It’s official, Reading Festival is no longer the only player in town. Our fair town is now home to over 20 festivals, big events and fairs, all bringing arts, music, culture and food to Reading. You definitely can’t say there’s nothing to do here now.
Read on for our ultimate guide to all the big music, culture and food festivals happening in 2018 and start planning your year of things to do in Reading. Book your tickets now for big festivals including including Are You Listening Festival, Cheese Feast, Reading Beer and Cider Festival, Reading Carnival and the reopening of Reading Abbey.
(Main image credit: Trinisinlondon.com)
The biggest events in Reading in 2018
Friday 13 – Saturday 14 April, South Street Arts Centre, £14, book tickets
The Grumpy Goat, Harris Arcade’s excellent ale and cheese shop (and officially one of our best things in Reading) bring their fun craft beer and music festival back to South Street for the second year.
You buy a ticket for one of the three half-day sessions, get a glass on entry and sample some of the craftiest of craft beers in the main theatre room of the arts centre. There will be ten top notch breweries attending including Verdant, Arbor, Elusive Brewing and The Netherland’s Butcher’s Tears alongside local favourites Siren Craft Brew and Wild Weather Ales.
There’s also music throughout the weekend from Kid Carpet, Duotone, Dolly & The Clothespegs and local DJs including the DoubleDotDash!? crew, the Are You Listening DJs and Milk Bar’s own Tim Hooper.
Banff Mountain Film Festival
Tuesday 17 April, The Hexagon, £15.50, buy tickets
BANFF is a world-wide film festival for anyone fascinated by mountain climbing, action, adventure or general death-defying stunts. The Reading night time session shows the ‘Blue Film Programme’ of videos made in cold climates. Look out for a two minute reel from base jumpers The Flying Frenchies, who do acrobatics on a 600m highline in the Vercors mountain range and a docu-short following Finnish freediver Johanna Nordblad, who holds the world record for a 50-metre dive under ice.
Thursday 19 – Sunday 22 April, Forbury Gardens, free entry, find out more
We’ve been melting with excitement ever since we heard the news that weekly street food market crew Blue Collar are bringing a cheese festival to Reading this spring. Stalls hawking mac ’n’ cheese, gourmet cheese toasties and cheesecake will sit alongside local cheese producers and a bar full of craft beer, prosecco and spring cocktails. Read more about Cheese Feast.
Reading Contemporary Art Fair
Saturday 21 – Sunday 22 April, Rivermead Leisure Centre, £5/advance, £7/door, buy tickets
Browse for affordable and stimulating art works at Reading’s main visual art fair with pieces from over 160 European artists, printmakers, photographers and sculptors. There will be high end art here – some works go up to £4,000 – but you can also pick up works from only £40, so it’s a good opportunity to find something to fill that empty patch of living room wall you’re fed up of looking at (is that just me?).
Are You Listening Festival
Saturday 28 April, various venues, £22.50, buy tickets
Reading’s real best music festival, AYL is now in its sixth year and is bringing one of its strongest line ups yet this April in support of Reading Mencap. The one day festival features nearly 70 bands, some of the biggest UK names and Reading’s best local acts, playing at venues across town, from Sub89 to St Laurence Church. We’re very excited about sets from Mercury Prize-nominated Field Music, Bristol punks Idles and cult indie favourites The Lovely Eggs. On the local lineup look out for Saltwater Sun, Mellor and Vienna Ditto.
Reading Beer and Cider Festival
Thursday 3 – Sunday 6 May, Christchurch Meadows, from £14.80/ticket package incl two drinks, book tickets
We’re glad to see the big annual beer festival from the local branch of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) back for 2018, after a bit of a committee crisis meant it was almost cancelled. They’re still forging full steam ahead though and the festival will feature over 500 real ales and potent strength ciders served from a wall of cask barrels. There’s also food stalls, a band and, usually, lots of beer-fuelled dancing after dark. Watch this space for the full list of beers.
