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Free events (what's on near me Jan 19)


Looking for something to do...

...but don't want to splash the cash? It may seem too good to be true: fun events that don't cost a penny to get in.

Whether it's a free event organised around a seasonal holiday, free local county shows or free festivals there's sure to be something going on near you. Keep an eye on our Free Events page for all the latest goings-on in the UK. Make sure you let us know if there's any we've missed!

Free events are great for the community as they create a real sense of togetherness. Many are organised by local governments, so make sure you make the most of them and don't miss out on what's going on in your local area. 

Want even more free things to do? Check out our Free Days Out page with all the best free days out across the UK, all year round.

Organiser on a white table with a bunch of flowers

What time of year is best for free events?

Free events are often seasonal, and with every major event, season and bank holiday a free event is always sure to appear.

Whether you call it tradition, nostalgia or capitalism, the Western calendar is propped up by a selection of seasonal holidays. Christmas, Easter, St Patricks Day, Bonfire Night, Halloween... the list goes on. And each year that these roll around, so do a whole host of free events!

What's going on this Winter 2018?

If you're after a rundown of what's going on for free in the UK this Winter, then look no further. Here's our compilation of the best free events happening now:

Somerset Illuminated Carnival | Somerset

The world-famous night-light carnival that takes place in towns and villages across Somerset. Follow the link for times and places.

Southampton Cruise Ship | Southampton

View epic ships set sail from their Southampton dock throughout Winter. 

Christmas Light Festival | Oxford

From Friday 16th - Sunday 18th November, a festival of arts, culture and Christmas fun hits Oxford. The theme this year is 'Undiscovered Oxford' and aims to showcase some of the lesser-known aspects of the city. There are plenty of free events to get involved in, so be sure to check it out if you're in the area.

Illuminate Festival | Plymouth

Plymouth's very own light festival is back for 2018 from 22nd - 23rd November. Illuminate is a light-art festival showcasing light-based art installations, projections and live performances.

Christmas By The River | London Bridge, London

Christmas By The River is the perfect way to get into the festive spirit this Christmas. Expect market stalls filled with gifts, food and drink, illuminated against a backdrop of Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and the City skyline. Pop down between Thursday 29th November - Wednesday 2nd January for all the festive fun!

Chinese New Year | Manchester/Liverpool

Take to the streets of these Northern cities on Chinese New Year for a spectacular parade and display of colour, sounds and yummy smells.

Free events at Christmas

Hyde Park, London Winter Wonderland at night. Outside of the Bavarian Village bar

Credit: Flickr

Undoubtedly the most expensive time of year, free events around Christmas time are a necessity. Check out all these ways to get into the festive spirit for free!

Winter Wonderland(s)

The largest (and most well-known) Winter Wonderland finds it home at Hyde Park, London. It's one of the biggest events of its type in the world and features stalls, markets, rollercoaster rides, an ice rink and various bars. Entrance is free, although certain attractions do charge for tickets. If you've ever been before you'll know just how busy it can get, so it's best to avoid weekends if you can.

There are lots of other Winter Wonderlands dotted all over the country, including spots in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bath. There's no better place to visit to start feeling a bit more festive - with the help of a mulled wine of course!

Carol services at churches

Get ready for a sing-song and pay a visit to your local church for free carol services. These are a great way to get into the festive spirit and to meet other local residents. 

Most churches will run several services throughout December, normally with at least one family-friendly service. Introduce your little ones to the true meaning of Christmas and get singing!

Christmas light switch-ons

The Official™ indicator for the Start Of Christmas = the lights switch-on.

Everything looks just that little bit nicer when the Christmas lights are on. Even the most boring of British high streets look like they fell straight out of a scene from The Holiday and it's socially acceptable to drink (mulled) wine in the street.

Most towns and cities have their own light switching on ceremony, normally headlined by a celebrity of sorts. It was rumoured last year that Lindsay Lohan would be turning on the Kettering Christmas lights...

Entrance for these events are normally free of charge, with several stalls selling merchandise, food and drinks. They can get pretty busy, so make sure to keep a watchful eye on children! 

Free events in Summer

Sunset at Green Man Festival, crowds of people sat down watching a stage

When the summertime rolls around, so do the majority of the free events in the UK. May to September is a very popular time for free festivals and events, celebrating not just music but art, culture, food and drink.

Each year the selection of free events is different, but these are ones that have taken our fancy over the years.

Godiva Festival, Coventry

On the last weekend in August get yourself down to Godiva Festival, the UK's largest free festival. Each year Godiva pull together a star-studded lineup to celebrate, with 2018 having the likes of Jake Bugg, Professor Green and Gabrielle.

Freedom Festival, Hull

Celebrate the very best of culture at Freedom Festival. There's something for everyone, including comedy, music, art, street theatre, spoken word, dance and much more.

Herne Bay Festival, Kent

For the month of August, Herne Bay Festival hosts a wide range of family-friendly events perfect for filling the school holidays. There's balloon modelling, open-air cinema, magic and lots more acts sure to keep the kids entertained.

Notting Hill Carnival, London

On Bank Holiday weekend in August, the streets of West London come alive with Europe's biggest street festival. Floats, colourful costumes, music, dance, food, drink - Notting Hill Carnival has it all. Children's Day Parade is normally on the Sunday; make sure you arrive early to get a good spot.

Free events at Easter

Not only do you have to cough up for the Easter Bunny's visit, but the Easter Holidays also means entertaining your children for two whole weeks. Luckily there are lots of great free events to keep the kids busy.

Pets At Home run free events during school holidays to educate children about pets and the responsibility of owning them. At Easter time, these events tend to be themed and are a great way to spend an afternoon. Check out what free events are on near you!

Free tickets to screenings of TV shows

Behind the scenes of Quizbusters TV show recording. 2 panels facing audience members

Credit: Flickr

Another great free way to spend a day is by scoring tickets to the live screening of your favourite TV shows.

TV shows that require audiences don't charge entry for tickets, rather they're given out as part of a free ballot. Chat shows, comedy panels, quiz shows all need live audience reactions and it's really easy to sign up for tickets.

  • The Graham Norton Show
  • The Voice
  • Pointless
  • Loose Women
  • Mock the Week

These are just a few of the shows that you can score tickets for. Register your interest on the SRO Audiences website and if you're successful you'll be contacted with details on claiming your free tickets.

Top tip!

Popular shows like The Graham Norton Show are extremely difficult to get tickets for, but priority booking makes it a lot easier. SRO Audiences offer a scheme where if you go and see and new TV show (one that people are less likely to opt to see off their own accord), then you'll get priority booking for the more sought-after tickets.

Get free entry to top music festivals (Bestival, Latitude, Glastonbury etc.)

It might surprise you, but volunteering at major UK festivals can often get you completely free entry, including top festivals like Bestival, Latitude and even Glastonbury.

If you've ever been to a music festival (or can picture what thousands of people in a field plus copious amounts of alcohol looks like), it will come as no surprise that the aftermath of festivals is A LOT of rubbish. Despite bin points located at spots all over festival sites, the scene Monday morning generally looks like something out of the apocalypse.

Volunteers are needed to help clear up the festival site and many offer free tickets in return.

Other free events to keep an eye out for...

If you're still looking for free event inspiration, have a search for these going on in your local area:

  • Free theatre tickets
  • Open-air cinemas
  • Free gigs (for up and coming artists)
  • Firework displays - grab a rug and enjoy the display with the kids!
  • Local fairs
  • Parades - make sure to find out when and where your nearest Pride event is.


Alex x