Looking for Bristol events, exhibitions and festivals to attend this year? We’ve got it covered with this regularly updated guide. Keep checking back for the latest details.
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta returns for its 44th year on Thursday 11 – Sunday 14 August at Ashton Court. Thousands of people will attend Europe’s largest annual ballooning event which is always a spectacular weekend.
The weather forecast is stunning so fingers crossed for a full calendar of balloon launches! There are mass ascents set for 6pm on Thursday and 6am and 6pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The launch of 50 balloons on Thursday at 6pm will be a memorial flight in memory of Phil Dunnington, a flight instructor who co-founded the fiesta. He also flew in more countries than any other pilot. The ascent will be led by Phil’s wife Allie, who is also a pilot.
Over 100 hot air balloons will take part over the weekend including new ones from Bristol logistics business Huboo and international brand Paul Smith’s Signature Stripe. To celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee, Busby the Queen’s Guard will be making an appearance.
As night falls on Thursday and Saturday at 9pm, 25 balloons will light up to a soundtrack recorded and curated by BBC Radio Bristol to reflect the communities across the city. The events, sponsored by Airbus, will close with spectacular fireworks provided by Illusions Fireworks.
Other arena entertainment
As well as the spectacular mass ascents from the main arena, look out for other activities including model balloons, model planes, sky diving and a balloon inflation race.
Huboo Sky Lounge
For the first time the event is offering visitors the chance to get up close and personal with the morning and evening balloon ascents as well as the nightglows.
The Sky Lounge, sponsored by Bristol-headquartered ecommerce fulfilment provider Huboo, will provide a private grassed area close to the balloons, garden seating, free Wi-Fi, access to a private bar and toilets and numerous kids activities from Junkfish.
Tickets for the Sky Lounge can be booked here.
Costa will be giving away free drinks during the morning ascents. There will also be entertainment throughout the weekend including musicians, book signings, pilot talks and children’s activities.
The 2022 Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is supporting the Great Western Air Ambulance Charity and Teenage Cancer Trust. Both charties will be on site throughout the weekend with activities as well as collecting funds during the nightglows. A GWAAC helicopter will give tours on Saturday.
New children’s entertainment area
The Bristol Balloon Fiesta has a new children’s area for 2022 with foam parties, music, dancing, singing and craft making.
Don’t miss entertainment by the characters from Pip and Posy, Magic Light Pictures‘ hugely popular and award-winning animated pre-school series on Milkshake! and Sky Kids.
The Brizzle Kicks Stage will kick off each day with Mini Peeps, a fun-filled party for toddlers, Families will enjoy sing-along-songs, dancing and games in the lively wake-and-shake.
The area will close each day with a high energy family fun rave complete with foam machines and a live DJ.
The brilliant science centre We The Curious will also be on hand with the Let’s Build family activity. They will be seeing who can create the tallest tower, the strongest structure and the weirdest shape using coloured straws and creative art materials. As the session progresses, the bigger the structures will become. By the end it will be like a mini city has popped up!
Other activities to keep the little ones entertained include a comedy magic show with Chris P Tee and his puppet Cheeky Chops and the Superhero Academy where children will be transform as they join in with interactive superhero training.
Jelli Records will be hosting live music on the bandstand on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Acts include The Port of Bristol Shanty Crew raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, Bristol singer songwriter Nika, un-auditioned contemporary choir Rock Choir, folk and country singer Barry Walsh and rock covers band Liberators.
Getting to and from the fiesta
Car park tickets must be purchased in advance and are single entry only. Tickets are non-refundable even in cases where the balloons do not fly.
There is no special shuttle bus service this year due to driver shortages. However, there are lots of regular bus routes that stop nearby.
You can also cycle and walk to the fiesta via Festival Way, a traffic-free path connecting the city to Ashton Court Estate and beyond.
For full details of transport options to and from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, click here.
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience
With over five million visitors in Europe, America and Asia, this exhibition has taken the world by storm so it’s brilliant to see it arriving in Bristol. The 360 degree digital art experience presents the life and works of Vincent Van Gogh in an all-new way.
With the help of state-of-the-art video mapping technology and floor-to-ceiling digital projections, visitors can step into more than 300 of the artist’s sketches, drawings and paintings.
