Cheer up, Britain! There's plenty to enjoy out there

Take your minds off the football and tennis debacles of recent weeks by discovering the true pleasure of the British summer, whether it's al fresco art, food, films, books, festivals or even sport – whatever floats your balloon

Lie back, turn off and tune in . . .

The perfect summer song is impossible to define, but – like Lily Allen’s “Smile” or Tinie Tempah’s “Frisky” – you know one when you hear it. Here’s an alternative selection for those moments when sun and sound need to collide:

Lissie, “When I’m Alone”: country-pop that calls to mind a drugs and divorce-free Fleetwood Mac.

Plan B, “Prayin’”: the east London rapper turned crooner’s Strickland B album is a stone-cold classic. “Prayin’” is to “She Said” what Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” was to “Rehab”.

Eliza Doolittle, “Skinny Genes”: whistling steel drums and a killer hook: a youthful carnival of a single.

Professor Green, feat Lily Allen, “Just Be Good to Green”: “Just Be Good to Me” gets the electro mashup treatment. What’s not to love?

The Soundcarriers, “There Only Once”: under-appreciated retro-futuristic pop group from Nottingham: think Astrud Gilberto backed by Air. Enjoy.

Green thoughts in a green shade

The easiest way to go green this summer? Head to an event in the UK’s green spaces. The Glasgow Show (31 July-1 August, glasgow.gov. uk) on Glasgow Green, the oldest park in the city, features music, motorsport, dance, street theatre and funfair rides for less than a tenner per family. Get up, up and away in the grade II-listed landscape of Bristol’s Ashton Court Estate at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta (12-15 August, bristolballoonfiesta.co.uk).

The Royal Welsh Show (19-22 July, Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells, rwas.co.uk) promises the usual mix of daredevil ponies, dancing JCBs and marching bands. For a more inner-city experience, the Lambeth Country Show (Brockwell Park, 17-18 July, lambeth.gov.uk) is perhaps the only place in the country where one family member can enter a horticultural competition while the other grooves to Soul II Soul. And finally, the Shoreditch Festival (Shoreditch Park, 16-18 July, shoreditchfestival.org.uk) is a cultural clash where proms meets dance meets a dog show meets hip hop.

You thought it was all over . . .

You can’t beat a sun-dappled stand or a touchline kissed by a summer breeze. Even if the England football team and Andy Murray failed to bring home the bacon, there are other Great British Hopes.

See if Jenson Button or Lewis Hamilton can flash to the front of the grid and win the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on 9 July (silverstone.co.uk). If not, our golfer Justin Rose may exploit the St Andrews fairways during the Open Championship (from 15 July, standrewsopen.com).

England are strong contenders at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, which splits its time between Twickenham and Guildford’s Surrey Sports Park from 20 August (rwcwomens.com). For sheer spectacle, marvel as the world’s best free-runners hop, skip and swing through London’s South Bank on 14 August for Rendezvous, one of the most important events in the parkour calendar. Finally, England are the current world Twenty20 cricket champions, so why not bask in our talent for “hit-and-giggle”, and catch an evening match near you this month (cricket20.com) – good, raucous fun.

Watch out – there’s an artist about

Peeved by ponderous proscenium arches? Galled by stuffy galleries? Then rejoice, for ’tis the season when the arts escape the ivory tower and make their way into the world. In London, site-specific mavericks Punchdrunk are staging their first opera, an adaptation of the Jacobean tragedy The Duchess of Malfi, on an east London quay (eno.org, 13-24 July), while those looking to escape the urban grind can head to Cornwall, where the renowned experimental troupe Kneehigh will be presenting a season of shows on a farm (kneehigh.co.uk, 27 Jul-29 August), or North Wales, where the National Theatre of Wales’s The Beach will thrust audiences into an interactive coastal adventure (nationaltheatrewales.org, 27 July to 1 August). In Edinburgh, you can hunt the six-life size figures that comprise Antony Gormley’s latest public art project, 6 Times (nationalgalleries.org). And for the ultimate in no-sweat cultural edification, why not strip off for a dip at London Fields Lido on 10 July, where Wet Sounds will be laying on an over- and under-water aural installation (wetsounds.co.uk)?

Harder, faster, stronger, sillier

Put your ollies and grinds to the test at the Vans Shop Riot in Leeds, one of the UK’s up-and-coming skateboarding events, on 18 July (vans.co.uk). For connoisseurs of cycle eccentricity, the Dunwich Dynamo is hard to beat (24-25 July): a through-the-night spin from east London to the crumbling village on the Suffolk coast (southwarkcyclists.org.uk). If you know your derricks from your booms and jibs, hoist up your mainsail and head to Cowes Week for 31 July – entries accepted until the week before the regatta (cowesweek.co.uk). Others might prefer savouring the stamina needed to sprint, swim and cycle over 40 km on the Cornish coast during the Perranporth Surf Challenge Triathlon (left) on 12 September (perranporthslsc.org.uk). Finish the summer by training for the world’s most popular half marathon, the Great North Run, on 19 September (greatrun.org).

