30 best festivals this summer in Hertfordshire
PUBLISHED: 11:27 11 June 2019
From music and theatre to food and comedy, this is the essential guide to the 30 best festivals in Herts this summer
The great British summer offers so much, so where to start and what to do? Read on for our pick of the 30 best events in Herts from June to September. We've aimed to pick something for everyone, so you'll find music of all kinds, comedy, film, wildlife, food, fitness, history and culture, with a focus on the whole family enjoying themselves or just you.
- Hertfordshire Festival of Music (June 13-23)
This rapidly growing festival brings world-class classical and jazz musicians to Herts with concerts, talks, tours and masterclasses at venues around the county. This year's theme is 'Greetings and Farewells' and there are 22 events including an opening concert with the festival's principal artist cellist Steven Isserlis, the Massed Horns of Hertfordshire with special guest Tim Thorpe, and a melting pot of jazz, klezmer and classical with ZRI.
Experience a fantastic range of top-class live music at prices that won't break the bank - the most expensive ticket is £20, with some events free.
- St Albans Roman Festival (June 21-30)
St Albans celebrates its magnificent Roman heritage with a range of events including an outdoor screening of Gladiator which coincides with St Albans Film Festival, a toga yoga session, themed menus, history walks of the city, a talk on Roman money, and The Passion of Alban and Livia - a reimagining of the story of St Alban performed in the Roman amphitheatre. There's also of course the spectacular Alban Pilgrimage through the city and the Alban Street Festival with food, drink, theatre and music.
- St Albans Film Festival (June 25-July 7)
The theme of the sixth St Albans Film Festival is 'classics', with something for all tastes ranging from Romeo and Juliet, Mamma Mia and a Grease sing-a-long in the grounds of St Albans Cathedral to great 80s comedies including Ghostbusters at The Fleetville Larder. The organisers aim to put on 50 events across the city, some free, including a lunchtime talk on virtual reality and film workshops. The festival launches with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. 'I see you shiver with anticipation.'
- Chilterns Live (June 29)
This one day family festival in Tring hosts stars from the 90s and noughties. There's headliner Busted's high-octane pop and DJ Judge Jules' chilled out club classics, plus Toploader, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, The Feeling and Dodgy. An eclectic soundtrack that will have you 'dancing in the moonlight'. Little'uns are very welcome too - there's a kids zone that includes an 'inflatable world'. Bouncy.
- St Albans Folk Festival (June 29-30)
Dancing and music will fill the city during the annual St Albans Folk Festival. It kicks off with an open evening hosted by Friday Folk Social Dance Group. The following day is the main event - a Day of Dance in the city centre with displays by 15 groups including Irish, Appalachian and Indian dances, plus free music in pubs such as The Farmer's Boy and White Hart Tap or join in the singing at the Courtyard Cafe or ukulele workshop at The Mermaid. The day is rounded off with a concert by acclaimed folk band Flook in the Roman Theatre in Verulamium Park. If you still want more, the pubs will be at it all again on Sunday.
- The Tringe (June 30-July 20)
This festival of comedy in Tring attracts some of the biggest names on the circuit. Now in its 10th year, it's a great place to see new shows just before they hit the Edinburgh Festival. This year the line-up at The Court Theatre includes Josh Widdicombe (right), Clive Anderson, Mark Watson, Ed Byrne, Milton Jones, Shappi Khorsandi, Barry Cryer, Zoe Lyons, Henry Paker, Reginald D Hunter and Romesh Ranganathan as well as loads of emerging talent. It starts with the popular Roving Comedy Night - a crazy pub crawl involving 20 comics and four packed pubs.
- Herts Fit Fest (July 5-8)
Grab your gym gear for Herts' first fitness festival. The boutique camping event over three days and nights at Springfield Farm, Radlett offers more than 40 workouts including kickboxing, dance fitness and trampoline classes. There's talks on nutrition, mindfulness and training too and great food with vegetarian and vegan options. If you've got any energy left there's an evening bar with DJ. The organisers say the aim is to give an insight into the many ways we can become healthier and happier. We feel a new regime coming on...
