23 essential festivals in Suffolk you can’t miss this year
- Credit: Archant
Festival season will soon be upon us. All ready line-ups for the big summer events are being announced and as ever Suffolk is leading the way when it comes to celebrating culture in all its diversity.
Ink Festival - April 12-14, Halesworth Cut
During the three days of The Ink Festival 2019 over 40 brand new, short plays for stage and radio, will be performed at The Cut, Halesworth, Suffolk showcasing East Anglia’s brightest talent including Scarlett Curtis, Shappi Khorsandi, Greg Mosse and Paul Heiney. During the three days there will also be comedy, performance poetry, art, children’s playwriting, talks and workshops.
Saturday will include Q&A with Rachel Freck and Shappi Khorsandi. Sunday will include performance poetry from Luke Wright and Q&A with Richard Curtis.
There will be a workshop each day.
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Bury Festival - May 17-26, Apex and across Bury St Edmunds
Music, theatre, film and exhibitions are all set to top the bill at the 10-day Bury Festival. Known for its quality performances, from classical, jazz and folk music to dance and award-winning comedians, Bury Festival is a grown-up alternative to the weekend camping music festival.
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Now in its 34th year, the festival will feature 50 events across 13 venues. Superstar violinist Nigel Kennedy, who performed a sell-out show at the festival in 2016, will fly in from Poland especially for the one-off performance on Wednesday, May 22. Other highlights include Rick Wakeman and Clare Teal, both also making return visits, John Cooper Clarke, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Quintet-a-Tete jazz band, and the Puppini Sisters and Chineke.
LeeStock Music Festival - May 25-26, Melford Hall, near Sudbury
The boutique non-profit festival is held in memory of local musician Lee Dunford, with all proceeds donated to the Willow Foundation.
In addition to the mix of pop and rock acts, there is a family area and an onsite beer festival, plus the all important campsite where campervans are also welcome. This year’s headliners are Pixie Lott and Starsailor with B*Witched, The Wildhearts and Rebecca Ferguson as main support acts. Nigel Clark of Dodgy and Tony Wright of Terrorvision will headline the acoustic stage.
Red Rooster Festival - May 30 - June 1, Euston Hall, Thetford
Passionate about rhythm and blues, Red Rooster’s line-up and atmosphere is dedicated to celebrating the finest R&B, Americana, blues, soul, roots and country music.
Take your own tent or hire our one of the yurts or tipis on site. Expect to find American-style comfort food on the menu – think smokey barbeque and gourmet mac and cheese – all served with that gen-u-ine deep-south hospitality. This year’s line-up includes The Budos Band, Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets, Dale Watson and His Lone Stars and Cedric Burnside.
PULSE - May 30-June 8, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
PULSE is a 10 day festival of performance produced by the New Wolsey Theatre in partnership with festival directors China Plate. The festival provides a platform for the development and presentation of new work by regional, British and international artists. The programme aims to nurture artistic ambition and excellence in both emerging and established artists across a range of art forms including theatre, dance, comedy, music, event led visual arts, spoken word, physical theatre and circus led work.
Each piece will be a new professional work or work by a new and emerging company, it can be finished or still in development.
Aldeburgh Festival - June 7-23, Snape Maltings Concert Hall and other venues
The Grandaddy of all Suffolk’s arts events, Aldeburgh Festival is more than the usual weekend offering, spanning a fortnight with its thoughtful programme. Austrian composer Thomas Larcher is featured across the festival this year, with his opera The Hunting Gun receiving its UK premiere
The eclectic line-up is packed with orchestras, choirs and soloists, that offer audiences an extravaganza of classical and contemporary music, plus a wide-range of talks and exhibitions infused with a Suffolk flavour.
Homegrown Music Festival - June 7-8, Suffolk Academy, Church Farm, Barrow, Bury St Edmunds
The ethos of this small, friendly festival in Bury St Edmunds is grounded in showcasing home-grown music from the thriving local music scene.
Dance to an eclectic range of sounds from British soul to alternative rock and tribute bands. Expect to find locally sourced food and ales on the menu, plus on-site camping including a family area.
Alive & V-Dubbin™ Festival- June 7-9, Haughley Park, Stowmarket
This is the third year at Haughley Park. Alive & V-Dubbin is planned, organised and run by a dedicated team of members of Suffolk Bugrs VW Club. All profits made are reinvested into future Alive & V-Dubbin shows. For 2019 are promising the usual mix of live, non stop music from bands and artists performing a variety of music to entertain audiences from morning till night. So there’s something for everyone. The musical talent is drawn from the local area and beyond.
Rod Stewart - June 7, ITFC Portman Road, Ipswich
Not so much a festival but a major gig all the same. After singing in the rain in 2007, Rod Stewart returns to Portman Road hoping for a warmer, drier evening. Stewart is touring in support of his 30th studio album Blood Red Roses which was released late last year. The Ipswich gig will be one of just eight dates he will be playing in the UK this year. This is the third time Rod Stewart has played Portman Road with his first visit being in the 1990s. This will be Rod’s first UK tour in three years following the success of two sold-out tours in 2016.
