresh Art Fair
12 – 14 May
Forty-five of Britain’s best galleries will converge on Cheltenham’s Racecourse this year, where budding enthusiasts and established collectors alike can browse the contemporary, innovative works of 400 artists – the likes of which are rarely seen en masse outside London. And it’s not just about buying art – if you think you’ve got something worth selling, get an expert valuation for up to three pieces from the folks at Bonhams auctioneers.
Former chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi subsidiaries, Anthony Wardle and his daughter Eleanor Wardle with artworks by Gil Carvalho © Mikael Buck / Fresh Art Fair
20 & 21 May
Vegan and vegetarian lifestyles have had a surge in popularity in recent years (look away now, Grillstock), but here in Bristol there has been a thriving veggie scene for a long time. Based at the Harbourside and now in its 15th year, Vegfest does what it says on the tin: featuring over 100 stalls packed with vegan fare and a programme of hip-hop, rave, reggae and rock including The Scribes, Criss Cross and Dub Pistols.
Dot to Dot
Dot to Dot is all about providing a platform for upcoming artists, with previous performers including Ed Sheeran, Mumford and Sons and The 1975. This year sees indie rockers Sundara Karma and Nottingham-based Amber Run headlining alongside surf-pop Californians The Growlers, Scottish duo Honeyblood, kooky LA three-piece Cherry Glazerr and a host of unknown talents just waiting to be discovered.
Love Saves The Day
27 & 28 May
Love Saves The Day is bringing yet another bumper weekend of music to Eastville Park this year, combining the best of the underground and the overground with headliners including Crazy P, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Kate Tempest, Little Dragon and Nadia Rose. Offstage, revellers will come across interactive ‘weddings’ at an inflatable church, roller discos and plenty more LSTD eccentricities yet to be confirmed.
3 & 4 June
Set the DeLorean to 1980 and travel back through the decades (yep, 1980 was 37 years ago) to the era that brought us synth-pop, giant shoulder pads and even bigger hair with this retro festival. The Saturday line-up includes Gloria Gaynor, Village People and Tiffany, while Atomic Kitten, B*Witched and Toploader throwback to the ’90s on Sunday.
Bristol and Bath Festival of Nature
8 – 25 June
Leave your touch-screens, iPhones and virtual reality headsets at home and reconnect with the outdoors with the UK’s biggest free festival dedicated to all the flora and fauna found naturally on our planet. Discover the Bristol dinosaur, visit the cinema in a campervan to learn about the River Avon, take a look at the sun’s surface with Bristol Astronomical Society’s specialist telescopes and take part in a host of workshops, talks and activities still to be announced.
15 – 18 June
Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down… The rumours are true: Rick Astley is back, and he’s performing as part of the Forestry Commission’s live concert series, taking place at seven unique forest locations including Westonbirt Arboretum. Rick’s not the only blast from the past as R&B legend Craig David, and the dulcet Welsh tones of Tom Jones are also coming to the South West, alongside electronic group Clean Bandit, and the evocative Elbow.
21 – 25 June
The holy grail of festivals has never disappointed, and this year’s headliners include groundbreaking alt-rockers Radiohead, chart-dominating singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran and Dave Grohl’s post-grunge project Foo Fighters. And as ever, the music is just the tip of the iceberg at this gargantuan festival-come-makeshift-city, with new themes, mini-festivals, parties, entertainments and vendors at every turn. If you didn’t get a ticket the first time round, keep an eye out for the resale date this month…
21 – 24 June
What we love about this relative newcomer is that it no longer matters (as much) if we don’t get a Glastonbury ticket, because we know something absolutely awesome will be going on here in Bristol during that week, as part of Summer Sounds (formerly Summer Series). A four-night string of live outdoor concerts at the Amphitheatre, featuring some of the hottest acts on the scene, Summer Sounds’ offering this year comprises Welsh rock giants Manic Street Preachers; electronic DJ and producer Bonobo; garage comeback king Craig David; and Hacienda Classical – inspired by the legendary ‘Madchester’ club and reimagining rave anthems with a live orchestra. Hallelujah!
Hacienda Classical bring ‘Madchester’ vibes to Summer Sounds
1 & 2 July
‘Meat, music and mayhem’ is possibly the most appealing tagline we’ve ever heard for a festival, and between chilli pepper, hot dog and burger eating competitions; a huge, smoky, two-day long ‘King of The Grill’ contest; lashings of cider and beer and an epic main stage line-up, Grillstock more than lives up to its motto. What do we know so far? Well, The Darkness are headlining on the Sunday – air guitars at the ready!
6 – 9 July
Skate and BMX fans will be stoked (that’s right, we know the lingo) to see the return of NASS festival to The Royal Bath & West Showground this summer, with three days of banging music, high-octane action sports and nail-biting competitions. Witness incredible skateboarding at the Pro Park, BMXing from some of the world’s best athletes at the Ghetto Park, live street art and an epic music line-up over four stages, headed by hip hop duo Method Man and Redman as well as Kano and Pendulum.
Bristol Pride Festival
Showcasing and celebrating Bristol’s LGBTQ+ community is the name of the game at Pride, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better street party. The largest event of its kind in the UK, Bristol Pride takes revellers from day to night with a march through the city, over 100 street performers and artists, fantastic food, and, of course, a stonkingly good after-party.
