Festive summer

Do the long midsummer days inspire you to get out and see life from a different perspective? Big ideas don't have to mean big journeys, though, because there are hundreds of spectacular summer events all over Britain - some right on your doorstep, others worth making a special trip for. So, whether you want to hear classical music in the tranquil evening air, taste seasonal food and drink at a rural festival or look at breathtaking art in unique surroundings, hit the open road and let our ideas take you there
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Sherborne International Food Festival
24-26 JUNE

The West Country is one of the finest foodproducing regions in Britain - just ask Dorset's resident gourmet, River CottageTV star and food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. You'll meet plenty of his fellow foodies in Sherborne for this month's annual food festival. June, after all, is when England comes to fruition: there's a glut of strawberries, redcurrants, blueberries and gooseberries, which is great news for makers of jam and preserves, ice cream and cordials. Lovers of seafood can enjoy crab and grey mullet, Welsh lamb is plentiful, and on the green front, asparagus, lettuce, peas and courgettes are in season. But it's not only English foodstuffs you?ll find at Sherborne, because producers from more than 20 countries are converging on the little town, bringing a continental air to the place. Head south-west to enjoy the Blue Vinney cheese with traditional Dorset Knob biscuits, then sample some of the many French cheeses on offer.

Travelling from further afield will be food producers from Eastern Europe.


Aldeburgh Festival of music & the arts

Why shouldn't the classical music world enjoy summer by the seaside like the rest of us? A fortnight of cultural entertainment in a Suffolk fishing town was the brainwave of the composer Benjamin Britten, who co-founded Aldeburgh Festival in 1948. Some of Britten's greatest works were inspired by and premiered here, bringing leading musicians from all over the world to various small venues around this coastal beauty spot. Central to the festival is Snape Maltings Concert Hall, a former 19th-century malthouse converted into a superb concert hall. The programme is always eclectic and challenging: Oliver Knussen conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Stravinsky's Fireworks; the South Bank Gamelan Players present the classic Hindu tale Ramayana (above) in collaboration with costumed Javanese dancers; Suffolk poet and biographer Neil Powell talks about Britten and his greatest opera, Peter Grimes. Music widows can join in country walks, enjoy film screenings and open-air beach events.


Glasgow Jazz Festival
17-26 JUNE

Hey, Edinburgh - we?re over here! It would be easy to believe that, on the summer festival front, only one Scottish city has something big to offer. But that's not so. Before the entertainment kicks off in Edinburgh at the end of July, get into the cultural vibe at Glasgow's annual Jazz Festival, which fills the city with truly fabulous sounds - traditional, soulful, post-modern and experimental - at venues ranging from the Big Stage and Spiegeltent in George Square, to Clyde Auditorium and numerous fringe spots. Now 18 years young, it's firmly established on the European jazz circuit and draws award-winning acts. This year's big draw is Van Morrison, whose concert opens the festival. Women have an equally strong presence this year: renowned jazz vocalist Carol Kidd will appear, as will Clare Teal, supported by Kyle "son of Clint" Eastwood. The legendary singer Dionne Warwick (above) will appear here for the third time and the closing-night star is double Grammy-award winner Jack Jones, in his only European appearance of 2005.


Somerset House Series and Summer Screen
London WC2,

The elegant courtyard of Somerset House has become one of London's most successful cultural venues in recent years, thanks to its innovative programme of interactive entertainment for all ages, throughout the year. In winter, its famous ice rink draws visitors in their thousands who glide amid the torch-lit exterior walls of this 18th-century building, which is also home to some impressive classical art collections. But when the courtyard's in its summer mode, everything looks different: excited children run barefoot across the modern "fountain", whose tall jets of water spring in a huge grid pattern out of the dry flagstones. Evenings offer cool entertainment for grown-ups, with a series of courtyard pop concerts. This year's programme has a fantastic line up including, Beth Orton, Doves, Queens of the Stone Age, Super Furry Animals, The Mars Volta (above) and Bloc Party. Later, in August, an open-air cinema opens up, in collaboration with FilmFour, who promise five nights of "innovative and exciting" films.


Serpentine Summer Pavilion 2005
Kensington, London W1,

Never underestimate the transforming powers of art and architecture. The simple pleasure of a summer's day spent in an urban park is elevated to the level of chic cultural event when you arrive at the Serpentine Gallery's Summer Pavilion in London's Kensington Gardens. The Pavilion (above), which stands alongside the fashionable contemporary-art gallery, is created each year by a world-class architect. This year, the sought-after commission has gone to two distinguished Portuguese architects, the great Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura. The structure is described by its creators as "a restless animal - rooted to the spot, but poised for movement". Past participants since its 2001 inauguration include Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind: the idea is that the architect's vision and style are scaled down for the park-strolling, art-loving public to enjoy all summer long, as a café by day, and by night as a venue for debate and entertainment. Get an invite to the annual Summer party and you?ll know you?ve arrived.


