What’s on Bedford: River Festival/Bedfringe/Bedford Park Concerts special


If you want to kick off the summer holidays in style, you’ve come to the right place!

This month in Bedford sees one of the country’s largest free festivals (the River Festival), over 120 top-class acts performing at Bedfringe and the return of Bedford Park Concerts with Simply Red, Paul Weller, Café Mambo in the Park and the unforgettable Proms in the Park.

There are also family-friendly film screenings (Sundown Cinema), guided walks, exhibitions, theatre, live music and more.

If anyone tells you there’s nothing to do in Bedford, just point them in our direction…

Until 4 September 2022

Family fun: Future Bedford children’s art competition
The Higgins Bedford, Castle Lane
Free entry

Visions of the future of Bedford as imagined by local school children are on display at the Higgins Bedford as part of the Harpur Trust’s bi-annual art competition.

An exhibition of the prize-winning works has been curated by the team at the Higgins Bedford and is on display in the Sir William Harpur Gallery until 4 September. Entry is free.

Thursday 21 – Sunday 31 July 2022

Festival: Bedford Festival Fringe
The Quarry Theatre at St Luke’s
Ticket prices vary

For the 15th year, the International Bedford Festiva Fringe – Bedfringe – will be back in the heart of the town this July, including a performance from actor, comedian and impressionist, Jon Culshaw.

Returning to the Quarry Theatre, Bedfringe will run from Thursday 21 – Sunday 31 July, bringing a programme of top-quality comedy, theatre, live music, film, dance, physical theatre, spoken word, poetry and children’s theatre to our doorstep.

The full programme of over 120 events is now live on their website.

“Expect to see 120+ events in 11 days across three venues,” said Bedfrdinge director, James Pharaoh.

There is definitely something for everyone, so take a chance!

Friday 22 July 2022

Live music: Speedvark
Bedford Esquires @ 8pm
Tickets: £5 / £2

Space rock from a band with strong Bedford roots, Speedvark will be playing some of their original songs plus a few classic rock bangers for a start-of-summer party.

“These are our first shows since the 1990s,” said band member, Pete Flatt. “We’ve been practising for the last 27 years, so it should be ok.”

Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 July 2022

Festivals: Bedford River Festival
Free entry

It’s back!

This weekend, Bedford’s Embankment and Russell Park will welcome 250,000 people to celebrate the 2022 Bedford River Festival.

Find more details and timings of events all over the site here.

This year’s events kick off at 10.30 am with Dragon Boat Race Heats until 5 pm at St Mary’s Gardens.

2022 will see the return of lots of the Festival’s old favourites, from the music stages and funfair, the dragon boat and raft races on the river, and lots of stalls and activities to get involved with across the Embankment, Mill Meadows and St Mary’s Gardens.

Read: From DJs to choirs, 90s to ska: music highlights at Bedford River Festival 2022

For the first time in the River Festival’s history, Bedford High Street will be closed for the weekend to bring the fun and celebrations into the town centre.

The High Street, sponsored by BedfordBID, will host the Festival of Motoring, with over 100 unique and eclectic vehicles on display.

To reduce waste, the Festival will operate a reusable cup scheme across all nine of the Festival bars. There will be a £1 charge with the first drink for the cup. You can return that cup back to any of the Festival bars and get a clean cup with your next drink.

Saturday night will be rounded off with the Illuminated Boat Parade, lighting up the River Great Ouse in style!

Elsewhere, the enormous site comes to life:

  • Russell Park features the River Festival’s Main Stage, sponsored by the Harpur Centre with top performances from a wide range of bands and acts throughout the weekend.
  • The Sports Island is sponsored by the University of Bedfordshire and will feature sporting and martial arts demonstrations, a stage full of action with acrobatics and dance performances, ‘have a go’ activities and more.
  • Mill Meadows is a hub of activity during the River Festival, with trade stalls galore and the ever-popular Community Stages, sponsored by the Harpur Trust, showcasing fantastic performances from the community of Bedfordshire.
  • New for 2022, Mill Meadows will feature ‘Inclusion Island’ which is designed for visitors with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
  • St. Mary’s Gardens is the new home of the heritage re-enactments, featuring ‘Pirate Island’, sponsored by HSBC UK. There are plenty of adventurous activities for the kids brought to you by Canoe Trail, and you have a prime viewing spot for the dragon boat races.
  • Castle Mound will host the BBC Introducing Stage and a brand new Vegan Lounge. Catch some local up-and-coming talent and browse the range of vegan gifts and homewares on offer, as well as the festival’s first vegan food vendor.

