The best festivals in the East of England 2021
Last year, the pandemic put a stop to festival season, but this summer things are looking a little different. With testing available and the roll out of the vaccination, event organisers are full steam ahead.
From free music festivals, arts and food and drink festivals, here are a list of festivals, big and small, currently scheduled to go ahead across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
At Home Farm
When: May to September
Line-up: Jack Garratt, Rogue Theatre, The HandleBards, Showtime Circus and more
At Home Farm makes its debut with a line-up of intimate outdoor events and residencies designed to leave you feeling nourished inside and out, with some of the best names in independent music, gastronomy, wellbeing and outdoor performance. Visitors can expect live music, a long table al fresco dining experience, comical theatre, circus acts, Wildfitness coaching, yoga and more.
When: 22 May – 13 June
Where: Southend-on-Sea, Essex
This summer visitors to Southend on Sea will have a feast for the eyes as the town hosts a large-scale, multi-disciplinary outdoor arts festival. Estuary 2021 is curated in response to the Thames Estuary and the lives, landscapes and histories found there. Produced by Metal Southend and Cement Fields in Kent, it includes a mix of large scale works and intimate artistic explorations. Alongside an online discussion and events line up, the physical programme will explore and respond to powerful themes resonant to the Estuary, from the climate, to rebellion and imperial legacy through literature, music and film.
The Wildwood Disco – Postponed until September
When: 26 June
Where: The Woodland Glade, Horesheath Racecourse, Linton, Cambs
Line-up: Krystal Klear, Jackmaster, Dan Shake, Seb Fortaine and more
The Wildwood Disco brings together DJs and musical talents for a festival full of energy. Lose yourself under the canopy of the trees as the glitterball spins and the music plays. Accompanied by entertainers, fire pits, bars and street food, the festival has something for everyone. Boutique camping is also available. Tickets from £48.15.
When: July to August
Where: The July Racecourse, Newmarket, Suffolk
Line-up: Tom Jones, Olly Murs and Rick Astley
Get dressed up for an evening of horse racing and live music. Place your bets and soak up the summer atmosphere, before dancing the night away to live music from UK chart toppers. Book tickets here.
When: 3, 11, 24 & 25 July and 26 September
Where: Earlham Park Norwich, Nowton Park Bury St Edmunds, Huntingdon Racecourse, Wantisden Hall near Woodbridge and The Walks King’s Lynn
Not quite a festival, but a fun, lively day out, the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) Bubble Rush event returns. This year there are new obstacle and challenges. In addition to the multi-coloured bubble run, there is Splash Out! which features obstacles on water and Piglet, Junior Hog, a race designed for families which takes on mud obstacles. Whether you sign up and take part, or cheer participants on from the sidelines, the EACH charity events are a good summer’s day out. Sign up here.
AlFesto Music & Beer Festival
When: 9-10 July
Where: The Sun Inn, Dedham, Essex
The Sun’s annual free music and beer festival, Alfesto, is a chance to listen to some amazing musicians performing live with great beer and food with a fantastic atmosphere. There will be 11 bands performing over the weekend; 15 craft ales and cider; A Prosecco & Gin Bar; outdoor games for adults and kids – Jenga, boules, quoits and skittles and a special festival menu of barbecued burgers, pulled pork, strawberries and ice cream. The Festival is fully tented in case of bad weather.
Head Out, Not Home
When: 11 July – 5 September, 2-5pm
Where: Norwich City Centre
Line up: Lucy Grubb, The Foreign Locals, Nebula Sun, The Shackleton Trio and more
Head Out, Not Home brings fantastic live music and performance to Norwich with something for everyone. Presented by Norwich BID and NORCA & Sistema, the afternoon events, feature local acts well as nationally renowned performers such as folk favourites The Shackleton Trio and Inlay. Performances are taking place on Sunday afternoons meaning families and friends can enjoy time together with a bit of shopping and something to eat too.
