Jessica Hope rounds up the exciting events, anniversaries and celebrations to look out for
around Bristol in 2018.

Whether you’re a theatre buff, history enthusiast or a dedicated festival goer, 2018 is set to be a busy one in Bristol. There’s an abundance of significant anniversaries to celebrate as well as commemorate, and major changes are happening in our most-loved theatres and concert halls, as well as programmes chock-full of incredible productions. Plus there will be new additions to the city that everyone, young and old, will be able to enjoy. Here’s just a snapshot of some of the big things to look out for…

Opening of SS Great Britain’s Being Brunel museum

Bristol was named Museum Destination of the Year for 2018 by the Luxury Travel Guide Awards late last year – recognising the pride we take in our heritage and in engaging visitors. Adding to our city offering, and opening this March, is a brand new museum dedicated to the life and work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, next to the grand old SS Great Britain.

The major attraction, the first of its kind in the UK, will reflect on Brunel’s extraordinary impact on Bristol, industry and scientific and technological advances, through interactive exhibitions, never-before-seen personal possessions and audio-visual experiences. Visitors will have access to a variety of incredible objects from the National Brunel Collection of more than 14,000 items, many of international importance, including a cigar case containing a cigar stamped with ‘I.K.B Athenaeum Club Pall Mall’ – a poignant item reflecting an iconic image that many are familiar with, of Brunel proudly standing in front of the chains of the SS Great Eastern, puffing on a cigar.

As well as getting up close to Brunel’s personal possessions, visitors will be able to read his school report, and explore recreations of the interiors of his offices, as well as climbing on board a juddering 1830s broad gauge railway carriage. Adults and children alike will be able to find out more about Brunel and his importance on the world stage at the new museum, as well as exploring one of his most famous ships – the SS Great Britain ­– next door.

100 years of women’s suffrage

To mark the centenary of some women in the UK being granted the right to vote, there will be a variety of events happening around Bristol to mark this historical milestone. On Tuesday 6 February, the official anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, there will be an evening lantern parade down Park Street, organised by Bristol Women’s Voice, that will feature a choir of 100 girls from local schools, singing a specially composed new song for the anniversary.

Author Jane Duffus will be hosting a launch for her new book The Women Who Built Bristol, a collection of stories of more than 250 women from Bristol’s history who shaped the city. The launch, entry to which is free, will take place at St George’s Bristol, from 6pm – 8pm, when the book will be on sale at a special price.

Bristol Women’s Voice will also be holding a variety of workshops, talks and events to celebrate International Women’s Day on Saturday 3 March. Visit for the full programme.

In addition, the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network will commemorate the anniversary on Saturday 19 May at the M Shed, where there will be a free event featuring talks, walks, gallery tours, film, performance, craft activities, and a ‘meet the experts’ stand where you can find out about researching the suffrage movement and plenty more.

Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal trail returns

The third major arts trail of Wallace and Gromit sculptures will return to Bristol this summer as part of The Grand Appeal, helping to raise money for Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and the Special Care Baby Unit at St Michael’s Hospital. More than 60 giant sculptures of Aardman’s popular characters will be dotted around the city from Monday 2 July – Sunday 2 September, and this year Gromit will be joined by his best friend Wallace, as well as arch nemesis, penguin Feathers McGraw. Families will be able to explore the city, picking out their favourite Aardman characters, while helping to raise funds and support the sick children and hard-working medical staff at the hospital.

Big changes for Bristol Old Vic

After its multi-million redevelopment project, Bristol Old Vic will finally be able to reveal its brand new front of house and studio theatre to the public in September, as well as putting on a programme of reflective, poignant productions throughout 2018 under the banner Year of Change.­­­

The theme is inspired by the 50th anniversaries of the assassination of Martin Luther King and the Black Power salute, and the 70th anniversary of the voyage of the Windrush, as well as the centenary of women’s suffrage and the bicentenary of the birth of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass. BOV will be reflecting on Bristol’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and has announced a major new play, The Meaning of Zong by Giles Terera, jointly commissioned by the National Theatre, which will be presented in workshop form in October before being fully staged in 2019. BOV will host a series of conversations alongside these performances on topics related to the city’s connections and commemorations of the slave trade.

