Longer daylight hours and a bit of sunshine means Britain has a lot of annual celebrations and events this month!
Start the month by eating Yorkshire pudding to honour England’s largest county as it’s Yorkshire Day. 1 August was chosen because it is also the anniversary of the 1759 Battle of Minden when soldiers picked white roses (the symbol of Yorkshire) as a tribute to their fallen comrades. Regional pride is strong and there are special events across the county.
The Yorkshire Ridings Society organises official civic celebrations at a different Yorkshire location each year. This year it’s happening in the seaside town of Whitby. Mayors and other dignitaries parade through the market place to the cathedral where a celebratory service takes place followed by a civic lunch. There is a huge Wilfra Tart festival and a family party in the evening.
In York, the county capital, the Declaration of the Integrity of Yorkshire is read at each of the four Bars of York (these are the city gates, not pubs). The declaration is read in each of the languages that have been significant in York’s history: Latin, Old Norse and English and in Yorkshire dialect. Starting at Walmgate Bar at 10.30am, the party walk the city walls between the Bars with flags. The declaration readings continue at Micklegate at 11.44am (because in 2019 York is 1144 years old), then Bootham Bar at 12.15pm and then Monk Bar at 12.50pm ending at Parliament Square at 1pm.
St Wilfrid Procession
Ripon in North Yorkshire is steeped in some of the country’s oldest traditions, such as the St Wilfrid Procession.
St Wilfrid was the Abbot of Ripon and Bishop of York and was influential in the Early English Church. The Cathedral at Ripon is dedicated to him and every year his return to the town is celebrated with a parade led by an actor playing the Saint on his horse, followed by floats, musicians and dancers and the Wakeman of Ripon. There are also fairground rides and stalls in the Market Square. The procession starts at Studley Road and ends at Ripon Cathedral.
It takes place on the Saturday before the 1st Monday in August so this year is on Saturday 3 August.
World Gravy Wrestling Championships
We have plenty of mud here but let’s put a really British spin on the idea of mud wrestling and use gravy instead. Yes, it’s the World Gravy Wrestling Championships in Stacksteads in Lancashire on Monday 26 August 2019. This annual event only started in 2007 but it’s well-loved already. Anyone can enter for free and it’s a family-friendly event as kids can have a go in the gravy too.
Competitors wrestle in a 16-foot pool of Lancashire Gravy for 2 minutes and are scored on fancy dress, comedy effect, their ability to please the crowd and, finally, wrestling technique. When some rounds are hard to call, the judges ask the crowd for their opinion.
The gravy pool gets topped up with fresh supplies from barrels prepared earlier in the day. Between the rounds, the competitors are hosed down by the local fire brigade. The winner of each round goes forward into quarter and semi-finals with classes for men and women, before the final championships and the presentation of the silverware.
Hen Racing World Championship
Don’t you love how so many of the bonkers traditions here are ‘world championships’? I think we do know that’s because nowhere else in the world would be so daft. Anyway, a pub car park in Derbyshire is the setting for an annual hen race that’s been happening for over 100 years. Head to the Barley Mow pub in Bonsall on the first Saturday of August (3 August 2019) to see the hens race over a thirty-foot course with winners of each round going into a grand final.
The hens aren’t necessarily trained racing beasts as some will turn around and forget about the race never reaching the finish line. But some will really go for it and can cover the course in just a few seconds. Prizes are bags of grain for the ‘athlete’ and a trophy for the winning team. It can be loud and is always lots of fun.
Sherwood Forest Robin Hood Festival
The famous Nottinghamshire outlaw is celebrated in August at the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre near Edwinstowe. The 35th Robin Hood Festival is on from 5 to 11 August 2019. It’s a family-friendly affair with juggling, jesters and falconry as well as storytelling and all that forest to run around in. There’s an all-day parking fee but the festival is free to visit. (I actually went to this one for a day in 2012.)
Jousting is back for this year plus a brand-new live show featuring Robin Hood, his merry men, Marian and the Sheriff. And there’s an archery competition for the famous Silver Arrow on the Sunday.
British Firework Championship
The British Firework Championships is happening on the Hoe in Plymouth on 14 and 15 August 2019. There are two nights of spectacular pyrotechnics illuminating Plymouth Sound.
The fun starts at 6.30pm each day with live music, a fun fair and rides to entertainment until it gets dark enough to starts the firework displays (around 9.30pm). There are three displays each evening and members of the public can take part in the judging by voting for their favourite by text (SMS) message. Winners are announced within 24 hours of the end of the contest.