Toad in the Hole – Delayed until further notice. Those who have booked tickets can transfer to 2022
When: 16-18 July
Where: Bury Wood, Todd’s Green, Stevenage, Hertfordshire
Line-up: The Killerz, Amy – a tribute, Strictly UB40, Mused and more
A fantastic family-friendly music festival featuring some of the UK’s best tribute acts. With four main stages, a kids arena full of fun children’s activities and performances, a folk stage in the woods, a dedicated wellbeing area and after parties, this is a festival not to be missed! Festival-goers won’t go hungry either. There is a diverse mix of street food plus multiple bars. The festival is also committed to sustainability too! Book your ticket here.
When: 17 July
Where: Hatfield House, Herts
Line-up: Napoleonic Cavalry Display, The Red Devils, New English Concert Orchestra
Battle Proms is a summer celebration. Enjoy an afternoon and evening of entertainment including Napoleonic re-enactors, The Red Devils, live music and spitfire air display. The Battle Proms Orchestral performance and a traditional sing-along, flag-waving and grand firework display close the event. Tickets from £48.
King’s Lynn Festival
When: 18-31 July
Where: Multiple venues in King’s Lynn
Line-up: Magnard Ensemble, Fontanella and more
King’s Lynn Festival features classical recitals and concerts, jazz, talks, walks and a 70th anniversary exhibition, celebrating the rich history of the past seven decades of the King’s Lynn Festival. The 70th Festival, due to have been staged last July, had to be cancelled because of the Covid pandemic, but the best traditions of the festival can be enjoyed again this year. www.kingslynnfestival.org.uk
When: 22-25 July
Where: Henham Park, Suffolk
Line-up: Wolf Alice, The Chemical Brothers, Rudimental, Bastille and many more
The family friendly festival will once again host an impressive and diverse mix of comedy, music, theatre, literature, poetry and wellness. There will be performances from famous faces in music and comedy, alongside other talented artists. There’s no time to rest at this festival, it’s packed with entertainment including lake swimming, gondola rides, yoga and a programme of children and tween activities.
When: 22-25 July
Where: Standon Lordship, Standon, Hertfordshire
Line-up: Artful Dodger, Bastille, Ed Gamble and many more
This festival is for everyone – adults, children and dogs too! There’s live music and performances, plus a heft programme of activities to keep the whole family entertained. Some of the biggest names in music and comedy will take to the stage over the weekend. Children get their own line-up too with performances from Horrible Histories, Dick and Dom and How to Train Your Dinosaur. The festival claims to be one of the most dog-friendly in the UK! Book your ticket.
Billericay Food and Drink Festival
When: 25 July
Where: Billericay Town FC, Blunts Wall Road, Billericay Essex
Sample some of the finest food and drink in the local Essex area at the very first annual Billericay Food & Drink Festival. There will be over 45 stands showcasing local talent including champagne, oysters, fabulous bakes, real ales, cocktails, Pimm’s cheese and chocolate and more! There’s space to picnic and eat plus a DJ and the first 100 festival goers receive a free foodie goodie. You’ll also pick up FREE raffle ticket on the door to enter to win £500 luxury hamper of goodies, supporting Billericay Food Bank and British Heart Foundation.
Limited free car parking on the day. Entry is £5 on the door, under 12s free.
Follow us on Instagram @eastlifemag for your chance to win free tickets!
Bedford Park Concerts
When: 29-31 July and 1 August
Where: Bedford Park, Bedford
Line-up: Olly Murs, Café Mambo Ibiza in the Park, Ocean Colour Scene and Bedford Park Proms
Bedford Park Concerts are back! The event has become somewhat of a summer tradition in the county. Over four days locals and visitors can enjoy a day of live music and summer fun. Olly Murs kicks off the event with pop hits. Those who missed out on a trip to Ibiza will be keen to book tickets to Café Mambo Ibiza on 30 July and Ocean Colour Scene will be taking us back to the 90s. The concerts close with a spectacular light show and the 25th celebration of the Park Proms.
