There's a festival for just about anything. Amy Moore celebrates some of the strangest offerings for groups seeking to experience the surreal.
May 26, 2015
Hosted in the petit Gloucester village of Brockworth, Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling embraces the local culture of chasing a wheel of cheese down a steep 295foot incline. Cheese Rolling is a competitive sport with a distinct element of danger. The history of the event dates back to the early 1800s and due to its growing popularity is held on a regular basis every year.
Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling is overlooked by a prestigious Master of Ceremonies, with several thousand people gathering to watch approximately 20-40 contestants take part.
The cheese can reach speeds of up to 70miles per hour at its peak with the first participant to reach the end of the hill winning a hunk of Double Gloucester; a milky cheese with a dense, crumbly texture. Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling is unofficially run by a handful of locals and typically features five downhill races – four for men and one for women – with one uphill round included; though this can vary per year. It’s certainly one to add to the bucket list or perhaps something to witness on a familiarization trip to the region, as visitors are encouraged to trek through the surrounding countryside to reach their destination. Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling is a one-day event starting at noon and is free to enter. For more information visit www.cheese-rolling.co.uk
May 22-June 1, 2015
Hay Festival is a literary celebration with some famous faces attending the patch at Hay-On-Wye in Wales. Hay Festival will be in its 27th year in 2015, further showcasing a unique passion for reading, writing and storytelling. 2014 followed a typically British theme centred on Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, with renowned keynote speakers including Judi Dench and Stephen Fry.
Hay Festival is sponsored by The British Council and The Telegraph and sees a large crowd of approximately 250,000 people attending per annum. Smaller festivals hosted within include Hay Fever, which targets youngsters and teens. Hay Fever includes an ice cream stand, cooking workshop and crafting booth. Hay Festival began as a small social gathering, which has since expanded on a more international scale with several different events on five continents, including Mexico, Colombia, Hungary, Ireland, Spain, Kenya, Bangladesh and Lebanon.
Hay Festival is a short walk from the centre of Hay-On-Wye – a quaint village home to an intimate population of around 1,500 people. Hay Festival lasts around 10 days, meaning there is no excuse not to visit. Entry is free of charge, though some individual events may require tickets. For more information visit www.hayfestival.com
August 1-25, 2015
Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a month long affair, which has been celebrated in the area since 1947 – derivative of eight small theatre companies performing rogue on the outskirts. Edinburgh Fringe Festival hasn’t strayed far from its cultural roots with a deluxe programme of over 40,000 performances and 3,000 distinct shows, featuring artists who have travelled from around 50 different countries. Edinburgh Fringe Festival is characteristically overlooked by Edinburgh Castle and sees approximately 2million people attend every year. August is an immensely popular time to visit, so booking well in advance is advised in regards to accommodation.
Frequent performances from a number of high-profile acts attract big numbers, accompanied by up and coming young performers and companies. Performance tickets might be dear, but there is still a generous selection of cheap and/or free performances available for first timers. Edinburgh Fringe Festival sees some of the best street performers (aka ‘buskers’) perform along the Royal Mile, with additional performances taking place at venues throughout the city. A magnificent fireworks display concludes the event. For more information visit www.edfringe.com
SEE GTW'S COVERAGE OF THE EDINBURGH FRINGE ONLINE AT www.grouptravelworld.com/edinburgh-the-diverse-city/
July 8-10, 2015
Festival of Giants has been held in Douai for almost 500 years – boasting a vibrant parade that dates back to 1479 with recognisable giants originating from the mid-1500s. Festival of Giants depicts the Gayant Family, who were said to have presided over the northerly domain. The intricate display showcases father Gayant, wife Marie Cagenon and their three children Jacquot, Fillon and Binbin. Gayant is the largest of the lot – reaching around 28feet and weighing approximately 815pounds. Marie Cagenon is a little smaller – measuring around 20feet and weighing around 550pounds. She was built under the Guild of Fruiterers with the wicker frame of her husband constructed by the local Basket Making Guild. Their three children measure around seven feet.
Approximately 53 porters are required to transport the giants to the guild, tasked with humouring the 100,000 people who attend the three-day festival each year. Douai also boasts a rich tourism spot, with tons of historical attractions available to view, such as the 12th century Église Notre-Dame. Food is also served alongside the entertainment, with local delicacies including cheese tarts, beef stews and thick terrines. Douai is located on the Belgian border; therefore beer drinking is a must. For more information visit www.fest300.com
September 20-October 5, 2015
Oktoberfest is hosted in Munich and translates as ‘massive consumption of beer;’ seeing more than 6million people visit each year. Drinking beer is a popular pastime in the region, with the 16-day festival opening with a 12-gun salute and the tapping of the first keg by the Mayor of Munich.
Oktoberfest was founded in 1810 and formerly celebrated the union of the Crown Prince Ludwig and the Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen with a horse race, which hasn’t featured prominently in the festivities since 1960. Additional changes include the introduction of bratwurst, electricity and glass beer steins. Oktoberfest strictly serves beers that have been brewed in Munich and are made with a 2% higher alcohol content than usual. It is estimate that more than 7million litres are consumed. For those who perhaps don’t have a taste for beer, a Weinzelt tent is erected where wine is served. Additional perks include a host of family friendly attractions.
Tuesdays are highly recommended for a family visit as reduced prices are offered at the Fair. New rules have also been implemented with loud music not starting until after 1800hrs. Oktoberfest takes place at the Theresienwiese Fairgrounds in Munich, which is easily accessible by public transport. For more information visit www.oktoberfest.de/en/
August 27, 2015
La Tomatina translates as ‘Tomato Throwing Festival,’ which annually consumes the streets of Buñol in Spain. La Tomatina is a city-sponsored event where protective eyewear and gloves are mandatory. Once signalled, 130,000kilos of squashed tomatoes are hauled into town via trucks. The unique tradition is rumoured to have originated at the Festival of Los Gigantes in 1945, where locals started throwing ripe tomatoes in a bid to stage a brawl, which later escalated into a mass of flying fruit. Before La Tomatina, Buñol sees a celebration of its patron saints – the Virgin Mary and St. Louis Bertrand – where street parades, music and fireworks ensue alongside a generous serving of paella. Festivities kick off around 1000hrs where participants compete to grab a ham fixed to the top of a greasy pole. An hour later and the streets are soaked in a sea of squishy salsa.
The small town of Buñol houses a little under 10,000 residents’ therefore organising accommodation might be tricky. It is suggested that those visiting overnight stay in Valencia, which is 22miles west of Buñol. For more information visit https://latomatina.info