World-class UK city festivals not be missed

Summer is well and truly underway and the festival season is upon us. From the North to the South, UK cities are offering up events with diverse line-ups, celebrating the local, national and international in a range of art forms. For culture vultures near and far, we’ve highlighted just a few city festivals to keep an eye out for.

Manchester International Festival

29 June – 16 July

Launched in 2005, MIF has established itself as a festival for exciting, original work, bringing artists across various platforms and backgrounds together. In the past Damon Albarn has reworked the classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, twisting the tale into surreal, cyber-fuelled musical. Rapturous performances from Björk and transformative, fluid spaces from Zaha Hadid Architects have set the bar high.

This year’s line-up is no exception. Thrilling new theatre from across the globe, an opera for babies and a nod to Manchester’s musical history all feature.

Exhibition True Faith explores the visual art legacy of two iconic Manchester exports New Order and Joy Division. Substance, part of a year-long project supported by Hull 2017, is an evening celebrating the legacy of Tony Wilson and Factory Records. It explores the role arts and culture play in defining cities and regions. Bold, exhilarating dance comes in the form of 10,000 Gestures from acclaimed choreographer Boris Charmatz. A 25-strong ensemble perform a series of distinct movements, each gesture unique – pioneering dance not be missed.

Bristol Harbour Festival

21 – 23 July

Bristol’s harbour side is set to come alive for a 3-day extravaganza of arts, circus, dance, music, boats and nautical capers. A playful celebration of Bristol’s heritage and culture, the weekend will see a real mix of events, from maritime history to the finest in sound system culture.

Boats in all shapes and sizes are set to dock at the harbour, returning home to their registered port, whilst every available mooring for a four-mile stretch will be occupied creating a remarkable back drop for the weekend’s events.

Colston Hall’s Harbourside Amphitheatre will play host to the Outlook Orchestra + Roots Manuva, revelling in sound system culture. This acclamation is complimented by events like Rumbling On: The Resonance of Sound System Culture. The conversation will delve into the roots of the sound system movement and dissect its unquestionable influence on the music we hear today.

Areas like the specially established Dance Village and Circus Zone will give crowds the opportunity to see world class dancers, aerialists and other performers over the weekend too. What’s not to love?  

Edinburgh International Festival

4 – 24 August

In 1947 organisers went in search of artists (new and established) to bring collaborations, world premieres and thrilling international performance to Edinburgh. Years on and Edinburgh International Festival has grown considerably, bringing Edinburgh Fringe and countless other festivals in the city to being. The substantial line-up embraces classical music, theatre, opera, dance and visual art.

The events this year are focused around the spirit of ’47, its founding year. Its free opening Bloom will see music, sound and light come together to recount the transformation of the city from the post-war years to today’s diverse, cultural city. Expect a world of colour and texture to envelop you.

With absurdist theatre like Rhinocerus, a collaboration between DOT Theatre of Istanbul, one of Turkey’s most radical independent theatre companies and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre and Mercury Prize winning artists PJ Harvey and Benjamin Clementine, this programme is pulling out all the stops.

Notting Hill Carnival

27 – 28 August

Reportedly Europe’s biggest street festival, Notting Hill Carnival is unadulterated fun and exuberance. Revelry in its finest form, the carnival has been honouring London’s Caribbean communities since 1964 with two days of music, parades and delicious food.

Avoid huge crowds by heading down on Sunday, otherwise known as Children’s Day. The parade begins in the morning, usually 9am. Even earlier risers can catch the Jouvert procession after 6am – this is an integral part of Caribbean carnivals. Watch on, or get involved, as participants cover themselves in paint, powder (and even chocolate!) to the beat of a steel band. The parades on both days are filled with countless dancers, striking masquerade and floats.

There’s plenty of music too, from the likes of the World Music Stage. You can find everything from traditional live Caribbean bands to DJs, playing a mix of reggae, dub, dancehall, soca and calypso. Add to this jungle, funk, drum ‘n’ bass, ska and everything in between, playing across over 30 sound system rigs.

Freedom Festival

1 – 3 September

Freedom 2016 Friday_Freedom Festival 2016 - Friday Teaser-33_© Thomas Arran

Rounding off a summer of incredible culture is Hull’s very own Freedom Festival. The festival will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in true style during this seminal year, and there’s nothing quite like it for linking history and creative present. The festival commemorates William Wilberforce’s legacy, exploring ideas of freedom in playful, imaginative ways.

Opening the weekend is show Les Girafes, which will see a herd of giraffes take to the streets in a riot of colour, theatre and music. Fahreneit 451, a site responsive performance adapted from the novel Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel, will delight, whilst Freedom FEASTival will cook and share food home grown in Hull. Add to this music, dance, a dedicated science tent and thought provoking talks and exhibitions. This year’s programme looks set to be the most extraordinary yet.