National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
The museum is celebrating the launch of Edinburgh’s International Children’s Festival (25 May-2 June) with a family open day. Events are drop-in and free and include performances, pop-up installations and arts for all ages. There’ll be digital music creation as part of interactive sensory environment Soundplay Studio, a wearable jet pack workshop, walkabout dancing with Eggy Ladies, a body-positive performance from Creative Electric, a puppet show called A Wise Owl’s Challenge, and a Unicorn Dance Party.
• 25 May, nms.ac.uk
Salts Mill, Saltaire, West Yorkshire
Grade II-listed Salts Mill was once the centrepiece in Sir Titus Salt’s utopian vision of Saltaire, where culture and commerce could prosper together. The mid-19th century former textile mill ceased production in 1986. It was preserved and developed in subsequent years and is now a Unesco world heritage centre, and home to a museum, cafe, restaurant, galleries and shops selling books, bikes, jewellery and more. It also forms part of the Saltaire Art Trail weekend, alongside open houses throughout the village, and a makers’ market with 70 independent designers.
• 25-27 May, saltaireinspired.org.uk
Feria de Londres, London
Celebrating Spanish culture, entertainment and cuisine, this festival brings a flavour of Andalucía to London’s South Bank for the bank holiday weekend. There’ll be flamenco lessons, castanet workshops, costumed performers, live bands, DJs and tapas tastings. The event was inspired by the traditional spring fairs of southern Spain, many of which are now huge regional events with communities dancing and eating together and celebrating in the streets.
• 24-26 May, feriadelondres.com
Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival
The Slipways where the Titanic and Olympic ships were launched are hosting a long weekend of maritime fun, with boatbuilding demos, film screenings and hands-on activities. A huge outdoor screen will be showing Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid, Muppet Treasure Island and other aquatic-themed films – visitors are invited to bring blankets, deckchairs and picnics. Also, around the quays there will be bridge building, kite making, theatre, dance, a street food market, sea shanties, live bands and a light show finale.
• 25-27 May, titanicbelfast.com
Go Paddling week, various locations
Try a host of paddling activities, or develop your skills, at a series of canoeing and standup paddleboarding (SUP) events around the country, as part of Go Paddling week. On 26 May, South West Lakes Trust has an open day on Roadford Lake, near Lifton in west Devon, with aquatic activities from water zorbing to fishing taster sessions. And the Scottish Canoe Association will be at Glasgow’s Pinkston Watersports on 1 June, with whitewater rafting, SUP yoga, plus live music and food. Leicester Riverside Festival takes place in Bede Park on 1 and 2 June, with canoeing taster sessions, live jazz, theatre, children’s crafts and swing dance lessons.
• 25 May-2 June, gopaddlingweek.info
Norwich Games Festival
Vintage arcade games, coding workshops and boardgame-strategy sessions are just a few of the activities on offer at this family festival celebrating all things gaming, for tots, tweens and teens alike. There’ll also be a character-creation station, the life-size Actual Reality Arcade, and talks from developers, designers and other gaming industry folk. Other activities, for £5 of less, include film and documentary screenings and an interactive video game comedy show with Pac-Man inflatables.
• 27 May-1 June, norwichgamesfestival.com
Roskilly’s Farm, St Keverne, Cornwall
This working farm in Cornwall offers the chance to lend a hand, pet a cow or watch how dairy ice-cream is made – from udder to cone. Daily milking is done between 8.30am and 10.30am, after which visitors can stroll around the meadows to see other animals, including goats, pigs, sheep, turkeys, geese and chickens. There’s a picnic area, and a restaurant, the Croust House, serving breakfast, lunch and a wood-fired evening menu. There’ll also be free live music on 27 May.
Strawberry Fair, Cambridge
Around 30,000 visitors and residents come together on Midsummer Common, by the River Cam, for this annual festival of arts and music celebrating the city. The volunteer-led event has been going for more than 40 years and this year’s theme is Love. There’ll be comedy, theatre, art installations, spoken word shows, talks, games, children’s activities, a parade with circus performance, food and drink stalls, and lots of live music. The lineup is local and diverse, with several stages and tents, and artists playing Americana, funk, blues, folk, jazz, samba, punk, reggae, bhangra, hip-hop, grime, house, and techno. Local organisations including Cambridge Love Music Hate Racism, green campaign groups and art collectives are also involved.
• 1 June, strawberry-fair.org.uk
Torbay airshow, Devon
Breathtaking aerial performances will take place around the natural amphitheatre of the bay at what will be the fourth year of this event, which is expected to attract around 165,000 spectators over two days. The programme will include military and civilian display teams, including the RAF Red Arrows, RAF Typhoon display team, RAF Tucano T1 and the Battle of Britain memorial flight, featuring the Hurricane, Spitfire and Dakota. There’ll also be food and drink stalls and activities for kids. Performances may be subject to change depending on weather.
• 1-2 June, torbayairshow.com
MotoFest Coventry, West Midlands
This urban automotive event brings two days of screeching, speeding and marvelling at motors to Coventry, with rally racing demonstrations and static displays of vintage vehicles. Several streets and the major ring road are closed as supercars, rally cars and classic motors take over the city. The full programme has yet to be announced but previous events have included timed, parade, high-speed and heritage car laps, alongside a display of 19th- and early-20th century cars, free hot drinks and live music.