A brand new translation of The Cherry Orchard by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov will kick off in March, directed by former RSC artistic director Michael Boyd. In May, Bristol Old Vic will show the first stage adaptation of Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls, which will form part of the 200th anniversary of its mother theatre company, The Old Vic, London. Tom Morris will be directing the first stage adaption of Joe Simpson’s memoir Touching the Void, an international bestseller and BAFTA-winning film, which will be on show in September; while Shakespearean comedy Twelfth Night will take to the stage in October, directed by The Lyceum’s associate director Wils Wilson; before the theatrical year closes with the appropriately Dickensian tale, A Christmas Carol. An artist’s impression of the new entrance to Bristol Old Vic. Image credit: Haworth Tompkins

Upfest turns 10

Europe’s largest live street art and graffiti festival will return to Bedminster in July, marking the festival’s 10th anniversary. Over the years, the festival’s growing reputation has made it the must-attend event for street artists from around the world and now attracts an average 50,000 visitors. In 2017, a record-breaking 700 artists applied to the festival, with more than 350 artists selected to attend from 43 countries. Artist registration for the 2018 festival opens on Tuesday 2 January for artists, graffiti writers and budding amateurs across all disciplines, from graffiti to fine art and stencils to abstract. Visit to find out more and to register. The launch of MetroBus

We may love this city, but oh do we know the struggles we have with congestion on the roads in Bristol. In order to help tackle this issue, 2018 will see the launch of the first phase of MetroBus – the rapid public transport system that will hopefully speed up journey times, relieve traffic around the city, and cut emissions. There will be three MetroBus routes: from Cribbs Causeway to Hengrove, which will start in the summer; from Long Ashton Park and Ride to the city centre via Temple Meads and Cabot Circus, which will begin in the spring; and a route from Emersons Green to the centre, which will start in the spring. Passengers will be able to buy tickets before they board the bus from the cashless information points at each stop, or online or on an app in order to speed up boarding. To find out more, visit

Remembrance at Bristol Cathedral

To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War and the first steps towards women gaining the vote in the UK, Bristol Cathedral will be holding a series of exhibitions and events to mark these two significant anniversaries.

Bristol Women at War, on show from Monday 15 January – Saturday 24 March, examines the types of work performed by women from the local area during the First World War and charts the shift in the workplace as women took on roles traditionally performed by men.

On show from Friday 6 April – Sunday 1 July, exhibition No Man’s Land will offer rarely seen female perspectives from the First World War, featuring images taken by women who worked as nurses, ambulance drivers and official photographers, as well as contemporary artists directly inspired by the conflict.

Also at the cathedral, following the retirement of Rt Revd Mike Hill, the 56th Bishop of Bristol in 2017, it is expected that a new bishop will be appointed in May, with an inauguration in the autumn.

To mark 100 years since the official end of the First World War, the ceremony at the Cenotaph in the city centre will be the second biggest remembrance ceremony outside London in November. Other events coinciding with this will be announced by the cathedral nearer the time. Munitions workers at Thrissell Engineering. Image from Bristol Cathedral’s new WW1 exhibition.

Balloon Fiesta’s 40th anniversary

Our skies will be full of more than 100 hot air balloons again in August when the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta celebrates its fourth decade. Now established as Europe’s largest annual hot air balloon festival, the wonderful creations – stalwarts of Bristol’s summer skyline – will take off at dawn and dusk at Ashton Court Estate from Thursday 9 August to Sunday 12 August, plus there will be the famous night glows, when the balloons light up the sky in time to music.

Musical mania at Bristol Hippodrome

As theatre programmes for the year go, Bristol Hippodrome is winning it in terms of musicals on offer. Kicking off the year is the UK tour of Wicked, on until early March. Then you better get your dancing feet ready for the smash hit musical comedy Hairspray, followed by Cilla – The Musical, based on the hit television series that starred Sheridan Smith as singer and Blind Date presenter Cilla Black.

In April, Bristol audiences can experience the award-winning Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, which tells the true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom. Take That’s new musical The Band, starring BBC’s Let it Shine winners Five to Five, also arrives in Bristol for two weeks in April. Featuring the music of Take That, The Band is the fastest selling musical theatre tour of all time – we guess ’90s die-hard boyband fans are quick off the mark! Then the spectacular Miss Saigon will grace the stage for six weeks in May and June, before Flashdance takes over in June. For a fortnight over the summer holidays, families can lap up the musical adaption of Oscar-winning Shrek, starring X Factor’s Amelia Lily as Princess Fiona. Keep an eye out for more productions at a later date.

Transforming Tobacco Factory Theatres

This month, Tobacco Factory Theatres will embark on a £1.5million building project to completely transform the layout of the first floor of the building. The project will feature a multi-purpose, 84-seat studio performance space, refurbished backstage areas to provide three new dressing rooms, as well as an improved and extended front-of-house and bar space to transform the audience experience. This project will allow the theatre to welcome 30,000 more people through its doors and enjoy over 360 more performances. The new spaces launch in October.

