From alfreso opera to trapeze classes and secret gin gardens, your UK bucket list for summer 2015

Posted by
Anna Brech
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Summer's so close we can practically smell it. 

We can't wait for the satisfying clink of ice in a glass of Pimm's, or the feel of freshly-cut grass underfoot. 

To get you in the mood for long, hazy days and balm-scented evenings, we've rounded up 16 of the best and most unique events taking place across Britain this summer.

From the first Yves Saint Laurent retrospective in Durham to a pub garden screening of Alien, these experiences are fun and just a little off-radar for a bucket list that's brimming with personality.

Enjoy and get booking with our pick of must-have summer happenings:

Grab a picture with a pint, St Albans 

As part of the St Albans Film Festival, England’s oldest pub is turning its garden into a makeshift cinema.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks dates back to the 8th Century but (unsurprisingly) this is the first time that it's hosted a screening of cult horror franchise Alien

Guests can grab a pint and settle down to a happy evening of Sigourney Weaver at her most heroic. 

"With Alien recently been voted the scariest movie monster of all time, and the film festival adopting an extra-terrestrial theme this year, it seemed fitting that we screen the cult classics Alien and Aliens," says landlord Christo Tofalli.

"Film fans will be able to delight in the garden of this most unique pop-up cinema, with views of the lake in the city's Verulamium park, which was once home to the third largest Roman town in the UK." 

29-30 April, tickets £12,

Snuggle up with films under the stars, London

The Rooftop Film Club holds the perfect formula for alfresco cinema, with shows on four of the capital's finest rooftops: Queen of Hoxton (Shoreditch), Roof East (Stratford), The Roof Gardens (Kensington) and Bussey Building (Peckham Rye). This year's line-up boasts an eclectic mix of classic and current hits, from Casablanca to Birdman

Grab a deckchair and wireless headphones as you soak in the scent of summer amid a blissful London skyline horizon. Comfy blankets, wine and freshly grilled BBQ snacks are nice little extras.

From 1 May at various London locations, tickets from £14,

Come fly with a trapeze class, London

Gorilla Circus is running trapeze classes in Regent's Park every day this summer, providing ample opportunity to flex your acrobatic skills. 

In this two-hour session students practice a simple trick on a low bar, before attempting an incredible flying trapeze trick and getting caught by an instructor on a separate swinging bar. 

The company runs a combination of drop-in classes and the more you do, the wider your repertoire of aerial theatrics.

It's adrenaline-pumping stuff; a workout guaranteed to thrill. 

2 May-6 September, £28 a session,

Watch Rites, a hard-hitting play about FGM, nationwide

If there's one play you need to see this year, it's Rites - a powerful and provocative new production that explores the contentious issue of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Rites drives home the point that FGM is happening in Britain right now. It draws from the true stories of girls affected by FGM in the UK, along with the narratives of mothers who feel under pressure to continue the practice, and the experiences of police officers and health workers trying to effect change.  

From 5 May with tours in Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh, tickets from £8,

Dance to Bend It Like Beckham the musical, London

The 2002 film starring Keira Knightley became something of a cult classic and now Bend It Like Beckham is coming to a West End stage (the Phoenix theatre, to be precise). 

Those who worry the film's charm will be spoilt by a jazz-hands treatment need not fret. The production is in the safe and talented hands of Gurinder Chadha, who directed the original feature. She was inspired by Billy Elliot, whose film-to-stage transition was wildly successful.

"What you will see in Bend It Like Beckham is the result of 4 years’ worth of collaboration: multiple workshops with musicians, actors, dancers and of course footballers," she says. 

From 15 May, tickets from £15,

Pop by a secret gin garden, London

For two days this May, alfresco courtyard at hip East London hotel The Hoxton will transform into a pop-up gin garden.

Escape the city with a delicious and experiential range of cocktails, from the Onion Gimlet with Parmegiano Reggiano cheese cordial to the Hixter G&T, served with a wedge of succulent mango and a grind of black pepper.

The event is hosted by Gin Mare, and inspired by its savoury botanical ingredients and Mediterranean heritage. 

20-21 May, free entry (but drinks charged),,

Grab a literary fix at the Hay Festival, Wales

Every year, a host of prestigious writers and discerning book-lovers descend on the picturesque town of Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh border, for a literary festival like no other.

A multitude of ideas and stories come together in this glorious fiesta of the written word. 

This year's line-up includes authors Kazuo Ishiguro, Alexander McCall Smith, Helen McDonald, Jessie Burton and Marian Keyes. Topics up for discussion include everything from religion and global politics to the environment, art, fashion and photography.

Fringe comedy and music performances will also form part of the mix.  

21-31 May, events individually ticketed,

BBQ in style at Grillstock, nationwide

Love barbecued food?

This festival has your name all over it.

Born out a deep love for American BBQ and the culture that surrounds it, it's an ode to the camaraderie of cooking meat with fire and smoke. 

Organisers promise "a rowdy weekend festival of meat, music and mayhem" with big hunks of grilled meat and Southern style hospitality.

Rock up, dig in and pay homage to this timeless alfresco art.

30-31 May in Manchester, 11-12 July in Bristol and 5-6 September in London, tickets from £25,

Get lost in the Serpentine's psychedelic cocoon, London

Over the past 15 years the Serpentine Pavilion has become an international site for experimental structures, with pop-up designs from some of the world's finest architects.

