VisitEngland’s 2023 Summertime News
May 2023: As the summer months approach, England comes alive with free events and new outdoor experiences. From immersive arts trails and al fresco theatre performances to new cycling routes and major venue launches, there’s a whole host of reasons to get excited for summer 2023.
Here, VisitEngland shares a bumper seasonal update including cultural celebrations, LGBTQ+ events and plenty of brand new openings.
Year of the Coast Celebrations, Nationwide
Inspired by the development of the King Charles III England Coast Path, the National Coastal Tourism Academy has dubbed 2023 Year of the Coast with a focus on sustainability and the protection of the marine environment. From beach yoga and intimate art trails to beer festivals and fireworks displays, England’s coast offers plenty of action this summer with destinations across the country getting involved. Highlights include; Lincolnshire's SO Festival (16 – 18 June), an international street-theatre festival in Mablethorpe and Skegness; Durham’s Seaham Carnival (15 – 16 July), which has live entertainment and stalls; and Plymouth’s renowned British Firework Championships (16 – 17 August); with six top pyrotechnic companies showcasing their very best work.
LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture, Yorkshire
With 365 days of cultural activity planned, LEEDS 2023 unleashes creativity in an epic programme designed to ‘let culture loose’ across the whole city. Free events for the summer months include; Summer Solstice: Asian Music Festival (21 June) at Leeds Corn Exchange, a triple celebration marking the longest day of the year as well as World Music Day and International Yoga Day; Moon Palace: Daytime Observation Sessions (30 June and 8 July) at Fearnville Fields, a new art installation and mobile observatory offering an other-worldly experience; and Leeds West Indian Carnival (27 – 28 August) in Chapeltown, Europe's longest-running authentic Caribbean carnival parade of music, culture and harmony.
We Invented the Weekend, Greater Manchester
3 – 4 June 2023
In 1843, Greater Manchester invented the weekend when the Early Closing Association lobbied for workers to have leisure time on Saturday afternoons. 180 years later, Salford is celebrating this milestone with an ambitious new cultural festival at MediaCity and Salford Quays with 200 free events, 85 artists and 150,000 visitors set to visit the city over one weekend.
25th Anniversary of Liverpool Biennial
10 June – 17 September 2023
The 12th edition of the Liverpool Biennial marks the 25th anniversary of the UK’s largest contemporary visual arts festival, taking place across Liverpool’s public spaces, galleries and museums. With curator Khanyisile Mbongwa at the helm, the festival, titled ‘uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things’, will showcase 50 international artists and collectives from over 30 countries.
EA Festival at Hedingham Castle, Essex
10 – 11 June 2023
For the first time, the Keep of Hedingham Castle, the best-kept Norman keep in England, will be converted into a performing arts centre for a weekend of free talks and musical theatre, soul/blues and jazz concerts. EA Festival is an East Anglian showcase of literature, media, art, environment and music, aiming to enrich the cultural scene by introducing local audiences to performers creative excellence.
West End Live, London
17 – 18 June 2023
Each summer Trafalgar Square hosts a free weekend of live performances from top West End musicals for audiences to enjoy London’s most celebrated musicals and discover new must-see shows. There are no tickets and you don’t need to book, just turn up on the day and join in. Line up to be announced.
First Light Festival in South Beach, Suffolk
17 – 18 June 2023
Celebrating culture, creativity and community, Lowestoft’s renowned free festival marks the first sunrise of midsummer on the UK’s most easterly shores with a celebratory weekend of performances and events. Set amongst the golden sands and lush gardens of Lowestoft’s South Beach, First Light Festival’s outdoor programme includes music, installations and community projects. New for 2023, ‘sundown events’ will offer a series of ticketed experiences from dusk on Saturday, inviting you to explore new festival venues off the beach and across the town.
The Tall Ships Races Hartlepool 2023, County Durham
6 – 9 July 2023
This summer the Tall Ships are coming back to Hartlepool! The weekend includes crew parades, ship visits and the famous parade of sail, as well as atmospheric food markets, varied stalls and exhibitions. The free celebration will also feature four days of live music across a number of stages. Indie rock band and North East legends Maximo Park will headline on Friday and the most Iconic reggae band on the planet, Grammy-nominees, The Wailers, will headline on Saturday.
Charlbury Riverside Festival, Oxfordshire
29 – 30 July 2023
Charlbury Riverside Festival is a much-loved, free festival held at the height of summer every year in a beautiful meadow on the edge of the Cotswolds town of Charlbury. Over 30 acts will perform across three stages and there is lots of fun for families too, including entertainment stalls and a fancy dress theme. New for 2023 is the wellness tent, with expert local practitioners offering a range of holistic and alternative therapies from reiki and crystal healing to breathwork and meditation.
