A mini-guide to outdoor event in Lancashire - June 2014

Edgehill Rock Garden, Jousting at Scorton Steam Fair, Handlebards at Hoghton Tower and Holker Garden

Edgehill Rock Garden, Jousting at Scorton Steam Fair, Handlebards at Hoghton Tower and Holker Garden Festival - Credit: Archant

Lancashire - where the great outdoors provides the perfect backdrop. Julian Wilde reports

1. The Silverdale and Arnside Art trail is now a firm favourite for all art lovers with locals opening their studios and galleries. It runs from June 27 to 29. The previous Saturday, the 21st, sees Arnside staging Vintage on the Prom.

2. The Scorton Steam Fair is in its tenth year, taking place this year on June 14-15. There will be more than 600 exhibitors and a line-up of spectacular shows including the UK’s leading jousting display. Meanwhile, Slaidburn also has a steam rally on the weekend of June 7-8.

3. Holker Garden Festival exhibits the very best of gardening, countryside, food and crafts, in the glorious grounds of Holker Hall in Cark-in-Cartmel from Friday, 30th May to Sunday June 1.

4. On June 16, members of the Slaidburn Silver Band will be performing free in the gardens of the Hark to Bounty Inn in their home village. If wet, the concert is held in the historic courtroom at the Bounty. For more information contact John Cowking on 01200 423855.

5. The Lunesdale Arts Trail is being staged over the weekends of May 31-June 1 and June 7-8 taking art lovers on a journey through the pretty stone-built hamlets meeting artists in their different studios and workshops. See www.lunesdalearts.co.uk.

6. The Grasmere Gallop is a great day for competitors and spectators. It happens on June 7 and you can choose from a 10k or 17k trail, taking in some of the most beautiful scenery in the Lakes along the way. Every penny raised going towards supporting the team of Rangers. See www.grasmeregallop.co.uk

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7. If you ever wondered about that old pot you found in the attic, June 12 is the day to bring items to the Antiques Roadshow team who will be at Lowther Castle. The day will be broadcast in 2015. See www.lowthercastle.org

8. Don’t be put off by the fact The Great North Swim starts on Friday, June 13! This mass open water event runs until June 15 in Windermere with four distances – ½ mile, 1 mile, 2 miles or 5km. See www.greatswim.org

9. WoodFest is a new outdoor event, on Sunday, June 15, focused on all things relating to wood, from crafts and furniture to its use as a heat supply. It’s at the Greenlands Farm Village near Carnforth and it will raise funds for North West Air Ambulance. See www.greenlandsfarmvillage.co.uk

10. June has two major classic car rallies. The first is in the centre of Cleveleys on June 8 followed by the Lancashire Classic Car and Bike Show at Hoghton Tower near Preston on June 22.

A popular and revered Elizabethan tradition is set to bloom once more this summer as Lancashire marks William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

Bands of professional open-air players will take to the road and visit more than a dozen venues in the red rose county.

The horse-drawn caravans and bridle ways of Good Queen Bess’s time may be long gone, but the present generation of touring actors are proud to traverse the County Palatine, just as the Bard’s own King’s Men did 400 years ago.

From Lytham Hall to Preston’s Hoghton Tower, from Brantwood near Coniston to Lancaster’s Williamson Park, some of Lancashire’s most delightful spots are set to play host to open air companies.

Throw in locations such as Rufford Old Hall, Brockholes Nature Reserve, Worden Park in Leyland and Lytham’s Lowther Rose Gardens and you have a snapshot of the county in all its summer beauty.

Lytham Hall, standing in 80 acres of parkland, typifies the venues. This Grade I Georgian mansion, built by Thomas Carr for the Clifton family, provides a spectacular backdrop for open air performance.

The majestic and sheltering trees and absence of traffic noise make it an actor’s delight. With four plays each season Lytham Hall regularly draws up to 500 enthusiasts, most arriving with Pimm’s, picnic hampers, folding chairs, umbrellas and insect repellent.

Pauline Hamilton, secretary of The Friends of Lytham Hall who help to organise the open air season, believes that it is the first-hand nature of the experience which audiences love.

‘It’s a delight for all five senses and the atmosphere is very English,’ she said. ‘The closeness of the stage and the skills of the cast in engaging their audience combine with the pleasure of being outdoors in a natural setting on a long summer evening. For those here for the first time it’s a revelation.’

Illyria, one of the country’s longest-established outfits who are celebrating their 23rd year on the road will be bringing three plays to Lytham Hall this summer – Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance and the Roald Dahl children’s favourite George’s Marvellous Medicine .

Artistic director Oliver Gray, who is touring his four plays this summer with separate casts of six or seven to some 60 venues, said: ‘Our audiences simply revel in the quick costume changes and doubling up which is the hallmark of all open air companies.

‘We are tackling Pirates of Penzance this year with just seven actors and a musical director, so with the Pirate King, Sergeant of Police, Lovestruck Mabel and A Modern Major-General to play, not to mention chorus of pirates and daughters, it will certainly be all hands on deck.’

The acclaimed promenade plays in Williamson Park have attracted a strong following for three decades and this summer, from July 4 to August 16, director Joe Sumsion and his Duke’s Theatre cast will be presenting Hansel and Gretel The dells, quarry, lake, terraces and the magnificent Ashton Memorial will provide an ideal backdrop. Richard Main, Director of the Chapterhouse Theatre who will open the Lytham Hall season and their own summer tour with Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility on June 13, feels that three months of outdoor touring is an excellent if demanding grounding for actors new to the profession.

‘There’s no room at all for prima donnas when you are on tour. Driving the minibus, putting the stage up at 3 pm and down again at 10 pm, looking after your voice and giving 100 per cent every night – you have to learn very quickly to be a strong team player. You need a great amount of resilience – and wellingtons!’

In what everyone hopes will again be a sunny and dry summer al fresco theatre is coming to a Lancashire space near you. But, whatever the play, the location or the company, don’t think for a moment that an open air production is in some way dumbed down.

The actors may be expert at interaction with their audience, but always take a professional pride in the text, especially that of Shakespeare. These heirs of 400 years of roaming through ‘this sceptred isle’ believe very firmly, in the words of Hamlet: ‘The play’s the thing…’

Eight diary dates

Lytham Hall

Sense and Sensibility, Chapterhouse Theatre

Friday June 13 7.30

Tickets £13/£10.00/£6.50

01253 736652


The Gardens Of Crosby Hall

Comedy of Errors, Festival Players

Sunday June 15 4.00

Tickets £12.50/£9.50

0151 924 9099


Leighton Hall, Near Carnforth

The Comedy of Errors, Festival Players

Tuesday June 17 7.30pm

Tickets £10-£15

01524 734474


Hoghton Tower, Preston

Macbeth, Handlebards Theatre

Saturday June 28 7.30

Tickets £15/£12

01254 852986


Williamson Park, Lancaster

Hansel and Gretel, Duke’s Theatre Company

Friday July 4 7.30 nightly until 16 August

Tickets £17.50/£13.50/£11

01524 598500


The Rock Garden University Of Edgehill

Robin Hood, Illyria

Sunday July 13 3.30

Tickets £15/£13

01695 584480


Brantwood, Coniston

Macbeth, Illyria

Tuesday July 22 7.00

Tickets £10/£7.50

01539 441396


Lowther Rose Gardens, Lytham

Wednesday July 23 2.00

The Water Babies, Storytellers Theatre

Tickets £12/£10/£6

01253 794221