Join in the annual Jazz Festival at The Pantiles

Join in the annual Jazz Festival at The Pantiles

by David Hodgkinson

Live Music & Festivals in Tunbridge Wells

If you’re looking for a Glastonbury-style feel good festival, come to Tunbridge Wells for a cheaper, cleaner, fun-filled, friendlier experience.

Annual festivals in this area are numerous, lively and varied with more popping up each year.

The region of Tunbridge Wells is in the middle of rural Kent with acres of beautiful meadows to host such events away from city life.

The town of Royal Tunbridge Wells is the main hub for the area. It is on the main railway line between Hastings and London stations, only 55 minutes by train from London and 45 minutes from Hastings.

Many festivals are free, including the music festival Local & Live, Jazz on the Pantiles, UnFest and the Mela, which are all in the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Live outdoor music

Jazz on the Pantiles is a popular award-winning and well loved festival having been going for more than 20 years in the town’s remaining bandstand. This event starts in May, goes on till September and enlivens the tender English summer evenings out on the pedestrianised Pantiles terraces.

The Pantiles Jazz Festival by David Hodgkinson

Every Thursday night from 7pm, soak up the warmth of the atmosphere, enjoy the cool beats and sip on a local wine, juice or ale from one of the many classy bars, cafés, or restaurants. It does get busy so book into a joint for a relaxed view otherwise you can dance your socks off!

Unfest is an annual local music and arts fringe festival for Tunbridge Wells and the South East region organised by the Forum music venue. It is held every Spring Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May.

This will appeal to indie music and art lovers. The festival centres around The Forum (a highly acclaimed music venue) on Fonthill in Royal Tunbridge Wells town, and pubs on the Pantiles and the High Street.

Performers of spoken word, poetry and readings from award winning writers make appearances as well.

It usually all kicks off early evening on Friday of the Spring Bank Holiday and goes on until late on Spring Bank Holiday Monday. Come and experience something creative, inspiring and Tunbridge Wellian!

Don't forget the art pop up installations too. The list of performances across the town was a mile long so do check their website for full details.

Alfresco in 2020 is in it's fifth year in Tunbridge Wells. Now up to four days of family friendly music and activities which will be held during the Spring Bank Holiday in late May.

This event has spent a good few years in Blackpool but has now fallen in love with the region of Tunbridge Wells.

There will be overnight camping, at least 7 stages of music (you should see the length of the list!) as well as uber cool activities for children: roller disco, magic shows, balloon modelling, graffitti - oh this list is too long as well!!

Bedgebury Forest Live, next to Goudhurst village, is famously anticipated every year in June.  The Forest has welcomed Tom Jones, Jessie J, Paloma Faith, Debbie Harry, Erasure, and Keane to name- drop a few greats! Bring your own chairs and picnic to see Will Young, James Morrsion, Jack Savoretti and Keane all live in 2020.

A family festival, Dunorlan Park, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Local & Live is a lively town–centric music festival held in August to make the most of the long bank holiday weekend (and possibly some nice weather!). People and bands arrive from far and wide to enjoy and partake in the music making.

This eclectic fringe-music festival pours out across the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells to the pubs and cafés.

The railway station is in the heart of the festival happenings and being only 55 minutes from London, makes it an ideal weekend break for couples and friends.

The main man, Paul Dunton, organsies this event with the help of other local businesses and venues, as well as numerous other music events throughout the year. He is a passionate local musician who likes to keep the music 'Local & Live'!

And Roger Daltry, no less, has recognised the success of this annual event so why would you miss out?

Tom Kerridge's food and music festival, Pub in the Park, came to Dunorlan Park for the first time in July 2018.

Returning in 2020, the laid-back summer celebration will again see pop-up pubs serving food throughout the weekend of 10-12 July including Tom's The Hand & Flowers. Chef demonstrations from national names as well as some local flavour from The Kentish Hare and The Small Holding Farm and Kitchen.

There will be bars serving every tipple from craft beer to artisan gin, lots of shopping and cracking music from household names including Craig David, James Blunt, Roland Gift, Beverley Knight and Craig Charles.

