20 cultural things to do in 2020
2020 is the Hertfordshire Year of Culture so we've rounded up the best events, performances and festivals happening across the county to put in your diary now!
You don’t need us to tell you that Herts has got a thriving arts scene, but what better time to really celebrate and shout about what the county has to offer than now, during the Hertfordshire Year of Culture?
Over the course of the year there’ll be events popping up all over the place, from super local gatherings to major shows and performances, based on 12 different themes throughout the year. For Feb it’s Skills Delopment and Volunteering, but other themes include The Big Outdoors, The Cultural Olympiad, Meet the Maker and Celebrate and Illuminate.
You can even sign up to run your own events if you’re already involved with a local organisation or arts venue (just click here to download a form).
In the meantime, we’ve rounded up 20 highlights to see, do and book in the county this year for your delectation. Ooh we feel more cultured already!
HISTORY: Abbey by Night, St Albans Cathedral, until 18 March
The city of St Albans is steeped in history and a visit to the grand cathedral is the perfect starting point for learning more about its rich heritage. This interactive event will see all sorts of intriguing characters from monks to pilgrims, descend on the abbey after dark to regale visitors with tales about its past, accompanied by all the sights, sounds and smells of the time, for a multi-sensory experience. It’s £15 a ticket and that gets you a free glass of wine too – bonus!
WOMEN: Watford Women’s Centre Art Exhibition, Watford Museum, 5-28 March
As part of the International Women’s Day (8 March) celebrations this exhibition will showcase the work of the Watford Women’s Centre’s arts and crafts group on the theme of ‘An equal world is an enabled world.’ The pieces will be on display in the Foyer at Watford Museum through most of March. Why not book in to one of the Have a Go workshops there too, and try your hand at pastels, painting or life drawing? (various dates).
DANCE: RE: Ignite Festival, West Herts College and Watford Colosseum, 8 March
This free day of workshops and performances is dedicated to those over 55 with a passion for dance – so dust off those dancing shoes and get ready to move! – but there are also some events open to all ages, including a family workshop for 4-9 year olds and their grown-ups, as well as an intergenerational dance workshop, culminating in a festival finale performed by 10 local groups.
MUSIC: Hertford Symphony Orchestra Spring Concert, Hertford Theatre, 14 March
Even if classical music isn’t your thing, make this the year to go to a concert, and, better still, show your support for this local orchestra. They’ll be performing Strauss’ Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments, Glière’s Horn Concerto (with a solo from BBC Young Musician of the Year 2018 Finalist, Ben Goldscheider), and Brahms’ Symphony No.1.
PERFORMING ARTS: Harpenden Street Festival, 22 March
This free one-day festival will take over Harpenden High Street and promises to be a buzzing celebration of colourful characters, quirky performances and family fun. Expect circus skills and workshops, a mobile zoo, mobile street performers, dancing, face painting and live music. Plus the monthly farmer’s market will also be on so you can stock up on your local produce while you’re there.
BALLET: Swan Lake by Vienna Festival Ballet, Watersmeet, Rickmansworth, 27 March
Not only is this a chance to see the actual Vienna Festival Ballet perform live in our ‘hood, but it’s a special 40th anniversary celebration. Whether this is your first or 500th time seeing Swan Lake we reckon this one isn’t going to disappoint – expect billowing tulle, striking sets, iconic music and international stars on point.
KIDS: Children’s classical concert, Clarenden Muse, Watford, 28 March
If you’re hoping to inspire your brood to appreciate classical music, bring them along to this concert, where Brazilian flautist, Daniela Mars will discuss and perform on a different range of flutes. It’s part of a weekend festival which will also include a concert by pianist Artur Cimirro, who will make his UK debut.
FESTIVAL: Hertford Arts Festival, various locations, 11 April – 9 May
This bumper festival of local art includes the Hertford Arts Trail (30 free pop-up exhibitions around Hertford – grab a trail map from tourist info), the Courtyard Arts Open Exhibition (the 15th anniversary of this amateur and professional display of work), Hertford Theatre Week (a six-night drama festival including plays by Noel Coward, Euripides and Terence Rattigan) and The Arts Society Exhibition. Loads to get stuck into!
COMEDY: David Baddiel: Trolls Not the Dolls, Watford Colosseum, 2 May
Back with this one-man tour for 2020, David Baddiel tackles the serious 21st century issue of internet trolls, bringing in personal anecdotes about how he’s dealt with cyber attacks and come out the other side, all with a hefty dose of clever (if sometimes a little dark) humour.
COMEDY: The Guilty Feminist Live, Watford Colosseum, 20 May
If you’re not familiar with Deborah Frances-White, where have you been?! Since she swept onto the scene in 2015 her hilarious podcast about what feminism looks like in the 21st century, has gained over 70 million followers. Now’s your chance to see her live on stage in a stand-up show (that won’t be available on your podcast library!) with music, local guests and a few surprises.