- Chilfest (July 6)
The team behind Chilterns Live (and at the same location, Pendley Meadows), have attracted big names of the 80s to the Chilfest stage over it's six year history. This year is no exception with Bananarama, Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey, Jocelyn Brown, ASWAD, Hot Chocolate and Soul II Soul all on the bill. For early arrivers there's an outdoor movie night on Friday showing Bohemian Rhapsody, and don't forget to work your way round the world with the tempting range of food on offer.
- Highland Gathering (July 14)
A slice of Scotland comes to Harpenden each summer as Harpenden Lions Club hosts its long-running Highland Gathering spectacle. Head to Rothamsted Park to see traditional Scottish dancing, tossing the caber and haggis hurling alongside seven pipe and drum bands providing rousing entertainment. This year the charity has added pageantry to the event. The Spectacular Knights of the Crusades will put on two 40-minute plays. Children will be invited to become squires or maidens, and there's also the chance to try archery with Pepperstock Archers.
There's a heap of children's games, folk bands and a 100-strong Rock Choir, dog and duck display, tug of war, Scots Corner selling traditional Scottish goods and a craft marquee. A packed day for the whole clan.
- Battle Proms (July 13)
Rousing classical music, vintage vocals, cavalry charges, a Spitfire and the Red Devils. It can only mean one thing - Battle Proms. This open-air concert at Hatfield House is the quintessentially British party in the park. Bring a chair and picnic and enjoy period military displays, a jaw-dropping parachute team, 40s sing-a-long with The Vignettes, followed by two hours of captivating classics from the 60-piece New English Orchestra. The programme includes a choreographed Spitfire display and Beethoven's Battle Symphony with live cannons providing the percussion. The evening culminates in firework display to Proms favourites Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia. It's a flagwaving fiesta.
- Folk by the Oak (July 14)
One of the UK's largest festivals of its kind brings some of the finest folk acts together for a packed day of music across two stages. Sit in the gorgeous surroundings of leafy Hatfield Park and listen to Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, Seth Lakeman, The Staves and indie folk sensation Elephant Sessions and many more. Bring a picnic or sample the sumptuous street food. There's lots of stalls with everything from hats to antiques and plenty of activities for young Folk by the Oakers with arts and crafts, circus skills and try-an-instrument sessions. The festival has also commisioned a musical companion piece to the children's book phenomenon that is The Lost Words: A Spell Book, with a special appearance by its authors Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. A hugely positive day of fun for all ages.
- Todd in the Hole (19-21 July)
This quirky boutique festival in secluded fields near Stevenage debuted to great reviews last year. This year there's local music talent and cover bands including The Upbeat Beatles, Absolute Bowie and Wonders of Fleetwood Mac. The hilarious Great British Elvis Off returns, plus there's a tug of war. There's also something of a motorbiking theme with a wall of death, dare devil Dougie Lampkin and vintage motorcycles on show. New for this year is camping (including glamping) and a designated family area with children's theatre and activities. Lots of good food is promised and there's an attractive drinks marquee. A fun slice of English eccentricity in the countryside.
- Hertford Castle Teddy Bears' Picnic (July 21)
If you go down to the woods today you're sure of a big surprise… Actually, forget the woods, just head to Hertford Castle with Ted and a picnic for a free day of family fun. Go on a bear hunt, join in with the parade and enjoy the games arena featuring magic shows, balloon modelling and sand art. There are free water activities on the river Lea and the castle will be open to explore. Make sure Ted is wearing his nattiest outfit for the best dressed bear competition.
- Great British Food Festival (July 20-21)
There's plenty on the menu at this foodie feast at Knebworth House. There's an artisan market selling everything from cheese to chutneys, top chefs like Great British Bake Off favourite Howard Middleton on the demo stage, and Ben Bartlett is on a mission to get us better at barbecuing. There are talks from artisan producers, foraging walks and challenges - we are liking the sound of the Cake Off and Men vs Heat on the challenge stage. Kids can get stuck in too with cookery classes, 'food Olympics' and activity workshops. An altogether yummy day out.