Norfolk World Music Festival
When: 30 July – 1 August
Anna Mudeka, Jose Ferrer, Tantris, The Watchsnatchers and more
The festival returns in 2021 aiming to create ‘Umoja’, the Swahili and Zulu word for togetherness and unity but of course in these strange times in a safe and socially distanced way. The main stage will be headlined by organiser Anna Mudeka and her band. The Fringe stage will be headlined by the African Choir Of Norfolk. A new project arising out of The Hostry festival they feature African singers who are based in Norfolk singing songs from Kenya, Cameroon, Zimbabwe and beyond.
DJ Michael will be spinning tunes and there will be a wide range of workshops led by Kevin Mortimer, Mog, Jose Ferrera, Anna Mudeka, Hej, and Debbie Harris teaching drums and percussion from Conga’s to Bodhran’s, dance workshops including Samba, African singing, Foolhardy Folk Circus and Yoga.
A full weekend ticket plus camping costs £70 or a full day ticket for the Saturday without camping costs £30. A Saturday evening only ticket from 6pm costs £20. Book here.
Music in the Park
When: 31 July
Where: Bandstand, Elmhurst Park, Woodbridge
Pack a picnic, pull up a chair and enjoy a summer’s afternoon listening to local talent, East of the Sun, presented by Friends of Woodbridge Library. More information.
When: 31 July – 1 August
Where: Hedingham Castle, Essex
Line-up: Susie Dent, John Lloyd, Arizona Muse, Evelyn Glennie and Rosey Chan
A brand-new festival in East Anglia showcasing creative leaders in arts and culture. The Festival will be a hybrid event format to adapt to Government guidelines. In-person and livestream tickets will be available for all events; in addition, in-person tickets will be converted to virtual ones to accommodate social distancing or even lockdown, should the need arise.
Featuring both local luminaries and internationally recognised stars, the festival will showcase of talent across many disciplines. It seeks to invigorate the cultural scene in East Anglia by presenting exciting regional creatives alongside exceptional speakers and artists from the rest of the UK and beyond. Click here for more information.
When: 12-14 August
Where: Audley End House and Gardens, Saffron Walden, Essex
Line-up: Culture Club, James Blunt, Van Morrison and Russell Watson
Enjoy live music in the grand setting of a stately home. Find a spot on the lawn and listen to some of the biggest names in music. Small picnics are permitted but alcohol must be purchased on site. Click here to book tickets.
Concerts at Chelmsford Racecourse
When: August -September
Where: Chelmsford City Racecourse, Essex
Line-up: Example and Ministry of Sound Classical
In addition to its schedule of summer racing events and popular ladies’ day, the racecourse is hosting a number of live concerts. Don’t miss the ‘Now that’s what I call the 80s’ evening for your chance to relive best-loved classics. See what’s on here.
Beccles Food and Drink Festival
When: 14 August, 10am-4pm
Where: Beccles Town Centre
Line-up: Grazing Trial Map and Cookery Theatre
A little later than planned, the Beccles Food and Drink Festival is returning to tantalise the taste buds. The Festival showcases the best of the region’s produce with food and drink stalls, many of them local artisan producers, as well as those from farther afield in East Anglia. Based in the centre of the vibrant market town, the Festival will include cookery demonstrations and talks, music and children’s entertainment. This year will also include a new Grazing Trail Map, further details to be announced on social media soon.
When: 15 August
Where: Away Resorts, Mersea Island, Essex
Inspired by Holi, a popular ancient Hindu festival, this event lets guests dance their way through the enormous colour explosion as the park paints the sky with beautiful powder paint colours. With food, drink, activities and colourful experiences, guests can expect walkabout entertainment such as bubbologists, stilt walkers, all accompanied by live music and DJs.
Classic & Vintage Car Show
When: 22 August
Where: Hedingham Castle, Essex
This year’s display will feature a huge range of vintage, pre-1940s classic, classic and modern classic vehicles set against the magnificent backdrop of the 900-year-old Norman Keep and within the beautiful historic grounds of the Hedingham estate. Spectators can make a day of it and enjoy some delicious lunch from a selection of local vendors including Mac Street Kitchen, serving up delightful mac ‘n’ cheese dishes from their vintage Bedford Ambulance.
