Preview: The Castle Quay Weekender 18-19 June

In 2011 the first Castle Quay Weekender took place in seven empty units on Castle Lane and attracted 5000 visitors.  The legacy of that event was far-reaching, including being the catalyst for the launch of this very newspaper.

Five years on and those vacant shops are thriving independent restaurants, cafes and businesses surrounding Castle Mound and the Archaeology Park, with the Higgins Bedford at its heart. And the Castle Quay Weekender is back to celebrate.

Where is it?

The Castle Quay Weekender will take place in and around Castle Lane.  On Saturday, the Archaeology Park will host the live music stage with events also taking place on Castle Mound, at the Higgins Bedford and on Castle Bailey Gardens.  Restaurants, bars and coffee shops are all on site to provide much needed sustenance!

What’s going on?

From live music to food, circus workshops to an arts and crafts market, there is something for everyone at the Castle Quay Weekender. The BedPop Record Shop will be popping up at the Higgins, Bedford’s Spiral free runners will be demonstrating their awesome skills (and running workshops too) and there’ll be dancers popping up all over the place.  You can download a copy of the full programme here.

Headliners Rags Rudi
Headliners Rags Rudi


Live music has long been a key part of Bedford nightlife, with a strong and growing reputation for producing bands capable of making it big. Over the weekend, the Castle Quay Weekender will host a selection of the area’s best bands and solo artists, as well as a few visitors from further afield.  The main stage on Saturday will be on the Archaeology Park and will play host to a wide variety of acts from the Barford Avenue All-Stars to My Girl the River, The Broadway Twisters to headliners, Rags Rudi.

On Sunday, the live music will move to the Higgins’ Terrace while The Lane hosts the soul sounds of DJs Geoff and Hammy, Paul Miller and Robert Gipson.

There will be something for everyone!

Free Runners

Bedford’s Spiral Free Runners will be showcasing their jaw-dropping skills on Saturday with a performance from 12 – 1pm and workshop on the Higgins’ terrace between 2 – 3pm.  Using street furniture and buildings in their routines, they’re definitely going to draw a crowd! Workshop spaces are limited to 30 participants, so book yours now:

(Age guidance: 8+)

Art & Craft Market on the Higgins’ lawn

The unmistakable Tabitha Mary will be unveiling a new print at the CQW
The unmistakable Tabitha Mary will be unveiling a new print at the CQW

Bedford’s best artists, designers, makers, bakers, crafters and illustrators will be selling their wares in the Art and Crafts Market. There will be unique art, handmade crafts, jewellery and it’s a great chance to meet the makers and find out more about the wealth of creativity in Bedford.

Culture at Castle Quay

The museum and gallery’s permanent collections are well worth a look, but if you haven’t got time to take in everything why not take a Ten Minute Tour throughout the day. The perfect way to whet your appetite for a return visit!

Castle Quay sponsor KSK has offered their MD as an artists’ model for the day for a Portrait Masterclass.  Charles Little will be in the Wixamtree Gallery at the Higgins and visitors are invited to draw his portrait under the expert guidance of a professional artist. KSK are offering a prize for the best drawing.

Lee Nelson
Lee Nelson

Spoken word artist, Lee Nelson will be hosting a Poetry Slam for all the family on Saturday 18th June at 3pm in the Friends of Refugees’ tent.  Well known on the poetry circuit, Lee will be performing his own work and introducing local poets in this fast-paced celebration of the spoken word. Participants of all ages are encouraged, but must register by 2.30pm.

To mark Refugee Week, the Higgins Bedford is hosting a number of events including a display of the belongings of refugees who have fled to Britain.  The Objects from Distant Lands exhibition will take place in the foyer and the film of the same name, made by Sean Doyle, will be shown throughout the day.

The Sir William Harpur Gallery at the Higgins will host Bedford Re-Imagined, an exhibition of work by final year interior design and interior architecture students from the University of Bedfordshire.  The projects are based on the Higgins Sheds and the former Topps Tiles showroom at 26 St Cuthbert’s Street.


Before I Die wall – be part of art!

Before I Die is an interactive public art project that invites people to share their personal aspirations in public space.  The original wall was created by artist Candy Chang in 2011 and since then, over 1,000 Before I Die walls have been created in 73 countries and 36 languages.


Thanks to Lisa Sanderson, artist Anne-Marie Stijelia, the Higgins Bedford, Homebase and BedPop, the Castle Quay Weekender will debut Bedford’s very own Before I Die wall.

Located outside the Higgins, you are invited to add your own dreams, aspirations and thoughts to it.  Write on it, read it, photograph it, share it and be part of it.

The Before I Die wall will also be part of Bedford River Festival in July and the BedPop Fun Palaces in October.

@beforeidiewall on Instagram


On the Higgins’ lawn you’ll find ConTENTment, the Castle Quay Weekender’s home to happiness.

Hosted by the #breakthestigma team, ConTENTment will be filled with ideas, people, concepts and opportunities to help you find your own personal nirvana.

Taking up a hobby or volunteering, discovering sport or trying meditation – there are lots of ways to enhance and maintain your mental wellbeing. Come to ConTENTment and meet people, try things, share ideas and put a smile on your face. Go to for an up-to-date timetable of activities in ConTENTment.

Family Fun

There’s something for all the family at the Castle Quay Weekender. On Saturday morning, Bedford Juggling Club will be running circus skills workshops on Castle Mound.  Throughout the weekend, the Circus of Illustration will host art workshops in the Art and Craft Market on the lawn of the Higgins and make sure you head to Narrative Industries at Animal Studio on Castle Lane for loads of arty animation activities.

The crew from Two Step will be popping up with demos and dance workshops and there are facepainters too.  All of this to a backdrop of live music, delicious food and (we hope) glorious sunshine!


The Kiosk at the Park wants to see your photos of the Castle Quay Weekender, so please do share them for a chance to win an adult and child’s hamper. All you need to do is like the CQWeekender and Kiosk at the Park Facebook pages and share your photo on one of the pages. You can also share them on twitter, tagging @cqweekender and including #pickmypic.  Photos must be uploaded by midnight on Saturday 18th June and the winners must collect their hampers on Sunday 19th June.  (By submitting your photograph you are consenting to it being used for promotional use.)

Find out more:

For further information and to download the programme, go to or pick up a programme from town-centre locations including Bedford Central Library and the Higgins Bedford.

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