  • On the Embankment you will find the Festival Market full of craft and food stalls from around the world, along with The Dance Music Stage, sponsored by Gallagher Developments, with an amazing lineup of world famous DJ’s

Additional bus and train services will be running throughout the weekend.

Read: Everything you need to know about Bedford River Festival 2022

Find out more at the Explore Bedford website and also the Bedford River Festival official website.

Saturday 23 July 2022

Clubbing: River Festival aftershow party
Bedford Esquires @ 10.30pm til 3am
Tickets: £5

Want to keep that River Festival vibe going once the music ends on Saturday night? Then head on over to Esquires for their traditional after party.
Three DJs battling for your aural attention. DJ Covie vs RYOR vs Pad DJS – expect to hear anything from RnB to D&B, Indie, Rock, 80s and 90s bangers and everything in between. Choose what you want to listen to by flicking between the channels.
The Pad was Bedford’s longest-standing nightclub, hosting the longest-standing club night too! Their Saturday Loaded sessions were a full-on party every Saturday, playing the best in new and future Indie, Old Skool Hip Hop and Beats. The band are getting back together once more and will be tearing apart our second room.
If you want something a little more chilled, get yourselves into The Soul Shack – Funk, Soul, Mod, Ska and Reggae sounds right into the early hours.

Sunday 24 July 2022

Live music: Skimmington Ride play the Sunday Afternoon Session
Bedford Esquires @ 5pm
Free entry

Skimmington Ride make their debut at the legendary Esquires’ Sunday Afternoon Session.

Monday 25 July 2022

Film: Sundown Cinema presents Sing 2
Turvey House @ 11am (doors open at 10am)
Tickets: £5.50/£11

This Before Sundown open-air screening of Sing 2 is perfect for families and sees Buster Moon reunite his singers for a trip to the big city.

Turvey House is the beautiful backdrop to this family favourite.

Monday 25 July 2022

Film: Sundown Cinema presents Encanto
Turvey House @ 3pm (doors open at 2pm)
Tickets: £5.50/£11

The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift – every child except Mirabel.

However, she soon may be their last hope when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is now in danger.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Film: Sundown Cinema presents Moana
Turvey House @ 11am (doors open at 10am)
Tickets: £5.50/£11

Family-friendly film screening in the beautiful surroundings of Turvey House.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Guided walk: Bedford in World War II
Meet at the gold letterbox in St Paul’s Square at 11am
Tickets: £3/£150

One of the BBC’s secret locations in Bedford during WWII

Join the knowledgeable Bedford Tour Guides for a fascinating insight into the surprising history of Bedford during WWII.

Book in advance at their website.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Film: Sundown Cinema presents The Greatest Showman
Turvey House @ 3pm (doors open at 2pm)
Tickets: £5.50/£11

Family-friendly film screening in the beautiful surroundings of Turvey House.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

On the river: Anchor Lunch Cruise
John Bunyan Boat, Priory Marina @ 10am
Tickets: £39

The John Bunyan Boat at Great Barford

Enjoy a three-hour relaxing picturesque cruise on the River Great Ouse to Great Barford, departing from Priory Marina at 10am, arriving at Great Barford for lunch at 1.30 pm and returning by coach at 3pm back to Priory Marina.

Relax as you cruise along discovering abundant wildlife and strat the day with morning coffee and cake or pastry available onboard from the Galley Bar.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Film: Angel’s Egg (1985)
The Place Theatre @ 7pm
Tickets: £5

A mysterious young girl with long hair wanders a desolate, otherworldly landscape, carrying an ominous large egg. In Japanese with English subtitles.

Thursday 28 July 2022

On the river: Thursday Afternoon Cruise
John Bunyan Boat, Sovereigns Quay 2.30pm
Tickets: from £10

Enjoy a relaxing cruise under the historic Town Bridge past Bedford Castle mound and then through the Town lock and along the tranquil river to Cardington Lock.

