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26 free events in England this summer

26 free events in England this summer

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With the cost of living biting household budgets I bet you’re looking for budget-friendly activities to enjoy with your family during the summer of 2022. As a helping hand I’m sharing some of the free events in England happening throughout July, August and September.

These events are ordered by date but scroll down the list and you’ll find:

  • free art trails in Hampshire, Yorkshire, Sussex and Norfolk
  • free festivals in Birmingham, Bristol, Illfracombe and Portsmouth
  • free airshows in Devon and Blackpool
  • and all kinds of other free ways to entertain the kiddos.

Looking for more ideas for days out while schools are out? Here’s my round up of special days out this summer.

Contents - jump to what you'd like to know

Free events across England

Here’s where to find budget-friendly events to experience with your family this summer:

Hadrian’s Wall 1900 commemorations – throughout the year

Hadrians Wall at sunset
Hadrian’s Wall

Celebrate 1900 years of Hadrian’s Wall at this year-long 2022 festival.

A series of events including artwork, performances, talks, and activities will be held across the length of this iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Events taking place this summer include the family-friendly Hail Hadrian Roman re-enactment weekend at Chester’s Roman Fort (23 – 24 July), the Summer Explorer Quest at Birdoswald Roman Fort (23 July – 4 September) and the Roman Festival at Senhouse Roman Museum (23 July – 29 August).

Find out more about events at Hadrian’s Wall.

Here’s some more places to visit in Northumberland.

Spot Puffins in East Yorkshire – throughout the summer

Forty-two artist decorated puffin sculptures can be seen right along the coast from Bempton to Spurn Point in East Yorkshire this summer.

Grab a puffin spotting guide or download the app to locate them all.

Find out more about this free arts trail in Yorkshire.

Hares of Hampshire – until 25 August, 2022

For ten weeks, Winchester and Southampton‘s streets, parks and public spaces will be brought to life with an exhibition of magnificent hares.

Each giant sculpture has been individually designed and beautifully created, showcasing the wealth of artistic talent the county has to offer.

Find out where to spot the hares.

Birmingham 2022 Festival – until September 2022

Boy watering plants in garden play space
Abundance by Spectra – Photo by Kyle Simms

Shining a global spotlight on creativity in the West Midlands as Birmingham gets set to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the Birmingham 2022 festival features hundreds of creative commissions across the region featuring art, photography, dance, theatre, digital art and more.

Key events include an uplifting free musical concert, To The Streets, being performed in parks across the West Midlands (19 – 28 August), the inclusive Healing Gardens of Bab events and installations popping up at locations across Birmingham (27 June – 17 July) and PoliNations, an immersive forest filled with real and architectural trees located in the heart of Birmingham (2 – 18 September).

Abundance by Spectra (pictured above) is a garden play space with interactive fun for families.

Find out more about Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Got longer to explore? Here’s my big round up of days out in the Midlands.

Find Rubber Ducks East Sussex – until 4 September 2022

A gaggle of 5ft tall rubber ducks has taken to the the streets, gardens and beaches of Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill on Sea this summer.

Each giant duck has been hand decorated with individually created designs, many of which will showcase the wealth of artistic talent within East Sussex. 

This ducks free, fun, family-friendly live art trail takes place over 10 weeks. How many will you find?

Find out more on the Follow that Duck website.

Here’s some more ideas for days out in Sussex with kids.

Dinosaur art trail in Norfolk – until 10 September 2022

Dino lovers can head to Norwich and Norfolk for the GoGoDiscover Dinosaur Walking Trail and spot 79 individually designed sculptures comprising 55 T Rex and 24 Steppe Mammoths, each decorated by artists from across the county.

Find out more about this pre-historic walking trail.

Bristol Harbour Festival – 15 – 17 July 2022

Aerial panorama of in Bristol, UK
Bristol Harbour

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the largest free arts festival in the South West brings together a packed programme of music, performance, circus and dance.

This year’s theme is Ebb and Flow, aiming to champion the diverse range of communities that make up the city.

Find out more about what’s on at Bristol Harbour Festival.

Why not climb the rigging on SS Great Britain while you’re at the festival?

Gaia at Kensington and Chelsea Festival – 22 July – 14 August 2022

Gaia, a touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram, is now on display as part of Kensington and Chelsea Festival. The installation urges a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment and is at different sites in Kensington and Chelsea until Sunday 14th August, free to visit.  Full details:
Gaia, a touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram

The free arts event, the Kensington and Chelsea Festival will host artist Luke Jerram’s Gaia installation at three locations across the borough this summer.

See the remarkable artwork is the following locations:

  • Jubilee Square, Town Hall, Horton Street, London W8 7NX – 22 – 26th July
  • St John the Baptist Church, Holland Road, W14 8AH – 28 July – 6 August
  • All Saints’ Church, Clydesdale Road, London W11 1JS – 9 -14 August

Measuring seven metres in diameter, Gaia features 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface.

