Southsea is located right, kind of obviously, in the south of England just beyond Portsmouth. It’s a small town with a cute castle but it’s so much more than you’re average stick of rock, bucket and spade beach location.
It’s a real hub for culture with an alternative vibe and although it’s not a major UK city, it brings in the crowds to celebrate a day, date or type of food with its year round calendar of festivals.
It’s also my new home.
Seeing as I‘m planning on sticking around a bit more in England this year I thought I’d take a look to see what my festival future holds over the summer in Southsea. It’s looking pretty bright!
Portsmouth Beer Festival
Gins, ciders, wine and food are all well represented at the Portsmouth Beer Festival – not just for beer lovers, although, looks like there’s plenty of that too. It’s located at the super fancy Portsmouth Guildhall, just a few minutes walk from Southsea and right by the train station – just what you need if you’re visiting from out of town.
Numerous local pubs like The Meat and Barrel, The Belle Island and The Leopold join in celebrating the town’s love of good beer and great music by hosting an evening filled with craft beer and mulled wine.
In 2017: 12th and 13th May
With all those food fests this one is much needed. The first Saturday in June is dedicated to inspiring healthy lifestyles and is put on for free by SWEAT Southsea. Expect to find free classes and personal trainers but there’ll also be some fitness events with a twist. Try battle roping, tyre flipping and stone throwing.
In 2016: 4th June
Southsea Food Festival
– Photo from southsea.co.uk
Like any good food fest, Southsea packs in over 1000 stalls serving all kinds of tasty dishes. Over the second weekend in July locals and tourists stroll Palmerston Road trying everything from Thai to Greek cuisine at the Southsea Food Festival.
The main attraction though is the Big Top Theatre’s Cookery Stage where local chefs whip up some impressive dishes as you sit back in a deck chair and take note.
In 2016: 16th and 17th July
Portsmouth International Kite Festival
– Photo from contrarylife.com
Right on the Southsea Common people fly in from across the world to showcase their kite flying skills at the Portsmouth International Kite Festival. The creative kites come in a whole range of colours and sizes so even if you’ve not mastered the winds yourself you can still enjoy the amazing collection of kites in the sky. Each year there’s a set theme and a list of displays to watch including cartoon kites, Japanese flying kites and those flown to music. I’ve heard the best place to see it all is from the 110-metre Spinnaker Tower.
In 2017: 12th and 13th August
Southsea Thai Food and Craft Festival
If you’re a fan of a pad thai and khao pad then you’ll love Southsea’s annual Thai Food and Craft Festival. Each August people gather on Castle Fields where the Thai Solent Society cook up traditional treats and hold workshops on how to create authentic crafts. You’ll also find demos on Thai boxing, traditional massage booths and even a Miss Thai Southsea Lady Boy Show sure to take you right back to your Thailand travel days. If you went to one of those, personally I managed to resist.
In 2016: 14th and 15th August
Absolutely, definitely going to this. Stereophonics? Elbow? YES! Madness? Nahhhh.
Showing how much Southsea really does live its music is yet another big music event. More mainstream than the Southsea Festival, Victorious Festival brings in some big acts over three days in August, but rather than being you’re average messy weekend this fest has a more laid back vibe to it. Parents can even bring their kids to the family friendly festival and camp in the nearby site.
In 2017: 25th, 26th and 27th August
Making Waves Film Festival
Each year Portsmouth hosts the alternative Making Waves Film Festival bringing in independent and international films to unusual screening locations in the Southsea area. You could be snuggling down in a barber chair, or on a WWII ship or even on a submarine. Sounds absolutely incredible. Another one I definitely want to go to. The event, run by a volunteer organisation, is totally unique and takes place throughout September.
In 2016: 18th to 25th September
(2016 line up)
Southsea Fest has become a staple event in any Southsea-ers diary but that popularity is quickly expanding to the whole of the Portsmouth area. It’s a one-day event in October that showcases the best in emerging new acts and is known as a breakthrough music event. Over 100 bands and artists perform across loads of different locations and various stages in Southsea all on this one day. You can buy your tickets online in advance but they tend to sell out pretty quickly.
In 2016: 1st October
It’s not only the Germans who love the month of October, Southsea-ers are right there along side them embracing the tradition of beer gulping and sausage chewing. Southsea hosts their own version Oktoberfest at the Portsmouth Guildhall Square with a 50 metre bier tent and 30,000 litres of the authentic Bavarian booze.
In 2017: 6th and 7th October (my birthday, hmmm, verrrry interesting)
Victorian Festival of Christmas
Embracing its Victorian history, Southsea transforms itself back to yesteryear each Christmas. The area marks the birth of Charles Dickens some 200 years ago by re-enacting the Victorian way of life. Actors greet guests at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and all the décor for the Christmas market and Father Christmas experience is in keeping with those times. There’s even an old style tavern and an archaic music hall to get you totally immersed. Pretty sure I’ll be going to the Victorian Festival of Christmas this year to get my festive feelings flooding.
In 2016: 25th to 27th November
So many festivals in Southsea!
They’re all in my diary, I’m going to go to as many as possible, and you’ll be able to read all about them here. Let me know if I’ve missed any out…
More on British festivals