Nov 03, 2023

25 best outdoor culture events of the summer, from Bruce Springsteen to Proms in the Park

With their larger-than-life characters and enchanting interpretation of the everyday, Quentin Blake's sketches have charmed children and adults alike for decades. At Castle Espie, collect an illustrated guide of Blake's drawings and journey into the wetlands they reflect, ensuring that you make the most of the project's accompanying illustration and art activities for all ages and abilities.

To 3 Sep, WWT Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Comber, Co Down

Join artist Gisela Torres as she leads the way across east London's premier public art project, from Rana Begum's cloud-like No 1104 Catching Colour, to Carsten Höller's The Slide, a 178m-long intervention on London's skyline, and Anish Kapoor's ArcelorMittal Orbit, The Line always offers an opportunity to not just move but walk mindfully, too not only glance but really see; enriched by Torres's expertise, you’ll never look at London the same way again.

Every Sat to 30 Sep, meeting at London Aquatics Centre

Staged at Cornwall's extraordinary Minack theatre, built into a cliff face, Calvino Nights is based on stories by the celebrated author Italo Calvino – which in turn draw on Italian folktales gathered in the 50s. Prepare for flaming displays, a wife who lives only on wind, and a pea-sized boy with a miserly mother.

7- 22 Jun, Minack Theatre, Penzance

Where can you see Suede, Hot Chip and Pretenders alongside Marina Hyde, Dame Joan Collins and George the Poet? Oxfordshire's music-cum-literary Kite Festival, where pop stars rub shoulders with writers and thinkers as part of Kite's "Ideas" programme. There is even a nanny service, so bring the children, hand them over and settle in for a thought-provoking weekend.

9-11 June, Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire

This weekend-long extravaganza encompasses visual culture, dance and music from the African continent in Wales's capital. Musicians including Bassekou Kouyaté from Mali, Rasha from Sudan and Kanda Bongo Man from the Democratic Republic of Congo will provide the soundtrack, while Ballet Cymru meets Ballet Africains in a performance by Krystal Lowe and Almamy Camara, and African artists living in Wales present photography and art.

10-11 Jun, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

What are you looking at? When it comes to the work of Austrian sculptor Erwin Wurm, it can be hard to feel sure. At Yorkshire Sculpture Park, his irreverent work uses ludicrous scenarios to spark our own cognitive crossed wires. Scaled up to the stature of a pompous Roman pillar, his totemic gherkin (Der Gurk, 2016) pokes fun at his national cuisine; in a work from his latest series Attacks (2022), a vehicle has been crushed by a sausage falling from the sky. Wurm might poke fun at our instincts for propriety, but he takes silliness seriously.

10 Jun-28 Apr 2024 , Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

At the South West's biggest comedy event, old favourites such as Jack Dee, Rich Hall and Isy Suttie are joined by a raft of new talent in Celya AB, Sharon Wanjohi and TikTok sensation Daniel Foxx.

14-18 Jun, Queen Square, Bristol

Celebrating its 20th iteration this year, Borders Book Festival's guests include writers such as Val McDermid, Robert Harris and Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart, ventriloquist Nina Conti and Gordon Brown.

15-18 Jun, Harmony Garden, Melrose

Part of the National Theatre's annual Thames-side programme, James Cousins Company's weekend takeover draws on their hit immersive production We Are As Gods and promises a surfeit of performance, as well as plenty of opportunities for audiences to get moving themselves, from a salsa workshop to performances of Rosalind and Sometimes Even Now

16-18 Jun, River Stage, National Theatre, London

As part of its summer tour – including dates in Warwick, Bath and Windsor – Proms in the Park is heading to Shrewsbury for a night of classical music to rouse the spirits and soothe the soul. As the sun sets, the Proms orchestra will play a selection of movie favourites and a host of special guests promise a dash of intrigue and altogether new sounds too.