• 1-2 June, coventrymotofest.com
Fort Nelson, Hampshire
Fort Nelson’s royal armouries in Fareham plans to get half-term started with a bang. It’s one of the few places offering live black-powder firings of historic artillery equipment, with a daily 1pm salute fired by one of the large guns. The fully restored Victorian fort is at the summit of Portsdown Hill, overlooking the Solent and the naval base of Portsmouth. It has more than seven hectares of fortifications to explore, around ramparts, secret tunnels and ammunition bunkers, plus costumed guides, videos and displays illustrating the life and work of soldiers at the fort. Over half-term there will be free second world war-themed events, including air raid recreations and guided tours.
• 27-31 May, royalarmouries.org
Crosby beach, Merseyside
This beach around six miles north of Liverpool is home to Another Place, an outdoor art installation comprising 100 lifesize cast-iron figures looking out to sea. They are set along two miles of coastline, with the tides submerging and revealing the statues each day. There are hiking and biking routes close to the beach, including the start of the 22-mile Sefton Coastal Path, which heads up to Formby Point, Ainsdale-on-Sea and finishes in Crossens in Southport, via sandy beaches, marshes, woodlands, heathland and tidal estuaries. In Crosby’s Coronation Park, a 15-minute walk from the beach, there’s a fun day on 26 May, with crafts, pony rides and a falconry display.
Brighton Fringe Festival
Visitors are invited to picnic among the performers while they watch family entertainment, games and activities in Pavilion Gardens on 26 May as part of Brighton Fringe. Elsewhere, other free family events include an interactive “follow your food” session at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (30 May) and a beekeeper flash mob with the Bee Friendly Trust (25 May). B Fest (25 May-1 June) is a week of gigs, exhibitions, comedy, skating and more aimed at 13-19 year olds and run by young people, with a launch event on 24 May. There are many other ticketed Fringe events for under £10, including comedy, live music and family workshops.
• Until 2 June, brightonfringe.org
Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire
Rumoured to be where the fairies come out to play, these beautiful wooded valleys west of Halifax have several riverside walking trails, passing little waterfalls, ancient oak, beech and pine trees and seasonal wildflowers. At the centre is 19th-century Gibson Mill, home to the Weaving Shed cafe and shop, and a visitor centre telling the history of the area. Rocky paths heading around the hilltops and cross streams on stepping stones. Close to the old weirs there are picnic areas and lots of wildlife, including roe deer, great spotted woodpeckers, herons, newts and bats. For half-term, there are guided wildlife walks (25 and 26 May), den-building (30 May), and campfire cooking (31 May).
• Various dates, nationaltrust.org.uk
Salisbury International Arts Festival
Taking over streets and spaces across the city, with its Playhouse and Arts Centre leading the way, this two-week festival includes free performance events and workshops. City Encounters (26 and 27 May) includes aerial display, tap dance jam, clown and slack-rope performance, circus acts, puppetry and a glitter-filled drag show for families. On 25 May, Family Fiesta at Bemerton Heath has live music and arts and crafts activities. There are also free film screenings and gigs in pubs, alongside ticketed events.
• Until 8 June, wiltshirecreative.co.uk
Museum of Natural History, Oxford
On 1 June live crocodiles, wolves, birds of prey, creepy crawlies and other animals pay a visit to this popular museum as part of the annual Wildfair. There will also be talks from researchers and wildlife and conservation groups, plus music and food. Other venues in the city will host walks, talks and crafts. At the museum, there will be family drawing activities and meet-and-greets with scientists (25 May), and crafts and family trails (26 May). It’s also the last chance to catch the Bacteria World exhibition, tracing the secret lives behind these tiny organisms, running until 28 May.
• Various dates, oumnh.ox.ac.uk
There’s a varied programme of exhibitions and events throughout the year at Nottingham Contemporary, including workshops and screenings for 15-25-year-olds. The Ugly Art Club runs free art technique workshops, including an avant-garde stamp-making and shape work session on 26 May. In the main gallery space, a new Lis Rhodes exhibition starts on 25 May, tracing 50 years of her experimental filmmaking. On 1 June, the No Reading Reading Clubwill discuss a 1978 feminist essay by Rhodes entitled Whose History? There’s also a Young Artist Crits peer-to-peer advice session on 31 May, and a curation course starting in June. There’ll be creative workshops for younger children at the weekend, including a noise machine-making session (25 May).
Children’s Gardening Week, north Wales
There’ll be activities for young horticulturists throughout half-term (as part of this national week) at 19th-century Penrhyn Castle and Garden. The National Trust property will be running sessions on paper plant pot-making and seed planting (including a sunflower to take away), plus quizzes and a sensory garden trail. The grounds have an adventure playground, picnic areas and woodland walks. National Children’s Gardening Week (25 May to 2 June), which runs in association with Greenfingers, a charity that creates gardens for children in hospices, encompasses many other affordable events (£1-£3)around the country.
Quays Culture Summer Festival, Salford
Circus, art and dance are heading to the quayside in Salford for a free festival of culture that runs to 2 June, in and around the Lowry arts venue. Book onlinr for interactive rainbow light sculpture, the Arboria, from Architects of Air – which has toured its large-scale, inflatable “luminarian” around the world. Up above the crowd, Christopher Bullzini, from the Bullzini family of funambulists, will walk a 200-metre hire wire over the dock, using a pole for balance.
County fairs, various
Nothing says May bank holiday like a country fair, and there is a host of shows taking place this weekend (see farminguk.com for a list). Shropshire County Agricultural Show has been going – and growing – since the late 19th century, when it was an important annual gathering for farmers. The 21st-century version offers the full gamut of traditional displays of livestock and machinery, as well as more than 200 stands, bands, a kids’ zone and food and drink.
• 25 May, shropshirecountyshow.com
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