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Summer festivals happening across Sussex in 2018

PUBLISHED: 11:33 11 May 2018 | UPDATED: 15:12 24 January 2019

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Whether you’re looking for family-friendly fun or high-octane thrills, there’s a festival for every taste in Sussex this summer


The Great Escape - 17-19 May

Various venues, Brighton

This festival for new music specialises in under-the-radar rising stars. There are performances across more than 30 venues, including The Beach, a 2,000-capacity venue new for this year curated by musical tastemakers including Island Records, AWAL and Dr. Martens. This year’s Spotlight Show includes performances by Mist, Mostack, Steel Banglez, Fredo and Ebenezer.



Glyndebourne - 19 May - 26 August

One of the quintessential British summer events, Glyndebourne must be experienced to be believed. Performances this year include a revival of the 2015 production of Handel’s Saul; Der Rosenkavalier by Strauss; and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. A picnic in the glorious gardens is the perfect pick-me-up for the long interval.



Absolute 80s Weekender - 15-18 June

Butlins, Bognor Regis

Jason Donovan, Bad Manners and Toyah are among the headliners at this nostalgic event showcasing the biggest and best stars of the era. Fancy dress is encouraged and there are a variety of activities alongside the music, making this the perfect break for those who prefer staying in a hotel room to a tent. Tribute acts include behemoths such as George Michael, Whitney Houston and Madonna.



Love Supreme - 29 June-1 July

Glynde Place

The three-day jazz festival returns to the Sussex countryside, with a line-up including Elvis Costello, Earth Wind and Fire, and George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic. This relaxed, family-friendly festival has options for even the most reluctant campers including glamping, above-average festival food options and wellbeing sessions.



Magical Festival - 17-20 August

Borde Hill Garden

This boutique three-day festival is billed as an empowering experience that will “inspire you to be your best, happiest, most positive and confident self, all the while having a total blast.” Performers spanning a mix of genres from folk to funk include The Correspondents, One Eyed Jacks and Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer. Activities include laughter yoga, face painting and swing dancing.



Rye International Jazz and Blues Festival - 24-27 August

Various venues

This year will see the seventh instalment of the popular jazz festival. New for 2018 are educational workshops, masterclasses, photography, art, jazz for kids and a strong food and drink element. While headliners were still to be confirmed at the time of going to press, previous artists have included Seth Lakeman, Hue and Cry and Jo Harman.






Elderflower Fields - 26-29 May

Pippingford Park

Designed especially for families with children, this event offers music, sports, adventure and the arts. There’s so much to do, from catching a band perform on Dragonfly Hill to wildlife and nature activities. If your family’s not quite ready for the full Glastonbury experience, this could be your perfect first festival together.



Floral Fringe Fair - 2-3 June

Knepp Castle, West Grinstead

Here you will find horticulture, vintage fashion, classic cars and acres of foodie treats. There are stalls selling plants and contemporary crafts while lots of activities mean there’s always something new to see and do. This year the event will have a steampunk theme, with fancy dress encouraged. Organisers Jean and Steve Jackman are passionate wildlife gardeners so there is plenty to interest nature-lovers too.



Living History Festival - 2-3 June

Weald and Downland Museum

Experience more than 1,000 years of history over one weekend! Walk through many different eras, from Saxon times to the 20th century, while re-enactors provide an insight into how our forbears lived – from demonstrating ancient crafts to showing off their battle techniques.



South of England Agricultural Show - 7-9 June

This major rural event includes dazzling displays along with demonstrations of British agriculture, horticulture, forestry, equestrianism, rural crafts and skills. The 150-acre showground is arranged into ten zones including Food and Drink, Garden, Plants and Flowers, and more than 500 retail stands. Highlights include the high-energy, micro-sized Shetland Pony Grand National; popular hound parades; and the amazing livestock display, with expert commentary showing the best of breed in beef and dairy cattle, sheep, pigs and goats.