- Standon Calling (July 25-28)
Starting as a pool party at Standon Lordship near Bishop's Stortford, Standon Calling (below) has grown into Hertfordshire's premier music festival. Once again the team has delivered a stellar line up with Rag'N'Bone Man, Wolf Alice, and Nile Rodgers and Chic headlining with special guests Friendly Fire. There's also Lewis Capaldi, Echo and the Bunnymen and festival favourites The Cuban Brothers among the 150 acts and shows.
There are big names in comedy too, including Russell Kane, and dance tents with the likes of Club de Fromage. Enter your pooch in the dog show and join the mad fancy dress parade - this year's theme is 'Twisted Creatures'.
Standon Calling is a very family-friendly festival - kids will love How to Train Your Dinosaur Live, building a woodland tribe and the family discos.
Just want to relax? The wild wellbeing camp has hot tubs and saunas, wellbeing classes and workshops. And if you want your creature comforts, there's boutique camping as well as general and family sites.
- The Game Fair (July 26-28)
Europe's largest countryside festival returns to Hatfield House, taking over the vast parkland with countryside pursuits such as fishing, shooting, riding, falconry, gun dogs and off-roading. There's also a huge range of food and drink on offer (TV chef James Martin is cooking for VIP package holders), a cookery theatre, a craft village, miles of shopping and the world's largest show garden. Put simply, it's big. And tweedy. If you love the countryside or just want some fabulous new wellies, this is the place to be.
- Festival of Wildlife (July 27-28)
Celebrate the diverse wildlife of Panshanger Park near Hertford with Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. You'll find guided walks taking in trees and flora, talks on butterflies and water voles, kids craft sessions and conservation activities such as bird ringing, minibeast bioblitz bug hunt and a chalk stream discovery area. A free wild day out for the family.
- Big JiveSwing (July 28)
Let's see those jazz hands for one of the UK's largest free jazz festivals, at Cassiobury Park in Watford. There's live cabaret, acclaimed musicians and bands including The Jive Aces, The Peter Long Swing Band and Mississippi Swing Band. Perfect your moves with dance classes for adults and children and capture memories in the vintage photo booth.
- UK's Strongest Man (July 28-29)
Verulamium Park will reverberate to the roars and agonies of the UK's strongest men as the Channel 5 show returns to St Albans to film the 16 contestants in this year's competition featuring lorry pulling, giant tyre flipping and other nutty tests of strength. Last year was a sell-out, with around 10,000 people attending this family-friendly event with a festival atmosphere.
- Luna Kids Cinema (July 31-August 4)
What better way to watch a family film than in the open air against the dramatic backdrop of Knebworth House? This year open-air screening specialist Luna Cinema has launched a programme especially for kids, and films in Knebworth Park include Dumbo, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, The Lego Movie 2, Mary Poppins Returns, Spider Man: Into The Spiderverse, The Incredibles 2, Peppa Pig and more. New technology means movies can be shown during the daytime, so bring a picnic - or stock up from the stalls and Luna Kids' Bar. Big kids have their own bar with everything from prosecco to tea.
- Pendley Shakespeare Festival (July 31-Aug 4, Aug 7-11)
Shakespeare's plays have been performed in the grounds at Pendley Manor, Tring for nearly 70 years. This year's festival theme is jealousy and love with performances of tragedy Macbeth and comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor on the very special outdoor stage (there's covered or uncovered areas available).
Enjoy a pre-show meal in the manor's award-winning restaurant or picnic in the lovely grounds, complete with peacocks.
- Royston Kite Festival (August 4)
See kites of all colours, shapes and sizes as they take to the skies on Therfield Heath, Royston. Bring your own kite, buy one on the day (the family can take part in flying workshops), or just sit and admire the skills of the professional flying teams and colourful spectacle against the panoramic views.