Find out more about Gaia and what’s on during the rest of the festival.

Draw a giant at Grosvenor Museum, Chester – 23 July – 2 October, 2022

Would-be illustrators should pack their pencil cases and head to Chester’s Grosvenor Museum, the next stop for BFG in Pictures, an exhibition of the work of Quentin Blake, one of the country’s best-loved illustrators.

Blake, best known for his collaborations with the author Roald Dahl, has curated a display of many of his illustrations from The BFG, including some early and unknown work.

Plus, there will be free activities about dreams, giants and the power of the imagination, including film shows. 

Find out more about what’s on at the Grosvenor Museum this summer.

Devon Street Food Festival, Ilfracombe29 – 31 July 2022

Cooking noodles in wok at street food stall

Devon Street Food Festival will be making its return to Victoria Pleasure Gardens, Ilfracombe, with a stellar line-up of food vendors.

This celebration of food caters for carnivores, veggies and vegans alike with Insta-worthy bites and dishes from around the world.

Find out more about Devon Street Food Festival.

Looking for more things to do? Check out this post about places to visit in North Devon.

Portsmouth Kite Festival – 30 – 31 July 2022

Flags flying in breeze at Portsmouth Kite Festival

One of the biggest kite festivals in the world and a colourful addition to the calendar of free events in England, is Portsmouth Kite Festival.

In 2022, it celebrates its 30th anniversary, bringing together kites from around the globe for a spectacular free event on Southsea common overlooking the Solent.

Alongside demonstrations of kite flying, there will be a range of activities including kite making workshops.

Find out more about what’s on at Portsmouth Kite Festival.

Here’s some more things to do in Portsmouth with kids.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Somerset – 11 – 14 August 2022

Hot air balloons flying over Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol

Bristol’s largest free fiesta returns to Ashton Court Estate in Bristol this summer.

More than 100 hot-air balloons gather for mass ascents, tethered displays and the highly anticipated Night Glow spectacles at the largest event of its kind in Europe.

Held over four days, there are market stalls, live music, fairground rides and street food stalls that also help attract over half a million people to the fiesta each year.

Find out more about what’s on at Bristol Balloon Fiesta.

Art in the Park, Warwickshire – 13 – 14 August 2022

Colourful flower beds in Jephson Gardens in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Jephson Gardens

Art in the Park, the largest free outdoor arts gathering in Warwickshire, will take place in Jephson Garden and Mill Gardens in Leamington Spa this August.

The festival gives visitors, families and young people the opportunity to take part in and enjoy a range of art, theatre, dance, crafts, music, events and workshops. It will also host some of the finest local culinary offerings across pop-up food and drink stalls.

Art in the Park is not just a two-day arts event, but is a year-round cultural hive which works to support young people, underrepresented groups and emerging artists – and their creative development.

Find out more about what’s on at Art in the Park.

Blackpool Air Show – 13 – 14 August 2022

Red Arrows flying over Blackpool
Red Arrows over Blackpool

Back for 2022, the Blackpool Air Show looks set to attract up to 100,000 visitors to see some of the world’s finest aircraft – including the iconic Red Arrows – performing over the iconic seafront location.

Find out the line up for this year’s show.

Plymouth Firework Championships, Devon – 17 – 18 August 2022

Fireworks explode over Plymouth Hoe during the British Firework Championships
British Firework Championships

One of the most illuminating free events in England, the Championships are a spectacle not to be missed. They take place overlooking Plymouth Harbour and Sound for extra sea view drama and attract tens of thousands of people each year.

The fireworks will start from around 9.30pm each evening. There’s entertainment, including a funfair, and food and drink stalls to enjoy on Plymouth Hoe before the spectacle begins.

For the latest event news and information see the Plymouth Firework Championships

Here’s some more ideas for places to visit in Plymouth.

Sidmouth Airshow, Devon – 26 August 2022

Red Arrow display team flying against blue sky
Red Arrows

The Airshow returns to Sidmouth in 2022. Headlining the line-up will be the world famous RAF Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows who will return to the town’s skies to display at one of their favourite locations over the bay at Sidmouth.

They will be joined by two Supermarine Spitfires of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and Rich Goodwin in his amazingly aerobatic Pitts Biplane.

A first for the Sidmouth Airshow will be an appearance by Team Raven, a civilian aerobatic team flying a five plane formation of the ultra-manoeuvrable Van’s RV-8 aircraft.

Find out more about Sidmouth Airshow.

Find more things to do in East Devon on my Devon with Kids website.

Hereford River Carnival, Herefordshire – 26 – 27 August 2022

Hereford River Carnival has grown to become Herefordshire’s biggest community event – and it remains entirely free for the public. The event typically attracts 20,000 people to sing, dance, make masks and carnival costumes, eat great local food and have fun on the Wye. This year’s theme is Make Waves with the aim to bring the seaside to Hereford through music, dance, sport, arts, crafts and old-fashioned games.

