Fast forward to fun! Fab things to do in Cornwall in 2021
Is that a hint of spring I feel in the air? No? Oh well, take solace in the fact that by summer there'll be warm weather AND loads of things to do. Here’s our list of fab events and exhibitions to pencil in the diary.
Fingers, toes and everything crossed for a summer of fun to go ahead for 2021 – as more events are confirmed, we’ll update our list.
Padstow Obby Oss & St Ives May Day, Sat 1 May & Mon 3 May
If you fancy seeing some traditional May Day celebrations, Padstow and St Ives will (hopefully) be making merry the old fashioned way. In usual years particularly keen revellers in Padstow can be seen singing in the streets from midnight on 30 Apr but the main Obby Oss celebrations begin the next morning with local people parading and dancing with their Obby Oss’ (hobby horses). St Ives’ May Day celebrations were revived relatively recently but involve choirs, brass brands, dancing round the may pole and the crowning of a May Queen and King. (TBC, obvs).
Flora Day, Helston, Sat 8 May
The people of Helston have been celebrating the ancient tradition of Flora Day for hundreds of years. It is a spring festival to mark the end of winter and arrival, vitality and fertility of spring. The shops and houses are decked out with bluebells, laurels, gorse and other greenery and the dancing begins from seven in the morning, continuing all day. Eighty couples dance through the streets – as well as several shops and houses – to drive out the darkness of winter and usher in the light of spring. (TBC, obvs)
Fowey Festival (7 – 15 May)
A nine-day literary festival based in Daphne du Maurier’s beautiful hometown of Fowey, Cornwall. Featuring a wide range of guest speakers with talks, panel debates, workshops and concerts – further details TBC.
Haegue Yang Strange Attractors, Tate St Ives
Berlin-based South Korean artist Haegue Yang has been taking the art world by storm and her largest exhibition to date in the UK opened at the Tate St Ives last October. Gloriously fun and chaotic, Haegue Yang’s exploration of the domestic, cultural and spiritual responses to the natural world is a definite conversation starter – and is currently due to end in May (subject to change, obvs, due to being closed since Jan – so we will update once we know). Check out our review here.
Eden Sessions, The Eden Project (various dates in June and July)
More massive names are heading west for this year’s Eden Sessions. Catch Lionel Richie (9 June), My Chemical Romance (15 June), Diana Ross (29 June), Bryan Adams (5 July), Idles (11 July) and The Script (14 July) who join a stellar line up of stars who have appeared on the fast becoming iconic Cornish stage. Check out some of the previous events at the video above.
Tunes in the Dunes, Perranporth (18-20 June)
The UK’s biggest festival on a beach held on the white sands of Perranporth. No word yet on the headliners but expect major national and international headline acts over the three days and nights – the line up in 2019 (2020 was postponed) included John Newman, Newton Faulkner, Fisherman’s Friends, Molly Hocking, Bananarama, Gabrielle, Madness, Sugarhill Gang, Morcheeba and more.
Golowan & Mazey Day, Penzance (18-27 June)
Penzance really knows how to throw a street party and Golowan is the traditional celebration of midsummer, marked with music, serpent dances, fairs, greenery and banners. Expect fireworks on Mazey Eve or bring the family to Mazey Day to see the parade of incredible, giant sculptures.
Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival (6pm, 19 June)
This one is definitely going ahead, as it’s moved online to a virtual festival! Usually shanty groups perform from across the UK, Brittany and beyond including Cornwall’s own groups including The Fishermen’s Friends, filling up pubs and stages across the town with often free performances. Catch up on last year’s festival in the video above!
Porthleven Food Festival (2-4 July)
The Porthleven Food Festival brings people together to enjoy eats and beats around the stunning harbour of Porthleven with a national and international chef’s theatre, food stalls, street food, music by day and night and entertainment for all. Usually held in April, this year the organisers are hoping by moving to July they stand some chance of it going ahead in some form.
Penzance LitFest, Penzance (7-10 July)
Plans are afoot for this annual festival, although no details yet. Expect talks, workshops and more from writers and authors from Cornwall and beyond.
