While Britain remains under lockdown it will be a while before large public gatherings resume. Numerous events have been cancelled, and after months of hard work and planning. The good news is that there are plenty of options to enjoy some UK virtual festivals in May, while offering support for the tourism, arts and culture industries.

Many festivals are free and aim to raise funds for charity or in support of local communities through online donations. Here is round-up of ten UK virtual festivals in May from beer to books and food to horticulture.

The Virtual Food Festival

3 May

An impressive lineup of headline chefs aiming to connect suppliers with people in a time where local food matters. The festival aims to raise money for charity by offering fringe events with cooking inspiration, tips and demonstrations along the way and chefs such as Rick Stein, Angela Hartnett, Nathan Outlaw, Stephen Hendry, seven times world snooker champion and others. Visit the website for details on how to donate. For more information, visit: www.virtualfoodfestival.org.

The Big Book Weekend

8 to10 May

This three-day virtual festival brings together the best of events from various cancelled spring arts festivals in the UK. Spend three days in the virtual company of Neil Gaiman, Marian Keyes, Maggie O’Farrell, Robert Webb, Michael Morpurgo, Bernardine Evaristo, Alexander McCall Smith and Luke Jennings creator of the BBC’s successful female-centric thriller Killing Eve. The Big Book Weekend event will feature Ray Bradbury at 100 with Neil Gaiman and Sam Weller virtually streamed to viewers for free (Saturday 9 May at 12pm). Register for free and visit the Theatre Box Office to see the full line-up. The festival is produced in association with BBC Arts and Arts Council England. For more information, visit: www.bigbookweekend.com.

Virtual RHS Chelsea Flower Show
19 to 23 May

The Royal Horticultural Society is working on making the iconic Chelsea Flower Show virtual for its 2020 edition, to celebrate the horticultural industry and gardening heritage. The RHS is calling on gardeners up and down the country to go out into gardens or balconies as a way to look after their physical health, wellbeing and ‘keep gardening’ as a great mood boosting exercise. The full programme will be announced shortly. For more information, visit: www.rhs.org.uk.

Hay Festival Digital

22 to 31 May

Hay Festival of Literature & Arts is one of the biggest annual events of its kind. This year sees a programme of free live broadcasts and interactive Q&As. Over 100 of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers share their insights and interrogate some of the biggest issues of our time, from Covid-19 and world health to the climate crisis and our future. The full programme will be announced on 6 May. For more information, visit: www.hayfestival.com/digital.

The Big Night In – Britain’s Beer and Gin Festival

22 May

Learn more about the craft beer and gin market in the UK from the experts at an online event broadcast on Youtube and Facebook. Join in with friends and family with beer, gin, quizzes and prizes. Choose from four craft beers or four craft gins. Tickets £14.59 to £18.90 available at Event Brite. Event organised by Gins and Other Sins.

Liverpool Digital Music Festival
23 to 25 May

A free online festival celebrating Liverpool music in support of Liverpool based NHS hospitals and Save Our Venues through Just Giving. The festival aims to bring artists connected to Liverpool together whilst streaming from their own homes over the late May Bank Holiday weekend. Bands are able to apply online to perform (applications open until 15 May). For more information, visit: www.ldmfestival.co.uk.


Glyndebourne Open House

24 May

Glyndebourne Open House bringing the Glyndebourne Festival experience direct to people’s homes this summer. A full-length opera will be broadcast on Glyndebourne’s YouTube channel at 5pm every Sunday for free. Festivals-goers are invited to put on their glad-rags, open a bottle of bubbly and create their own summer festival of music at home. Share your photos wherever you are, in your garden, on a balcony or front porch, on social media. The Open House begins with Michael Grandage’s The Marriage of Figaro. The second two broadcasts, performances of Nicholas Hytner’s Cosi fan tutte and Don Giovanni, directed by Jonathan Kent, will also be streamed from the Classic FM Facebook page. In keeping with the Festival experience, Glyndebourne caterers, Restaurant Associates, will be holding a live “Glyndebourne Open House picnic” cookery demo on Saturday 23 May. For more information, visit: www.glyndebourne.com/on-screen

Summerton Virtual Whisky Festival

30 May

The whole-day live stream is accompanied by a home-delivered pack containing drams, mixers and snacks. The live virtual tasting room will be via a private You Tube stream. Distilleries featuring and included in the festival pack, are: Bimber, Glen Scotia, Hinch, The Lakes Distillery, Lambay, Mackmyra, The Scalasaig and Wolfburn. The programme includes cocktail masterclasses with leading bar professionals, Q&A sessions and insightful talks. Guest speakers include: Joe Wadsack, BBC Drinks Expert; Matthew Wright, TV/Radio Presenter and more. Tickets £38, including curated whisky samples, mixers, snacks and complementary promotional items. For more information, visit: www.summertonwhiskyfestival.com.