Words by Stuart Every CEO & Founder Dolphin Creative
After 2 years of dreaming, it’s finally time to get back out and do something different.
Across Europe, in the smaller towns and cities, there are dozens of Street Theatre festivals waiting to be explored.
Street Theatre is the perfect antidote after spending too much time in confined spaces.
It’s all about people. Put your phone away, get into the moment, and share experiences of joy and laughter. Take your family, meet new friends, and explore some beautiful parts of Europe while you’re at it.
This is my personal selection of the best festivals coming up in the next few months, you’ll find the best shows and artists performing from all over the world. Most festivals are free, (or with a small entrance cost) and all they ask is you show your appreciation by tipping the shows you love.
Festival: Artisti in Piazza
Where: Pennabilli | Italy
When: June 1st to 5th
Set in the breathtakingly beautiful mountain village of Pennabilli, this festival promotes all the expressions of street, from theatre, to music, dance, performative or visual. It has become one of Italy’s most treasured festivals since its conception in 1997 by Ultimo Punto.
You are guaranteed to see something you’ll love. Unmissable.
Tips: Be sure to be in comfortable shoes while visiting this higgledy-piggledy town, chasing artists on different pitches can be quite a challenge in clunky shoes or heels. The festival is ticketed, and accommodation tends to be booked very early on by artists and early bird tourists, there are charming hotels and b&bs scattered in surrounding villages.
Festival: Hat Fair Festival
Where: Winchester | UK
When: July 1st to 3rd
The UK has a number of great Outdoor Arts festivals including Greenwich and Docklands, The Outthere Festival, and Hull’s own Freedom Festival.
The longest running of the UK street festivals is the Hat Fair, established in 1974
This family-friendly festival in Winchester spreads across the first weekend in July.
The name ‘Hat Fair’ points to the custom of tipping money to artists in their ‘Hat’.
Though evolved from its early days as a busking festival, it now encompasses the growing Outdoor Arts scene.
Free Friday/Saturday and Ticketed Sunday
Festival: Off Avignon
Where: Avignon | France
When: July 7th to 26th
The official Avignon Festival is a curated feast for the higher arts, however, it’s Off-Avignon where all the interesting stuff happens.
The French are passionate about street arts, with artists able to get funding to present new work. Off-Avignon is the highlight of the calendar. Expect around 500 new works debuting alongside returning classics. You’ll be sure to have an unrivalled choice of opportunity to see something wonderful.
Tip: get a festival card online and get to hang out at Bar du Off, where you can pick up tips for the hot shows
Festival: Kleines Fest
Location: Hannover | Germany
When: July 7th to 31st
Kleines Fest (“Little Festival” in German) promises around 130 international acts on 43 stages spread throughout the great gardens of Hannover. Harald Böhlmann (a.k.a. Man in the Top Hat) launched Kleines Fest for the first time in 1986 and the former head of the culture department will be responsible for curating this year’s festival.
The Kleines Fest im Großen Garten , or Small Festival in the Great Garden has grown to be the biggest and one of the most important festivals for Germany’s Street Arts scene..
Tip: This festival curates some of the best walkabout acts in the world. Bring a camera…
Festival: Chalon Dans La Rue
Where: Chalon | France
When July 20th to 24th
In the heart of the wine region lies the picturesque town of Chalon. Since 1987 this small town has welcomed some of the best in international street arts
Nathalie Cixous leads the new management team for this year’s festival under the umbrella of Centre National Des Arts De La Rue et de L’Espace Public (CNAREP (National Center for Arts in Public Space). Acts are commissioned in public spaces and are hosted in private residences. Over 5 days, the festival invites 160 national and international artists offering around 1000 performances under the summer sun.
They offer an eclectic and committed panel of creation in public space.
Personal Tips: The French are known to push boundaries with their openness, to accept and challenge new ideas and welcome with open arms all innovative acts performed by all sorts of artists and their company. “The proposals are intended to be anti-conformist, contemporary; radical at times, confusing at times.” It is all about diversity and embracing it in all forms.
Entrance Fee: Mixture of free and ticketed
Festival: Pflasterspektakel (Linz)
Where: Linz | Austria
When: July 21st to 23
Due to the very generous nature of the Austrian public; Linz has secured itself as a destination festival for the top busking artists.