As well as a 20,000 square foot light and sound spectacular, the exhibition includes a VR experience which guides the viewer through a day in the life of the artist and shares the inspiration behind some of his most famous works including Vincent’s Bedroom at Arles and Starry Night Over The Rhone River.
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience takes place from 9 April until 4 September at Propyard, a 2,700 square metre space in St Philips Marsh, East Bristol. The venue is a former MOD torpedo testing factory that has been transformed into a fully-accessible centre for art, music, food and collaboration.
We’ve checked out the exhibition and it really has to be seen to be believed!
Tickets are on sale here with prices starting from £16 for adults and £9.50 for children.
The moment we walked into ‘Van Gogh: The immersive experience’ at last night’s launch in #Bristol 🌻— Nina🇫🇷 & Dan🇬🇧 in Bristol 🇺🇦 (@LStyleDistrict) April 9, 2022
Stunning and spectacular! 😍
It’s at @propyardbristol until September. @WeArePlaster @VanGoghExp @fever_uk @VisitBristol @VanGoghExpo #VisitBristol #VanGogh pic.twitter.com/5KKLOytrgc
Presented by Bristol Light Festival and delivered by Bristol City Centre BID, Luminarium is a fully accessible, multi-sensory pop-up coming to College Green in Bristol on 4 – 14 August.
The organisers say: “Taking inspiration from natural forms, Islamic and Gothic cathedrals and modern architecture, the Luminarium is a sunlight-powered sensory experience featuring kaleidoscopic colours, domes, tunnels and pods.
“An Instagrammers dream, this installation is truly designed for every member of the family and every age group. As a multi-sensory environment, it is also accessible for those with complex needs.”
The free-to-enter and inflatable walk-in art experience, half the size of a football pitch, has travelled across 43 countries and hosted a total of more than three million visitors.
Luminarium is open 1-7pm daily from 4 – 14 August. Tickets are free and can be booked online in advance, with walk-ups also available.
#ad #invite Luminarium, a stunning installation of inflatable domes, opens today on College Green in #Bristol— Dan Martin (@Dan_Martin) August 4, 2022
The sunlight powered pop-up is a sensory experience with kaleidoscopic tunnels and pods.@NinaAllwood and I checked it out last night and it’s fantastic. #Luminarium pic.twitter.com/FrHNjV9q3y
St Pauls Carnival
Bristol’s St Pauls Carnival, first run in 1968, has been online since 2020 due to the pandemic. The full in-person carnival won’t return until 2023 but organisers have announced a series of live community events for summer 2022.
The full programme has yet to be announced but it will include an event at Lost Horizon, a family picnic and a community focused event at the Malcom X Community Centre. This year is also the 60th anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence and some events will recognise this milestone.
It costs over £650,000 to stage the carnival. Supporters are encouraged to donate and contribute to the future of Bristol’s annual celebration of culture and heritage.
Royal West of England Academy
The fabulous RWA has reopened after a major £4.1m refurbishment. We had a look around and it’s brilliant!
We got a sneak preview of the refurbished @RWABristol which reopens on Monday. It’s sustainable, accessible and inclusive. A must visit! 😍— Nina🇫🇷 & Dan🇬🇧 in Bristol 🇺🇦 (@LStyleDistrict) May 1, 2022
One new feature is a family activity room. @NinaAllwood can never resist dressing up! 😆
Big thanks @AlisonBevanRWA and team. #Bristol pic.twitter.com/fde6GZyHdY
The next big exhibition is Earth: Digging Deep in British Art 1781 – 2022 which runs from 9 July until 11 September.
It “offers a deep exploration of our environment across four centuries, inviting audiences to consider our planet in all its abundance, precarity and preciousness”.
As part of the exhibition, local land artist and sculptor Richard Long will be painting Muddy Gravity, a new artwork, directly onto the walls of the gallery using the mud from the Avon Gorge.
He said: “My first natural playground was the cliffs of the Avon Gorge and the towpath by the river. So even as a kid I was fascinated by the enormous tide, and the mud banks, and the wash of the ships as they swept past. You have this wash sweeping up the mud…muddy creeks…I guess it’s right to say that I have used that experience in my art…like water, the tides, the mud. All that cosmic energy is there in my work.”