17 Jun, West Mid Showground, Shrewsbury

Marking their fifth appearance at Brighton Open Air Theatre, local company Identity Theatre present Under Milk Wood. Originally written by Dylan Thomas in 1954 as a radio drama, the poem was later adapted for theatre and tours the interior lives of inhabitants of the small Welsh village of Llareggub. Visiting a blind sea captain and a nervous landlady, surveying the bloom of youth and the optimism of age, Under Milk Wood remains beloved for its tender treatment of little lives.

22-24 Jun , Brighton Open Air Theatre

The Boss's long-awaited headline slot is upon us, as he takes to Hyde Park's Great Oak stage for two nights at British Summer Time. Springsteen has released two albums since his last tour; no shortage of new material, then – but here's hoping for the classics. He’ll be supported by The Chicks – formerly The Dixie Chicks – in their own first performance here since 2016. Other festival highlights include P!nk, Guns N’ Roses, Blackpink, Billy Joel and Lana Del Rey.

6 & 8 Jul, Hyde Park, London

Did you miss seeing Baz Luhrmann's Elvis at the cinema? Do you love the idea of catching up in the exquisite surrounds of a stately home's gardens with a bottle of wine and a picnic blanket? Great – see you at Burton Constable Hall, a Grade I listed Elizabethan country house set in acres of picturesque countryside, where Adventure Cinema will be bringing big-screen Graceland to sleepy Skirlaugh in Hull. Touring the UK, Adventure Cinema is also showing films such as Grease, The Greatest Showman, and Top Gun: Maverick in locations from Scone Palace in Perth to Taunton Cricket Club in Somerset.

All summer, nationwide

As part of their first tour together since 2015, the prodigal fathers of Britpop are playing Wembley Stadium for the first time, where they will be supported by Mercury-nominated Self Esteem and cult duo Jockstrap. "I sincerely hope we are a band that can fill a stadium like that," said drummer Dave Rowntree last year. "I don't want there to be four people and a dog." Head to Wembley this July to make it at least five.

8-9 Ju l, Wembley Stadium, London

Following its West End run and Radio 4 slot, this award-winning improv performance arrives in Regent's Park for one night only. Generating a whole new Jane Austen novel from just a title – decided live by the audience – Austentatious undercuts the pomp of its full period costumes and live musical accompaniment with off-the-cuff hilarity.

16 Jul, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London

Revising William Shakespeare's tragicomedy, Jennifer Tang's The Tempest Re-imagined For Everyone Aged Six and Over injects the original with thrilling new energy. Opening with sorcerer Prospero as he conjures a dreadful storm to shipwreck his enemies, the stage is set for spells and monsters, revenge and romance. Clocking in at a manageable 75 minutes, the play promises to delight a new generation of Shakespeare fans.

30 Jun-22 Jul, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London

Staged in Somerset House's grand outdoor courtyard in central London, this year's Summer Series encompasses acts from Beabadoobee and Alison Goldfrapp to Olivia Dean and La Femme, and will be rounded off by exciting newcomer Gabzy. Hailing from Peckham and combining R&B, Alté and Afrobeats for an unmistakable sound, his music landed him a coveted spot on BBC Radio 1Xtra's Hot List last year when his debut show at Koko sold out in less than a minute.6-16 Jul, Somerset House, London

Theatre company The Pantaloons bring the Regency romance of Jane Austen's beloved satire to life with a performance that promises to be as physical as it is funny. Bring your chairs and your blankets, a picnic and a torch, and get ready for a show still as charming now as when it was first written. Touring to 6 August, nationwide

Lay out your blankets and settle in for this new opera composed by Jonathan Dove and based on the bestselling YA novels Itch and Itch Rocks by Simon Mayo. When, in his quest to collect all the elements in the periodic table, teenage element hunter Itch discovers a powerful new one, he finds himself faced with an impossible decision: should he destroy the substance, or use it to his advantage? Itch's tale of all-too-human hubris packs mass appeal, but Holland Park's summer season includes more traditional operas, too – Puccini's La bohème, Verdi's Rigoletto – for those that way inclined. 22 Jul-4 Aug, Holland Park, London