Bring a picnic or enjoy food from the stalls. This charity event, organised by Royston Rotary Club, is run alongside the Historic Vehicle Show which will showcase fascinating vehicles of all makes and ages on the heath.
- Meraki (August 23-25)
Camp, glamp or just come for the day at this all-inclusive festival that keeps adults and kids entertained. With three stages and a dance tent at the County Showground site in Redbourn, Friday is 80s, Saturday pop classics, and Sunday country and dance. Acts include local heroes The Shires, Paul Young, Judge Jules, Sonique, Dave Pearce, Danny Rampling and George Kafetzis.
There's entertainment including magic, a movie house, roller disco and Europe's biggest waterslide. Kids will love the laser tag, Lego workshops and slime making and if you need some chill-out time, have a massage - it's all included in the ticket price. Meraki is a Greek expression meaning 'to do something with soul'.
- Goatfest (23-25 August)
What started in the car park of The Goat pub in Codicote is now a festival in countryside just outside the village. Early announcements of the 2019 line-up include 70s soul band The Real Thing, Sam Tompkins, Alex Vargas and CC Smugglers. In between the entertainment there are plenty of culinary delights on offer. New for this year is The Hotel, offering luxury festival accommodation. A feel-good, friendly family festival.
- Knebworth Classic Motor Show (August 25-26)
See motoring history in one place at this festival dedicated to cars and motorbikes at Knebworth House. More than 1,000 classic vehicles will be on show in many classes, plus loads of stalls piled with automemorabilia and that part for a 1958 Morris Minor you've been hunting for. There are parades, a 'decibel duel' and interviews. Tickets include the Herts Motor Show with the latest models, a sculpture exhibition in the gardens, the dinosaur trail and the adventure playground.
- Classic Ibiza (August 31)
Join the Urban Soul Orchestra as it seamlessly merges classical instrumentation with iconic dance tunes in the beautiful grounds of Hatfield House. Stephen Hussey returns to conduct alongside DJ Goldierocks and acclaimed vocalists. A chill-out early set is followed by stomping Ibiza classics. As the sun sets, out come the lasers as the 32-piece orchestra recreates the island's best dance music. This symphony for the senses sold out at Hatfield last year.
- Pub in the Park (September 13-15)
Started a couple of years ago, this touring food and music festival dreamed up by TV chef Tom Kerridge has quickly caught on and comes to Herts for the first time. Verulamium Park in St Albans is the venue where Michelin-starred chefs including Angela Hartnett, James Martin and Atul Kochhar will cook alongside music acts such as Tom Odell, Scouting for Girls, Stereo MCs, Razorlight, Will Young, The Rifles, The Christians, Toploader and more performing. There will be pop-up pubs serving mouth-watering dishes, including Tom Kerridge's The Hand and Flowers and Atul Kochhar's Hawkyns, plus locals Dylans Kings Arms and Thompson St Albans. Watch chef demonstrations and join masterclasses, and check out the shopping village packed with foodie artisans.
- Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival (September 26-29)
Pour l'amour de las musique, this year's festival takes inspiration from France. Making their festival debut are internationally renowned artists including harpist Anneleen Lenaerts, flautist Adam Walker and soprano Siobhan Stagg, along with returning oboist Nicholas Daniel and the Navarra Quartet. This year's varied repertoire includes three school concerts, The Carnival of the Animals family concert and pre-event talks.
- Herts Jazz Festival (September 27-29)
Described as one of Britain's finest jazz events, it's right on our doorstep at the Rhodes Arts Complex in Bishop's Stortford. Headlining this year are Seamus Blake and Clark Tracey All Stars. Also included is a tribute to Ronnie Scott's by alumni of the 60-year-old club and Herts Jazz patron, 79-year-old Art Themen, joining 22-year-old BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year Zoza Kole. As well as ticketed events in the auditorium you can catch free concerts in the bar.