Local Celebrities and Celebrating Local

The Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor Gardens is the highlight of any gardeners’ calendar.  You have to see it to believe it – such a stunning vivid mass and range of colours from only one type of bulb!

For all day family fun, the Mela celebrates the diversity of the local community through music, visual arts, food and dance. Join this lively event in July, taste the delights of India, Bangladesh, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and South America in Calverley Grounds.

The annual Tunbridge Wells Cricket Festival is in early summer. Three day’s worth of cricket to enjoy as well as tasting some delicious local food and drink!

The Nevill Cricket Ground in Tunbridge Wells was named as one of the best outgrounds in the country by The Independent Newspaper in April 2015.

For something totally different go to the Summer Diesel Gala on during the first weekend of August at the Spa Valley Railway. Lots of different diesel engines to admire and trips to take, come and have a rare time enjoying some fantastic experiences.  The Ales and Rails celebration is on at the same time so make sure you buy your tickets well in advance for both!

At the latter end of July, The War and Peace Revival Show is at the Hop Farm in Paddock Wood. This is now a five (5!) day show and has been going for more than 25 years.

Come and celebrate the lifestyle of the first half of the 20th century and military might from all over the globe.

Day tickets or camping on site is available. The nearest mainline railway station is Paddock Wood which is a short taxi ride away. The number 6 Arriva bus transports you right to the venue entrance from Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Maidstone directions.

It is only 8 miles from Royal Tunbridge Wells by road and there is plenty of parking.

The Full Fat Milk Fest is held on August bank holiday weekend at The Milkhouse Pub in Sissinghurst in conjunction with Produced in Kent – it’s all about local delicacies as well as a weekend of live music and fun for all the family!

For much more of the local delicacies, join us for the Royal Tunbridge Wells Food & Drink Festival during September's month long Food & Drink celebrations, encompassing the annual Pantiles Harvest Food Festival!

Arts, Classical and Theatre Festivals

On the early May Bank Holiday weekend, the Chiddingstone Castle Literary Festival is a 2-day event thanks to its continuing success. Previous guests have included Terry Waite and Adam Sisman. This year we have Ian Rankin, Aardman Animations, Evan Davis, Cressida Cowell and Kate Mosse to name a few.

Workshops are available for adults and young people too.

Hever Festival Theatre, which celebrated 35 years in 2018, provides dramatic entertainment in the open air in July and August for adults and families to enjoy. 

From comedy to cinema, musicals to drama you cannot fail to enjoy this outdoor event in such an opulent backdrop as Hever Castle, a veritable fairy tale. 

Look out for the programme in our What’s On schedule.

A fairly new festival to the scene is the two day Cranbrook Literature Festival. Cosy up with like-minded people every 2 years at the end of September and hear great authors, broadcasters and illustrators talk.  

Previous speakers include Vanessa Nicolson, Dave McKean, Julian Clary, Giles Brandreth, Alison Weir, Natasha Farrant, Davina McCall, Jeremy Vine and Johnny Duddle (Harry Potter illustrator).

The Wadhurst September Art Exhibition, started in 1996, is held every September in the heart of the Wealden countryside.  Pay a visit to this ancient historic English village dating from the 7th or 8th century to view local artists’ work.

You can also take in Scotney Castle in nearby Lamberhurst village, another ancient and historic settlement, or a pub lunch near Lamberhurst vineyard. 

Classical musical festival - violin player

The Lamberhurst Music Festival is a classical annual music festival held in the local church and village hall.  Delivered with style and passion, this has been going for at least 15 years now and continues to be eagerly anticipated.

October 2019 welcomed back the Puppetry Festival to various venues across Tunbridge Wells. This is a biennial event so keep an eye on the What’s On listings for further details to come next year.

One of the most anticipated classical music festivals in and around Tunbridge Wells is the annual RTW International Music Festival which begins in early October.  The RTW Symphony Orchestra has in the past commenced with Dame Sarah Connolly who serenaded us with her world famous mezzo-soprano talent at the Assembly Hall Theatre

More rapturous performances are hosted in other dramatic and historic venues across the borough until mid October when the festival closes.

