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Summer in the UK: How to spend the August bank holiday

Updated: 24 August 2015

The August bank holiday is one of the most anticipated weekends of the summer in the UK! With most institutions and businesses closed on Monday, 31 August, all over the country people are flocking to music festivals, carnivals and beaches, hoping to soak up a few rays of sunshine before autumn starts.

There are all kinds of events going on, but these are six of our favourites...

1. BBC Proms

A world-famous series of classical music concerts, the Proms take place over eight weeks every summer. The word ‘prom’ comes from ‘promenade concert’ – a classical music concert that used to be held in London’s public parks and gardens. Nowadays, there are daily orchestral concerts and other events at the Royal Albert Hall in London, plus other venues across the UK.

The highlight is the last night of the Proms. The main concert is broadcast to the nation from the Royal Albert Hall and people gather in parks in big cities like Manchester, Nottingham and Glasgow for ‘Proms in the Park’ events. Each park hosts their own open-air concert, before linking to a live video stream from the Royal Albert Hall for the grand finale.

Inside the Royal Albert Hall during the Last Night of the Proms  (Image ©VisitBritain/Jasmine Teer)

2. Notting Hill Carnival

If you’ve watched Notting Hill starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, you’ll already be familiar with this pretty neighbourhood in West London. During the August bank holiday, however, the whole area transforms into a giant three-day carnival – this is the biggest street festival in Europe!

The event centres on music, food and dance inspired by Afro-Caribbean culture. The main parade on Monday features performers and musicians in elaborate costumes, and beautifully decorated floats (a ‘float’ is a decorated platform often built on a vehicle or towed behind one) – all to celebrate London’s multicultural past and present.

One of many dazzling dancers at Notting Hill Carnival  (Image ©VisitBritain/Jon Spaull)

3. Reading and Leeds Festivals
www.readingfestival.com / www.leedsfestival.com

A perennially popular highlight of the UK’s music calendar, the Reading and Leeds music festivals are held simultaneously over this bank holiday weekend. You can choose to go just for a day, or bring a tent and stay for the whole weekend.

Famous bands and musicians from all over the world come to perform here – this year’s acts include Mumford & Sons, The Libertines, Metallica, Kendrick Lamar, Limp Bizkit and Bastille. Apart from the music, there's usually a great atmosphere, a huge variety of food stalls and lots more going on at both sites.

Relaxing in the summer sun at one of the UK's many music festivals  (Image ©VisitEngland Images)

4. National Trust events

If you’re interested in history, nature or architecture, then you have to take a look at what the National Trust (a conservation organisation that protects English heritage) is doing this weekend. Several historic properties, including stately homes and ancient castles, hold free open days over the weekend – so if you've ever wondered what a castle looks like inside, this is your chance!

Many of these properties also have events for all age groups and interests. There are active events such as kayaking and archery, for example, or more relaxed ones like property tours, wildlife walks, jewellery and craft workshops, contemporary art exhibitions or outdoor theatre.

Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, a National Trust property  (Image ©VisitBritain/LeeBeel)

5. Manchester Pride

Every year Manchester’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) pride festival and parade brings thousands of people from across the country to the city’s famous Canal Street. It is one of the oldest and biggest pride events in the UK, so get ready for a riot of rainbow flags and partying.

For more LGBT events across the UK, see LGBT festivals and events in 2015.

Students celebrating at an event during National Student Pride week in 2015  (Image ©National Student Pride)

6. Liverpool International Music Festival


Liverpool International Music Festival is an annual event that takes place for two weeks in August throughout Liverpool – a city known for its musical heritage (most famously The Beatles!).

For the bank holiday weekend you can head to Liverpool’s Sefton Park to enjoy three days of concerts, all brought under the title of ‘Summer Jam’. Each day the central stage will follow a different theme, from new British acts to world music. There are also ‘commissions’ – new artists who have never played live anywhere in the world are invited to perform at this festival – so you’re sure to discover some fresh talent!

A guitarist performing on the banks of the River Mersey in Liverpool  (Image ©VisitBritain / Pawel Libera)

Read more: UK festivals, celebrations and public holidays in 2015

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