Historic artists in the exhibition include J. M. W. Turner, John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, Graham Sutherland and Laura Knight, as well as contemporary artists David Nash, Anya Gallaccio, Yinka Shonibare, Mariele Neudecker and Tania Kovats.
Free events and activities take place alongside the exhibition including a one-off opportunity to draw a live goat! Street Goat and Abigail Reed will run the event on the remodelled forecourt at the front of the RWA on Saturday 30 July.
Tickets for the exhibition are available here.
Annual Open Exhibition
The RWA’s Annual Open Exhibition returns for its 169th year from 8 October 2022 – 8 January 2023.
The gallery is currently inviting artists to submit work. Anyone can enter their work which will be judged anonymously and purely on its own merits, rather than on the artist’s CV. Entries are open to artists across the UK and beyond and there’s no age limit: previous exhibitors’ ages have ranged from 15 to 100+.
The exhibition includes painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, film, sculpture and illustration by artists ranging from leading professionals, to emerging talent, from across the UK and beyond.
There are a range of prizes including a £5,000 cash. For more information, go rwaopen.co.uk.
Grayson’s Art Club: The Exhibition at Bristol Museum
Art works chosen by Grayson Perry and guest celebrities during season two of the hit TV series, Grayson’s Art Club feature in brilliant exhibition at Bristol Museum. Spread across three floors in the museum, the show is a chronicle of lockdown and shows how people from across the UK used art to illustrate their thoughts and experiences in that most unusual of times.
The exhibition runs until 4 September and you can read our full review here.
Wake the Tiger
The creators of immersive festival Boomtown Fair will be running Wake The Tiger, the world’s first “Amazement Park”, this summer in St Phillips, Bristol.
The event is described as “a fantastical experience” with “over 100 artists including storytellers, poets, scenic artists, robotics experts, fabricators, costume makers, architects, videographers and prop makers”.
The organisers continue: “Wake The Tiger will invite attendees to step through a portal into the parallel world of ‘Meridia’, where they will enter an old abandoned factory once inhabited by a mysterious community of adventurers staging wild experiments. The other worldly concept has been dreamt up with the aim of inspiring ways to reconnect people with their environment and community.
“With 27 distinct spaces within the experience, the art installations explore themes of connection and innovation, inspiration and discovery. From the underground networks of the Mycelium Room at the factory’s core, to the intergalactic explorations that await near the end of the journey, a world of intrigue and inspiration awaits. Guests will travel through illuminated singing ice, underwater worlds, mechanical chambers and elder forests in search of the secrets of the Lost Meridians.”
We had a sneak peak and it’s amazing!
Wake the Tiger opens on 30 July. Book tickets here.
We got a tour of @WakeTheTiger_ ‘Amazement Park’ in #Bristol yesterday. It’s absolutely spectacular & has to be seen to be believed!— Nina🇫🇷 & Dan🇬🇧 in Bristol 🇺🇦 (@LStyleDistrict) May 28, 2022
Described as “somewhere between Mad Max, Willy Wonka and Harry Potter.”
It opens this summer.
📸 Doug Francisco/Andre Pattenden#VisitBristol pic.twitter.com/gFjmaoOu65
Bristol Old Vic
Events and shows at the stunning theatre include:
10 September: Astounding Inventions Tour
Siren featuring Groove Armada
A major new summer music event, Siren, takes place on Bristol harbour on 29 and 30 July. Headlining day one is Groove Armada performing as part of its last full live UK tour.
Organisers say: “This summer will be 25 years since Groove Armada debuted, going on to become one of the most successful dance acts of the time. Over two decades of prolific productions and tireless touring they’ve proved that it’s possible to daringly explore a multitude of sounds while achieving critical and commercial success.
“Bristol crowds can expect the full experience, from dancehall dub of Superstylin to the crossover pop appeal of Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control) and from the dancefloor-igniting I See You Baby to the woozy sunset vibes of ‘At The River’. Each one of those cuts stands alone as a certified classic, revered in the dance music hall of fame for their timeless appeal.”