South of England Agricultural Show - 7-9 June

This major rural event includes dazzling displays along with demonstrations of British agriculture, horticulture, forestry, equestrianism, rural crafts and skills. The 150-acre showground is arranged into ten zones including Food and Drink, Garden, Plants and Flowers, and more than 500 retail stands. Highlights include the high-energy, micro-sized Shetland Pony Grand National; popular hound parades; and the amazing livestock display, with expert commentary showing the best of breed in beef and dairy cattle, sheep, pigs and goats.



Loxwood Joust - 4, 5, 11 and 12 August

Venture into our chivalrous past at this medieval extravaganza: spectators can expect daring displays of weaponry, archery and cannon fire as armoured knights prepare to meet in battle. Discover the Living History Village, where inhabitants live and work just as they would have done in the Middle Ages, or buy traditional wares in the Mediaeval Marketplace. There’s also a special area just for kids featuring activities from have-a-go archery to face and wound-painting.






The Al Shira’aa Hickstead Derby Meeting - 21-24 June

Near Burgess Hill

International showjumping superstars converge on the Sussex countryside to showcase their skills and prove their mettle in the Derby. The fiendishly difficult course includes one of the widest water jumps in the world.



Eastbourne International - 22-30 June

Devonshire Park

World-class tennis played at a combined men’s and women’s event, made all the more scintillating by its proximity in the calendar to Wimbledon. Last year’s champions were Karolína Plíšková and Novak Djokovic. Eastbourne’s own Johanna Konta has indicated that she plans to play in the 2018 tournament.



Festival of Speed - 12-15 July


The annual hill climb celebrates its silver jubilee this year. To celebrate, the event will take a nostalgic journey back over the event’s history with the Duke of Richmond selecting his own past highlights to take centre stage. A must on any petrolhead’s calendar, the event in the grounds of Goodwood House provides a wonderful opportunity to get up close and personal with historic motor racing vehicles.



Cowdray Gold Cup Final - 22 July


One of the pre-eminent polo tournaments in the world, the Gold Cup decides the British Open Polo Championship. The event, held against the stunning backdrop of Cowdray Park, attracts the highest calibre of international players and some very glamorous spectators.



Qatar Goodwood Festival – ‘Glorious Goodwood’ - 31 July-4 August

One of the highlights of the flat-racing calendar on one of the most beautiful courses in the world, Glorious Goodwood provides five days of thrilling equestrian action – plus the opportunity to ogle some fabulous outfits.





Arts and culture

Chichester Festival Theatre Festival 2018 Season - 23 April-30 December

Daniel Evans’ and Rachel Tackley’s second season as co-directors includes classic comedies, powerful contemporary dramas and timely revivals, as well as two musicals and a family show. The season kicks off with Noel Coward’s Present Laughter before Penelope Keith stars in The Chalk Garden. Later in the summer Caroline Quentin features in a revival of Me and My Girl.



Brighton Fringe - 4 May-3 June

This vast city arts event saw more than 4,500 performances last year, covering theatre, comedy, dance, cabaret, music, visual arts and more. This year, widening access to the arts will be a major theme for Brighton Fringe on all fronts, with 300+ free events, and the Freedom Season specifically devoted to inclusivity.



Brighton Festival - 5-27 May

This year’s guest director is Turner Prize-nominated artist David Shrigley. More than 130 events span the disciplines of music, comedy, theatre and dance – plus many more.



Brighton Artists’ Open Houses - 5-27 May

Various venues

The spring session of this biannual event (there’s also a Christmas version) offers the opportunity to see and buy jewellery, ceramics and textiles, paintings, sculpture, printmaking, photography and many other media, all direct from the artist.



Charleston Festival - 18-28 May

Firle, near Lewes

Charleston, the country seat of the Bloomsbury Group, plays host to ten days of debate about arts, culture, science and politics. This year’s winner of the fourth annual Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize is Sir David Attenborough, who will deliver an illustrated talk on whether some animals can be described as artists.



Petworth Festival - 17 July-4 August

Various venues

Top-quality jazz comes from Joe Stilgoe, Darius Brubeck, percussionist extraordinaire Dame Evelyn Glennie (performing with the Scottish HLK Trio), and a recreation of the iconic 1938 Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall concert; comedy comes from Paul Merton and his irrepressible Impro Chums and Gyles Brandreth; while other star names include Alistair McGowan  and Glastonbury regulars Swing Zazou.