As well as this, the theatre will present its inaugural Factory Company season from February to May, when a new resident professional ensemble will create unforgettable new productions of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge.

St George’s Bristol expansion

Following its closure over Christmas and January, the concert hall will be reopening in February to show off its new two-storey extension to the public. There are plans to put on a special opening weekend on 24 – 25 February, with Bristol’s brilliant country-soul singer/songwriter Yola Carter booked to perform alongside Scottish folk musician Ewan McLennan. The opening week will also see the premiere of a newly commissioned opera called The Hall On The Hill, which charts the story of the 195 year-old building.

The new extension will feature a modern café/bar which will be open during the day, plus a permanent heritage exhibition that will tell the story of St George’s from its inception as a chapel-of-ease in 1823, through its years as a beloved parish church, and its evolution into a world-class music venue.

Tickets for events from February to the summer are already on sale, with more being added over the coming months.What the new interior of St George’s Bristol is expected to look like.

Dish up at The British Dal Festival

Something a little different that is sure to get your taste buds tingling this spring… The very first British Dal Festival will celebrate – you guessed it – all things dal in Bristol from Monday 19 – Sunday 25 March. The festival is an initiative of the British Edible Pulse Association’s Pulse Promotion Group, and will be a free event taking place across the city.

Image credit: Jenny Chandler

It will feature a dal trail around the city’s restaurants and eateries, and venues will be serving up signature dals of all varieties, with one eatery being named the dal champion at the end of the week. Award-winning community organisation 91 Ways will work with diverse Bristol communities to source many different variations of dal and reveal the history behind them; and the project will result in an online library of dal recipes. Bristol Farmers’ Market will also invite local chefs to demonstrate how to cook different dal dishes.

The festival will have a grand finale fun-day on Sunday 25 March at Paintworks, where there will be street food, market stalls, children’s activities and more.

Feeling the love

Hugely popular music event Love Saves The Day has announced that chart-topping, DJ royalty Fatboy Slim and Mercury Prize-winner Sampha will be headlining on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 May. As Fatboy Slim’s first ever Bristol festival, it’s a real coup for LSTD, based at Eastville Park with 12 stages for festival goers to choose from. Tier one and tier two weekend and day tickets are sold out, but tier three day tickets are available for Saturday and Sunday at £38.50 with tier three weekend tickets available at £71.50 (all prices inclusive of booking fees).

The evolution of Colston Hall

While we had great fun celebrating Colston Hall’s 150th birthday last year, the music hall has had no major refurbishment for six decades. Therefore the hall will go under the second phase of its transformation plan in 2018 (the first of which was the redesign of the foyer which reopened in 2009). This second phase will be completed in 2020. The £48.8million redevelopment project will see an exceptional classical and contemporary music venue built with a new, larger and more flexible stage and new balconies, provide greater comfort for audiences with new seating and air-conditioning, and improved backstage facilities for artists.

The Lantern will be developed, creating a better performance venue and conference facility, and the historic Victorian cellars will be opened up to create a third performance space and provide a new education centre for Bristol Plays Music, which works with 30,000 young people every year. There are also plans to restore the beautiful Bristol Byzantine style historic foyer building and reanimate the Colston Street façades with a new restaurant and new windows to The Lantern above. To find out how you can help to transform the hall, visit

Indoor skydiving comes to Bristol

iFLY Indoor Skydiving is currently planning the opening of its fifth UK vertical wind tunnel for the new leisure development at Cribbs Causeway, set to open in late 2018 or early 2019. The 12-foot tunnel, at ground level, will offer an experience to remember for both flyers and spectators. Visitors to iFLY Bristol will be able to enjoy the full range of flying experiences, including the latest 360 virtual reality experience, described as the nearest thing to jumping out of a plane. The centre will also introduce competition flying at an early stage, allowing outdoor skydivers the opportunity to use the tunnel for further practice.

Get on your bike with Great Weston Ride

Looking for a challenge for 2018? Then the Great Weston Ride might be one for you. Participants will cycle from Long Ashton Park and Ride and ride through the Mendips and across the Somerset Levels for 57 miles before reaching the seafront in Weston-super-Mare on Sunday 15 July. This isn’t a race – it’s a huge, inclusive riding event where people of all ages and abilities are encouraged to get on a bike and enjoy the ride. There will be refreshment stops along the route for riders to take a break, and the event is registered with British Cycling. The official charity partner for the eighth year is Prostate Cancer UK. To sign up there’s an entry fee of £29.50 for adults, and £16 for under 16s. Visit to find out more.

Featured image: Bristol International Balloon Fiesta photographed by Paul Box