Bristol Americana Weekend
14 – 17 July
For the third year running, Colston Hall will team up with St George’s to bring together some outstanding home-grown and US artists in the spirit of collaboration. This four-night festival will celebrate the remarkable roots music that grows deep in American soil, including folk, blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll.
Bristol Harbour Festival
21 – 23 July
Oh we do like to be beside the seaside…well, the harbour, but it’s one that’s become something of a cultural hub as 200,000 visitors amass for one of the country’s largest free festivals each year. Harbour Fest boasts a staggering two miles of entertainment along the waterfront, including a Dance Village, three music stages, crazy flyboarding action (see lead image), unusual vessels, a circus mecca created by Cirque Bijou and a regional food market – not too shabby, eh?
29 – 31 July
Over 250 cutting-edge street artists descend on Bedminster each year for Europe’s largest live urban art festival. Forget the hastily scrawled ‘anarchy’ sign round the back of your local Lidl – these immensely talented graffiti artists paint buildings, vehicles and canvasses live, in an amazing range of styles, from photorealism and 3D to cartoon, stencil and stickmen. Even better, the festival will be running for an extra day this year, encouraging families to get more involved with workshops and interactive paint sessions.
Image © Cheo
4 – 6 August
This one is perfect for the kids, with junior discos, arts and crafts and endless opportunities to explore the beautiful Chew Valley. Don’t forget to enrol them at Hogsnorts Farm Academy too, where they can meet the animals and put themselves to good use. There’s plenty for adults too though, and no end of local produce to chow down on – every last bite will be 100% organic this year – plus live music at the Lake and Tipi stages and sizzling after-dark DJ sets…need we say more?
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
10 – 13 August
It’s one of the most famous sights in Bristol – over 100 colourful hot air balloons floating across the city at dawn and dusk each day, having begun their journey at gorgeous Ashton Court Estate. Highlights of the jam-packed four-day programme include the much-loved nightglows on Thursday and Saturday, when the balloons will light up to a specially commissioned soundtrack, Jelly Record’s fiesta bandstand and the firework finale.
16 – 18 August
Pacify the summer holiday ‘I’m bored’ brigade as Hoo-Ha! festival transforms Colston Hall into the go-to place for families in August. Alongside back-to-back kid-friendly performances in the main hall during the daytime, The Lantern will also come to life with interactive workshops and shows. In addition to the ticketed events, there will be a programme of free foyer shows and activities.
17 – 19 August
Math-rock, post-rock, prog-rock, noise-rock, alt-rock…you get the idea, right? Prepare for an award-winning three-day celebration of the biggest names in innovative rock, featuring more minimalist guitar solos, mind-melting chord progressions and experimental electronica than you can shake a drumstick at – headliners include Sikth, Listener, Tall Ships, God is an Astronaut and Explosions in the Sky.
The Other Art Fair
1 – 3 September
Known for connecting buyers directly with the best undiscovered artists, The Other Art Fair is back at Bristol’s Arnolfini this year. A pioneering platform for uncovering new talent, its inclusive ethos allows artists to forge direct relationships with potential buyers through workshops, immersive theatre, live music and performance art. Buyers of all ages can discover the best in emerging talent, with artworks for sale from just £50.
Bristol Festival of Puppetry
1 – 10 September
No, we’re not talking Sooty and Sweep (love them though we do), more cutting-edge, pioneering puppetry in an eclectic programme of performance and film. This 10-day homage to the traditional, experimental and diverse styles of puppetry includes a Carnival Parade, Puppet Trail, exhibitions, talks and the totally twisted madness of The Smoking Puppet Cabaret.
The Downs Festival
Last year’s impressive inaugural event saw local music legends Massive Attack taking their home city by storm, quite literally, as they performed to downpours of biblical proportions. The trip-hop legends were supported on the live music stage by the likes of Skepta and Primal Scream, while Dan Efregan, creative director of digital at Aardman, photojournalist Giles Duley, and spoken word artist Kate Tempest took to the ‘The Information Stage’. We don’t yet know what’s planned for 2017, but we do know this is one event not to miss.
Affordable Art Fair
8 – 10 September
Feel like the art world can be a little exclusive and elitist at times? Well, this is the festival for you, featuring affordable and accessible pieces without comprising on quality and flair, making it the perfect place to start a collection or invest in a one-off for your home. If you’re unsure what to look for or just fancy a chat, artists and gallery representatives will be on hand throughout the fair.
Bristol Craft Beer Festival
15 – 17 September
After a super successful first year, Bristol Craft Beer Festival is back, bringing some of the best independent brewers to the city. A single ticket gives you the opportunity to try every beer in the place, no tokens required, with Bristol representatives Wild Beer Co, Wiper & True, Lost & Grounded and Left Handed Giant all making an appearance. Hops lovers from further afield include Belgium’s Brasserie De La Senne and Denmark’s Mikkeller. Bottoms up!
Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival
19 – 24 September
Experience perfectly crafted miniature films designed to make you laugh, cry, squirm and scream in your seat, from some of the most innovative, creative and masterful filmmakers and animators in the industry. Expect special big-screen events, a comprehensive industry programme, free public screenings for all the family and festival awards – which last year saw Anete Melece’s charming Analysis Paralysis take the Grand Prix.