Bristol’s flagship event, the Bristol Harbour Festival, returns to the city from 15 to 17 July to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

This nautical extravaganza brings live music, dancing, circus acts, food stalls and entertainment to the Harbourside. 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 spoken word, shanty singing and punk rock aerobics on the same bill?

Nine performance areas will feature familiar favourites and new attractions, filling one and a half miles of the city with music, vessels, food markets, circus acts, live music and performers this July. Here’s a taste of what to expect at Bristol Harbour Festival 2022, as well as some useful information about this year's event. 

Tips for enjoying Bristol Harbour Festival 2022

It's going to be a hot one, so it's important to stay hydrated and rest in the shade when you need it. Come prepared with suncream and reusable water bottles, which you'll be able to fill at water fountains in Millennium Square and Queen Square. You can also look for businesses signed up to the Refill scheme. 

People around the harbour during Bristol Harbour Festival with a view of Pero's Bridge and the M Shed cranes

Image - Bristol Harbour Festival, credit Paul Box

A one-way pedestrian system will operate at peak times across Pero’s Bridge from Anchor Square to Queen Square. Access will instead be via Cascade Steps. At busy times please be patient and considerate of other festival goers.

Public transport is most convenient way to get to the festival, which is within easy walking distance of Bristol Temple Meads. If you're coming from a local neighbourhood, walk, hop on a Voi or cycle and make the most of bike parking across the city.

Visit the Bristol Harbour Festival website for more useful information on everything from accessibility to a festival map. 

Bristol Music Stage, Lloyds Amphitheatre

This year will see the Bristol Music Stage showcase long-loved Bristol acts. Bristol Community Big Band will start the proceedings on Saturday with their swing and funk classics, followed by jazz and soul-inspired singer-songwriter Sam Lindo and Bristol Harbour Festival favourite Opa Rosa, who will bring the dazzling instrumental dance music of Eastern Europe to Bristol.

Bristol Harbour Festival stage and crowd in Lloyds Amphitheatre

Image - Bristol Harbour Festival

Saxophonist James Morton's Groove Den and bhangra band RSVP continue the party. Early 80s post-punk rock legends Blue Aeroplanes will follow, before St Pauls’ very own Black Roots – a crucial part of the emerging British reggae scene in the 1970s – take to the stage.

Closing out Saturday will be one of the UK’s most acclaimed jungle and drum and bass DJs, Dazee. As a producer, broadcaster and performer, she has remained at the top of UK drum and bass culture for thirty years, with her Ruffneck Ting record label continuing to keep the jungle flame burning as brightly as ever.

On Sunday, the Amphitheatre will come to life with Makala Cheung – Bristol Happiness Champion and self-proclaimed Knowle Wester who will open the show with her song Boombox, inspired by stories of Filwood and Knowle West residents. For blues done right, don’t miss Kirris Riviere’s Delta de Bruit, and for a heady blend of neo-soul, hip-hop and nu-jazz, Madly is a must.

Carol from Doreen Doreen

Image - Doreen Doreen

Vibrant young jazz outfit Snazzback is next on the billing before the 1982 flamboyantly theatrical music legends Doreen Doreen, will delight with their reimagining of rock and pop classics in celebration of their 40th anniversary.

Centre Stage, Cascade Steps

Acoustic music will once again be at the heart of the Floating Harbour as Jelli Records present their Centre Stage programme on Cascade Steps, hosting a multitude of great local acts.

With the stunning backdrop of the harbour, the stage will open on Saturday with Bass Choir, Brian Inglis, The Mighty Shinkickers, Maaike Siegerist, Jaz Reza, Harri Mason and Bristol’s very own faux-French trans-Balkan folk band, Frome en Feu, headlining Saturday evening with their pan-European dance tunes.

Crowds along the Harbourside for Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - Bristol Harbour Festival, credit Paul Box

On Sunday expect afrobeat rhythms from Lebo Montshiwa, old-school reggae from Onika Venus and folk and roots from Barry Walsh – who incidentally was also responsible for naming ‘Castle Bridge’ in Bristol. Taynee Lord & The Crookes and Tony Moore will hit the stage Sunday afternoon before driving drum beats, intricate guitar riffs and soaring vocals are on display from Alesund.

Brunel’s SS Great Britain: Albion Dockyard and Brunel Square

For the first time ever, there will be free entry to the Albion Dockyard at Hanover Place throughout the weekend, where staff and volunteers from the SS Great Britain Trust will welcome guests to the 540ft-long Grade-II listed dock for unique views of the working shipyard and harbour. Tall Ship Fridtjof Nansen will be in the dry dock with the crew inviting people aboard to hear about the work of youth development charity, Seas Your Future.

Brunel's SS Great Britain

Image - Brunel's SS Great Britain

On Brunel Square, a new year-long outdoor photography exhibition is set to open for the Festival, showcasing the theme of discovery and Bristol’s global connections through the Albion Dock and the SS Great Britain. Food and drink, including a summer barbecue, will make the most of the harbour views. As part of the Festival’s Ebb & Flow programme, on Saturday Caring in Bristol will present an activity and installation on Brunel Square; and on Sunday, Bristol Refugee Festival will provide music and performances.

