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Outside concerts and theatres: The kit you need to enjoy them, even in a British summer

Plan your first visit with pre-mixed cocktails, picnicware and sunny weather essentials 

Louise Whitbread
Friday 10 July 2020 18:08
Outdoor theatres, operas, dance and music shows can now go ahead thanks to the latest easing of lockdown restrictions
Outdoor theatres, operas, dance and music shows can now go ahead thanks to the latest easing of lockdown restrictions

In an announcement on 9 July, Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for culture, media and sport shared the latest easing of lockdown restriction which will begin from 11 July.

“As of this weekend, our artists, musicians and dancers can start performing live outside to audiences,” he said in his address.”Our theatres, operas, dance and music shows can start putting on outdoor performances to socially distanced audiences.”

Enjoying the arts outside will be different than before, of course, with venue capacities being reduced and organisations being encouraged to use electronic ticketing, to help test and trace attendees.

The MP added: “As these places begin to reopen their doors, I’m really urging people to get out there and to play their part.

"Buy the tickets for outdoor plays and music recitals, get to your local gallery and support your local businesses."

It follows a £1.57bn package of emergency support being provided to help arts, heritage and cultural institutions who have been massively impacted by the lockdown.

Whether you’re planning a trip to the open-air Minack Theatre in Cornwall, watching Six, The Musical on a drive-in arena stage or supporting your local theatre company, here are the helpful things to bring with you to.

From pre-mixed cocktails to camping chairs, here’s our guide to enjoying the latest easing of lockdown rules as safely as possible.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Drinks

All of us are well-accustomed to the gin in a tin, pre-made cocktails are nothing new – but there’s been a flood of new and exciting options on the market that offer more than just a weak G&T.

Take these Bloody Drinks bloody classic (Bloody Drinks, from £16) for example, which topped out guide to the best pre-mixed cocktails.

Crack open a few ready-to-drink cocktails while you watch the show (The Independent)

If you think bar-standard tinned cocktails aren’t possible, the bloody classic will defy your expectations.

“It’s hot, but not overwhelmingly so, with those satisfying umami notes from soy and Worcestershire sauce combining with amontillado sherry, pickle juice and a rich and velvety tomato base (and vodka obvs),” our reviewer said.

However if you’re more of a wine drinker, support one of England’s vineyards, which are proven to be pretty adept at producing still and sparkling wines.

The Camel Valley Atlantic dry 2018 (Camel Valley, £13.95) ranked highly in our guide to the best English still wines thanks to the full-on citrus and green fruit flavours and a beautifully crisp and dry finish.

If you like citrus flavours, you’ll love this white wine from the Cornish vineyard (Camel Valley)

To sip on your bottle of bubbly during the performance, cut down on your single-use plastics by ditching the plastic cup containers. Or you can even keep one on you for any pub visits instead of using single-use pint glasses.

Instead opt for a more robust, reusable alternative such as these leon bamboo picnic tumbler set of 4 (John Lewis and Partners, £15).

Sip on your cocktails or smoothies in this colourful set of tumblers

Bold, bright and beautiful, you can use them time and time again for wine, processo, Pimm’s and soft drinks.

Picnic blanket

There’s nothing worse than being uncomfortable throughout a performance, or sitting on hard – or worse, wet – ground. That's why a picnic blanket (or two, depending on the weather) is an absolute essential for any outdoor arts event.

The VonShef picnic blanket (VonShef, £24.99) is made from a hard-wearing fleece polyester that makes for a comfy sit-down and has a waterproof backing for non-soggy sitting.

This picnic blanket from Von Shef looks smart and rolls up easily to be secured with dark brown leather-look carry straps (VonShef)

It came top in our IndyBest guide of best picnic blankets too and was one of the largest blankets we tried, measuring 147cm long and 180cm wide which will fit four people. Perfect for dining alfresco too.

If you can carry them and take them into the ecent, surround your picnic blanket with outdoor cushions to make it extra plush.

Stay comfortable when sitting on a picnic blanket by adding fluffy outdoor cushions (We Love Cushions)

These durable, waterproof We Love Cushions large outdoor cushions (We Love Cushions, from £39.99) impressed us for being soft and bouncy, ideal for cosying up on a balmy summer’s night, and it doesn't event matter if it rains (as we know it's likely too).

