Celebrating the brilliant ideas coming out of the city, the Cambridge Festival takes place in spring and brings together sciences, humanities, and the arts. It’s hosted by Cambridge University’s Public Engagement team, and comprises hundreds of free, fascinating talks, films, discussions, tours and family activities. Another cultural highlight is Cambridge Literary Festival, which brings the biggest stars of the book world to the city for two key events in spring and winter, as well as hosting one-off author talks year-round. Cambridge Film Festival, meanwhile, has been a fixture of our cultural scene for over 40 years, and offers a real treat for cinema lovers each autumn. With premiers, blockbusters, indie films and screenings in all kinds of unusual locations, the festival has a mission of fostering film culture for the benefit of the public. Another must-see is Cambridge Shakespeare Festival, running throughout July and August each year, which presents enthralling performances of the Bard’s plays in beautiful college gardens.
Whether you want to dance in a field, enjoy some experimental jazz or soak up a genteel classical performance, there’s a music festival in Cambridgeshire you’ll love. Perhaps the best known of all is Cambridge Folk Festival, a joyful celebration of folk in all its guises which brings world-class artists to Cherry Hinton Hall park each August. With a rich history dating back to the 1960s, it blends traditional and contemporary folk, as well as country, blues and roots. The Big Weekend, taking place in July, is a free festival in the heart of Cambridge on Parker’s Piece, offering big name performers, local musicians, fireworks and all sorts of stalls and family entertainment. Jazz fans will enjoy We Out Here, a multi-day event at a gorgeous countryside site in Abbots Ripton, around 45 minutes from central Cambridge. Featuring acts from across the globe, it celebrates the exciting new wave of jazz musicians, as well as dipping into soul, R&B and electronic genres. Another one for jazz enthusiasts is Cambridge Jazz Festival – a series of gigs at venues around the city, usually during November. If classical is more your tempo, check out Cambridge Music Festival, which aims to present classical music in bold, refreshing new ways. Venues include atmospheric spaces such as the King’s College Chapel, and performers include choirs, string quartets and percussionists.
There are many seasonal events to seek out in Cambridge, such as the annual fireworks display on Midsummer Common. With a huge bonfire, incredible pyrotechnics display and a funfair, it’s a much-loved fixture of autumn in Cambridge for locals. Also in November, the Big Switch On begins the countdown to Christmas, unveiling the city’s lights and offering an afternoon of entertainment. Another big hit is the Mill Road Winter Fair, a community celebration which usually takes place on the first Saturday in December. With stalls and buskers up and down the length of the Mill Road mile, it’s an event full of tasty food, mulled wine, and a good helping of community cheer.