Saturday 12 May, South Street Arts Centre, £15, buy tickets
Billed as ‘an eclectic journey through uncharted sound and song’, this one-day celebration of music has been curated by South Street, doubledotdash!? and the Darklands club night collective since 2010. It mixes underground live acts with some of Berkshire’s finest DJs across two indoor stages. This year’s line up includes Alabaster De Plume, Big Lad, Drug Store Romeos and Lower Slaughter.
The Big Yella Blues Festival
Friday 25 – Sunday 27 May, The Purple Turtle, free, register online
The Purple Turtle goes blue in May with a free three day festival celebrating blues music in all its forms, from funk to rhythm & blues. The Big Yella event is now in its fifth year and also takes place throughout May at venues across London. At the Turtle they’ll have a stage inside and one in the garden and beers and bourbon to go along with the blues. Headlining the whole thing is Mungo Jerry, (yes, that one) alongside Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind, Son of Dave, The Future Shape of Sound and Reading’s own bluesy trip-hoppers Vienna Ditto.
Friday 25 May – Sunday 17 June, Forbury Gardens, free entry, read more
Another big food festival from the Blue Collar Team. Look out for three weeks of street food markets, a pop up bar and hay bales in Forbury Gardens.There’ll also be a two-tiered platform stage including a bar, fire pits and hay bale sofas as well as art displays and live music sessions.
Monday 28 May, Prospect Park, free entry, read more
The most colourful day of the Reading calendar is back with a bang for 2018. After a few years off, the carnival returned last year and in 2018 celebrates its 41st anniversary with a festival of dance, culture and community. The carnival itself parades through town, along the Oxford Road and up to Prospect Park, where there’s an afternoon long festival with Caribbean food stalls, drinks, creative workshops, music, live performers and more. Reading has a wide and varied Caribbean community, and reportedly, the largest Bajan population outside of Barbados. Reading Carnival is a fun and vibrant celebration of all our town’s diversity and community and we’re glad to see it back.
Around the Boundary
Sunday 27 May, Gallowstree Common, RG4 9BU, £20/adult, £50/family, book tickets
This surprise entry is a big one-day, family-friendly party in a field, and a charity fundraising event in aid of Kidmore End Cricket Club and Kidmore End Playing Fields Committee. The surprise comes because they’re apparently bringing in DJ Yoda as a headliner, along with Madness tribute band One Step Behind and local fun river billy kids Dolly & The Clothespegs. Food options also sound impressive: Pizza Pilgrims, The Bowler Meatballs, Nomad Bakery, Loddon Brewery, Horsebox Coffee, Mr Hobbs Gin.
Saturday 2 – Sunday 3 June, Broad Street, Free entry, read more
Once a year, our high street becomes a celebration of street food organised by Reading CIC. There’s usually a whole fleet of stalls running from the Halifax down to Marks & Spencer, and big bench eating in the middle of it all. Last year saw Chow’s Friday market vendors, such as MOMO Chinese dumplings and Leymoun wraps alongside stalls from local restaurants, like Tutu’s Ethiopian Table and Bhel Puri House. We’d like to see it pop up more frequently, if anything, but then that’s what weekly Chow and Blue Collar Markets are for.
Reading Abbey Revealed
Saturday 16 June, The Abbey Ruins, free entry, read more
After nine years blocked off for conservation work, our historic Abbey Ruins reopen this summer with an historical-themed celebration. In conjunction with the annual Water Fest, the festival will see events pop up across the Abbey Quarter (across Reading Museum, Forbury Gardens, the Abbey Gateway, the Abbey ruins, and along the River Kennet), including art performances, re-enactments, art and craft workshops and, of course a chance to explore the ruins themselves.
East Reading Festival
Sunday 17 June, Palmer Park, Free entry, read more
This local community festival is a fun family day out in Palmer Park with music, games and live performances. It’s setup to encourage the people of East Reading to get to know each other a little better, and that sounds like a good thing.
Friday 13-Sunday 15 July, Christchurch Meadows, £30/weekend, buy tickets
Our town’s other three-day, family-friendly celebration of music returns to Christchurch Meadows with a line up including Stereo MCs, the Haggis Horns, Odyssey, 808 State and more. There’s also community stalls, music workshops and food from Blue Collar Street Food.
