Glyndebourne Festival, East Sussex
Each summer, from May to August, this historic site in East Sussex stages the Glyndebourne Festival. A season of world-class opera, the festival has been going since 1934, when founder John Christie met soprano Audrey Mildmay. Glyndebourne itself is now considered one of the finest and most celebrated opera houses in the world, delivering shows to 150,000 people each year. While the performances themselves take place in a state-of-the-art auditorium, the rest of the experience is hosted in its beautiful gardens. A key part of the event is the 90-minute interval, when guests can enjoy a picnic in the gardens or dinner at one of the three on-site restaurants. You’re welcome to bring your own picnic, or order one to pick up when you arrive. The festival has a tradition of formal dress, with many audience members relishing the opportunity to dress up – ideal after 18 months stuck at home.
Lewes, East Sussex, BN8 5UU; 20th May-29th August
Wilderness Festival, Oxfordshire
A four-day festival spanning music, the arts, food and wellbeing, Wilderness always pulls out all the stops when it comes to hospitality. Details for this year’s jaunt are still under wraps – including the music line-up – but previous outings have included food experiences from the likes of Cornerstone’s Tom Brown, The French House’s Neil Borthwick and Sabor’s Nieves Barragan, alongside feasting tables hosted by Angela Hartnett, James Knappet and the team from Petersham Nurseries. Don’t forget your bathing suit – both its collection of wood-fired hot tubs and its lake prove popular every year, regardless of the weather.
Cornbury, Oxfordshire, OX7 3DG; 5th-8th August
Heritage Live, Various locations
Heritage Live’s annual concerts are staged at some of England’s most beautiful and culturally significant venues. These historic landmarks, stately homes and estates – such as London’s Kenwood House, Ardingly Showground in East Sussex and Audley End in Essex – serve as striking backdrops to these evening events. This year, the concerts will take place in four blocks and acts headlining across the festival include Culture Club, Bananarama, Kim Wilde, Russell Watson with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, James Blunt and Van Morrison. Next summer will see Nile Rogers and Chic take to the stage, after being forced to cancel this year’s performance.
Hampstead Heath (24th-27th June); Ardingly, West Sussex (16th-18th July); Theale, Berkshire (23rd-25th July); Saffron Walden, Essex (12th-15th August)
Pub In The Park, Various locations
Tom Kerridge’s annual festival is back on the road this year. Each of the eight weekends will play host to Tom’s two Michelin-starred pubs, The Hand & Flowers and The Coach, plus a selection of other top UK restaurants and Michelin-starred chefs, who will be serving their most popular dishes across the weekend. Every event will celebrate the very best food the country has to offer, combined with great live music, chef demonstrations, top quality shopping and family-friendly festivities. Acts across the festivals will include Kaiser Chiefs, Gabrielle, Beverley Knight, Marc Almond, Lightning Seeds and Sophie Ellis-Bextor.
Bath (18th-20th June), Dulwich (25th- 27th June), Warwick (2nd-4th July), Tunbridge Wells (9th-11th July), Chichester (24th-25th July) Chiswick (3rd-4th September), St Albans (10th-12th September) and Marlow (16th-19th September).
The Al Fresco Theatre Drive-In, Various locations
New for this year, The Alfresco Theatre Drive-In is in the middle of touring six locations across the UK – and Syon Park in west London is next on the list. On the food front, The Alfresco Diner will be serving up one-off dishes from star chefs Tom Kerridge, Rick Stein, Atul Kochhar, Paul Ainsworth and Jason Atherton. Dishes include Tom’s smoked applewood cheeseburger; Paul’s slow-roast pork burger with crackling; Atul’s chicken malabar curry served with naan and kachumber salad; Jason’s picnic box; and Rick’s panzanella salad with smoked mackerel pâté, sourdough and bread-and-butter pickles – all of which can be enjoyed in front of live comedy, classic films and live music from the Bootleg Beatles and Bjorn Again: The Abba Show. All shows will be broadcast through your in-car FM radio, with performances taking place on the Alfresco Stage and broadcast onto a giant screen.
Syon Park, Brentford TW8 8JF; 9th-13th June
Big Feastival, Oxfordshire
Blur bassist and cheesemonger Alex James’s annual festival is arguably one of the best at getting the balance between food and music bang on. Aside from the Alex James Cheese Hub, chefs in attendance this year include Skye McAlpine, Theo Randall, Nathan Outlaw, Mark Hix and Ping Coombes, while Nile Rodgers & Chic and Norman Jay will take to the main stage. Designed with families in mind, the M&S Little Cooks Kitchen will provide an opportunity for children to learn about food and get hands-on with some picking in The Allotment and cooking in the kitchen – perfect if you’re thinking of making it a full family affair.
Kingham, Oxfordshire; 27th-29th August
South Facing, London
South Facing is a new month-long outdoor concert series. Taking place at the Crystal Palace Bowl, one of London's most scenic outdoor venues, the striking amphitheatre will host six diverse nights of live music across the summer, but of the selection, we’re most excited about the English National Opera. Its semi-staged performance of Tosca promises to proudly continue a classical music tradition at Crystal Palace that began nearly a century and a half ago. The conductor is Richard Farnes with Natalya Romaniw as Floria Tosca, David Junghoon Kim as Mario Cavaradossi and Roland Wood as Scarpia.
Crystal Palace Park, SE19 2BA; various dates between 5th-29th August
Nocturne Live at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Nocturne Live turns the Great Court at beautiful Blenheim Palace – the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill – into a grand arena: each year, world-class acts take to the stage and perform to 7,000 guests. As well as the nightly concerts, guests can make their visit an all-day affair, with VIP dining in the famous State Rooms, a walk in the palace’s vast grounds or a waterside picnic. This year, acts performing include David Gray, Simple Minds, UB40 and Lionel Ritchie.
Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PP; 16th-19th June
Hampton Court Palace Festival, Surrey
Hampton Court Palace Festival is back this summer, featuring Bastille ReOrchestrated, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Tom Jones, Keane and Van Morrison. If you’re looking to make a full day of it, groups can hire one of the Waterside Gazebos opposite the palace’s East Front Gardens. Here guests can tuck into a Fortnum & Mason picnic (made with the best seasonal ingredients from Fortnum’s famous food halls and packed with summer-ready drinks) or you can bring your own. Each gazebo includes an elegant al fresco dining table with six chairs (with room for 10 people standing) and table lanterns, and dedicated staff members will be on hand to serve refreshments.
East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU; 13th-24th August