A guide to Britain’s arts festivals

Everyone knows about Reading and Leeds, or Sundown. But what about Halesworth, Hay, and Hampstead? Arts festivals showcase some of Britain’s best creativity but are often forgotten in the media coverage of summer festivals. Here at Venue, we want to put that right.

The British Arts Festivals Association oversees many of the country’s arts festivals, connecting members across the country and sharing information. Their directory features nearly 100 events. The UK’s most famous arts festival is the Hay Festival in Wales, a literary event featuring readings from well known and up-and-coming authors, taking place this year between 24 May and 3 June with as diverse a programme as ever for literary fans. The Curious Arts Festival takes place from 20 – 22 July in Hampshire, promising a range of authors, musicians, historians and poets.

But what about closer to home? The Norfolk and Norwich Festival is well known as the county’s premier Arts Festival, taking place this year between the 11th and 27th May. In the past, it has brought eminent names from across the arts to Norfolk including Billy Bragg, Philip Glass, and the famous Artichoke performance company. The festival includes the Spiegeltent in Chapelfield Gardens, a big-top which plays host to a range of quirky indoor events. After opening with an opera event in Norwich city centre, this year’s programme includes the likes of musician Ben Folds, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, a show from jugglers Gandini Juggling, a Damien Hirst exhibition at Houghton Hall and a range of indoor and outdoor events for families including a party in Chapelfield Gardens. There are a variety of events, both free and paid for, with tickets and the full programme available online now.

Although it’s the biggest, the Norfolk and Norwich festival is far from our region’s only festival this year. For those interested in seeing local rising stars, the Young Norfolk Arts Festival will take place in early July with details to be confirmed. Bury St Edmunds festival, in May, will star legendary author and columnist Terence Blacker and a tribute to Dudley Moore among its many events. Halesworth Arts Festival will be running for its seventeenth year in October with their line-up announcement still to come, and Southwold’s takes place over the last week of June and includes a street parade to launch, performances from Mica Paris and Jazz legend Georgie Fame, plus an event with actor Terry Molloy of Dr Who and The Archers.

While music festivals are of perhaps more eye-catching for a few days away, why not go and check out your nearest arts festival for something a bit different this summer? You never know what you might find…


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Tony Allen

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January 2022
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