With an unprecedented four-night run, this year's Ballet Under the Stars from Covent Garden Dance Company will be held in the private walled garden of Hatch House in Wiltshire. Featuring stars of Paris Opera Ballet as well as principal dancers from the Royal Ballet and the Staatsballett Berlin, this year sees the return of Hatch regular Mara Galeazzi for a masterclass in French elegance. Mixing classical, neo-classical and contemporary dance, the performance will transport guests to a 20s Parisian speakeasy for its fourth, final movement. 27-30 Jul, Hatch House, Wiltshire

Set in the 75-acre site of Stowmarket's Food Museum in Suffolk, Primadonna Festival prides itself on amplifying voices that too often go unheard – in their words, the line-up "celebrates women, Black and Asian artists, the LGBTQIA+ community, disabled and working-class people". Speakers include Rebecca Humphries in conversation with Daisy Buchanan, Andi Osho and all-female performance troupe Figs in Wigs. There's plenty to keep kids busy too.

28-30 Jul, Stowmarket Food Museum, Suffolk

In the grounds of historic manor house Compton Verney in Warwickshire, 20 interconnected domes – together, roughly half the size of a rugby pitch – will land like a band of alien craft. Created by Architects of Air, whose luminaria have travelled the world since 1992, the Timisien is lit by tinted skylights that filter the sun into a kaleidoscope of colour. Those made giddy easily will be glad to hear that two spacious outer domes offer respite from its labyrinthine structure – but here, getting lost is part of the fun.

1-6 Aug, Compton Verney, Warwickshire

When supergroup boygenius self-released their eponymous EP in 2018, they caused a stir – after all, it is not every day that three indie stars (Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus) join forces in an alliance so virtuosic as to be almost unholy. Their new album, the record, is excellent and luckily for fans speedy enough to get a ticket, the 18th-century cloth market venue of their Halifax gigs –where they will be supported by Muna and Ethel Cain – will be almost as enchanting as the music.

22-23 Aug, The Piece Hall, Halifax

The impact of Jenny Livingstone's documentary Paris Is Burning has only grown with the years. While its legacy is very much alive in the now-ubiquitous phenomenon of RuPaul's Drag Race, New York's underground ballroom culture – and the inimitable characters who populated it – were virtually unknown when the film came out (pun intended) more than 30 years ago. Whether you’re watching it for the first or the 100th time, the opportunity to laugh, cry and sashay along at Barbican's open-air cinema is too good to miss. Also showing as part of their outdoor screening programme are Hitchcock's Rear Window, Marvel's Black Panther, and Gene Kelly classic Singin’ in the Rain.

23 Aug-3 Sep, Barbican, London

Queen's Park Book Festival returns to leafy west London for the first weekend in September. Since launching in 2018, the festival has hosted some superlative literary talent – Zadie Smith, Jonathan Coe, Howard Jacobson and Bernardine Evaristo, to name a few – so although the 2023 line-up is yet to be announced, there is every reason to assume it will be of a similarly sparkly calibre.

2-3 Sep, Queen's Park, London

To 3 Sep, WWT Castle Espie Wetland Centre, Comber, Co Down Every Sat to 30 Sep, meeting at London Aquatics Centre 7- 22 Jun, Minack Theatre, Penzance 9-11 June, Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire 10-11 Jun, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff 10 Jun-28 Apr 2024 , Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield 14-18 Jun, Queen Square, Bristol 15-18 Jun, Harmony Garden, Melrose 16-18 Jun, River Stage, National Theatre, London 17 Jun, West Mid Showground, Shrewsbury 22-24 Jun , Brighton Open Air Theatre 6 & 8 Jul, Hyde Park, London All summer, nationwide 8-9 Ju l, Wembley Stadium, London 16 Jul, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London 30 Jun-22 Jul, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London 6-16 Jul, Somerset House, London Touring to 6 August, nationwide 22 Jul-4 Aug, Holland Park, London 27-30 Jul, Hatch House, Wiltshire 28-30 Jul, Stowmarket Food Museum, Suffolk 1-6 Aug, Compton Verney, Warwickshire 22-23 Aug, The Piece Hall, Halifax 23 Aug-3 Sep, Barbican, London 2-3 Sep, Queen's Park, London