Reading Fringe Festival
Wednesday 25 – Sunday 29 July, various locations, read more.
Reading’s premiere theatre and arts extravaganza returns for its sixth year, with drama, stand-up comedy, and quirky theatre performances from acts heading up to the Edinburgh Fringe. The line up is still to be announced, but you can expect over 70 theatre, film, art, comedy and music shows to descend on Reading across the week.
Friday 24 – Sunday 26 August, Richfield Avenue, £205/weekend, buy tickets
The granddaddy of our festival scene, Reading Festival is creaking slightly under its age but is still the biggest music event in town. The line up, featuring Fall Out Boy, The Kooks, the Wombats and the Kings of Leon is more 2008 than 2018, but Kendrick Lamar, who does an excellent live show, headlining the Saturday is an exciting prospect.
Saturday 1 September, King’s Meadow, free entry, read more
This year Reading Pride puts on its 15th celebration to our town’s LGBT+ community, diversity and openness for all. Join the parade through Reading town centre before heading to King’s Meadow for a vibrant, colourful and welcoming day-long festival. There’ll be performances, a bar, a marketplace, food stalls and a truly delightful atmosphere all around.
Friday 7 – Sunday 16 September, various venues, read more
Last year’s inaugural Reading-on-Thames Festival brought an impressive series of cultural events to Reading, each focused on, in or about our waterways. This year there’s a bigger series of events to get you exploring our town, including walking tours around the Abbey Quarter, a film trail of shorts inspired by our waterways, and the Midnight Run which, despite the name, is a six hour night time artist-led walk across Reading, where there’ll be art installations, storytelling and performance along the route, there’s also stops for food and drink along the way.
The highlights include ‘Cirque Bijou’, combining traditional circus skills with a performance of lights at Caversham Court Gardens and ‘In Place of War’, from Grrrl a live music show from six influential female artists from Brazil, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Bangladesh featuring ghetto bass, hip hop, dancehall, reggae, soul and electronica.
Heritage Open Days
Thursday 6 – Tuesday 16 September, various locations, read more
See inside some of Reading’s hidden historic buildings with this national campaign dedicated to heritage. Properties all across Reading, including the Crown Court, the Concert Hall and the offices of Rowberry Morris on Castle Street (pictured) will open to the public for free tours, visits and walks. Last year there was also walking tours of our some of our most interesting conservation areas, including Castle Hill, Christchurch and St Peter’s in Caversham.
Saturday 22 September, St Laurence Church, free entry, read more
2017 saw Reading’s first celebration to all things plant-based take to Market Place and St Laurence Church. It saw hot food counters, a marketplace of vegan-friendly ingredients and goods including handbags and beauty products and a huge influx of vegans to Reading town centre. This year, the organising team are on the lookout for a bigger venue to accommodate the crowds and there will be a bigger selection of stalls and series of educational talks about vegan lifestyles.
Oxjam Reading Takeover
Saturday 13 October, read more
Our local instalment of national charity music festival Oxjam is back for another one day bonanza in 2018. The line up includes Ben Marwood, Mellor and Tiny Giant and Ciircus Street among 70 other Reading bands playing across eight Reading venues all in aid of Oxfam.
Thursday 11 – Sunday 14 October, The Abbey Ruins, free entry, read more
Blue Collar Street Food are at it again, and this time with a lot of meat. Over four days in the autumn, you’ll be able to chow down on barbecues, slow cooked meats and dry aged steaks in the surrounds of our restored Abbey Ruins.
Saturday 13 – Sunday 14 October, Rivermead Leisure Centre, from £8.80, buy tickets
Start planning your costume now for the third year of the Reading comic book, sci-fi, fantasy and cosplay event. This year’s guest stars include Arrow actor David Nykl and Wilf Scolding who plays Rhaegar Targaryen in Game of Thrones flashback scenes.
Hello! I'm Claire, the founding editor of Explore Reading. I'm a Reading native and former digital director of Time Out Shanghai. I founded Explore Reading so no one can say, ‘there’s nothing to do in Reading’, again. When not editing Explore Reading, I'm probably drinking a Manhattan.