Other stalls include custom illustrated posters, luxury felted fleeces, vintage car hire and more. A professional photographer will be providing the opportunity to capture the iconic vehicles in front of Hedingham Castle, and there is also a sculpture garden to enjoy, featuring large scale artworks stationed in picturesque locations throughout the grounds, exclusively on display for the summer only. Book tickets here.
Classic Ibiza – Cancelled! Rescheduled for 2022
When: 21 August
Where: Hatfield House, Herts
Line-up: Urban Soul Orchestra, Stephen Hussey, Goldierocks, Jose Luis and more
If you can’t get to the Balearics this year, this is the next best thing! Classic Ibiza features a heady blend of Balearic-infused house music, performed by the 32-piece Urban Soul Orchestra (USO), headline DJs and globally renowned vocalists. It’s a symphony for your senses. Enjoy dance music’s most iconic tracks, performed live in the beautiful grounds of stately homes. Blickling Estate on 7 August in Norfolk is sold out, but you can sign up to the waitlist.
When: 27-29 August
Where: Euston Hall, Suffolk
Line-up: Richard Hawley, Jade Bird, Songhoy Blues, Elles Bailey and more
You’ll need to be quick to snap up tickets to this soulful festival. For the past three years, the laid-back music festival, set within private gardens and countryside of a Suffolk stately home, has been a sell-out. Red Rooster festival celebrates the best of rock’n’roll, blues and country music.
In addition to a great line-up that will have you dancing all day long, festival-goers can cool off with river swimming, hop on a pedalo and join in games and workshops including activities from expert Will Lord, who presents his Prehistoric Experiences. Dog lovers will have the House of Mutt and their trainer’s onsite to answer all canine questions, as well as doggy agility around their obstacle course.
For relaxation, Heilsa Therapies are on hand for massages and a variety of other treatments, the perfect way to rejuvenate incredible night of music and cocktails!
There’s a good selection of food too – sample bbqs, cajun stews and nachos, washed down with specialist bourbons sundowner cocktails. Smoke & Fire Events, organiser of the award-winning Smoke & Fire Festivals, the nation’s Largest BBQ and Outdoor cooking Festival, have just been confirmed to the line-up! A choice of luxury camping options is also available including Lotus Belle tents and yurts. Weekend ticket £89.50.
Maui Waui Festival
When: 27-29 August
Where: Hill Farm, Gressenhall, Norfolk
Line-up: Dub Pistols. Peatbog Faeries, Dutty Moonshine Big Band and more
A family friendly festival, there’s plenty of activities for children and for adults, a host of world class bands, full circus shows in a dedicated circus tent, small upbeat bands and acoustic acts, plus cabaret and comedy. This year’s highlights include an Americana Day on 29 August and a living art show! Book your ticket.
North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival
When: 4-5 September
Where: Holkham Estate, Norfolk
Line-up: Cookery theatre chefs tbc
Now in its 12th year, the food festival takes place in the glorious Walled Garden on the Holkham estate. The dog-friendly, two-day food and drink festival, with Kettle Chips as the headline sponsor, is one of the county’s original food festivals and regularly attracts up to 11,000 people.
Around 65 local producers sell everything from gin to chocolate, from bread to cheese and from chutney to brownies! They represent the best of the best and an emphasis is on those based in North Norfolk. The popular cookery theatre is set to return, with a mixture of new names and established figures using the region’s larder to create mouth-watering dishes. Add in a wide selection of pop up concessions where you can buy delicious coffees, pizzas and more, live music, a well stocked bar and lots of picnicking options, and it’s a great day to enjoy all that the county’s foodie scene has to offer. The festival is free to attend!
