In September the titans of world rugby will be battling it out on pitches across the country as Rugby World Cup 2015 plays out in England, but don't wait until then for a city break! Here, Katie Rowe suggests getting ahead of the game, visiting some of the world-class host cities sooner than later to discover theatre premieres, foodie hotspots and one of the biggest fringe festivals in the world.
Experience Alice in Wonderland like never before when a musical retelling of the 19th century story premieres at The Manchester International Festival from July 2 before heading to London’s National Theatre in November. Set to Damon Albarn’s music and with lyrics by Moira Buffini (Tamara Drewe, Handbagged), wonder.land gives Lewis Carroll’s world-famous tale a futuristic makeover. Alice’s dream is swapped for a virtual reality in which 12-year-old Aly escapes bullying and an unhappy home and herself, making online connections with Dum and Dee, the creepy Cheshire Cat and the terrifying Red Queen.
Newcastle is an elegant city gleaming with grand Georgian architecture lining its main thoroughfares and cultural landmarks perched along the River Tyne. Take The Sage Gateshead, for example, a state-of-the-art music venue which is celebrating its 10th year and always has a stellar programme of events. In April, husky-voiced Sting returns to his hometown to perform music from his latest album and Broadway show The Last Ship. Set in Sting’s hometown of Wallsend, a few miles from the city centre, it’s inspired by his childhood memories of growing up beside the Swan Hunters shipyard while also echoing the experiences of those working and living in northern ports along the Wear, Clyde and Mersey.
No one does flamboyancy like Brighton and this is showcased at its very best every May when the Brighton Fringe and Brighton Festival paint the beach city every colour of the rainbow. Cabaret, comedy, club nights, burlesque, street performance, theatre and, not forgetting, drag queens all make up an eclectic programme of events for the world’s third largest fringe festival. And if that wasn’t enough, The Brighton Festival – the largest multi-arts festival in England – runs alongside from May 2 to 23. This year sees celebrated author Ali Smith directing an extraordinary programme of art, theatre, dance, music, literature and family shows, with highlights including appearances from ventriloquist Nina Conti and award-winning Canadian author Margaret Atwood.
Visit Leeds on an empty stomach in May as two major food festivals take over Yorkshire’s hippest city. First on the menu is Leeds Indie Food Festival from May 7 to 24. New to the scene, it will showcase the city’s booming indie food and drink scene – along with some of Yorkshire’s finest beards and sailor tattoos – with a wide range of events held in independent restaurants, bars, cinemas, art galleries and breweries. There’ll also be pop-up events where you can pick up tips from those in the know, cheer on your favourite kitchen in a burger slam and learn your IPAs from your Imperial Stouts. For mainstream munchies, wear your loose fitting trousers to the Leeds Food and Drink Festival, taking over the city for two weeks from 22 May 22 to June 7. Now in its 10th year, it brings local businesses together into one massive foodie hub with stall after stall of tempting local produce to sink your teeth into.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly and nominated for a handful of Oscars, The Imitation Game tells the remarkable true story of Alan Turing and his team of code breakers, bent on cracking a top secret German encryption from a sleepy pocket of the Buckinghamshire countryside. It’s almost impossible to believe, but when you visit Bletchley Park, you’ll discover exactly how this team of masterminds made history.
The former Government Code and Cypher School is now a fascinating gem of a museum where you can find out all about these crafty cryptographers’ unique story, marvel at the largest collection of Enigma machines on public display in the world and take a glimpse at the iconic Bombe machine – developed by Turing himself.
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