The Matthew, Underfall Yard

The world premiere of The Hamlet Voyage, a one-of-a-kind theatrical critique of the very beginnings of British colonial ambitions, is coming to the Festival – performed on another of Bristol's famous ships, The Matthew, which will be docked at Underfall Yard Cafe for this special event. Limited first-come, first-served seats will be available aboard The Matthew with plenty more on the shore of Underfall Yard Cafe. The production will be suitable for all ages. The Matthew will also feature African drumming workshops and an evening music programme throughout the weekend.

The Hamlet Voyage

Image - The Hamlet Voyage

On The Water, Bristol Harbourside

Showcasing the city’s incredible maritime heritage, the historic Floating Harbour takes pride of place during the weekend, celebrating its rich history with free, family-friendly activities programmed on the water’s edge. Eight visiting Tall Ships will join a host of vessels for the weekend, all decorated for the occasion. The Young Shipwright’s will open the event on Saturday, releasing their boats into the harbour, followed by the legendary Cardboard Boat Race where teams battle it out to bring their handmade vessels home!

Cardboard Boat Race Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - Cardboard Boat Race at Bristol Harbour Festival

Circus Playground, Queen Square

Daredevil stunts, high quality circus, comedy street theatre and creative workshops for children and families will be on offer in Queen Square thanks to Bristol’s own Cirque Bijou. The team will transform the Square into a highly accessible and exciting place for families to enjoy a range of performances and activities, with 75% of the programme coming from Bristol based performers and creative companies.

Hosted by hilarious Bristolian comperes Loz Because and Marky Jay, the circus stage programme includes a range of emerging and world-class artists. The bill includes cabaret acts Khadia and Eden, extraordinary child contortionists who have been training together since lockdown; Threeterboard, a high-flying teeterboard act who have recently performed in Bristol with Revel Pucks Circus; stupendous Columbian aerial straps artist Felipe Reyes; and brothers Bibi and Bichu, a world-class juggling duo who started out as street performers in Ethiopia.

Aerial silks performers at Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - Circus skills at Bristol Harbour Festival

Around the rest of Queen Square there will be fun activities including circus workshops from Circomedia, climbing frames, face painting, water play, comedy street shows and much more fun for all the family. The circus stage will have BSL interpretation throughout.

Bristol Dances, Millennium Square

The ever-popular Bristol Dances stage returns to Millennium Square for its third year this year. Trinity have curated an incredible programme featuring everything from street dance to swing.

Saturday’s bumper line-up will get Bristolians of all ages up on their feet. It opens with Bristol’s Got Talent – a youth talent development organisation supporting the next generation to excel within the performing arts industry, followed by D_wild Fitness offering dance fitness classes set to afrobeats, soca and dancehall music.

Dancing at Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - Bristol Harbour Festival

Miss Daisy Dance Team, Anna Colette & The Average Men, Bristol Ballroom Presents, Kiota Showcase, Gerry’s Attic, Hype (Helping Young People Excel), L.A. Dance, Aisha Ali, Feel Fit Studio Ltd, Luna Kali and samba-inspired drummer and dance troupe, Bristol Samba will all be getting the city dancing and bringing all the carnival vibes! 

Sunday kicks off with a showcase responding to Trinity‘s theme of Art of Resistance: IAM13E, followed by Carnival Fitness by PILOXERCISE, Movema Community Dance - World Fusion, Musicians from Lorraine Ayensu Refugee Arts, Decolonising Memory Digital Bodies in Movement, Sublime Dance Troupe and StreetCred closing the weekend at the Dance Stage.

Spoken Word Stage, Cathedral Walk

Curated by Rebecca Tantony, with input from Malaika Kegode and hosted by them both, The Spoken Word Stage is a platform for expression, where language and music find each other, and wonder is made.

Saturday gets started with heart-fizzing poetry inventions from The Poetry Machine, where Beth Claverley will create free typewritten poems while in conversation with festival goers. The South West Showcase will then commence – with performances from poets, producers and spoken word artists including Cal Wensley, Millie Wood-Downie, Eve Piper and Tom Sastry. The Next Generation - Fairfield School and Bath Spa University will be leading two poetry and performance workshops with students from the Fairfield School.

Beth Calverley The Poetry Machine

Image - Beth Claverley, credit Tim Lo 

This will be followed by House of Figs, a collaboration of two prominent Bristol based-artists, Beth Calverley and Bethany M. Roberts, who conjure soundscapes with layers of banjo, violin and voice for Beth Calverley’s tenderly powerful poetry. The bill also features Nikita Gill, Saili Katebe, Sally Jenkinson, Liv Torc and multiple slam champion, beatboxer and Birmingham poet Laureate finalist Jasmine Gardosi, who will take guests through her work exploring identity, LGBTQ issues and mental health.

On Sunday the programme will feature performances again from further South West Showcase artists including Tom Denbigh, Edward Tripp, Stanley Iyanu, Kat Lyons. The showcase will be followed by Chris Remond, Desree, Tongue Fu - Featuring The Tongue Fu Band, Rebecca Tantony, Chris White and Malaika Kegode. Closing the day will be Caleb Parkin, Muneera Pilgrim and Bristol-based rapper, poet and educator, Craft D.

Enjoy more of Bristol’s Harbourside

While the jam-packed festival line-up will no doubt keep you occupied for most of your visit, find time to explore more of Bristol’s Harbourside if you can. Find things to do from museums to boat trips; eat and drink your way around waterfront restaurants and bars; and check in at accommodation near the harbour so you’re perfectly placed to experience the festival and more.

Sunset over Bristol Harbourside with M Shed and The Matthew

Image - Sunset over the Harbourside, credit Philip Clark

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