The centre of Linz transforms into a stage for an eclectic variety of street performances. Undoubtedly it has become one of the most important and diverse street performance festivals in Europe since its conception in 1988. It “guarantees” high quality acts across the board. Its open concept welcomes and encourages newbies to the world of street arts.
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Location: Edinburgh | UK
When: 5th to 29th August
Edinburgh. A meca for street artists since its first conception in 1947. This year marks the 75th anniversary. It’s a behemoth. 3rd in global ticket sales after the Olympics and the World Cup. Hundreds of venues and thousands of shows. Arguably it’s the street shows that feed the city with energy for the 4 weeks. Over 120 artists descend to perform at the locations on the Royal Mile and the Mound. Shows are scheduled each morning and artists are picked from the hat to decide where and when. It’s old school.
The crowds give the artists energy and they multiply it to fill the town with the legendary Edinburgh buzz. No excuses: put it in your summer calendar now.
Festival Festival des Artistes de Rue
Where: Vevey | Switzerland
When: August 19th to 21st
There are few nicer spots to find yourself than the beautiful town of Vevey in Switzerland.
Vevey’s most famous resident was probably Charlie Chaplin, who spent his last years here.
Since 1992 it’s hosted a world renowned street festival. It’s one of the few festivals that runs an audience voting system and it’s become a prize reward for professional artists who want to claim bragging rights. Always well curated and attracts some of the best artists on the circuit.
Personal Tips: Place Scanavin offers a range of eating establishments throughout the festival. Check out this link from the festival’s website for more information on accommodation.
Where: Wrocław, Zielona Góra, Krotoszyn | Poland
When 20th to 28th August
The BuskerBus travels to three locations bringing a great mix of shows. It promises spectators of all ages to experience the culture of street arts. It’s been going since 1997 and artists are handpicked by the artistic director from a local and international panel of professional acts and a handful of newbies for the sole purpose of delighting the audience. The programme is different each time, and encourages and challenges the artist’s creativity, exploring new elements of surprise to each act performed.
Poland has a number of great street festivals and its also worth checking out Carnaval Sztukmistrzów and FETA.
Festival: Ferrara Buskers Festival
Where: Ferrara, Italy
When: 23rd – 28th August
“Il Ferrara Ferrara Buskers is Union. Union of art, music and different cultures.” It’s an Italian version of “Woodstock” about to happen, it claims (and is) the biggest festival in the world dedicated to street musicians since its first outing in 1987. Other forms of art are also given the space and recognition for their stories, jugglers, acrobats, poets are part of the movement and take advantage of big named musicians that pull the crowd during this great Italian festival.
Unless you’re on a mission for a purely spontaneous road trip, it’s good to be prepared before launching off on a summer adventure chasing summer festivals:
Be sensitive to the local culture:
Do a little homework on the history and ways of the people where you are visiting. Most of these events are held in small towns that are not prepared to cater to your specific needs and lifestyle. It would be good to know some basic phrases, especially your “Please and Thank yous”, although the locals are almost always welcoming, tourists sometimes forget that they are just temporary guests. Find out the tipping local culture for services used, for example.
Today, festival organisers invest a lot in resources to manage crowds better, make sure to download designated apps, interactive maps, mark out information kiosks, and be the independent traveller and spectator that you know you are.
Hotels and B&Bs will get booked up early on. It should be the next thing you look into right after you consider even going to an event.
Stay hydrated by bringing your own refillable bottles, summer in Europe can get pretty hot. Guests are recommended to join the campaign to reduce carbon footprint by disposing their trash correctly. Seek out the recycle bins and if you can’t find any hold on to it til you find a proper bin for it.
As a festival producer it always makes me a little nervous when the audience gets a little cocky, most performers are fully trained and experienced to handle the unpredictability of a crowd, they thrive on the positive reaction from the audience and are fully focused to not be distracted while performing. It’s good to remember that they are still human, they are here to entertain and give happiness. If you are the type of person with a short attention span, try finding a space in the back for a quick exit. Acts are sometimes dangerous, even when some don’t seem to be. Be mindful of small children running on to a pitch or pets running in for a little bit of attention.
Performers love being tipped, at the end of a show look out for a hat or a makeshift container to drop a few coins or notes to show your appreciation. As much as they love tips, being a team player is just as valuable to the show, you may be called out to participate, enjoy the moment and surrender to the master of ceremony. No one likes a party pooper, do clap, cheer, loudly ooooh – or ahhh with the crowd.