Beer and cider festivals still remain popular in this hop and apple growing part of the world. In particular we must mention the Spa Valley Railway CAMRA festival Real Ale and Diesel Gala in Autumn.  This is now the second largest hop festival in the South East. Check our Blogs for an advance peek into what happens!

Many of the villages across the borough have their own village festivals such as beer and food festivals, like the Cranbrook Apple Carnival and not just during summer months! 

Basket of local apples, cider and juice

Where do I stay? how do I get there?

Book your accommodation early to allow yourself to be fully immersed in the festival vibes and soak up the rural flavours.

There are plenty of taxis that can ferry you back and forth, your accommodation provider can help with this or contact the Tourist Information Office. We have more on how to get here and get around.

If you stay a little longer in the Garden of England, you can experience so many wonderful country pubs and restaurants in the area. It’s the Tunbridge Wells sensation!

Browse the site for plenty more events and exhibitions; more detail and even more festivals can be found in the What’s On listings nearer the times of the occasions themselves so make sure you bookmark it. Keep an eye on it for once in a lifetime opportunities and memories. 

These numerous imaginative events are testament to the sense of fun, cultural appreciation and beauty the Weald has to offer.   

Number of items:

Number of items: 17

  1. Add RTW Food Month | Pantiles Harvest Food Festival to your Itinerary

    RTW Food Month | Pantiles Harvest Food Festival

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    2019: The Pantiles Harvest Food Festival returns in the midst of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Food Month! Another tantalising weekend full of delicious local foods and chefs.

    Type

    Festival

    Dates

    From:
    14 Sep 2020 To 15 Sep 2020
  2. Add Paddock Wood Lights Up - Christmas Market and Christmas Lights to your Itinerary

    Paddock Wood Lights Up - Christmas Market and Christmas Lights

    Paddock Wood

    Come along to see the Christmas Tree Lights get switched on in Paddock Wood and enjoy the festive market stalls and entertainment.

    Type

    Show / Display

    Dates

    From:
    24 Nov 2020 To 24 Nov 2020
  3. Add Summer Diesel Gala at The Spa Valley Railway EVENT CANCELLED to your Itinerary

    Summer Diesel Gala at The Spa Valley Railway EVENT CANCELLED

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    The well known and extremely popular Summer Diesel Gala is back in 2020 with the Southerham, Colonel Tomline and Sister Dora.

    Type

    Festival

    Dates

    From:
    7 Aug 2021 To 9 Aug 2021
  4. Add Local and Live at Calverley Grounds to your Itinerary

    Local and Live at Calverley Grounds

    Tunbridge Wells

    2020: Local and Live is a fantastic free music festival taking place in Royal Tunbridge Wells over the bank holiday weekend in August. The festival will be at Calverley Grounds from Friday to Monday. Local and Live features a wide range of talented local musicians and bands; what's more, it is all…

    Type

    Festival

    Dates

    From:
    23 Aug 2020 To 25 Aug 2020

    Venue

    The Forum, Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Calverley Grounds

  5. Add RTW Food Month | Tunbridge Wells Beer Weekend - Beer Matching Dinner to your Itinerary

    RTW Food Month | Tunbridge Wells Beer Weekend - Beer Matching Dinner

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    As part of the TW Beer Weekend The Small Holding Restaurant Pop-up Beer Matching Dinner will be held at Fuggles Beer Cafe in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

    Food by chef Will Devlin matched to beers selected by Fuggles Beer Cafe.

    Also part of the joyous Royal Tunbridge Wells Food Month

    Type

    Workshop

    Dates

    From:
    29 Sep 2020 To 29 Sep 2020
  6. Proms Spectacular 2020 at Hole Park

    Rolvenden, Cranbrook

    Hole Park are delighted to announce that the Proms Spectacular 2020 will be going ahead.

