All year long, there are a lot of great festivals and events in UK. These include events like Hogmanay in Edinburgh and Bonfire Night in Lewes. If you’re thinking about visiting soon, we suggest that you organise your itinerary around one of these noteworthy events.
1. Notting Hill Carnival in London
Carnival Sunday morning, sound-system technicians, still bleary-eyed after the excesses of yesterday night’s warm-up parties, wire up their towering stacks of speakers, while fragrant smoke wafts from the early-bird jerk chicken cooks’ stands. Then a bass line trembles through the early air, and trains begin discharging hundreds of revellers dressed to the nines and flashing their whistles and horns.
Certain individuals make a beeline for the sound systems, spending the whole day travelling from one to the next and stopping wherever the music takes them. Streets lined with mansion blocks transform into tunnels of sound, and all that is visible is a swarm of people leaping and blowing whistles as wave after wave of music ripples through the air.
However, the mas, the procession of costumed bands that weaves its way through the heart of Carnival, is the event’s backbone. Crowds gather along the route, and Ladbroke Grove transforms into a seething swarm of floats and flags, sequins and feathers, as the mas (masquerade) bands sail by, their revellers dancing merrily to the melodies blasting from the music trucks. And for the next two days, all that counts is the delectable, anarchic freedom of dancing on the streets of London.
Notting Hill Carnival takes place throughout the August bank holiday weekend on Sunday and Monday.
2. Hogmanay in Edinburgh
Edinburgh consistently throws the world’s most memorable New Year’s Eve party, from the cascade of fireworks tipping over the castle rock to uninhibited displays of stranger-kissing as the midnight chimes and the sight of the Royal Scottish Academy’s classical pillars transformed into a giant urinal. And it’s a celebration on a large scale, with over 80,000 participants from across the globe.
The evening begins with a candlelight performance in St Giles Cathedral, the colossal mediaeval structure on the Royal Mile. The intensity soon picks up, with a major street party on Princes Street and a rowdy ceilidh in the Princes Street Gardens, followed by a large-scale performance.
At 12 a.m., the fireworks begin, and the whole city looks upwards and celebrates, from Calton Hill to Salisbury Crags, from the new to the old town, from the taverns to the castle esplanade. Auld Lang Syne is sung, and any last vestiges of Presbyterian restraint are abandoned as individuals embrace and kiss one another.
3. Diwali in Leicester
The largest Diwali festival outside India takes place in Leicester, one of the most diverse cities in the United Kingdom. Each fall, tens of thousands of people – including adherents of the Sikh and Jain faiths, who also celebrate Diwali – congregate on Belgrave Road in the city’s Indian neighbourhood to participate in the “festival of lights.”
The festivities begin with the illumination of the Diwali lights: following music, dancing, and speeches (in English, Hindi, and Gujarati) by local dignitaries, a boisterous countdown begins, culminating at 7.30 pm with the illumination of approximately 6500 multicoloured lights, an explosion of confetti, and a cacophony of cheers.
The mob eventually makes its way down the road, called the “Golden Mile,” to the adjoining Cossington Street recreation field, where an extraordinarily loud firework show takes place.
4. Robin Hood Festival in Sherwood Forest
Each year, during the first week of August, Sherwood Forest is transformed into the thirteenth century in honour of Nottinghamshire’s famed outlaw. Over the last quarter-century, the Robin Hood Festival has evolved into a type of pop-up village, with booths and activities distributed around approximately a half-mile square of woods that can be easily circumnavigated in about an hour.
The itinerary varies slightly each day, but archery lessons are always available for a small fee, and most days feature high-octane jousting and rather vicious skirmishes between Robin Hood and the evil Sheriff’s men in the shade of the Major Oak, a gargantuan tree estimated to be over 800 years old that attracts a large number of visitors in and of itself. The event is a haven for little children who have always wished to be Robin Hood or Maid Marian.
Green felt hats, bows, and arrows, and flower garlands are common fancy-dress accessories, and every day, youngsters may participate in dramatic re-enactments of the Robin Hood narrative, much to their parents’ amusement.
5. Pride in Brighton
To be frank, fun-lovers: the summer Pride in Brighton and Hove event is hardly the largest occasion. Yes, there is a sequin-strewn procession, but don’t anticipate miles of extravagant floats and glamorous dancing troupes in the Rio way.
It’s far more mundane than that – imagine groups of friends and co-workers dressed in haphazard costumes, waving in sync to corny music or chuckling their way through shaky dance routines. And, yeah, an all-day dance party takes place in the city’s largest park – but this is not Ibiza.
One thing that Pride in Brighton and Hove excels at is inclusivity. Unlike Sydney, where some of the city’s more militant lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organisations have been known to spit fire at the prospect of non-LGBT revellers muscling in on their Mardi Gras, Brighton welcomes anybody and everyone.