Foldaway seating

If you’ve been desperate to head to an outdoor theatre performance for your next date night, pick up this Eurohike peak folding twin chair (Blacks, £21) and treat yourself to comfortable seating to avoid grass-stained clothes, and cosy up without any annoying chair arms in the way.

There’s plenty of room for two on this chair without having to get uncomfortably close if you don’t want to (Blacks)

They’re a great space-saver too, folding down to the size of most single chairs, and it’s light enough to carry from your car to your spot, weighing only 5.6kg.

We found the fabric to be strong and the frame feels a lot more solid than it looks, each arm has a cup holder too for your drinks or snacks.

Tableware

If you’re going to an event that allows you to bring your own food, consider taking your own cutlery, so as not to share it and potentially spread germs.

This Joseph Joseph goeat compact portable stainless steel cutlery set (John Lewis & Partners, £14) means you don't have to put up with flimsy, often single-use plastic cutlery or wooden ones.

Put down the plastic knife and fork and instead reach for this stainless steel set (John Lewis & Partners)

Made of stainless steel, the set includes a knife with a magnetic handle, fork and spoon and comes in a silicone case to help keep them clean before and after use. They’re easy to wipe clean once you’re done eating using antibacterial wipes too and you can pop in your bag after eating.

Grab a pack like this plastic-free antibacterial apple and apricot surface wipes (Wilko, 50p) to wipe down cutlery, tableware and surfaces to keep the spread of germs to a minimum.

Antibacterial wipes are ideal for cleaning surfaces and tableware before you sit down to eat

Of course, if you’re bringing a picnic to munch through, make sure you’re kitted out with melamine tableware to make it feel like you’re eating dinner in a restaurant, rather than straight from the packet.

This Rio 12 piece melamine dinnerware set (Wayfair, £59.99) is perfect if you attending in a socially distanced group.

Serve up pasta salad, carrots and hummus or crisps with this colourful melamine set

The brightly-coloured terracotta-looking pots have a fine-dining feel while still being shatterproof and dishwasher safe.

Sunny weather essentials

If it's a daytime trip, keep the sun rays out of your eyes with these trek rounded sunglasses (Weekday, £12) designed with a rounded lens and a tortoiseshell frame.

Keep the sun out of your eyes with a pair of sunglasses

With so many high street brands offering a myriad of sunglasses designs, you don’t need to spend a fortune to find a pair to suit you and if looked after, i.e. not accidentally sat on while reaching for picnic food, can last years.

Should the weather be sunny (fingers crossed) don’t forget to bring sunscreen to protect skin from overexposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun.

For your face, try the Sol de Janeiro my sol stick SPF 50 (Space NK, £24) a high protection stick that has the same delicious scent of Brazilian dessert doce de leite – a sort of sweet honey sunshine smell – as it’s cult favourite bum bum body cream.

This portable stick is perfect for regular touch up and applying to specific areas with ease (Space NK)

In our guide to the best body SPF we loved the Vichy solar protective water SPF50 (Boots, £19), which sprays on evenly and quickly rubs in.

Apply and reapply sunscreen to stay protected during sunny weather (Vichy)

“This feels like you are spritzing yourself with refreshing lemon water but with the added bonus of SPF50,” said our reviewer.

It also made skin feel beautifully smooth thanks to the presence of moisturising hyaluronic acid along with Vichy mineralising water.

Prepare for rain, just to be on the safe side of the British summertime, and bring a waterproof jacket.

In our guide, we were impressed with the Berghaus fellmaster (Berghaus £115.50).

Our reviewer found the breathable membrane kept them dry and cool. “The material is comfortable, warm and allows for natural upper body movement and its adjustable cuffs and hood mean that the rain won’t start leaking through the jacket’s openings.”

This jacket will keep you dry in wet weather but cool too if it's still hot (Berghaus)

We also liked the Patagonia torrentshell (Patagonia, £84) that has a boxy fit so it won’t feel bulky when worn as an extra layer, while the wide pockets are great for storing snacks, car keys and phone.

This lightweight jacket is made from eco-friendly materials too, for a feel-good purchase(Patagonia)

It’s also made with 100 per cent recycled fabric, making it a planet-conscious choice, and it stuffs down into its own pocket.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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