Our City Dances - 21-22 July

Tarner Park, Brighton

Presented by South East Dance in partnership with Tarner Festival, Our City Dances will include a series of engaging performances and workshops, giving audiences a taste of things to come ahead of the opening of The Dance Space in Brighton in 2020.



Chichester International Film Festival - 9-26 August

Over 20 days, the south coast’s leading film festival screens films over five venues across the city. Last year audiences had the opportunity to watch 150 films from more than 30 countries – some of them premiering at the Chichester event. There’s also plenty of opportunity to get a glimpse behind the curtain at scheduled talks and Q&A sessions with directors, actors and producers.



Artwave - 18 August-2 September

This annual festival of artists and makers in Lewes, Seaford and Newhaven celebrates its quarter-century in 2018. The concept is simple: visitors can buy directly from local painters, sculptors, jewellers, textile designers, ceramicists and printers, exhibiting in a number of venues across the area.



Byline Festival - 24-27 August

Pippingford Park, East Sussex

A celebration of big ideas, this festival has a very particular mission statement: “Think. Debate. Laugh. Dance. And change the world.” There’s music from the likes of The Blow Monkeys and The Vapors, while speakers include Hugh Grant, Vince Cable and June Sarpong. Add a range of workshops and themes for discussion and you have an unusually cerebral festival programme.






Jack in the Green - 4-7 May

Hastings Old Town

A celebration of Morris dancing and traditional merriment. The long weekend features music of all genres and finishes with the Jack in the Green parade. The parade sets off from the Fisherman’s Huts in Rock-a-Nore Road and finishes on West Hill, culminating in the symbolic slaying of Jack, to release the spirit of summer for this year.



Loxfest - 12 May

North Hall, Loxwood

A music and beer festival raising funds for Loxwood Pre-School. Up-and-coming bands and a DJ perform a wide variety of music, with a second acoustic stage in the beer tent featuring local artists. A range of food will also be available plus an exciting array of beers and ciders from top local breweries and a Pimm’s, Prosecco and wine bar.



Steyning Festival - 26 May-9 June

Various venues

This year’s festival has a theme of Revolution and presents a mix of music, drama, dance, art, poetry, literature, talks, walks, community events and craft activities. Headline acts include Peep Show’s Robert Webb and Soul II Soul with Jazzie B. Other highlights include Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and children’s author Julia Donaldson.



Wiston Steam Rally Wiston Park - 7-8 July

More then 1,100 exhibits range from steam traction engines to vintage vehicles. Around the field are fascinating displays of buses, tractors, cars, lorries, military vehicles, bicycles and motorcycles. There is also a large fun fair with traditional rides and side stands, while the Working Area hosts steam-powered demonstrations including woodcutting at the saw benches and stationary engines.



Beach Dreams Festival - 13-15 July

Beach Green, Shoreham Beach

A unique free community event boasting live music, attractions and culture for the whole family. The event kicks off with two large processions made up of all the local schools and samba bands filling the streets as they march towards the festival site from both corners of Shoreham Beach, heralding two days of live music, fun and games for all ages.



Pride - 3-5 August

Brighton Pride claims to be “the UK’s biggest, boldest and best LGBTQ event with community fundraising at its heart.” This year’s Preston Park line-up is extraordinary, with icon Britney Spears headlining the Saturday with support from Ella Eyre and Pixie Lott. LoveBn1Fest is the brand new Pride Sunday festival helping raise extra funds for the Pride Social Impact Fund and celebrating the spirit of Brighton and Hove. Main stage headliners are Nile Rogers & Chic with Jess Glynne also set to perform.



International Bognor Birdman - 11-12 August

Bognor Regis Pier

A competition for human-powered flying contraptions, with entrants taking part in three different categories to either raise money for charity or come up with their own inventions to compete for cash prizes.



Arundel Festival - 18-27 August

Ten-day, volunteer-run arts festival which includes street entertainment, a gallery trail, theatre trail and foodie events. Shakespeare in the grounds of Arundel Castle is always a highlight, as is the live music by the river in Jubilee Gardens.


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