You are not required to dress up, but you most certainly should if you want your picture to appear in the galleries that crop up all over the web immediately after the event.
The Pride in Brighton and Hove summer festival’s major events take place on a Saturday in early July (www.brighton-pride.org).
6. Edinburgh Fringe
To be precise, the Edinburgh Festival is comprised of five festivals. There’s the Book Festival, which features renowned authors and commentators and is located in leafy Charlotte Square; the International Festival, which features lush, clever productions of the high arts; the Art Festival, which brings together special exhibitions and regular galleries; and the Fringe, which is what most people mean when they speak airily of the Festival, bulging with all manner of comedy, theatre, and music by professionals and amateurs.
The grandeur and horror of the Fringe – which, unsurprisingly, has an unauthorised fringe of its own – is that no one determines who is included in the schedule; artists just pay to be included. For a few pounds, you can witness students tackle Hamlet or Bouncers, see wonderfully funny or very foolish stand-up, see brave new work by bold playwrights, or stand in a large tent and watch a circus reinvent itself.
It is easy to have a fantastic time without attending any acts, just strolling from makeshift bar to historic pub and mingling with the performers, punters, and hangers-on that flock here like moths to a month-long flame. But it’s preferable to be in the thick of it, wading through drunks and garbage in the hope of seeing that rare and amazing beast: brilliance creating a name for itself.
7. Obby Oss
Obby Oss (dialect for hobby horse) is a traditional community event that has been a fixture on Padstow’s calendar for decades.
Two Osses, monstrous, masked effigies with enormous, hooped skirts, are paraded through the streets to the accompaniment of song, accordions, and drums in a unique ritual widely believed to be an ancient Celtic fertility rite – May Day itself derives from the Celtic festival of Beltane – to the accompaniment of song, accordions, and drums.
It’s better not to get too caught up with the meaning of it all and instead to grab a pint and a pasty and let yourself get carried away by the festive atmosphere. Indeed, it’s hard to avoid being entangled in the maze of bunting-adorned alleys teeming with revellers.
8. Chinese New Year, Liverpool
Liverpool, with the continent’s oldest Chinese community going all the way back to the mid-nineteenth century and one of the biggest in terms of population, is an obvious location for celebrating Chinese New Year without flying to Shanghai. The city’s majestic Chinese arch on Nelson Street serves as the focal point for the festivities. It was delivered piecemeal from Shanghai in 2000, standing fifty feet tall.
It has exquisitely detailed decorations, including two hundred dragons, and has been positioned according to feng shui principles to offer the community good fortune.
The festivity begins early in the morning of the first day of the New Year, which varies each year, with breath-taking lion, unicorn, and dragon dances, noon fireworks show on St George’s Square, tai chi performances, and at least 18,000 carnival-goers who bring the city of Liverpool to a halt.
The lion in particular is not to be overlooked; its red colouring is thought to bring good fortune, which is why red is used extensively throughout the decorations. This is an excellent chance to familiarise yourself with some of the most outstanding Chinese street cuisine prepared to honour the start of a new year.
9. Fowey and Polruan regattas
The week-long calendar begins with a carnival, which sets the tone for good-natured fun throughout the week. Pub crews, costumed families, and semi-professional brass bands all march loudly along the crowded, narrow main street.
A local girl is proclaimed Queen of the Carnival, dressed out in the hydrangeas that bloom in August in Cornwall, and the day concludes with partying on the quays and a firework show that fills the estuary with light, noise, and smoke.
Above all, it is this estuary that lends Fowey its enchantment. The little settlement is strewn over the rim of a tiny fjord that doubles as a magnificent amphitheatre. When bands perform or when guns are fired to signal the start of races, the sounds swirl and bounce about.
When the large yachts arrive from Falmouth, or the gig boats race with their oars swinging frantically, or the torchlight boat procession passes on the last night, the boats all parade down the shoreline in plain view.
If it’s the genuine homeliness that draws you, try attending the lesser-known regatta at Polruan, Fowey’s villagey neighbour located a two-minute ferry trip over the lake. There will be hymn and shanty singing, a sandcastle competition, a tombola on behalf of the lifeboat, and a race of bouncing balls down the little street that leads down to the water. It’s reminiscent of 1950s Britain – and none the worse for it.
10. Bonfire Night in Lewes
If you are unhappy in crowds, fearful of fire, afraid of the dark, or even somewhat bothered by abrupt, ear-splitting explosions, avoid coming here – but if you like noise, smoke, and fireworks, you will be blown away. The town’s seven Bonfire Societies gather monies throughout the year in order to burn it all down.
To the steady beat of drums, their Bonfire Boys march through the streets bearing burning torches and flaming crosses. Some pull smouldering tar barrels, while others parade enormous satirical effigies of prominent personalities that will be burnt at the end of the night. Inspiring speeches are delivered, bangers bounce over the bonfire sites, and hundreds of rockets flood the sky after the ceremonies.