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Arts and theatre festivals to have on your radar in 2019

We have a look at some of the best arts festivals on offer this year


© Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

With the weather picking up and the summer approaching, a whole plethora of arts festivals are about to kick off up and down the UK (Brighton Festival is happening right now and you can see some of our recommendations here). We've picked some of our favourite offerings for the coming months, and what sort of line-up to expect.


Latitude Festival

Latitude Festival
© Victor Frankowski

Latitude may have a pretty hefty musical line-up (George Ezra, Snow Patrol, Lana del Rey anyone?) but the theatre offerings are certainly worth checking out – with new work by Frantic Assembly (celebrating its 25th anniversary), appearances from companies including Middle Child, HighTide and Historic Royal Palace and a neat encore screening of the National Theatre's War Horse. You can see the full Latitude Festival line-up here. 18 to 21 July


Greenwich and Docklands International Festival

Mo and the Red Ribbon from L'Homme Debout
© MC Monin

Since it first started in 1996 the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival has lit up east London with unusual, visually exciting and brilliant theatre installations. This year is no exception with the recently announced programme offering free performances in venues including the City of London (where there will be an epic reimagining of Moby Dick). Well worth a look at what's on offer. 21 June to 6 July


Edinburgh International Festival / Edinburgh Fringe

The Edinburgh International Festival
© Ian Georgeson

An unmissable theatre pilgrimage spot for many thespy fans, the Edinburgh Festivals are like a treasure trove of artsy goodness stored in a few square miles of performance, flyers and talent. This year is no exception, with some incredible pieces on offer across the month of August – including performances from the likes of Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry, Bryony Kimmings, ThisEgg, Breach and Kate Tempest to name the tiniest tip of the iceberg. There will also be new musicals galore, including a Friendsical (yep, a musical based on the hit TV show Friends), a Cruel Intentions adaptation and a new show from the Pet Shop Boys. Phewy, and if that isn't enough then new writing connoisseurs HighTide will also be mounting a mini-festival alongside Assembly to champion new work (as part of its own major 2019 touring plans). Time to start putting together a must-see list! 2 to 26 August


Manchester International Festival

Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei Armah
© David Sandison

The 18-day Manchester International Festival has really pulled out all the stops this year, with shows courtesy of Kwame Kwei-Armah, Idris Elba, Ivo van Hove, Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom, Rambert and more across the month of July. Even beyond theatre the line-up is pretty immense – Janelle Monae, David Lynch and Skepta will be appearing at special events. Definitely worth a trip to the city! 4 to 21 July


Underbelly Festival

Benton Adams-Walker, Simon McClure, Annalise Moore, Chris Carlos, Andre Augustus, Lisa Goldsworthy and Ashleigh Pearce
© The Other Richard

Underbelly Festival is a South Bank staple in London, offering all kinds of comedy, circus, cabaret and theatre delights with 150 shows a year. The festival has been up and running for a month or so already and makes for a pretty peachy central London social spot too with a whole raft of bars and food stalls nearby, so a pretty lush space to hang out! Until 29 September


Norfolk and Norwich International Festival

Bells and Spells
© Richard Haughton

Currently running in Norfolk, the Norfolk and Norwich International Festival brings together a number of artists to light up the streets of the region with off-the-wall and novel acts. This year the likes of Hoipolloi will be presenting a trilogy of shows, while Gravity and Other Myths will be having circus fun. Solo artists will also include Beverley Knight and Le Gateau Chocolat. Until 26 May


Incoming Festival

A collage of shows from Incoming Festival
(© Incoming Festival, collage by Guy Sanders)

A glorious, nationwide celebration of emerging theatre company talent, Incoming has been growing from strength to strength every year and for the first time will be running in three cities simultaneously – London's New Diorama Theatre, Manchester's HOME and Bristol's Tobacco Factory Theatres. The line-up is varied and eccentric, and every ticket for shows featured is £5. See who's performing here. 24 to 30 June


River Stage Festival

The National's River Stage
© James Bellorini

The National's one of the theatres in London that actually has decent air conditioning, but if you'd rather soak up the rays than the spotlights then the River Stage Festival is for you. Five weekends of free outdoor performances, each curated by a different organisation. This year's confirmed curators are The Glory (5 to 7 July), Shubbak Festival (12 to 14 July), National Park City Festival (19 to 21 July), Frantic Assembly (26 to 28 July) and the National Theatre takeover (2 to 4 August). 5 July to 4 August