DANCE: Big Dance, Watford, 30 May
Dance pros jiveswing.com will transform Watford Town Centre’s event space into one giant dance floor for this celebration of all types of movement, from Street Dance to Salsa, and Ballet to Ballroom. People of all ages and abilities can come along and get their groove on, plus there’ll be a chance for local schools and dance groups to take part in the ‘Big Dance Choreography’ where they can learn the steps online before performing in the big show on the day.
FESTIVAL: Summer Arts in Buntingford, Layston Gardens, 19 – 21 June
With a name like Buntingford this village is just begging to host a cute summer festival. This family friendly weekend will kick off with the fun and lively Battle of the Bands on the 19th where local schools will compete against local live bands for the chance to win a day in a recording studio. There’ll also be loads of creative stalls and arty installations to explore, plus storytelling, workshops and festival makeup for the kids.
MUSIC: Hertfordshire Festival of Music, various locations, 12-20 June
This annual celebration of classical music is now in its fifth year and brings together some of the most influencial composers and performers in the world, as well as supporting pro and young musicians hailing from our very own county. The full programme is still TBC but the Principal Artist will be violinist Chloë Hanslip and the featured Living Composer, Judith Weir CBE.
FESTIVAL: Herts Festival of ideas, University of Hertfordshire, 27-28 June
Grey matter in need of a workout? Get yourself over to UH to listen to some of the insightful panellists, artists, authors and experts lined up to talk at this thought-provoking festival. Some of the big names offering their words of wisdom include: Comedian Helen Lederer, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre Alistair Spalding CBE, Arctic Explorer and UH lecturer Dr Phil Porter, Political Journo Marie le Conte and Curator of Henry Moore Collections Dr Hannah Higham. We can already feel those brain cells multiplying!
CARNIVAL: WGC @ 100 Carnival, Welwyn Garden City, 11 July
Not only is 2020 the Herts Year of Culture it also marks the centenary of Welwyn Garden City. There’s loads going on throughout the year to celebrate but the carnival promises to be a high point, showing off the very best that the city has to offer. Very aptly the theme will be ‘garden’ so expect floats to be blooming with florals and greenery and all sorts of entertainment and silliness to ensue – from custard pie flinging to fire breathing.
MUSIC: Folk by the Oak Festival, Hatfield House, 19 July
This easy breezy summer fest is all about chilling with a cold bevvy in the sunshine with some of the finest folk acts in the biz as your soundtrack and the gorg Hatfield House as your backdrop. Headlining this year will be Seasick Steve, Kitty MacFarlane and Sam Sweeney Band to name a few, while folk-punk six-piece Skinny Lister will be rocking the Acorn Stage along with an eclectic mix of duos, bands and solo artists. There’ll also be craft and vintage stalls to explore, and creative workshops for all ages from willow weaving to fairy door making. Don the floral headgear and away you go!
FOOD: Hertford Food and Drink Festival, 22-23 Aug
Foodies listen up! Here are two days dedicated to all things food and drink for your consumable pleasure… as well as loads of street food stalls, there’ll also be the Hertford Castle Beer & World Food Festival happening, and local cafés, bars and restaurants will open their doors to offer special promotions, demos and samples (don’t mind if we do!) Yum.
HERITAGE: Hertford Castle Heritage Day, 20 Sept
Step back in time and discover more about the history of Hertford at this heritage fest, which will see the castle lawn transformed into a Medieval encampment, complete with costumed characters, birds of prey, viking battle re-enactments and archery workshops. You’ll also be able to venture inside the castle walls to explore the robing room and the themed rooms in the basement.
BOOKS: Tring Book Festival, 6-15 Nov
The 10-day Tring Book Fest – now in its second year – promises a packed programme of debates, interviews, presentations and workshops which will take place at venues across the town from pubs and theatres to the Tring Book Shop. If last year’s line-up is anything the go by we’re expecting a stellar array of authors, speakers, actors and politicians to make their way to the market town this November – watch this space!
ART: Herts Open Studios, various locations, 12 Sept – 4 Oct
This annual event is always a corker, with artists – amateur and professionals – opening up their homes and studios to the public to show off and sell their work. There are trail maps available showing all the studios, different artists and mediums – there’s literally everything from watercolours to ceramics, silversmithing to needlework, and glass art to oils. It’s a great opportunity to come and check out the local talent (not that kind, naughty!) and maybe even go home with a unique piece of local art.
PSSST… Don’t panic, Bedfordshire neighbours, we haven’t forgotten about you! There are always masses of fun things to do in your neck over the woods to be found in our monthly what’s on guides.