Find out more at the Hereford River Carnival website.

Telford Balloon Fiesta, Shropshire – 26 – 28 August 2022

Telford Balloon Fiesta will return to Telford Town Park and QE11 Arena for three days of free fun over the Bank Holiday weekend. Celebrations kick off on the Friday with a warm up evening featuring live music. Saturday brings more live music and entertainment as well as the popular Night Glow, and Sunday offers a day of family entertainment and have-a-go activities including crafts and circus performances. People all over Telford and further afield will be able to see hot air balloons travelling around the county throughout the weekend.

The Telford Town Park website will have updates when available.

Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, London – 26 August – 11 September 2022

Greenwich peninsula at night

Greenwich+Docklands International Festival is London’s free theatre and performing arts festival, that tells compelling stories in spectacular style.

This year expect Charon, a monumental 32ft high featuring Zoetrope originally from the world-renowned Burning Man festival, a tidal wave of multi-coloured foam at Greenwich Peninsula, and a Royal Ballet collaboration with disabled dancer Joe Powell-Main.

The programme will include a total of 25 premieres by a record number of international artists, from countries including Spain, Germany, Flanders, Italy, France, The Netherlands and the US.

Check out the full festival programme.

Take a look at more ideas for visiting London on a budget this summer.

Dover Pride, Dover – 27 August 2022

Rocking rainbow-flag capes and glittery face art (biodegradable, please!), join a loud and proud celebration of LGBTQ+ people, culture and expression at Manchester Pride. There will be a variety of events – some free, some ticketed – dedicated to queer people and their allies. Choose from the lively outdoor Gay Village Party, family-friendly festivities centred around fun, wellness and learning and a candlelit vigil to honour those who have been lost to HIV and AIDs. The highlight of the weekend is The Parade, a colourful procession of thousands of people marching together for equality.

See the Dover Pride website for full information.

African and Caribbean Food Festival, Leeds – 27 August 2022

Leeds’ biggest African & Caribbean food festival is returning to Leeds Kirkgate Market where visitors are invited to explore Caribbean cuisines, showcased by some of the finest independent culinary chefs and emerging food vendors. This free event offers food tastings and a range of activities for all of the family, including live performances, face painting, live performances and a children’s craft corner.

Visit Leeds has all the details.

Notting Hill Festival, London – 27 -29 August 2022

One of the world’s biggest celebrations, Notting Hill Carnival returns to the streets of West London in 2022 for the first time since 2019. For two years, festivities have been strictly virtual, but now it’s time to be back on the road to see the colourful world of Mas, Soca, Calypso, sound systems and so much more in splendid real life. During “Carnival”, as it’s known by locals, the streets of Notting Hill come alive with music, outrageous floats and jaw-dropping costumes.

View the Notting Hill Festival website for all the details.

Malton Food Lovers Festival, North Yorkshire – 27 -29 August 2022

Set across the streets of Yorkshire’s foodie capital, Malton Food Lovers Festival is a three-day celebration of Yorkshire’s finest produce and cooking. Over 150 artisan stalls and street food vendors take over the village while celebrity chefs show off their skills in demo tents with live music – from buskers to brass bands – providing the soundtrack.

See more information on the Visit Malton website.

Ryde Carnival, Isle of Wight – 27 August – 3 September 2022

Ryde Carnival dates back to 1887 making it the UK’s oldest carnival and one of the oldest free events in England. It’s an all-inclusive and joyous parade of colour and light marking the end of summer.

Three parades will take place across the week, with one Main Carnival on 1 September, the Illuminated Carnival on 3 September and a Children’s Carnival Day on 27 August, which will include various activities and culminate in a Children’s Parade along Ryde’s high street.

Check out more about what’s on at Ryde Carnival in 2022.

Harvest Seasonal Market, Raby Castle, County Durham – 28 -29 August 2022

Raby is without doubt one of the most impressive intact castles in the North of England. Built in the 14th Century by the powerful Nevill family, it has a long history and makes for a wonderful day out in the Durham Dales. Over the August Bank Holiday, the castle is hosting its popular Harvest Seasonal Market. This is a free event with a range of local suppliers including food, drinks, jewellery, ceramics and homeware.

Visit the Raby Estate website for further information and updates.

Leeds West Indian Carnival, Leeds – 29 August 2022

Europe’s longest running Caribbean Carnival parade, Leeds West Indian Carnival, is returning to Potternewton Park in Leeds this August. With colourful costumes, tropical music, and mouth-watering food, this is a true celebration of West Indian culture in Leeds.

The Leeds Carnival website with all have all the up-to-date information.

Which of these free events in England takes your fancy?

If you know of any others tat can be added to this list please drop me a line.

Find more days out in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in my big round up of 101 UK attractions for families.

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