When: 11-12 September
Where: The Jockey Club Rooms, Newmarket
Line up: Rosemary Shrager, Tristan Welch and Hans Schweitzer
The popular free festival, which celebrates the finest food and drink from across East Anglia is back! Celebrity chefs topping the bill on the main stage this year include chef and TV presenter Rosemary Shrager; Tristan Welch, a regular on BBC 1’s Saturday Kitchen and Chef Director at Parker’s Tavern in Cambridge; and acclaimed master chef Hans Schweitzer, who has cooked for the Queen, presidents, dignitaries and celebrities across the globe. Each chef will demo a range of dishes to teach audiences new skills and offer inspiration in the kitchen. In addition, the organisers plan to host over 60 artisan food and drink producers from across East Anglia and present a weekend packed full of live music, a selection of bars, and family entertainment. Find out more here.
The Great Balloon Race
When: 10-12 September
Where: Shuttleworth Estate
Line-up: Great Balloon Race, Ibiza Classics Orchestra
Up to 50 balloons of all shapes and sizes will fill the skies across Bedfordshire and beyond before returning for a dazzling night glow display at dusk accompanied by the Ibiza Classics Orchestra. The Great Balloon Race extravaganza will feature a breath-taking Sky Dance from a 100ft crane by Incandescence plus a dynamic fireworks display. Plots will accommodate up to six people, priced from £65. For those with a head for heights, balloon flights also available with prices starting from £325 for an individual on a shared flight, £950 for a couple and up to £1,650 for a party of six.
Norfolk Heritage Open Day Festival
When: 10-19 September
Where: Locations across Norwich & Norfolk
Line-up: Food Festival at The Forum
The popular annual festival coordinated by The Forum, Norwich sees venues across Norfolk opening their doors allowing visitors the chance to explore the county’s rich heritage for free. The festival offers everyone the opportunity to explore new buildings, discover some hidden gems not normally open to the public and learn more about the cultural heritage in our communities.
The theme for this year’s festival is ‘Edible England’ so alongside tours and open days expect food related events and activities!
On 18 and 19 September, The Forum will celebrate heritage and local food and drink producers with a showcase of Norfolk based independent and artisan traders with tasters, promotions and a fine selection of local produce. Throughout the weekend there will also be delicious street food stalls, talks, and other food related events and activities. Click here for the full programme.
Mind Body Spirit and Wellbeing Festival
When: 2-3 October
Where: Chelmsford City Racecourse, Essex
It’s been a stressful 18-months for everyone, as we look to a new season take time to focus on you. Throughout the weekend reconnect with yourself and learn about the mind and body. The festival includes over 100 wellbeing exhibitors, a demo space, huge foodie village, live music and immersive events including workshops and yoga. Book tickets at www.lifearts.co.uk
The Harwich International Shanty Festival
When: 8-10 October
Where: Harwich Town Centre
Harwich is home to the UK’s premier sea shanty festival! The Harwich International Shanty Festival takes place between 8 – 10 October; the town comes alive with pirates, actors, salty sea-dogs, and song. Most of the events are free and suitable for all ages.
When: 16-31 October
Where: Norwich Cathedral & The Chapel, Norwich, Norfolk
This year’s festival celebrates a decade of original programming ranging from high profile guest speakers, concerts, drama and dance performances and exhibitions. At the centre of this year’s programme, will be the Norfolk premiere of Beethoven’s 10th, a play penned by one of the country’s favourite actors, renaissance man Sir Peter Ustinov. Full programme at www.hostryfestival.org/whats-on
Norwich Beer Festival
When: 25-31 October
Where: The Halls, St Andrews Plain, Norwich, Norfolk
Raise your glass to the region’s best breweries. Over 200 cask-conditioned real ales and traditional ciders will be available from multiple independent brewers. Cheers to the sounds of live music and a feel-good festival vibe. There will also be bottled beer from Europe. More info here.
Cambridge Film Festival
When: 18-25 November
Where:Cambridge Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge
Film lovers can pen a date in their calendars as Cambridge Film Festival confirms dates for this year’s Festival, which is set to go ahead as a physical event. The festival presents a diverse programme of over 40 films that promise to attract audiences of all ages and tastes. It includes UK premieres of new features, classic retrospectives, insightful documentaries, discovery titles from the global stage, family favourites, an eclectic array of short films, and several international film festival winners.
*please follow Government COVID safety guidance at all times*