All it takes is good reading

The fun begins sooner than you think! Tomorrowat the Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival, Jeanette Winterson will talk about Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit– it’s the 25th anniversary of its publication. On Tuesday the Dolman Best Travel Book Prize will be announced.

Authors such as Matthew Engel and Horatio Clare are on the shortlist. Or there’s always Finland, whose neglected gastronomy is the subject of the Moomins Cookbook by Sami Malila Tove Jansson, published on Thursday. Recipes include breakfast at the end of a long, light summer night. Spend a summer night on 14 July at the Shoreditch House Literary Salon: check Facebook for an invite to hang out with Zoe Williams, Alex Bellos and Sloane Crosley. Alternatively, students of spin will eagerly await 26 July and publication of The Third Man, Peter Mandelson’s account of the New Labour years.

Lights, camera, summer!

Blockbuster quality should take a turn for the better over July and August. There’s the sci-fi thriller Inception (16 July), the latest from Christopher Nolan, swiftly followed by Toy Story 3 (19 July).

In August the hoary old action movie looks set for a glorious reboot courtesy of Scott Pilgrim vs The World (25 August). The al-fresco options are also bountiful, from the Film 4 Summer Screen season at Somerset House (somersethouse.org.uk, 29 July-8 August) to the Ford Galaxy series of stately home screenings (August and September).

The wisdom of the crowd

Glastonbury noses are still peeling, but festival season waits for no one. Those too slow to get a Bestival ticket will find similar surrealism and silliness on an intimate scale at Kendall Calling (30 July, kendalcalling.co.uk), where Doves headline. To sample the arguable inspiration behind the genre, head to the Edinburgh Fringe (6-30 August, edfringe.com), where the streets become a labyrinth of everything bizarre and brilliant in the performing arts. It’s a given that at some point you’ll find yourself horrified by the comparative youth of fellow revellers, but do check you haven’t wandered into Lollibop (17-18 July, lollibopfestival.com), a weekend of music, comedy and activities for the under-10s in Clissold Park, London. Meanwhile, those who were grooving in fields before the Lollibop set were twinkles in eyes, can get nostalgic at the eclectic Vintage at Goodwood (13-15 August, vintageatgoodwood.com), with music from the 1940s through to the 1980s. It doesn’t all have to be cider and dry shampoo, though – the 2010 Proms culminate in a live link-up with five terribly civilised outdoor classical concerts around the UK (11 September, bbc.co.uk/proms). Although, the Prommers were the original mosh pit …

Shake, drizzle and roll – five summer recipes

When you next make a salad think outside the lettuce/ tomatoes/cucumber box; watermelon and watercress go very well together. Combine 50g ground cashew nuts, a finely diced chilli pepper, 4tbsp sesame oil and soy sauce, juice of a large lime and finely chopped coriander, stir through barbecued, shredded duck breasts and serve with watermelon/watercress salad.

For a hearty accompaniment to summer barbecues, roast beetroot in the oven in its skin for 40-60 minutes, remove and allow to cool. Peel, slice and combine with crumbled feta cheese. Dress with 4tbsp of olive oil, maple syrup and sherry vinegar, and season.

Everyone knows that British terroir is capable of producing decent wines, but have you tried Herefordshire vodka? Chase vodka scooped top prize at the 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The makers say it’s best with quality apple juice,elderflower liqueur and a squeeze of lemon.

Don’t throw away overripe bananas: freeze them, then remove and allow to soften for 5 minutes, before peeling and popping them in a blender. Instant ice-cream.

Alcoholic ginger beer is the trendy drink du jour, but those on the wagon can upgrade to the bandwagon by infusing pineapple juice with fresh mint and topping up with soft ginger beer.

You must go down to the sea again

Where is Britain’s favourite beach? According to a recent poll, Rhossili Bay on Wales’s Gower Peninsula, thanks to its great surf, spectacular views and tidal islands. But beware! It’s one for the active, as its three miles of remote sandy beach are accessible only by a steep climb.

By contrast, Whitby in North Yorkshire offers large, clean sandy beaches and panoramic cliff top views. As for Cornwall, you’re spoilt for choice – but have you ever visited Trebarwith Strand on the north coast, with its towering cliffs and picturesque island? If there’s a more spectacular surf spot in England, let us know.

For the unfeasibly vigorous, the fine golden sand of Sandbanks Beach will be taken over by Beach Fest, featuring polo, volleyball, football, music and more (9-18 July, leisureprojects.net). Fear not, lovers of more traditional seaside pastimes – the character-packed resort of Broadstairs on the Kent coast, with its seven bays of golden sand, is a perennial favourite: bandstands!Cream teas! Minigolf!

Contributors: Rhiannon Harries, Simmy Richman, Katy Guest, Hugh Montgomery, Rob Sharp, Rebecca Gonsalves

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