HMS Pinafore, Pentillie Castle (13 July)
Award-winning outdoor theatre company Illyria bring their fabulous production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore to Pentillie Castle this summer. Set on board the warship HMS Pinafore, this wonderful comic opera cheerfully mocks such Great British institutions as Class, Patriotism and the Royal Navy, performed on a beautiful nautical set.
Tropical Pressure Festival, Mount Pleasant Eco Park, Porthtowan (16-18 July)
A small, family friendly festival with a global theme, celebrating the rich music, dance and food of 3 Tropical continents, in the beautiful Cornish countryside. Enjoy an incredible line up of music, free workshops and amazing food.
Macbeth, Pentillie Castle (21 July)
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the UK’s premier all male theatre company, bring their fabulous production of William Shakespeare’s brilliant tragedy to Pentillie Castle this summer. Emerging victorious and decorated in war Macbeth receives a thrilling pronouncement from three weird sisters who prophesy he will one day be King of Scotland. Overcome by ambition and driven on by his powerful wife, Macbeth murders the king and sets in motion a terrible sequence of events from which there is no turning back.
Leopallooza (23-25 July)
Described as the UK’s greatest house party in a field, the Leopallooza Festival (25 mins from Bude) is (fingers crossed) back for 2021. The line-up for this cult festival focuses on new and breaking bands, with the likes of Bastille, Kodaline, Everything Everything, Jamie Lawson and Izzy Bizu making appearances here in their early days – the line up this year is still tbc. Family friendly (my kids love the kids activities) and lots of camping options, Leo is the hottest festival ticket in Cornwall.
Rock Oyster Festival, Rock (30 July – 1 Aug)
Called ‘A Big Summer Party’ by the event organisers, Rock Oyster Festival, held at Roskear Farm near Wadebridge, is a north coast favourite. Expect live music, circus acts, yoga and a chance to try some of the best oysters, mussels, and artisan produce around. This family-friendly event also offers lots of fun for kids and can be reached by bike – straight off the beautiful Camel Trail.
Falmouth Week, Falmouth, 6 – 15 Aug
Falmouth Week is a major attraction for locals and visitors alike. With its origins in a local sailing regatta dating back at least far as 1837, the Week has evolved into not only a major sailing competition in the SW but also an opportunity for sailors and landlubbers to enjoy the many daytime and evening attractions in the town.
Boardmasters, Newquay (11-15 Aug)
Hopefully it is third times a charm for the Boardmasters Festival, after the 2019 weekend was cancelled due to poor weather, and 2020 due to Covid-19. The live music and pro surfing on the stunning Cornish coast is hosted across two beautiful locations. The festival site sits on the cliff top at Watergate Bay, home to arguably the world’s best festival view. Expect twelve stages, with a collection of acts ranging from local acoustic talent, to mind-bending visual performers, to international headliners (2021 line up still to be announced, but 2018 featured Catfish & The Bottlemen, The Chemical Brothers, George Ezra, Rag’n’Bone Man, Annie Mac, whilst the 2019 line-up had included Wu-Tang Clan, Florence and the Machine, Foals, Dizzee Rascal, Jorja Smith, Plan B, Bugzy Malone, Razorlight, Franz Ferdinand to name but just a few of the acts). Oh and over at Fistral there’s one or two things too … pro surf comps, skating, BMX, live music, the Surf Village and much more.
Falmouth Tall Ships (race starts 19 Aug)
August sees the world’s tall ships flock to Falmouth for the start of the Magellan-Elcano Tall Ships race – the boats and ships will be moored in Carrick Roads and in the inner harbour in the lead up to the start on 19 August (they then sail on to Spain). Yours truly sailed in the same race as a teenager back in 1999 so I speak with first hand experience when I say that the gathering of the ships, complete with crews at least 1/3 of which are under 25 and plenty of (uniformed) naval officers to boot adds a frisson of excitement to the locale. Just how that works post Covid I’m not sure, but the pre-race parade of sail is a spectacle in itself.
