Cheltenham: Festival town

Cheltenham: Festival town

Cheltenham is famous as a charming and historic destination, on the edge of the picturesque Cotswolds countryside. But did you know it is also a centre of culture and sport, home to several popular British festivals?

With its Jazz Festival starting this week, here is our round up of Cheltenham’s main events.


Cheltenham Jazz Festival is among the best in the UK, attracting big stars such as Van Morrison, Jamie Cullum and Eartha Kitt. BBC Radio attends each year, broadcasting programmes live from the event. This year’s festival line up includes Beverley Knight, Lianne La Havas and Courtney Pine.

When is it? 27 April – 2 May 2016.

Cheltenham Music Festival is one of Britain’s oldest music festivals, formed over 70 years ago. In addition to classical music, it features film, visual arts, dance and spoken word events. Venues include beautiful Gloucester Cathedral and Cheltenham Town Hall, and even the stunning chapel at Cheltenham College, home of our Summer Centre. This year’s programme marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and Erik Satie’s 150th birthday.

When is it? 1–17 July 2016.


Cheltenham Literature Festival, which began in 1949, is described as a ‘literary lover’s dream’. This prestigious festival welcomes award-winning writers and actors, politicians and cultural figures: past speakers include JK Rowling, Benedict Cumberbatch, and the writers of Doctor Who. There is a programme of events especially for children and young adults.

When is it? 7–16 October 2016.

Cheltenham Poetry Festival brings together some of the most entertaining performance poets, comedians and speakers for a programme of talks, plays, poetry cinema, storytelling, poetry slams and writing workshops for budding poets.

When is it? 6–15 May 2016.


Cheltenham Science Festival tackles topics from the latest medical research to what makes the perfect cup of tea. This year’s free highlights include Discover Zone, full of hands-on experiments and activities, and the Space Dome. In 2005 the festival launched FameLab, an international communications competition for young scientists and engineers.

When is it? 7–12 June 2016.


Cheltenham Festival is a 4-day horse racing event which includes the famous Cheltenham Gold Cup. It attracts over 200,000 visitors each year, including members of the British Royal Family — and huge prize money for the winning jockeys!

When is it? 14–17 March 2017.

Cheltenham Cricket Festival, a well-established event in the cricketing calendar, has been held in the grounds of Cheltenham College for over 140 years. The event, with its idyllic setting, is popular with both fans and stars of the game.

When is it? 13–24 July 2016.

The Best of the Rest

If none of those tempt you, other annual events include Cheltenham Design Festival and Food and Drink Festival (both in June), Comedy Festival (September), and the Celebration of Craftsmanship & Design (August) held at the magnificent Thirlestaine Long Gallery, on the Cheltenham College campus. There is something for everyone!

Read more news: introduction to Cheltenham

Find out about our Cheltenham Summer Centre

Photo credit:
Cheltenham Jazz Festival image copyright welovethesky.