Gorleston Cliff Top Festival, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
29 – 30 July 2023
Prepare for a day of good old-fashioned fun at this free event featuring a strongman and woman competition, live performances, a children’s activity tent, birds of prey displays and more than 40 hours of live music across two stages. Festival goers can tuck into some tasty street food and enjoy a refreshing beverage from the ale tent, plus four-legged friends will be able to join in on the celebrations in the agility course and dog show events.
170 years of the Shanklin Town Regatta, Isle of Wight
10 August 2023
This annual event brings together locals and visitors for a free day out filled with entertainment, street food, shore sports and a spectacular fireworks display. The event begins at 10am and features an array of quirky events including a sand castle competition and the crowning of the Regatta Queen. The fun continues into the evening with a BBQ and live music.
Ride the Lights, Blackpool
29 August 2023
Ride the Lights is one of the most magical nights in Blackpool’s calendar when, for one night only, the six miles of Promenade will be closed to give thousands of cyclists an opportunity to get a sneak preview of the Illuminations before the official switch-on later that week. Riders are encouraged to decorate their bike with colourful lights, lamps and lanterns to create their very own illuminations display. This fun free bike ride is open to all. Riders can join at any point along the promenade from Starr Gate at South Shore to Red Bank Road in Bispham.
New Openings: Exhibitions, Attractions & Experiences
Norwich Wine Week, Norfolk
3 – 10 June 2023
A debut event for 2023, Norwich Wine Week will bring together the best local producers, merchants and wine experts to celebrate Norfolk’s flourishing wine scene. With evidence that the region’s wine growing heritage dates back to the Roman era, it’s no surprise that it has become such a rich territory for wine producing. Try local tipples at venues across the city throughout the week and then join in the celebration of Norfolk wines with a two-day festival in Chapelfield Gardens with live music, informative tastings, talks and delicious food.
Sandbox VR, Birmingham
Opening Summer 2023
The new Sandbox VR experience will open permanently in Birmingham’s Bullring & Grand Central, transporting players to exclusively designed interactive worlds using motion capture cameras, 3D precision trackers, custom hardware and haptic feedback suits. Alongside this ground-breaking full-body VR experience, Sandbox VR will be accompanied by the UK’s first fully robotic bartender, Toni, who can make up to 80 drinks an hour.
Civic Halls concert venue to reopen, Wolverhampton
Opening June 2023
Wolverhampton’s Civic Halls concert venue is set to reopen in June 2023, bringing world class artists back into the Grade II listed space. The venue will offer more capacity space with upcoming summer concerts from artists including The Vamps (10 June), Sugababes (29 June), and Two Door Cinema Club (6 July).
Factory International, Manchester
Opening June 2023
This game-changing, highly anticipated venue on the old Granada Studios site will be the North’s flagship cultural centre, capturing the depth and creativity of Manchester’s thriving cultural life. Representing the largest investment in a national cultural project since the Tate Modern, Factory International will host everything from concerts, theatre, music and opera to major exhibitions and cultural events. The venue will become the permanent home of Manchester International Festival and form the centrepiece of the 2023 event (29 June – 16 July). This summer will also be hosting You, Me and the Balloons (30 June – 28 August), renowned Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama’s largest-ever immersive environment, conceived especially for the soaring spaces of Factory International.
Luna at the Community Observatory St Martin’s On Scilly, Isles of Scilly
Opening June 2023
This June, the Scilly Isle of St Martin’s will welcome a new permanent moon artwork by Luke Jerram outside the island’s Community Hall, leading to the Observatory. Titled Luna – named after the Roman goddess of the Moon – the artwork is a 1m diameter sculpture designed using detailed NASA imagery and topographical data of the moon’s surface. People will be able to contemplate and explore the moon, a distant object which has a significant, direct, daily impact on Scillonian life, dictating the tides that affect access to the islands.
Inspiring People: Transforming our National Portrait Gallery, London
From 22 June 2023
The National Portrait Gallery is nearing completion on a £35.5m transformation programme. Inspiring People involves a comprehensive re-display of the collection across all the galleries (the first in the Gallery’s history) combined with a significant refurbishment, creating 20 per cent more public and gallery spaces. The programme is improving the gallery’s main entrance and creating a new state-of-the-art Learning Centre with several studio spaces. The transformation also brings the Gallery’s most extensive programme of activities, with plans to engage audiences onsite, locally, regionally and online. Activities for schools, families, young people and students are being extended and a volunteering programme introduced.
Squidsoup’s Beyond Submergence at Propyard, Bristol
From 1 July 2023
Former missile warehouse Propyard will have its vast 20,000sq ft space transformed this summer into a world-first immersive art exhibition, curated by Cheltenham-based award-winning collective, Squidsoup. Five of the collective’s largest art pieces will be brought together for the first time in the exhibit, Beyond Submergence, with mind-bending use of light, space, sound, scale, movement and technology creating an inclusive and immersive experience.