The Great Steam Engine Rally, Stithians Showground (20-22 Aug)
Family friendly weekend at Stithians to celebrate the 66th anniversary of the West of England Steam Engine Society. Expect, well, Steam Engines and plenty of vintage vehicles, plus fairground and rural animals including shire horses, plus a dog show.
Cornwall Folk Festival, Wadebridge (27-30 Aug)
The bank holiday weekend is all about folk music in Wadebridge, with four nights and three days of concerts, sessions, folk clubs, dancing, workshops, craft fairs and children’s events in the beautiful market town.
The Great Estate Festival, Scorrier (27-29 Aug)
“The most rambunctious Garden Fête!” Expect major international headline acts – 2019 included James, Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly and Craig Charle – and a mix of comedy, theatre, music and the arts, all within the beautiful grounds of Scorrier Estate. Look out for the vintage fairground, woodland silent disco, secret gin garden, The Whispering Woods, burlesque sessions, Madame Wong’s House of Wrong, classical corner, glamping, hot tubs, The Sanctuary and the Swamp Circus and much more. Usually in May, this year the festival has moved to the August bank holiday weekend.
Cornwall Pride, Newquay (28 Aug)
Now in its fourteenth year, Cornwall Pride is a celebration of diversity in Cornwall. This traditional Pride event includes a colourful and vibrant parade from Towan Beach, Rainbow Fest with an afternoon of live music at Newquay’s Killacourt and a ticketed evening ‘Moonbow’ party.
Unicorn Derby, Jubilee Pool, Penzance
The Jubilee Pool’s famous unicorn derby is always a fun day at the end of August with inflatable races across the pool, unicorn fancy dress and entertainment. Win swimming passes, cafe vouchers and more. All inflatables can take part but only unicorns can win in life!
PlayFest, Truro Cattle Market, Truro
PlayFest (part of National Playday) is a two-day festival to celebrate children’s right to play at the Cattle Market fields in Truro – although 2021 has yet to be confirmed after 2020 was cancelled due to Covid. Activities and fun include, circus skills workshops, have-a-go sessions, circus performance shows, entertainers, a variety of arts & crafts workshops, stalls, face painting, music, dance, yoga, fairground rides and more. Entry is free of charge. Some of the activities require an Activity Pass (£3), adults go free with accompanying child. Rides and food charged separately.
SkyBar, Polzeath & St Agnes
SkyBar takes the best of the aprés ski vibe and turns up the heat to create the highlight of your summer. Building on the amazing sell-out successes of recent years, with excellent music and plenty of drinks to compliment the awesome sunsets, in some beautiful South West locations, look out for 2021 dates.
St Ives Food & Drink Festival (17-19 Sept)
Prepare for a weekend of culinary treats on the sands of beautiful Porthminster Beach – although this year (we hope) in September, not the usual May. There’s always a great line-up of local and national chefs putting on demonstrations, which in previous years have included Tom Brown, Aine Carlin, Simon Hulstone, Jude Kereama, Hersha Patel, Chris Eden, and Ben Tunnicliffe. There’s usually a large selection of the best street food on offer plus plenty of traders with delicious produce for sale in the Artisan Tent.
Looe Music Festival, Looe (17-19 Sept)
Looe Music Festival serves up three days of superb live music in a magical setting on the stunning Cornish coast. A ‘grown-up’ music festival where camping isn’t a prerequisite, where you can visit for the day or the weekend, stay in comfort and eat like a king. Acts to be announced!
North Cornwall Book Festival, St Endellion (23-26 Sept)
North Cornwall Book Festival brings together readers and writers (and a few choice musicians) for a half term holiday of literature, narrative, craft, workshops and concerts in a site of outstanding beauty, between the holiday resort of Polzeath and the fishing community of Port Isaac. Events are yet to be announced but watch this space.
Falmouth Oyster Festival, Falmouth (7-10 Oct)
Falmouth’s Events Square will again play host to one of Cornwall’s biggest and best loved specialist food events, The Falmouth Oyster Festival. The annual festivities celebrate the start of the oyster dredging season, the native Fal Oyster and the diversity of Cornish seafood, with four days of feasting, cooking demos, live music, food and craft stalls.