Thursday 28 July 2022

Film: Batman Returns
The Place Theatre @ 7pm
Tickets: £5

Having defeated the Joker, Batman now faces the Penguin – a warped and deformed individual who is intent on being accepted into Gotham society, with the help of Max Schreck, a crooked businessman, whom he coerces into helping him run for the position of Mayor of Gotham, while they both attempt to frame Batman in a different light.

Batman must attempt to clear his name, whilst deciding just what must be done with the mysterious Catwoman slinking about.

Thursday 28 July 2022

On the river: Motown Cruise
John Bunyan Boat, Newnham Steps @ 7.30pm
Tickets: £20

Get your dancing shoes on as it is party time on the John Bunyan Boat! The perfect way to enjoy your favourite Motown and soul songs from some of the greatest singers of all time on a two-hour cruise on the River Great Ouse.

Thursday 28 July 2022

Live music: Simply Red featuring Lisa Stansfield & Marisha Wallace
Bedford Park from 5pm
Tickets: £52

Bedford Park Concerts is back from the 28 – 31 July and first on the bill is Simply Red, with support from Lisa Stansfield and Broadway star, Marisha Wallace.

Reviewers have been blown away by the performances so far on the tour, so we cannot wait til they hit the stage at Bedford Park.

Tickets are still available for all of the Bedford Park Concerts this month including Paul Weller, Cafe Mambo and Proms in the Park. You can find out more and book tickets here.

Friday 29 July 2022

Dance music: Café Mambo in the Park
Bedford Park from

Judge Jules at Café Mambo in the Park back in 2019

Bedford Park Concerts is back from the 28 – 31 July and Friday nights don’t get much better than this!

Café Mambo touches down in Bedford Park straight from the White Isle, bringing those Belearic beats with them.

Back to Bedford for the third time, it promises to bring the party to Bedford. Expect to dance all night to the likes of David Morales, Mark Knight, Todd Terry, Lovely Laura & Ben Santiago, Amine Edge & Dance and our very own Mark Russell.

Tickets are still available for all of the Bedford Park Concerts this month including Simpy Red, Paul Weller and Proms in the Park. You can find out more and book tickets here.

Friday 29 July 2022

Film: Mad Max (1979)
The Place Theatre @ 8pm
Tickets: £5

Made on a shoestring budget, Mad Max takes place in an unforgettable post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland inhabited by vicious criminals terrorising locals and law-abiding citizens trying their best to live their normal lives.

We centre around Max, a highway patrolman who after being brutalised by bandits must wander the wasteland in search of vengeance.

The exploitation masterpiece is full of high-octane action set pieces as well as being a gripping tale of violent revenge. This screening will feature pre-film food followed by an introduction to 1970s exploitation cinema and classic movie trailers all concluded by a showing of the film.

Friday 29 July 2022

Live music: The Rifles (acoustic set)
Bedford Esquires @ 8pm
Tickets: £22.50

British indie outfit the Rifles rose to popularity in the mid-2000s with a jaunty garage rock & roll sound that’s equal parts Jam-like swagger and a playfulness not unlike contemporaries the Kooks.
First grabbing public attention with the 2005 hit “Local Boy,” the band found chart success in the latter part of the decade with their first two albums reaching number two on the U.K. indie charts and 2009’s career highlight Great Escape.

Saturday 30  July 2022

Live music: Paul Weller featuring Richard Hawley
Bedford Park from 5pm
Tickets: £48.50

Bedford Park Concerts is back from the 28 – 31 July and Saturday night brings the Modfather himself, Paul Weller, to town.

The former Jam and Style Council singer has also enjoyed phenomenal solo success and he will be performing some newer classics as well as old favourites.

Support comes from the brilliant Richard Hawley and Andrew Cushin.

Tickets are still available for all of the Bedford Park Concerts this month including Simply Red, Cafe Mambo and Proms in the Park. You can find out more and book tickets here.

Saturday 30 July 2022

Film: Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)
The Place Theatre @ 6pm

In the smog-choked dystopian Los Angeles of 2019, blade runner Rick Deckard is called out of retirement to terminate a quartet of replicants who have escaped to Earth seeking their creator for a way to extend their short life spans.