This year, Spanish architects Selgas Cano take to the helm and their project - a psychedelic-themed cocoon - is bigger and bolder than ever.

Guests will be able to enter the brightly coloured chrysalis at any point to pass through a labyrinth of interlocking tunnels made from a translucent fabric membrane that showcases a brilliant, stained glass effect.

In true Alice in Wonderland style, there's even a secret corridor. 

25 June-18 October, free entry,

Marvel at a rare Jackson Pollack exhibition, Liverpool

American artist Jackson Pollock turned the modern art world on its axis with his turbulent and provocative body of work.

The chief pioneer of Abstract Expressionism, he was famed for action painting, a process that saw him drip paint on canvases resting on the studio floor.

But Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots sheds light on a less well known but extremely influential area of his work.

It is the first exhibition in more than three decades to look at Pollock’s paintings made between 1951 and 1953, a rich and pivotal period that has been largely overlooked in art history and in which he departs from his signature technique.

A unique collection, it shows Pollock "on the verge of an entirely new and different kind of painting … of virtually limitless potential".

30 June-18 October, tickets £11,

Peruse the UK's first Yves Saint Laurent retrospective, County Durham

Fashion lovers and aspiring designers will delight at news of this, the UK's first comprehensive display of the life and work of Yves Saint Laurent. 

In tribute to the French designer's motto "fashion fades, style is eternal", the exhibition will present fifty timeless garments including some iconic pieces from the Russian Collection, the Mondrian dresses and the Tuxedo. 

The show will acknowledge the fact that by making use of male dress codes, Yves Saint Laurent brought women a sense of social empowerment whilst retaining their femininity. As Pierre Bergé said, "If Chanel gave women their freedom, it was Saint Laurent who empowered them". 

They'll also be archive accessories, drawings and paper patterns at the exhibition, which takes place in the majestic surroundings of The Bowes Museum in the small Durham town of Barnard Castle.

11 July-25 October, tickets £10.50,

Rock out at the 2000trees festival, Gloucestershire

Set in the rolling Cotswold hills with emerging band names and a capacity of just 5,000 people, 2000trees is what we imagine Glasto to have been, back in the day.

Sure, the headlines - a mix of new and underground rock and indie acts - aren't huge, but the atmosphere's friendly and the cider is cold and local.

There's great food too, and weekend prices have resisted the eye-watering premium that most festivals now succumb to.

In other words, this is the antidote to everything you hate about mainstream, commercial gigs. 

9-11 July, weekend tickets from £72,

Live the drama of opera at Cornwall's Minack Theatre

A dazzling tale of lust, seduction and betrayal, Bizet’s Carmen is one of the most beloved operas of all-time.

And there's no better place to appreciate its drama than in the incredible surroundings of Cornwall's open-air Minack theatre.

Carved into the the granite cliffs of Porthcurno, this cliff-side stage was once owned by Rowena Cade, who built and financed what she referred to as "my beloved theatre" from the 1930s up until her death in the 1980s.

Settle down with blankets and wine, and watch the moon rise up over the bay to Bizet's stirring and passionate soundtrack.

13-17 July, tickets from £5,

Get in the groove at The Garlic Festival, Isle of Wight

A vast array of eats and treats await at this annual homage to garlic set in the rolling green hills and farmland of the Isle of Wight.

Garlic is, naturally, a big theme and you'll find the flavour everywhere - in fudge, ice cream, popcorn, biscuits, scones and mushrooms.

But there's other food available too, including locally produced honey, cheese, wine and cider. Some of the island's best-loved bands will take to the stage, alongside cooking demonstrations and a huge funfair.

It's the friendly community vibe we really love here. If you like your food served seasonal with an island ambiance, look no further. 

15-16 August, tickets £9.50,

Make a beeline to the Beautiful Days festival, Devon

Beautiful days is a great way to cheer out the summer in style.

This small family-run festival takes place in Escot Park, a privately owned 19th-century estate in the heart of the Devonshire countryside.

Immerse yourself in a merry schedule of live music, comedy and theatre, and real ale bars from the nearby Otter Brewery.

Like 2000trees, this festival comes with an alternative, non-commercial vibe. Corporate sponsorship and branding is out in the place of art installations, craft stalls and a bespoke healing area.

The 2015 theme is "This Garden". Make of that what you will. 

21-23 August, tickets from £135,

Turn back time at Vintage by the Sea festival, Morecambe

Whether your thing is swing, rockabilly, mod, soul, funk, disco or ska, you'll find something to treasure at this all-encompassing vintage fest.

Promising "a sensual delight" and "a big dressing-up box", this joyous creative event plays out on the evocative seafront of Morecambe.

Tens of thousands of vintage lovers descend here come September, to take in specially curated live performances and decade-specific hair and beauty makeovers.

There's brilliantly conceived retro food and cocktail displays and all the vintage shopping glory you could want, from fashion to furniture and beyond.

Entertainment includes vintage nightclubs, dance lessons, a pooch parade, a vintage bike ride along the sea and a special guest appearance from "the cheekily charming Viv the Spiv", who will be gracing the promenade. Get excited. 

5-6 September, free entry but some events ticketed,

Words: Anna Brech, Photos: ThinkStock

Share this article


Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.