Open air arts
Castles concerts and Shakespeare in the round...
Enjoy Shakespeare on a balmy summer night or spend a snowy afternoon stomping through woods discovering sculpture as you go. The power of the elements will ensure a ‘one-off’ experience. You can hide under an umbrella, but for the performers, the show will go on …
1. The Globe
Here, it’s easy to imagine the drama of theatre in Shakespeare’s day. Standing tickets at the Globe cost only £5 – a bargain – and you can get close enough to touch the actors (though we advise against it). The centre of the round is open to the elements, so on rainy days opt for a seat.
2. Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Some 500 acres of 18th century parkland form a natural gallery space for more than 60 sculptures, ensuring a walk here will be frequently interrupted. There are four indoor galleries too.
3. Another Place
Antony Gormley’s modern sculpture on Crosby Beach is made of 100 cast iron figures spread along two miles of beach. From a distance, the sculptures, created from casts of the artist’s own body, look eerily like people walking into the sea. The figures were due to be moved to New York, but stayed after an appeal.
An established event in the English summer season, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera is held in a traditional country house setting. Plan a stylish picnic on the lawns during the long interval. Afternoon performances are timed so opera-goers can travel there and back from London.
5. The Minack Theatre
What a setting: a theatre surrounded by a rocky cliff face on the sea’s doorstep. Before the curtain has risen, you’re unlikely to forget the experience. The Minack Theatre is close to Land’s End in Cornwall, and is completely open-air. Performances are only cancelled in extreme weather conditions.
6. Proms in the park
The Last Night of the Proms is a spectacular finale to a two-month extravaganza of classical music. Live open-air concerts take place across England, including in Salford, and London. You’ll need a flag to wave to feel part of it and get ready to sing along …
7. Henry Moore Perry Green
Perry Green is the centre for Henry Moore research, and the site of Hoglands, Henry Moore’s former home in Hertfordshire. The award ‘Small Visitor Attraction of the Year’ isn’t bestowed lightly – enjoy acres dotted with sculptures and an insight into the life and work of Henry Moore. Open from April.
8. Somerset House
Make the most of long summer nights with the Film4 Summer Screen season or the Summer Series of outdoor concerts at Somerset House . Think cult classics and pre-film discussions sat on a cushion; or leaping around the neo-classical courtyard to Florence and the Machine and nodding thoughtfully to Elbow.
9. Alnwick Castle picnic concert
Pack a picnic with all the trimmings for these surroundings – a stunning medieval castle in Northumberland (and the location used to film Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films). The Summer Concert takes place annually against a backdrop of the 700-year-old castle (still lived in today).
10. Scarborough Open Air Theatre
Europe’s largest open-air theatre is back in business, with live music, opera and comedy on the bill. In the 1930s when English seaside resorts were at their peak, the amphitheatre was packed night after night. An unusual stage – it’s set on an island in the middle of a lake.
Psst... Handy Hints
The perfect picnic takes a bit of preparation. Find great recipes at BBC Good Food – including one for picnic pie.
If rain is forecast, or the ground is damp, ditch the rug and take fold-up camping chairs instead.
Don’t forget the corkscrew, or the wine glasses. These are occasions where a celebration is most certainly called for.
Splurge on a hamper full of food as a perfect gift, and slip some tickets to an outdoor event inside.