Bryn Terfel at the Welsh Proms
St David's Hall, Cardiff,
14-23 JULY

It's not all about Rule Britannia at the Albert Hall, you know - Cardiff, officially a UK Centre of Culture, is a serious fixture in the classical music scene, a position that will be consolidated by the début appearance of opera superstar Bryn Terfel (above, left) at this years Welsh Proms. One of the most exciting opera singers on the international circuit, the renowned baritone will deliver a concert performance of Puccini's well-loved opera Tosca on 21 July, which is guaranteed to be a sell-out event. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales will kick off the proceedings at the Grand Opening Prom and, bringing more of an international flavour to the festival, there will also be a French and a Romantic Russian Prom. The jazz star Gwyneth Herbert (above, right) and her band will perform, in contrast to the classical agenda, as will the astonishingly gifted singer Mariza, who heads up the World Music Prom. Younger fans of classical music are not overlooked, either: there's a mid-morning "Tiddly Prom", devised specially for children, on 23 July.


The RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park
Knutsford, Cheshire,
21-25 JULY

Now that Chelsea Flower Show has come and gone, there is still another great floral fixture in the gardening calendar to look forward to - and what a great excuse it provides to take in some of the beautiful Cheshire countryside. Tatton Park comprises more than 20 acres of beautifully sculpted parkland, lakes and wild herds of red deer, and boasts two historic houses - the Mansion and the Tudor Old Hall. To this northern location every summer comes the Royal Horicultural Society roadshow: over five days, garden enthusiasts can observe and take part in a stimulating show that has become one of the most important of its kind. For competitive gardeners there's the RHS National Flowerbed competition. The Plant Plaza and the Country Living Magazine pavilion are there to inspire even the most casual plot-owner, with floral displays and arts and crafts. The first day of the show is limited to RHS members only; thereafter it is open to all for an entrance fee. On the final day, join the rush as display plants go on sale from 4pm.


Music on a Summer Evening
Kenwood Lakeside, London NW3,

There's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. Bear that in mind when you set out to enjoy one of the open-air evening concerts on Hampstead Heath this summer. No matter how fine the day, once past midsummer the English climate can bring about unexpectedly damp and chilly evenings, so it is vital to pack a waterproof rug - or even a set of picnic chairs - as well as warm clothing and a large umbrella, along with your sandwiches and Pimm's. Thus equipped, you can relax and enjoy a varied programme of outdoor concerts performed in the lakeside acoustic shell that nestles in a natural dip of the heath just below Kenwood House. It's a beautiful setting in which to listen to the likes of Elvis Costello and The Imposters, Katie Melua, Will Young, Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra; not forgetting, the classical summer prom events that exemplify the now traditional Kenwood experience. The Last Night of the Kenwood Proms takes place on 28 August, complete with a dazzling firework display at its climax.


Henri Cartier-Bresson Retrospective Dean Gallery

Ask any contemporary photographer whose camera-work inspired them and the chances are you?ll hear the name Henri Cartier-Bresson. An early training in fine art enabled this modest Frenchman to refine his subtle and sensitive approach to composition; however, his unique talent was all about defining moments of unexpected drama in a single snap, rather than staging them for the camera. It could be said that C-B was responsible for elevating photography from reportage to art form. But he did not disassociate himself from journalism, being one of the founders of the renowned Magnum agency whose photographers captured some of the most iconic images in modern history (above, Kashmir). For that reason alone it's worthwhile making a trip to Edinburgh this year to see the most comprehensive retrospective of C-B's work ever staged, organised by the Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris: the Dean Gallery, one of the prestigious Scottish National Galleries, is the only UK venue on this fantastic exhibition's world tour.


Edinburgh International Book Festival
Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh,
13-29 AUGUST

A visit to Edinburgh's month-long summer festival is a kind of sensual miasma that will exercise all of your emotions as well as your feet, as you hurry from play to comedy turn to late-night music jam. But you may well find, in the midst of all this, that your mind is in need of some stimulation too. In which case, head for the haven that is Charlotte Square in August. As you enter, the noise and madness of Festival City ebbs away, leaving you free to absorb the soothing flow of written and spoken words. The square may be a mere pocket of the city, but it contains a whole world of ideas. Hear internationally acclaimed authors, broadcasters, poets and storytellers reading to audiences and debating current ideas. Buy the latest books and maybe get them signed by attending authors. There are also workshops and talks to encourage budding authors. And if you think that Edinburgh in August is the last place you?d go for a quiet read, then hit the coffee stand to grab an espresso, and lose yourself among the pages.


