Every year, the English summer season sees an explosion of festivals, music concerts, outdoor theatres and other activities. Here, we pick out some of the most interesting and lively towns around the countryside which would make perfect places to live for those looking for a busy cultural calendar.
This extremely pretty East Sussex town, set in the heart of the Downs, boasts attractive period houses dating from the 15th and 16th centuries onwards. Once home to the political activist Thomas Paine and, later, the writer Virginia Woolf, the town draws creative buyers thanks to its combination of art, music and culture, as well as academics from the nearby University of Sussex.
Charleston was once the country retreat of the Bloomsbury Group in the village of Firle, just a few miles outside Lewes. It runs a packed calendar of festivals and workshops attracting artists and writers as well as events for young artists. Each year, they host a three-day festival in May.
Love Supreme is a three-day Jazz festival which takes place from June 29 to July 1 at Glynde Place, an Elizabethan manor house just outside Lewes which has commanding views of the Weald and Sussex Downs. This is followed by Lewes Live, a two-day music festival on July 28 and 29 and, of course, the world-famous Glyndebourne Opera season runs throughout the summer.
This year, Artwave, the annual festival of artists and makers from Lewes, Seaford, Newhaven and surrounding villages is celebrating its 25th anniversary. It takes place from August 18 to September 2.
Finally, the town also has the recently-opened independent cinema, The Depot, which shows a mix of new releases, documentaries, classics and family films.
Once dubbed Wiltshire’s creative capital by Country Life magazine, the market town of Marlborough, in Wiltshire, has another busy calendar of events. Buyers of its terraced townhouses and country cottages in the nearby villages are typically drawn to the area thanks to its attractive countryside coupled with the fact that you can commute to London from either Pewsey or Swindon stations. The famous high street is one of the widest in England and boasts an array of independent shops and restaurants.
Every summer, Marlborough College, the alma mater of the Duchess of Cambridge, organizes a three-week long summer school where children and adults can do courses in anything from meditation to the history of the Napoleonic wars. This year, the town is hosting a new two-day family-friendly music festival, Marlborough Rising, from September 7 to 9. At the end of September, the annual Marlborough Literature Festival kicks off. Among this year’s guest authors are William Boyd and Kate Mosse. Operaluna, meanwhile, is a small company that puts on high quality operas and dance productions in the College theatre at various times throughout the year.
The cathedral city of Salisbury, in Wiltshire, has a number of interesting and entertaining events each year including the Salisbury International Arts Festival. The summer solstice at Stonehenge tends to attract in excess of 20,000 visitors who gather to watch the sunrise on the longest day of the year at the Neolithic site. Later on in June, an encampment will be set up on the hills outside the city near the village of Broad Chalke as the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival begins this year’s event bringing a blend of talks, discussions and debates as well as a stunning airshow.
Slightly further afield, the Larmer Tree Festival, near Cranborne Chase and easily accessible from Salisbury, takes place from July 19 to 22. It’s a family-friendly music festival set in the Larmer Tree Gardens and features talks, comedy acts and much more. The same location hosts the End of the Road Festival at the end of August. In September, the city hosts the Salisbury Food and Drink Festival at various venues in the centre of Salisury.
Known for its large municipal gardens and elegant Regency architecture, the Gloucestershire spa town is regularly cited as one of the best places to raise a family in the UK. One of the reasons is its excellent choice of schools—both private and state—and the fact that it stands on the edge of the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It has a vast array of festivals and events covering all areas of interest from literature and art and, of course, racing. Chief among them is the annual Cheltenham Festival. Taking place in March each year, the meet is considered the highlight of the jump racing season and brings together some of the country’s finest horses, jockeys and trainers.
Sometimes dubbed the “cultural centre of the Cotswolds”, festivals include science, jazz, music and literature with the season kicking off in May and finishing in October. All tickets and information are published on the Cheltenham Festivals website. Alongside those are a food and drink festival in Montpellier Gardens, an International Tango festival in the town hall and an underground music festival called 2000trees.