Young V&A, London
From 1 July 2023
Part of the V&A’s ambitious multi-site development programme, Young V&A (formerly known as the Museum of Childhood) will re-open in Bethnal Green as a new national museum and creative powerhouse for children and young teens, helping to enable them to thrive in our fast-changing world. It’s the most radical overhaul in the museum’s 150-year history. The vision is to inspire the next generation of artists, designers, performers and practitioners in a hands-on environment, featuring sensory playscapes, a performance and storytelling stage, and an open design studio. The first exhibition announced is Japan: Myths to Manga which opens on 14 October 2023 and will showcase Studio Ghibli, Pokémon, manga-inspired fashion and more.
Pride events dedicated to LGBTQI+ communities up and down the country help spread the message of love and equality for all. Brighton Pride is full of celebration, with over 300,000 people pouring out onto the city’s streets (4 – 6 August). Bristol Pride’s fortnight-long series of events including pop star performances culminates in a Pride Parade through the city (8 July). Pride in London celebrates all aspects of the LGBTQI+ community with a sizzling carnival of colour, music, floats and dancing (1 July). Newcastle’s Northern Pride is the second-biggest annual Pride event in the country. It usually starts with a march through the city and culminates in a candlelit vigil (22-23 July). Manchester Pride 2023 is set to be the city’s biggest yet, with a parade, candlelit vigil and weekend-long festival (25-28 August). Leeds Pride is the biggest event of its kind in Yorkshire (6 August). Birmingham Pride is a technicolour spectacular celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender culture (27 – 28 May). This year’s Cambridge Pride (17 June) will have plenty of things to do to bring the LGBTQI+ community together including a community art workshop, dance tent, wellbeing area, rooftop bar and calm space. In Kent, Deal will be hosting its first ever Pride event (15 July) with a parade through the town to the seafront followed by live music and Dover Pride (26 August) hosts a day of music and entertainment in this historic town.
Femme Fest, Peak District
9 – 12 June 2023
Femme Fest is an action-packed camping weekend of music for LGBTQI+ women and female allies set in the Peak District. Expect an all-female line-up of singers, bands, DJs and the UK’s top tribute artists across multiple stages, along with bars and food stalls.
Pride Walk and Talk & Picnic, North York Moors National Park
17 June 2023
The North York Moors National Park has linked up with Scarborough Pride to celebrate Pride Month, with a free event, a walk and picnic at Sutton Bank National Park Centre. There will be two different guided walks to choose from, both making the most of the glorious escarpment views from Sutton Bank, and ending with a picnic. It will be a chance for members of the LGBTQI+ community to come together socially and meet new people.
DIVA, V&A South Kensington, London
24 June 2023 – 7 April 2024
DIVA celebrates the power and creativity of iconic performers from Victorian opera goddesses to today’s global megastars. Through fashion, photography, design, costumes, music and live performance, the exhibition looks at what it means to be a diva and how divas have driven societal change.
Trans Pride Brighton
15 July 2023
2023 is the 10th anniversary of Trans Pride Brighton, the first and the largest Trans Pride event outside of America. Each year since 2013 it’s hosted the largest protest for trans liberation in Europe. Over 10,000 trans people, friends, allies and family meet and have an amazing time in a fun and safe space.
New Art Trails
North Downs Way Art Trail, Kent and Surrey
Launched early 2023
A series of nine artworks along the North Downs Way National Trail encourage walkers and cyclists to stop and take some time out to enjoy the views along the trail between Dover in Kent and Farnham, Surrey. The artworks – a series of sculptures that work as benches or shelters as well as reflecting the beauty of each location – have been made from sustainable materials and each one is supported by a range of downloadable, self-guided walking and/or cycling routes.
As part of Bristol 650 events (celebrating 650 years of Bristol becoming an independent city and county), UnicornFest will be a public art trail of unicorn sculptures, painted by Bristol artists and on display at famous landmarks. The trail will bring local artists, schools, communities and businesses together as the colourful, fun unicorns will be located at several iconic Bristol and south west locations, from Clifton Suspension Bridge to Weston-Super-Mare’s Grand Pier.
Deep Time, Lake District
A new public art programme brings six permanent art installations to the Lake District’s coast throughout 2023. The series of site-specific artworks have been created in response to the borough of Copeland by acclaimed artists from the UK and around the world.
Urban Frame: Mutiny in Colour, Suffolk
3 June – 1 October 2023
Running simultaneously across three locations in West Suffolk, (the National Horseracing Museum, Newmarket, Moyse's Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill Arts Centre), Urban Frame: Mutiny in Colour will host over 250 works from some of the world’s most renowned artists including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and the Connor Brothers. A number of the works across the venues have never been exhibited before, including three major pieces by Banksy: Computer Boy, Heart Boy and Sandcastle Girl, which was painted on a wall in Lowestoft during Banksy’s Spraycation to East Anglia in 2021. Banksy’s Hula Hoop Girl will be on display at the National Horseracing Museum.
