The UK's 10 most exciting live summer events to book now

From design events to foodie festivals, this is the summer of doing stuff, and here are the things you'll want to do

London Design Biennale
(Image credit: London Design Biennale)

Real-life fun - at last! - is back on the menu this summer. If you've already booked into all the restaurants in London with outdoor seating, then you'll be excited to see what else is out there. From escapist singalongs to promenade art shows, to exquisite food that you haven’t had to cook yourself, to finally getting on the inside of some beautiful buildings, there’s much catching up to be done. Here’s how to do it in style.

THE SEASIDE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL

Brighton Festival

(Image credit: Brighton Festival)

Brighton’s 94-piece event, guest-directed by poet Lemn Sissay, opens with outdoor events (think bike tours from digital artists Blast Theory and eerie night walks around sound artist Ray Lee’s mechanical sculptures). Then, as soon as it’s legal, on 17th May, comes big-name comedy, theatre, dance, circus, spoken word etc. The show must go on! 

From 1 to 31 May. Some free events; tickets from £5-25. Book here.

THE MUSIC FESTIVAL WITH TABLE SERVICE

Gisburne Park, the socially-distanced festival in the Lancashire countryside credited with saving summer last year, is returning for the May Bank Holiday. Sit back with your bubble of six and enjoy the likes of Symphonic Ibiza, Fleetwood Bac and Mamma Mia Live whilst table service attends to all your food and drink needs. Should that overdeliver, crashing at the onsite glamping is always an option. 

From 27 to 31 May. From £55. Book here.

THE FOODIE FESTIVAL AT A STATELY NEAR YOU

Great British Food Festival

(Image credit: Great British Food Festival)

The Great British Food Festival is touring ten of the country’s grandest stately homes - among them, Sudeley Castle, Knebworth House and Harewood House - for a series of fun weekenders. Think demos from Bake-off stars and BBQ Ben, live music and more than 100 food stalls. Register for the cake-off for free entry (be warned: they say they can spot an M&S cake a mile off). 

From 29th May to 26th Sept. From £9.90. Book here.

INTERNATIONAL DESIGN COMES TO LONDON

London Design Biennale

(Image credit: London Design Biennale)

Itchy feet yearning for cosmopolitan design should be satisfied by the third London Design Biennale, at Somerset House, with installations from 50 nations including Japan, Canada and Finland. The showpiece, however, is the courtyard forest of 400 potted trees, designed by the Biennale’s art director and set designer extraordinaire Es Devlin. Look out, too, for Ini Archibong’s conch shell-like Pavilion of the Diaspora. 

On 1–27 June. From £22.50. Book here.

WORLD’S LARGEST ANNUAL ARCHITECTURE FESTIVAL

London Festival of Architecture

Love without borders by Armor Gutiérrez Rivas

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

Brimming with world-class design from the best architects and top architecture firms, London makes a fine stage for a festival dedicated to the industry’s rising stars. Expect installations, screenings, trails and family events, as well as the grand Architecture Bake-Off contest, where the public can enter their London landmarks in cake. 

From 1-30 June. Mostly free. Book here.

SHOWBIZ  IN THE STICKS

West End in the Woods

(Image credit: West End in the Woods)

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we could just settle into a deckchair with a bottle of wine in a bucolic setting while musical theatre stars belted out the hits? Well, this very dream has been realised by West End in the Woods - expect a three-course dinner in a glade at Wasing Park Estate, Berkshire, followed by a two-hour show featuring showbiz stars including Jodie Jacobs, Aaron Lee Lambert and Laura Emmitt. Should the relaxation get sufficiently horizontal, onsite glamping is available. 

On 4th/5th June. £60 show only; from £130 with dinner. Book here.

A FREE ART PROMENADE

Folkestone Triennial

(Image credit: Folkestone Triennial)

No need for tickets here - simply stroll around the fifth Folkestone Triennial to spot the 20 new sculptures and installations from the likes of the Turner Prize-winning collective Assemble, renowned sculptor Richard Deacon and graphic artist Morag Myerscough. Be sure to pick up or download a map so you don’t miss the other 74 existing artworks by some 46 artists who have used the coastal town as their gallery. 

From  22 Jul – 2 Nov. Free. More info here.

CLASSICAL MUSIC ON THE MOORS

North York Moors Festival

(Image credit: North York Moors Festival)

When life was cancelled last year, the artistic director of North York Moors Chamber Music Festival, Jamie Walton, decided to KBO. He managed to book those top musicians who’d usually play the Proms, who were so impressed with his charming concerts on the Yorkshire moors, they wanted to return. Expect innovative music played by, among others, the tenor James Gilchrist, the pianist Katya Apekisheva and the violinist Charlotte Scott. 

From 7-21st August. From £10. Book here.

A WEEKEND OF INTERESTING INTERIORS

Open House Festival

(Image credit: Open House Festival)

For the 30th anniversary of London’s Open House Festival, this year will open the doors onto the Isokon Building, the Reform Club and Richard Rogers’ new Centre Building for the LSE, among some 800 others (expect a biggie, say the organisers, with lots of family-friendly workshops and cycling and walking tours and). One of its themes is the celebration of the pub, with an opportunity to go “back of house” across the capital. And of course, front of house.

On 4–5 September. Free; booking required. Book here.

THE SEAFOOD FESTIVAL

Nyetimber Dorset Seafood Festival

(Image credit: Nyetimber Dorset Seafood Festival)

After the damning revelations of Seaspiracy, a large focus of the Nyetimber Dorset Seafood Festival in Weymouth is how to eat seafood responsibly. The organisers also promise that all of the 100-odd food stands only offer responsibly sourced fish. There’ll also be big-name chef demos (previously from Mark Hix, Sophie Michell and Mitch Tonks), not to mention rivers of flowing Nyetimber. 

On 11-12 September. From £10. Book here.

Fleur Britten

Fleur Britten is a well-respected journalist who for years was the Senior Features Editor at Sunday Times Style. She now writes for the Telegraph, Livingetc and You magazine.