Newmarket Nights - June to August, Newmarket Race Course
Summer music festival combined with horse-racing, allows Suffolk to deliver something different to those looking for an unusual entertainment experience. This year Newmarket Nights is offering a diverse line-up including Nile Rodgers & Chic (Saturday June 8), Madness (Friday June 21), Kaiser Chiefs (Friday June 28) Thriller (Friday July 19), Rudimental (Friday July 26) and Pete Tong & The Heritage Orchestra (Friday August 2) and Bananarama (Thursday August 8).
Forest Live - June 20-23) High Lodge, Thetford Forest
Forest Live is a major outdoor live music series held every summer by Forestry Commission England and money raised from ticket sales helps to look after the nation’s forests sustainably. This year’s line-up includes Foals (June 20), Paul Weller (June 21), Jess Glynne (June 22) and Stereophonics (June 23). You can buy tickets online on the Forestry England website or call the box office on 03000 680400.
Southwold Arts Festival - June 22-29, various venues across Southwold
Southwold Arts Festival is an eight-day celebration of the arts: music, drama, poetry, visual art, photography, dance, talks and literature. It appeals to all ages and tastes; to local residents and to visitors to the vibrant Suffolk seaside town. It is a community festival with invitations extended to national performers as well as local celebrities; professional, well-established names as well as those starting out on their careers.
The Southwold Arts Festival is run by a group of dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the arts and plan the programme throughout the year. This year’s line-up includes Ed Balls, an Opera Gala.... with a pop up opera chorus, The Mark Flanagan Trio featuring Jools Holland’s guitarist, a series of Young Musicians’ Showcase, an evening with Lucy Worsley and Hank Wangford & The Lost Cowboys.
Nearly Festival - various Suffolk venues, this summer
Born too late to see The Beatles? Couldn’t get tickets for Ed Sheeran’s Suffolk gigs? Here’s the next best thing.
NeaRly Festival is a series of two-days of top tribute acts, who this summer visit Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, Trinity Park in Ipswich and Castle Park in Colchester. This year it has added Nicholas Everitt Park in Oulton Broad.
“Our motto is see nearly the real thing at nowhere near the real price,” said organiser Danny Banthorpe. “For the likes of Amy Winehouse, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, who are unfortunately no longer with us or bands like Oasis who seem destined never to perform again, this is a perfect opportunity to see the closest to the real thing. We have regular team nights out, looking for the best acts.”
The Bury St Edmunds NeaRly Festival - June 22-23
This festival welcomes Oasis, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Abba, Take That, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Pink, the Spice Girls, Nile Rodgers’ Chic, Stereophonics, Taylor Swift and Brit-Pop. Beatles act Made In Liverpool are the only tribute band to play the famous Cavern Club, where the original fab four cut their teeth in 1961-1963.
The Oulton Broad NeaRly Festival (June 29-30) Madness, Ed Sheeran – “who sounds more like me than I do” joked the Suffolk star – Bob Marley, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, The Specials, the Spice Girls, Oasis, Rihanna, UB40, Michael Jackson, Homegrown Reggae and Amy Winehouse. If you enjoyed the award-winning Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, there’s also a tribute to Queen.
The Ipswich NeaRly Festival - July 27-28
The Ipswich instalment features Oasis, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Niles Rodgers’ Chic, The Specials, The Killers, the Spice Girls, Pink, Ska-d For Life, Amy Winehouse, Taylor Swift and Brit-Pop.
The Colchester NeaRly Festival (August 3-4) sees performances from tribute acts to Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Beyoncé, Nile Rodgers’ Chic, the Prodigy, Michael Jackson, Pink, the Spice Girls, Madness, Bad Manners, Amy Winehouse, Taylor Swift and Brit-Pop.
Affordability is important and every weekend is family focused, with plenty to keep children entertained all day between acts. The dedicated kids’ zone includes free fun – from bouncy castles to giant dance mat games. Mum and dad can chill at the pub in the park while everybody can refuel at the street food market, which caters for all tastes.
Maverick Festival (July 5-7, Easton Farm Park, Easton, Woodbridge)
Maverick Festival, now in its 12th year, has become one of the leading Americana events in the UK. This feel-good festival takes place at Suffolk’s Easton Farm Park, near Framlingham. Over 40 different artists ranging from roots music and dance to comedy perform across five stages indoors and out.
Acts booked so far include Rosie Flores, Chance Mccoy, The Brother Brothers, One Eleven Heavy, Resonant Rogues and I See Hawks In LA with more to come. One for the whole family, the festival is even dog-friendly.
Latitude - July 18-21, Henham Park, near Blythburgh
Latitude knows how to throw a summer party, complete with the best music and a dazzling array of visual arts. The family friendly festival – now in its 13th year – takes place on the Suffolk coast between Blythburgh and Southwold.