Glyndebourne Festival 2005
Near Lewes, East Sussex,

Anyone who thinks the age of English elegance is over, should secure tickets for the summer season at Glyndebourne. The venue is one of the most important opera houses in the world, its annual festival offering globally renowned performances in a beautiful rural setting. Nowadays, opportunities to dress up for the evening are few, but this is one fixture in the calendar that demands it, so relish the old-fashioned grandeur while you can! (Changing facilities are provided at Glyndebourne, so you won't have to negotiate the motorway in your starched collar or ballgown.) The pre-concert picnic packages are irresistible, so leave behind your homemade efforts and order in advance: lobster salad, summer pudding and pink champagne. Two brand-new productions and four revivals form this year's programme: Peter Hall directs a fresh version of Rossini's La Cenerentola; the second newcomer is Handel's Giulio Cesare, directed by David McVicar. The revisited operas included Die Zauberflöte (above) and Otello.


Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era
Tate Liverpool,

This year, there's a chance for everyone to experience the Sixties, arguably the most creative, exciting and explosive decade of the 20th century. In this major exhibition you?ll experience a mind-blowing display of creativity, ranging from the psychedelic art of Andy Warhol to the images of the influential fashion photographer Richard Avedon and the fluid, futuristic lines of Verner Panton's boldly coloured plastic furniture (above). There are brilliant examples of vibrant poster and album art, experimental music, film and architecture, bold graphics and daring fashions, all set against the darker backdrop of the decade's dramatically changing political landscape, as depicted in the underground press of the day - Oz magazine and The San Francisco Oracle to name but two. Remove yourself from this tooheavy reality with light shows and film projections, such as those created by the Boyle Family for use in live light shows by psychedelic band The Soft Machine, and Andy Warhol's work for The Velvet Underground.


Ludlow Marches Food and Drink Festival

As summer draws to an end, you can at least console yourself with the knowledge that it coincides with a fantastic food-producing season, when the fruits of months of toil in the fields comes to yield and the country's collective larders are bulging. But don't leave anything to chance by hoping that your local restaurants and shops will have the finest British produce ready and waiting for you to sample, because many of the country's top food producers, writers, chefs and recreational gourmets will be heading for Ludlow, aka Food Town on account of its top restaurants, in search of inspiration and ideas to challenge, surprise or delight the tastebuds. The foodie festival that takes place annually around Ludlow Marches, in beautiful countryside near the border of England and Wales, was the first of its kind in Britain and is still regarded as the best.

Here you'll find many supporters of the burgeoning Slow Food movement, who strive to promote the production of high-quality, organic, local and seasonal foodstuffs for maximum eating pleasure with minimum damage to the environment. There will be more than 120 British small producers and suppliers in Ludlow, tempting you with everything from meat, vegetables and bread to coffee, chocolate and more. A programme of food-and-drink-related events will include sausage samplings in butchers? shops and beer trails to follow.


Tribute to Trafalgar and SeaBritain 2005

Never let anyone tell you that living on an island does not affect your perspective. This year sees the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar - the great turning point in the Napoleonic Wars between England and France - and the death of Britain's great naval hero, Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson. Visit any major port or coastal town this summer and you?ll find tribute events taking place, mainly under the umbrella title of SeaBritain 2005. Devised for broad appeal, these range from maritime festivals, processions, exhibitions, concerts and talks to sailing displays and re-enactments of naval history. This week, the annual Portsmouth Festivities follow a Trafalgar theme, with plays, concerts and family fun; on 28 June, a spectacular battle reenactment will take place on the Solent, featuring tall ships and a military fly-past. On 16 September, the Thames Flotilla movingly recreates the journey of Lord Nelson's coffin by barge from Greenwich to Whitehall Stairs in London; the following day, you can enjoy the Trafalgar Great River Race, a 22-mile water-bound "marathon" on the Thames. The grand finale is Trafalgar Weekend, 21 to 23 October, in honour of the actual date on which the two great naval forces met: celebrations are nationwide, but will focus on HMS Victory in a Royal Navy ceremony at Portsmouth, and on the Sea Cadets? parade at Trafalgar Square, London.


Gardens of Glass: Chihuly at Kew
Kew Gardens, Surrey,
TO 15 JANUARY 2006

If you've never considered the art of glass, now is the time to do so. One of the most innovative and exciting art exhibitions in Britain this year places the astonishing creations of the revered American glass designer Dale Chihuly among all the lush, natural beauty of Kew Gardens in west London. It is the first exhibition of its kind in Europe, created to compare and contrast the different kinds of fragility and exoticism between man-made and organic forms. The artist has exhibited all over the world - from Japan and Iceland to Jerusalem and his home town of Tacoma in Washington state.

As you wander through Kew's 300 acres of landscaped gardens, and the spectacular glasshouses, you?ll see the exquisite, swooping lines and incredible constructions of Chihuly's glass sculptures, some of which are built on an incredible scale. 'the Sun at Kew Gardens?, for example, is made from 1,000 delicately blown glass pieces, and stands at more than four metres high and wide. Depending on what time of day you visit, the season and the weather conditions, your experience of these sculptures and their backdrop could vary quite dramatically - which is just one good reason to go back and give it repeated viewings over the year! This exhibition is supported by GlaxoSmithKline as part of the company's community support programme.