Save the date, the iconic free family festival returns this summer with three days of maritime magic. Putting local talent at the forefront this 2023, Bristol Harbour Festival will be jam-packed with the best of Bristol’s music scene, world-class circus performers and on-the-water activities – such as cardboard boat races and high-octane jetpack stunts.
Over 250,000 visitors are expected to attend over the July weekend (July 14 to 16) to enjoy over one mile of entertainment. As one of the UK’s largest public festivals, there are five unique areas to check out Harbourside filled with music and entertainment.
What is happening at Bristol Harbour Festival 2023?
Bristol Harbour Festival legend Tony Benjamin will curate the main stage in Queen Square this year. Opening on Friday from 5 pm to 10 pm is the all-female DJ troupe Booty Bass providing a smooth, hip-hop soundtrack. Then from noon on Saturday, festival-goers can catch an array of artists from the silky Afro-Brazilian rhythms of all-female group Safrole to Access Creative College graduate, Solo Jane’s hypnotic house tunes.
Headliners on Saturday will be Da Fuchaman’s Fire Blaze Band, the latest talent to emerge from Bristol’s thriving reggae scene. While Sunday will see the Bristol Reggae Orchestra and Windrush Choir perform, as well as Bristol’s fun-loving favourite Doreen Doreen and one of Bristol’s longest-serving DJs, John Stapleton.
Hungry? Lloyd’s Amphitheatre will become Bristol Harbour Festival’s de facto Food Court, with music from Access Creative College, Ujima Radio and BCFM Radio. On Saturday you’ll find singer-songwriter Sadie Gledson and Bristol-born Marns, a songwriter infusing genres of acoustic soul, RnB, EDM House and more. While on Sunday, the Amphitheatre will come to life again with Bristol-based indie bands Monday at Five and Lakedown, before Bristol’s DJ Fitz jumps on the decks.
Of course, Bristol Harbour Festival is mainly about the On The Water activities showcasing the city’s incredible maritime heritage. The Young Shipwrights Boat Race, which pits 100 model boats made by primary school children against each other, kicks off activities on Saturday. Followed by the legendary Cardboard Boat Race where teams battle it out to bring their handmade vessels home! British Freestyle Jetski champion, Jack Moule will also perform big air backflips, barrel rolls, twists and jumps on both Saturday and Sunday.
Circus Playground on College Green will host a myriad of show-stopping entertainers at this year’s festival. Ranging from daredevil stunts and circus performers to comedy shows and children’s entertainment, courtesy of Bristol’s very own Cirque Bijou. Cabaret and street entertainment veterans, Jones and Barnard will be stage comperes across both Saturday and Sunday. Plus, circus workshops will be held off-stage.
Then in Millenium Square, Jelli Records has curated an acoustic programme in a chill-out beach bar location. The South West’s best musical theatre choir, Show Choir, and Break Out Voices, a 60-member strong community choir based in Windmill Hill. The five-piece band, Terraplanes, will add some high energy before Chai for All’s jazzy renditions of Yiddish songs. Jamaican band, Onika Venus will close the Jelli Shack on Sunday.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said: There is such a great variety of music on offer, and with local hip hop artists to the Windrush choir, there is sure to be something for everyone to enjoy. We’re also excited to be welcoming over 250 vessels into the harbour for the weekend. This festival programme is a fantastic showcase for Bristol’s renowned creativity and talent.”
To see the full programme of events head to the Bristol Harbour Festival website here.