Whether you choose luxury accommodation in a podpad, a boutique yurt, or you bring your own camping gear and head to one of the well equipped colour-coded campsites, a great weekend is pretty much guaranteed. Latitude mixes music to suit all ages and tastes along with dance, theatre and comedy. Headliners this year include Snow Patrol, George Ezra, Lana Del Ray and Primal Scream.
Snape Proms - Throughout August, Snape Maltings Concert Hall
Each August musicians from around the world converge on Snape for a series of outstanding concerts in one of the world’s great concert halls. From big bands and orchestras to folk groups and solo artists, there’s music for everyone at the Snape Proms.
The seats at the front of Snape Maltings Concert Hall are removed to create the Proms area. For every Snape Prom, more than 100 Prom tickets are sold at £7.50 for the closest view of the action.
There’s always a chance to get tickets for sell-outs, as 20 Prom tickets go on sale at 10am on the morning of every concert at Snape Maltings Concert Hall’s box office.
Highlights of the 2019 programme range from the great American singer-songwriter Don McLean to Baroque ensemble La Serenissima and from saxophonist Jess Gillam to one of the founding fathers of jazz-funk, Pee Wee Ellis.
Full programme to be announced in early April, with tickets on sale from May 14.
FolkEast 2019 - August 16-18, Glemham Hall, near Saxmundham
FolkEast Festival continues to go from strength to strength and returns, once again, to the ancient parkland of Glemham Hall, near Woodbridge. Leading the 2019 line-up will be formidable folk legend Richard Thompson, the brilliantly inspired Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart performing with her Trio Stephen Polwart and Inge Thomson, the peerless Irish songstress Cara Dillon, the mighty Sharon Shannon Band, Scots-Irish trio Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson and Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton, English singer-songwriter/guitarist John Smith and the effervescent five-piece revivalist traditional band Calan.
Maui Waui Festival - August 23-25, Peakhill Farm, Theberton
Maui Waui is a three day international festival of music, performance and arts. Now in it 7th year it is fast becoming one of the area most exciting festivals, pulling in accomplished and undiscovered bands and performers from all around the globe. Maui Waui focuses on an all welcoming family feel with loads to do for kids and adults, from watching world class bands, full circus shows in a dedicated circus tent, big bass dance tents, small upbeat bands and acoustic acts, cabaret and comedy. Maui Waui invites you into their world - you will not be disappointed! Acts to be announced later.
Ed Sheeran - August 23-26, Chantry Park, Ipswich
A four-day festival of its own, Ed rounds off his world tour with four sold-out gigs back in his home county. On all four dates the gates will open at 4pm, the concert is then expected to finish at 10.30pm.
The Ipswich venue has the capacity to hold between 40,000 45,000 people so those attending on the sold out dates can expect quite a crowd.
To put this into perspective, the capacity at Portman Road is 31,300 while the O2 holds 20,000. Support acts include Lowestoft band The Darkness, who will be accompanying Ed Sheeran at all four of his Ipswich dates and Lewis Capaldi will also be joining Ed at his Sunday and Monday shows.
Darkness are best known for their ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ hit and Lewis Capaldi, who was nominated for Critics Choice at the 2019 Brits, is best known for his top ten single ‘Someone You Loved’.
HighTide - September 10-15, Aldeburgh
HighTide is a theatre festival dedicated to premiering new work from emerging writers. It showcases both fully staged performances at venues around town as well as rehearsed readings and opportunities to see new work from international events like The Edinburgh Festival. It has been said that it offers new theatre for adventurous people but in truth the festival offers a broad range of events which include Q&A sessions with highly respected writers, directors and actors as well as the opportunity to see plays which are unlikely to be seen elsewhere in the county.
This year HighTide will stage LIT, a world premiere by Sophie Ellerby ahead of transferring to Nottingham Playhouse. LIT explores the turbulent teenage years of a girl looking for love in all the wrong places. The spark of LIT came from Sophie’s experience studying young women and mothers in the prison system.
LIT joins Rust as the headline productions for this year’s HighTide. Rust, by Kenny Emson, follows the life of Nadia and Daniel who have just bought a flat under the pseudonym of Mr and Mrs White. All is not what it seems as they try and redefine the rules of modern life. Sexy and funny, Rust pushes the boundaries of trust, love and lust to the limit.
Art Eat - September 21-22, Ipswich Waterfront
Art Eat will be a free visual art and street food festival for Ipswich Waterfront to put a feelgood feeling into the autumn. The festival co-director Daisy Lees says “The festival will include community street art projects and participatory workshops, a commercial art fair, craft market, exhibitions, street food stalls, entertainment and music appealing to a broad audience.”
This project will bring together a selection of artists, traders and performers from across East Anglia and beyond, attracting an expected 20,000 people for a celebration of creativity, diversity and deliciousness. Aar Eat is working with local businesses, communities, charities and educational organisations for
the delivery of an inclusive and exciting festival programme. “We have large scale urban art projects which businesses can sponsor including urban murals and a textile installation.” says festival co-director Iona Hodgson.