Leeds Bear Hunt
1 July – 9 September 2023
This summer Leeds Hospitals Charity has teamed up with art trail experts, Wild in Art, to install 35 giant bear sculptures hiding in plain sight on the streets of Leeds for 10 weeks. The big bears have been decorated by professional artists, with local businesses providing sponsorship. 50 plus bear cubs, adopted and painted by schools and community groups, will also form part of the trail in indoor locations across the city centre. The Big bears all come together again for a farewell weekend in Millennium Square from 22 to 24 September.
Kensington + Chelsea Art Week’s Public Art Trail, London
15 June – 31 August 2023
The Kensington + Chelsea Art Week (KCAW) Public Art Trail displays ambitious temporary artworks in a variety of public spaces across the West London borough each summer. The theme for this year’s trail is ‘The Art of Change’ with the commissioned installations reflecting the history and legacy of the area’s rich artistic heritage. KCAW runs an annual open call for artists, creative organisations and curators to submit artworks for the trail and encourages proposals to embrace new concepts and ideas of traditional ways of making art.
Summer Sculpture Trail at Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire
15 July – 3 September 2023
Waterperry Gardens is launching a family-friendly sculpture trail for the summer holidays. Children will be provided with a compass along with directions and clues to help explore the ornamental gardens and follow the sculpture trail.
Shrewsbury Arts Trail, Shropshire
July – August 2023
This Shropshire city will transform into a dazzling creative arts hub this summer with the new supersized Shrewsbury Arts Trail. The prestigious and accessible trail takes in bronze sculptures by Salvador Dali and Jacob Chandler, along with contributions from local artists who have themed their work on this year’s inspiration topic – movement.
New Cycling Routes & Outdoor Experiences
New Cycling Trail in Dalby Forest, North York Moors National Park
Opening June 2023
Forestry England will be opening a new 17km cycling trail named the eXplorer trail which will be a family and -friendly and accessible cycling route adding to the North York Moors National Park’s growing strength as a cycling destination for families. Those without bikes can hire a wide range of bicycles from Dalby Forest Cycle Hub including specially adapted cycles such as recumbent trikes with electric assist and tandems for those with sight and mobility challenges.
North Downs Way Riders’ Routes, Kent
Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) has created brand new Riders’ Routes with itineraries. Take the Rochester Loop, the Wye to Canterbury route or the East Kent Loop fitting in as many sightseeing spots as possible. Not for the faint hearted, the recently launched Canti Way Cycling Trail is a 145-mile loop starting and ending in the village of Wye. The trail combines quirky coastal towns and dramatic chalk cliffs with the rolling hills of the Kent Downs.
Solstice Festival, North Yorkshire
21 – 25 June 2023
New for 2023, the Solstice Festival at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire will celebrate wellbeing and show how people can reconnect with the land and nature with seven events over five days. It will involve a mix of inspirational speakers, seasonal eating and wellbeing workshops set in the beautiful estate surroundings. Events include a fireside supper and sound bath in the walled garden, a foraging walk through the grounds before sitting down to a candlelit three-course supper and a herbal tea blending workshop and lunch.
Sea Lanes, Brighton
Opening 22 June 2023
Sea Lanes Brighton will transform the former Peter Pan site on Madeira Drive, reviving competitive and recreational sea swimming on Brighton Seafront as it does so. The vision is to create the UK’s first national open-water swimming centre of excellence and will include a heated 50m outdoor swimming pool and endless pool training facility. Commercial buildings will provide flexible space for local, independent businesses, and access to the sea will be improved.
Climb to a Hillfort and Search for Cheviot Goats, Northumberland
30 July 2023
In summer 2023, Northumberland National Park is hosting a relatively easy walk, suitable for families and a wonderful introduction to this historic northern part of the Cheviot hills. Be prepared for some fantastic views, climb an ancient hillfort and you just might see the wild ‘Cheviot Goats’. The panoramic views from the top of West Hill Iron are breath taking.
Pier to Pier Way, North Somerset
Opening Summer 2023
A new 13-mile (21km) cycle route will link Weston-Super-Mare and Clevedon. Featuring quiet roads and traffic-free sections and forming the central section of the North Somerset coastal towns cycle route, the Pier to Pier Way is for commuters, leisure cyclists and tourists.
Notes to editors:
- VisitEngland’s comprehensive What’s New in England 2023 overview can be downloaded here. Password is England2023.
- Accompanying images can be downloaded here. Registration to the from the VisitBritain asset library is required to download images. Register here.
For more detail and to receive our latest What’s New and What’s On in 2023 press materials please contact the VisitEngland PR team:
Louise Ferrall / Josie Self