Saturday 30 July 2022

Clubbing: Start – After the Park Paul Weller aftershow party
Bedford Esquires @ 10.30pm
Tickets: £4 advance/four for £12/£5 on door

On Saturday 30 July, the legendary ‘Modfather’ Paul Weller finally comes to town to play Bedford Park. To celebrate this momentous occasion Esquires is hosting an after-show party straight after the gig.
Kicking off from 10.30pm Esquires will be hosting two rooms of music with four DJs spinning the finest sounds of Brit Pop, New Wave, 60’s. 70’s, 80’s, Two Tone, Reggae, Ska, Trojan, Indie Bangers, Funk, Soul and so on…

To guarantee entry, pick up a ticket in advance online from Seetickets.

Saturday 30 July 2022

Live music: The Machine Rages On
Bedford Esquires @ 7.30pm
Tickets: £10

In a long overdue celebration of one of the most important bands of the last 30 years, Esquires hosts a night dedicated to Rage Against The Machine.
The Machine Rages On are hands down the finest tribute to one of the greatest alt-rock bands to ever exist. Expect them to roar through the RATM back catalogue, with tracks from their self-titled debut, Evil Empire, Battle For Los Angeles and Renegades.

Sunday 31 July 2022

Guided walk: Places and Faces of Bedford
Meet at the gold letterbox in St Paul’s Square at 11am
Tickets: £3/£150

Bedford has many impressive properties, often built as homes for the professional and the wealthy. Many survive though few are still family homes.

Join Bedford’s knowledgeable tour guides to find out who lived where and why these Bedfordians were important to the town.

Book in advance at their website.

Sunday 31 July 2022

Family theatre: Catch that Beast
The Place Outdoors @ 11.30am and 2pm
Tickets: from £8.50

The Royal Society of Beastologists are a group with one mission: to track down mythical beasts.
They can’t wait to come to The Place, meet their new members and capture the Horrid Beast of Bedford. They’ve heard it’s been causing all sorts of nuisance. But Jessy, the youngest Beastologist, has her doubts about beast hunting. What if beasts don’t want to be found? When Jessy is left behind at camp, an encounter with the Beast could help her transform the ways of the Beastologists for good…

Catch That Beast! is a magical, deliciously silly show about how we interact with wild things and how the youngest among us might bring about change. Full of humour, live music, inventive puppetry and audience participation, it is suitable for everybody aged 5+.

Sunday 31 July 2022

Live music: Bedford Park Proms 2022
Bedford Park @ 4.30pm
Tickets: £37/£5

Bedfordshire’s most prestigious al fresco Proms event returns to Bedford Park this month, once again featuring opera star and BBC Radio presenter Wynne Evans joined by Broadway and West End sensation Marisha Wallace.

The soloists will be accompanied by the London Gala Orchestra and once again Bedford Choral Society will be part of the show which will end with one of the best laser shows in the country and a spectacular firework finale.

Bring your picnics and drinks to this event and enjoy a wonderful evening in Bedford Park.

Until January 2023

Exhibition: Edward Bawden: Artist Plantsman
Higgins Bedford
Free entry but timed tickets required

Every day, influential British artist and designer, Edward Bawden, would spend an hour in his garden at his home in Great Bardfield before starting work in his art studio. Plants and gardens were one of the most prominent and constant subjects of not only his work but also his life.

Drawn exclusively from the Edward Bawden archive, explore Bawden’s lifelong love of plants and gardens through a wide range of his work, including early wallpaper designs, well-known prints, advertising campaigns and private commissions.

From the grand gardens of Carthage and the botanical gardens at Kew, to Bawden’s own gardens at his parent’s home in Braintree and his beloved one-acre plot in Great Bardfield, discover Bawden’s passion for plants and gardens across decades of his work, featuring pieces that have never before been on public display.

Until October 2022

Exhibition: Body & Soul
The Higgins Bedford
Free entry

Edvard Munch (1863–1944), Woman with a Brooch (Madonna), 1903 © The Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery

A new exhibition exploring how women have been represented in art over the past two centuries, opens at The Higgins Bedford on 2 April.

Read: Body & Soul: Higgins’ new exhibition explores the representation of women in art

Highlights in the Body & Soul exhibition – all drawn from the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery Collection – include artworks by Edgar Degas, Edvard Munch, Dora Carrington, Stanley Spencer, Henri Matisse, Gwen John, Roy Lichtenstein, Lucian Freud and Chila Burman.

This week’s guide is sponsored by Sundown Cinema
Theatre highlights by Paula Walker