Preparations are well underway for Bristol’s Harbour festival (21-23 July) - a boat-tastic extravaganza with live music, circus acts, food stalls and entertainment covering a two mile stretch of harbour all the way to Castle Park.

Here are our top 10 things to look out for at this year’s festival:

Harbour festival

Image - Bristol Harbour Festival, credit Colin Rayner

1. Friday night launch gig with Outlook Orchestra

Everything gets underway with a sold-out concert to 5,000 fans in the Lloyds Amphitheatre with the Outlook Orchestra teaming up with Roots Manuva for an event being laid on by the Bristol Harbour Festival and Colston Hall to celebrate the venue’s 150th anniversary. Congo Natty, Dawn Penn, Horace Andy, Loyle Carner and Pharoahe Monche are also on the bill for what should be an amazing night.

Bristol Harbour Festival

2. Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park

Families can seek out and say hello to super furry and cute animals at Castle Park as part of the Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park. There will be rabbits, guinea pigs, chicks, rabbits and tortoises that promise to melt many a heart.

3. The Western Boat Show

New for the 2017 Bristol Harbour Festival, the Western Boat Show will bring an exciting extra feature to this year’s event. Yachts, speedboats, dinghies, canal boats and any other type of craft you can think of will be on display for anyone who’s feeling like investing, or for the thousands of festival goers who want to catch a glimpse of the latest nautical trends. Harbourside elements of this show will be free, while ticket holders can get exclusive access to the boats.

Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - Bristol Harbour Festival, credit Chris Bahn

4. Dance Village in Queen Square

A hugely popular feature of any Bristol Harbour Festival, the Dance Village will have the usual mass displays this year, but in a twist for 2017 there will be a huge emphasis on taking part. So, if you’ve ever wanted to try salsa, ballroom, foxtrot or even breakdance, some of the city’s best dance tutors will be on hand and there will be regular workshops and come-and-try sessions over the weekend. It all goes to show that Bristol is a city that dances to its own beat.

Dance Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - dancing at Bristol Harbour Festival, credit Plaster

5. Nuts over the Atlantic

An extreme and daring physical challenge with a rather intriguing name, Nuts over the Atlantic will take a group of four Bristol friends across the Atlantic in a 3000-mile ocean rowing race. Part of the 2017 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the race will see them rowing 24 hours a day for 40 days.

6. Live music at The Amphitheatre

Throughout the Harbour Festival weekend the amphitheatre will play host to some of the hottest musical talent around. In partnership with Ujima Radio, the amphitheatre will host the likes of Onallee, the voice behind Roni Size’s ‘Reprazent’, showcases from both Ujima Radio and BCFM and of course a rip-roaring programme of amazing live tunes throughout the weekend.

7. Food, Glorious Food

Fancy a crepe, a portion of tasty, authentic paella or some exciting continental cheese? Queen Square will once again play host to the continental food market with dozens of stalls serving food alongside handmade bespoke gifts and crafts. One of the most popular parts of the festival.

Market stall

Image - market stall at Bristol Harbour Festival

8. Take in Bristol’s maritime heritage at M shed

M Shed has been the site of many historic nautical developments throughout the years and now this iconic landmark tells the story of our city. There’s plenty to do at M Shed this Harbour Festival; explore Bristol’s maritime past through its exhibitions or even take a trip on the John King, a 1935 diesel tug that was built to tow cargo ships from the docks to the mouth of the Avon.

9. Merchant’s Quay

Another new addition to this year’s Bristol Harbour Festival will be the Merchants Quay Market. Bringing together independent traders from across Bristol and the South West, the market will be open from Friday afternoon selling unique items made of wood and glass as well as art, jewellery, clothing and accessories.

10. Handel’s Water Music grand finale

As dusk falls on the Sunday night and the 2017 festival comes to a close, a very special performance will round things off. Handel’s Water Music, first performed for King George I on The Thames 300 years ago, will be performed by the Bristol Ensemble on a flotilla of boats on the harbourside. Given the festival began with a unique concert, it’s fitting it should close with one.

Bristol Harbour Festival night

Image - Bristol Harbour Festival at night, credit Paul Box

Thanks to Plaster for their festival highlights.

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