Fowey Royal Regatta
Regattas are a big part of Cornish life in the summer and the big ones are at Fowey, Falmouth and Charlestown. For one week each August the Fowey Royal Regatta attracts thousands of visitors. Considered to be one of Britain’s premier sailing events, it is also a fun-filled week for all the family. Sailing boats of all shapes and sizes race in the river and out in the bay and Fowey’s location, perched above a magnificent harbour, provides a natural arena to watch the sailing from 18 to 24 August 2019.
It’s not just sailing as there’s the crowning of the carnival queen and carnival parade, crab catching, swimming competitions and the torchlight dinghy procession on the water.
The Regatta also hosts the annual Giant Pasty Ceremony. An eight-foot long giant Cornish pasty is sailed across the bay from Polruan and is then carried through the streets accompanied by the Fowey Town Band. The procession stops at the steps of the King of Prussia Hotel where the Princess cuts the first slice. The magnificent culinary offering is then divided up and distributed to the children. There is a pasty eating competition on the same day so if you think you can eat a 1lb pasty in less than a minute, you may be in with a chance of winning.
World Championship Haggis Eating Competition
Moving north to Scotland, another annual eating contest is The World Championship Haggis Eating Competition at the Birnam Highland Games. Held each year on the last Saturday in August (so, that’s 31 August 2019), it’s free to enter and the person who eats the haggis quickest is declared the winner.
The games have been held annually since 1864 and include the traditional “heavy” events such as caber tossing and throwing the hammer. But they definitely have a sense of fun as there’s also The Kiltie Dash – a fun race open to everyone on the field wearing a kilt.
In Wales it’s Eisteddfod from 3 to 10 August 2019 (always the first week of August). It’s the country’s biggest and oldest national arts festival and a celebration of Welsh culture and language. The festival travels from place to place, alternating between north and south Wales, and this year it’s in Llanrwst, Conwy County.
The history of the Eisteddfod in Wales can be traced back to 1176, with the modern history of the organisation dating back to 1861. It’s a showcase for music, dance, visual arts and literature which attracts thousands of visitors. Translation services are available and there’s a centre for learning Welsh too.
Edinburgh really is a festival city. From 2 to 26 August 2019 the Edinburgh International Festival transforms one of the world’s most beautiful cities, presenting three exhilarating weeks of the finest creators and performers. The world’s largest arts festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is on the same dates. And there’s also The Edinburgh Art Festival on for a month from 25 July to 25 August.
The city population doubles during August and you’ll see lots of street performers with posters everywhere for all the shows. Whether you are looking for new comedy, avante-garde theatre or musical fun, you’ll find it in Edinburgh in August. My tip is to book for Cirque Berserk at the EICC; it’s a circus show that’s made for theatres.
Garlic bread and garlic mushrooms are old school. Have you ever tried garlic ice cream, garlic scones or a garlic Bloody Mary? Here’s your chance. Situated in the glorious, rolling hills at the heart of the Isle of Wight, this is one of the world’s largest celebrations of the piquant bulb. Billed as the island’s biggest summer show, the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival on 17-18 August 2019 also has live music, entertainment, cookery demonstrations, talented animals and a fun fair.
Bournemouth Air Festival
Bournemouth Air Festival is the biggest in the UK. This annual Dorset coast air show is a four-day event from 29 August to 1 September 2019 set against the backdrop of Bournemouth’s seven miles of award-winning beaches, beautiful bay and glorious gardens. This free Festival includes air displays (from classic flying machines to modern day speed machines), sea displays, interactive static displays, fireworks and family fun attractions.
The entertainment doesn’t stop when the sun goes down, as there’s the Night Air entertainment to light up the skies with pyrotechnic night flying. With street entertainment, great live music and military performances, the Bournemouth Air Festival is so much more than an air show.
For fans of the Fab Four, it’s International Beatleweek in Liverpool from 23 to 27 August 2019. Celebrating the music from the most famous band in the world, there are 70 bands from over 20 countries performing across the city.
The Cavern Club’s three stages will have a different band on every hour, and festival highlights include theatre shows, late night parties and the Annual Beatles Convention with guest speakers, a huge Beatles marketplace and more live music.
Lincoln Steampunk Festival
Lincoln is transformed from 23 to 26 August 2019 as the biggest and longest-running Steampunk Festival in the world returns to the city for the 11th year. Top hats, flying goggles, corsets and flamboyant feathers will all be worn on the cobbled streets of this historic city. The annual event celebrates a steam-powered world in the late 19th century and attracts visitors from all over the world.
Head to Bazaar Eclectica on Castle Hill for the amazing Steampunk market then join the Costume Parade and Promenade at Lincoln Castle on the Sunday morning. There’s also a Jet Pack Race at Lincoln Castle that doesn’t involve any flying and Tea Duelling with a biscuit as a weapon. The Wacky Racers also sounds superb with home-made man-powered vehicles. We can be sure everyone will be dressed splendidly all weekend.