Around 250,000 people attend the Bristol Harbour Festival every year – a nautical extravaganza with live music, dancing, circus acts, food stalls and entertainment. It’s not only the biggest event to take place within the city’s boundaries, it’s also got one of the most diverse programmes for anything held in Bristol. Where else would you find The Specials, shanty singing and punk rock aerobics on the same bill?

Stretching from Brunel’s SS Great Britain all the way into the heart of the city, Queen Square and Millennium Square, this free family-friendly event is one of Bristol’s favourite summer festivals. We’ve rounded up 7 highlights to look out for in 2019’s line-up of events, which takes place between 19 – 21 July.

Dancing at Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - join in the dancing at Bristol Harbour Festival

Take home a personalised poem

Even if you regularly listen to live poetry, we bet you haven’t heard it done in the style of Beth Calverley’s Poetry Machine. She will be at the spoken word stage in Cathedral Walk, crafting personalised poems within minutes on her typewriter. Take home one of her creations as a gift for friends or family, or even just a little memory of your visit to Harbour Festival.

Beth Calverley The Poetry Machine

Image credit: Tim Lo 

Follow the maritime heritage trail

Harbour Festival is the perfect time to sharpen up your knowledge of Bristol’s long and illustrious maritime heritage. This year, you can pick up one of the special edition Maritime Heritage Maps and go on an exciting trail around the Harbour. You’ll learn all there is to know about the city’s nautical ties and even if you’re already pretty clued up, we’re certain you’ll discover something new.  

Look out for the walk about acts

There’s as much action off stage over the weekend as there is on stage, and some of the entertainment will even come to you. Keep your eyes peeled for these incredible walk about acts – with the likes of Ocho the Octopus roaming around, they’ll probably be hard to miss!

Ocho the Octopus inflatable walk about act for Harbour Festival

Image credit: Plaster 

Discover Dizraeli

One of the best things about Harbour Festival is that it showcases the array of homegrown talent Bristol produces, from bands and artists to food producers and DJs. Dizraeli is among the Bristol born artists performing this year and should be on your must-watch list. The slam poet, rapper, multi-instrumentalist and sometime singer takes hip hop to new terrains. He's bringing along his new jazz-tinged band for a show on the Amphitheatre on Sunday afternoon.

Dust off your dancing shoes 

Every dance style imaginable will be kicking off at the Bristol Dances Stage, programmed by The Trinity Centre - from hip hop and salsa to Bollywood and cabaret. Get your feet moving at the swing dance party hosted by both Bristol Swing Dance and Bristol Swing Riot, the ceilidh dance with Mr Medler, and the cabaret and drag extravaganza curated by Eat Sleep Drag Repeat.

Dancing at Bristol Harbour Festival

Image credit: Plaster 

All the fun of the circus

Cirque Bijou will take over Queen Square once again at Harbour Festival 2019 (their 16th year of programming!), transforming it into the Circus Playground. The days will be full of breath-taking, gravity-defying circus acts, with 90% of the line-up hailing from Bristol.

Don’t miss performances of the trapeze and cello duet ‘Harmonic’, originally created by Cirque Bijou for Kew Gardens’ refurbished Temperate House. Another sensational collaboration to look out for is the duo trapeze show by Extraordinary Bodies, a professional circus group that brings together disabled and non-disabled artists, and Bristol’s Paraorchestra of Great Britain.

Circus - Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - Circus skills in Millennium Square, Bristol Harbour Festival

Catch a legendary Bristol DJ 

Saturday night’s headliner is more than worth sticking around for. Rob Smith, better known as RSD, is a Bristol born producer and DJ who rose to fame as one half of Smithy & Mighty. They played a definitive part in creating the ‘Bristol Sound’ and RSD has since blazed the way for the city’s dubstep scene. Catch his set in the Amphitheatre and you can say you’ve seen one of the city’s best DJs. 

Amphitheatre stage and crowd at Bristol Harbour Festival

Image credit: Bristol Harbour Festival 

Bristol Harbour Festival takes place from Friday 19 July to Sunday 22 July. For the full programme of events visit

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Bristol Harbour Festival
Harbour Festival Bristol 2014 (41)

POSTPONED until 2022: This annual free dance, music and arts extravaganza returns to the Harbourside for a weekend of family activities, music, circus, food markets and visiting vessels.

Trinity Centre
Music Venue
Trinity Centre

Their mission is to empower communities through arts ensuring everyone has the opportunity to access, be part of and shape arts and culture in Bristol.

Queen Square
Municipal Park
Queen Square - Copyright Destination Bristol

A magnificent Georgian park area in the heart of Bristol, surrounded by trees and cobbled streets.