The Bristol Harbour Festival, which marked its 40th anniversary in 2011, began as a celebration of the city’s maritime heritage – and now encompasses much more. Besides the hundreds of sailing boats, tall ships and old-time craft that gather in the Floating Harbour, there are music stages, a dance stage, street theatre, water displays, food stalls, and sundry other attractions – all on, or near, the Harbourside.
The moving image gets its own spotlight at several annual events in Bristol. The Watershed holds a number of festivals and special seasons every year, including Bristol Encounters and Afrika Eye, and is one of the partners in the Slapstick Festival of silent comedy.
Bristolian palates are well served by a number of annual events that celebrate good food. The Soil Association holds its Organic Food Festival on the Harbourside every autumn; the Love Food Festival invites people of all ages into the countryside to learn about locally sourced produce and how to grow and cook their own food; and Vegfest Bristol, one of Europe’s largest vegetarian and vegan festivals.
Need some mental stimulation? The Bristol Festival of Ideas runs throughout the year, presenting a dizzying range of artists, writers and public figures. Jonathan Miller, Jon Ronson, Germaine Greer, Richard Dawkins, Kristin Hersh... the list is virtually endless, and everyone has their own favourite. Then there’s the Bristol Poetry Festival, the Bristol Festival of Literature, and the University’s own InsideArts festival.
From its low-key beginnings in the 1960s, the annual St Pauls Afrikan Caribbean Carnival now attracts upwards of 80,000 people and features a colourful street parade, circus performers, food stalls and a wide variety of live music.
Balloons and kites have long been a part of the Bristol skyline, so the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta and the Bristol International Kite Festival are pretty big deals on the city’s calendar, attracting people in their thousands. Both are held on the rolling parkland of Ashton Court and feature funfairs and workshops as well as the main attractions: a spectacular skyful of colours and shapes.