Bedford River Festival – heritage and culture

This year’s Bedford River Festival takes place on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 July, with even more things to see and do along the beautiful banks of the River Great Ouse.  If your family is looking for a bit of culture and  some great, hands-on and interactive activities, head over to St Mary’s Gardens. This new addition to the site is situated opposite Riverside Square.  With an arts and crafts marquee, Culture Tent, petting zoo, Canoe Trail, circus skills, giant games and live music stage, this is a great base for families and just a short walk to the Main Stage, Sports Village and the rest of the site.  Download your full River Festival 2018 map here.

Arts and crafts

The art and craft marquee will showcase the best of Artists Network Bedfordshire and Made in Bedford collectives. You’ll be able to browse and buy ceramics, woodwork, art, cards, homewares and gifts from some of the Borough’s most talented makers and designers.  It’s a great chance to chat to the artists and buy something truly unique.




Culture Tent

Hosted by Heritage Bedford, and representing the town’s brilliant museums and cultural venues, the Culture Tent is home to  interactive family activities based on the museums’ handling collections. This year’s theme is Vote 1oo, the commemoration of the centenary of some women receiving the vote.

The John Bunyan Museum, Higgins Bedford and the Panacea Museum will all be bringing artefacts for visitors to get to grips with, giving an insight into women’s lives throughout the last century.

Bedford Creative Arts

Bedford Creative Arts are inviting you to travel into the future with a series of workshops in the Culture Tent.  You’ll even get to bring back your very own souvenir of the future.

As part of BCA’s Future Towns project, artist Sadie Hennessy will be hosting hands-on family-friendly workshops at the River Festival where you will create your own part of a long, collaged mural depicting a glorified vision of Bedford’s real-life people and places. The finished piece will make a fantastical vision for a Bedford of the future.

The images from the collages will make souvenir badges, rosettes, commemorative soaps and ceramics.

Everyone will be able to take their souvenirs home with them, once they have been documented, for the mural’s showcase at the end of the project.

Virtual Orchestra

Just across the bridge, pop over to Riverside Square and lose yourselves in this immersive experience from Bedford’s resident orchestra, the Philharmonia.  Learn more about the instruments that make up the orchestra, lie on huge bean bags as you experience Holst’s Planet Suite ‘in the round’ and take a VR tour through a performance.  The Virtual Orchestra is in residence on Riverside Square til 10 August, so if you miss out during the River Festival, do come back and immerse yourselves in it later this summer.



The Quarry Theatre / Bedfringe

Find out more about this town-centre theatre, grab some info about forthcoming shows and book up your Bedfringe tickets.

The Place Theatre

Got a budding journalist (aged under 25) in the family? The Place Theatre are hosting review-writing workshops in the Culture Tent. Workshops take place at 3pm on Saturday and 1pm on Sunday and interested participants are invited to register at

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