Bristol’s theatre, film and live music offering is stepped up a gear throughout summer, as outdoor spaces are fashioned into open-air stages and cinemas.

From Shakespearean dramas on castle grounds to blockbuster movies in a safari park, we’ve rounded up some of this year’s most show-stopping under-the-stars productions and performances. See which you’ll be rolling out the picnic blanket for…

Summer Sounds at Avon Valley (Weekends in July & August)

Enjoy a dance and a drink in a field once again, as Avon Valley Adventure & Wildlife Park hosts a series of summer gigs in their event field. These will be reduced capacity, so you can safely get your groove on to the sounds of acts such as Taylor Reloaded, Ultimate Coldplay and Spice Forever. 

Summer Sounds at Avon Valley

Image - Avon Valley Adventure & Wildlife Park

Little Lily Harley by Rude Mechanical Theatre Company at St Andrews Park (10 July)

Take the family along to this leafy corner of Bishopston to see the story of Charlie Chaplin's early life and his triumph over adversity in Victorian England performed by a troupe of seven actor-musicians. As you'd expect, it will be sound-tracked by live music hall-style songs and will feature slapstick comedy.

Bristol Shakespeare Festival (9 July – 26 August)

After a virtual edition last year, Bristol Shakespeare Festival is back for 2021 with its signature blend of indoor and outdoor performances, online events, workshops and quirky takes on favourite plays. On this year's programme you'll find renowend touring companies performing in iconic Bristol locations, family-friendly shows, intriguing fringe events, King Lear the Musical by the festival's in-house company and much more. 

Bristol Shakespeare Festival logo over photo of an outdoor performance

Image - Bristol Shakespeare Festival

Shakespeare Undone! A Theatrical Walking Tour (Various dates from 30 July – 8 August)

Bristol’s Harbourside stands in for the cobbled streets of Venice in this immersive Shakespearean experience – a highlight of the Bristol Shakespeare Festival programme. The Natural Theatre Company has uncovered an early work by the Bard, which happens to be full of early sketches of his most iconic characters, first drafts of famous scenes and just a little bit of nonsense.

Actors in The Natural Theatre Company's Shakespeare Undone

Image - The Natural Theatre Company

Romeo & Juliet at Berkeley Castle (1 – 2 August)

Enjoy Shakespeare’s iconic tale of star-crossed lovers, bitter divisions and bloody consequences in the fittingly dramatic setting of the Berkeley Castle grounds. The Duke Theatre Company has given the play a modern twist, promising an energised outdoor production that packs a punch.

Berkeley Castle and surrounding grounds

Image - Berkeley Castle 

The Grimm Sisters at Westonbirt (7 August)

You’ve heard about the Brothers Grimm, but now learn the story of their sisters – the true brains behind the fairy tales. Full of fun and mischief, this two-women play by Scratchworks Theatre Company will be the first ever open-air theatre production in the enchanting setting of Westonbirt, The National Arboretum.

The Grimm Sisters at Westonbirt

Image - The Grimm Sisters at Westonbirt Arboretum

The Lord Chamberlain's Men perform Macbeth at Sudeley Castle (27 – 29 August)

Even more al fresco Shakespeare is in store at Sudeley Castle, as the UK's premier all-male theatre company brings their version of Macbeth to its stunning grounds. They’ll be performing the classic tragedy as it was back in the Bard’s day – in the open air, by an all-male cast and with Elizabethan costumes, music and dance.

Sudeley Castle and surrounding grounds

Image - Sudeley Castle

The Lost Cinema at Salisbury Cathedral (27 – 29 August)

Open-air film-watching experience The Lost Cinema is rocking up at Salisbury Cathedral for three evenings in August. With the stars and the Cathedral spire as your backdrop, catch either Bridesmaids, Moulin Rouge or Jurassic Park on the big screen. Films start at 8.30pm but arrive early to enjoy the on-site BBQ and bar.

Salisbury Cathedral

Image - Salisbury Cathedral, credit Ash Mills

The Lost Cinema at Berkeley Castle (30 July & 10 September)

The Lost Cinema is also stopping at Berkeley Castle, once in July for a screening of much-loved musical The Greatest Showman and again in September for a screening of eighties classic Top Gun.

Rag'n'Bone Man at Bath Racecourse (31 July)

Following on from the release of his long-awaited second album earlier this year, chart-topping singer Rag'n'Bone Man is performing at Bath Racecourse this summer.

Rag'n'Bone Man

Image - Rag'n'Bone Man

Swing Unlimited Big Bang at Salisbury Cathedral (1 August)

Enjoy a free afternoon (though donations are gratefully received) of jazz and classics on the West Lawns at Salisbury Cathedral. Take along a picnic or fill up on tasty treats and ice creams from The Bell Tower Tea Rooms. The event is weather dependent, so check the forecast and updates from the Cathedral before setting off. 

Film & Food Fest Bristol (5 – 8 August)

This new four-day touring festival by outdoor cinema company Adventure Cinema comes to The Downs in August. As well as al fresco screenings of classic movies and recent releases, catch stand-up comedy from some of the UK’s best-loved comedians, local street food and specially curated short films from regional film makers.

Promo image for Film & Food Fest at The Downs, Bristol

Image - Film & Food Fest

Mr Stink by David Walliams at Bowood House & Gardens (21 August)

Heartbreak Productions has adapted David Walliams’ touching tale about the unlikely friendship between young Chloe Crumb and homeless Mr Stink. Watch it performed on an outdoor stage in the beautiful gardens at Bowood House, a stately home in the Wiltshire countryside.

Gardens at Bowood House

Image - Bowood House & Gardens

Summer Screens Open Air Cinema at Bowood House & Gardens (1 – 4 September)

Return to Bowood in September for a pop-up cinema experience on the grounds. Les Misérables, Dirty Dancing, The Greatest Showman and In The Heights are the films playing over the four evenings. Pick between rolling out a blanket on a picnic pitch, kicking back in deck chairs or taking cover under your own gazebo.  

IDLES on The Downs (3 September)

Although their sold-out tour has been pushed back to 2022, you can catch IDLES in Bristol this summer for this one-off gig on The Downs – the band’s first ever headline outdoor show in their home city. More yet-to-be-announced bands will also be on the bill, with some amazing food and drink on offer too.

IDLES at The Downs Festival

Image - IDLES at The Downs

The Railway Children at Berkeley Castle (19 September)

Another open-air production coming to Berkeley Castle this year is an adaptation of Edith Nesbit's The Railway Children. Enjoy this much-loved classic in the memorable setting of the castle's peaceful grounds. 

Luna Cinema at Longleat (23 – 26 September)

Luna Cinema comes to the stunning grounds at Longleat for the first time ever this year, with views of the Half Mile Lake and Longleat House as a backdrop. Save your spot for one of four family classics – Star Wars: A New Hope, Dirty Dancing, The Greatest Showman and, fittingly, The Lion King. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic tipples will be available from the Luna Bar, while a selection of gourmet partners will be dishing up great food.

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