     Bring a picnic, or purchase food and drink on site,  and pack a blanket to sit in comfort with 2M distancing. This is to ensure peace of mind,  as you enjoy a truly magical evening including an impressive…

    Type

    Concert

    Dates

    From:
    29 Aug 2020 To 29 Aug 2020

    Venue

    Hole Park Gardens, Rolvenden

  7. Add Pub in the Park 2020 now Drive in Garden Party with Tom Kerridge to your Itinerary

    Pub in the Park 2020 now Drive in Garden Party with Tom Kerridge

    Tunbridge Wells

    Pub in the Park have launched their Drive In Garden Party to replace the postponed Pub In the Park.

    Type

    Festival

    Dates

    From:
    18 Sep 2020 To 20 Sep 2020

    Venue

    Dunorlan Park, Royal Tunbridge Wells

  8. Add Valentine's Day Dinner at The Spa Hotel to your Itinerary

    Valentine's Day Dinner at The Spa Hotel

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Indulge a romantic evening out this Valentine's at the Spa Hotel in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

    Type

    Participatory Event

    Dates

    From:
    14 Feb 2021 To 14 Feb 2021
  9. UK Queen Tribute 2020 at Hole Park

    Rolvenden, Cranbrook

    Hole Park are proud to present ‘UK QUEEN’ on Friday 28th August 2020.

    Front man Alexander Koronka is sensational as "Freddie Mercury", alongside the band of world class musicians, who have been performing Queen's greatest hits to the delight of audiences worldwide for over a decade.

    Type

    Performance

    Dates

    From:
    28 Aug 2020 To 28 Aug 2020
  10. Add Winter Lanterns Parade 2020 Royal Tunbridge Wells to your Itinerary

    Winter Lanterns Parade 2020 Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    2020: Help light up the town at the Winter Lantern Parade, this year with the theme 'A Night of Magic' Join in and make your own lantern (or help make a big one) in advance at one of the fun lantern-making workshops.

    Type

    Participatory Event

    Dates

    From:
    8 Feb 2021 To 8 Feb 2021
  11. Add Heritage Open Days around Tunbridge Wells to your Itinerary

    Heritage Open Days around Tunbridge Wells

    Tunbridge Wells and around

    Heritage Open Days celebrate England's architecture and culture by allowing visitors free access to interesting properties that are either not usually open, or would normally charge an entrance fee.

    Type

    Participatory Event

    Dates

    From:
    13 Sep 2020 To 22 Sep 2020
  12. Add Cranbrook Apple Carnival to your Itinerary

    Cranbrook Apple Carnival

    Cranbrook

    Come and enjoy the eccentric delights we have to offer you this year.

    Type

    Carnival

    Dates

    From:
    3 Oct 2020 To 3 Oct 2020
  13. Add Tunbridge Wells Cricket Festival at The Nevill Ground to your Itinerary

    Tunbridge Wells Cricket Festival at The Nevill Ground

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    The main event here at the Nevill this year during the Cricket Festival is the Royal London Cup. Three matches to enjoy at the historic Nevill Cricket Ground.

    Type

    Festival

    Dates

    From:
    26 Jul 2021 To 31 Jul 2021
  14. Cranbrook Literature Festival

    Cranbrook

    Two days of books, reading, writing and the celebration of the written word.

    Type

    Festival

    Dates

    From:
    17 Sep 2021 To 18 Sep 2021
  15. Add Local and Live at The Spa Hotel to your Itinerary

    Local and Live at The Spa Hotel

    Tunbridge Wells

    Local & Live is a music festival taking place from the 23rd to the 26th August. One such selection of performances will be at The Spa Hotel on the Bank Holiday Monday, 26th August. Headliners are The Breretons.

    Type

    Festival

    Dates

    From:
    26 Aug 2020 To 26 Aug 2020
  16. Add RTW Food Month | Royal Tunbridge Wells Food and Drink Festival to your Itinerary

    RTW Food Month | Royal Tunbridge Wells Food and Drink Festival

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Tunbridge Wells Food and Drink Festival will be held in Calverley Grounds as part of Tunbridge Wells September Food Month.

    Type

    Festival

    Dates

    From:
    21 Sep 2020 To 22 Sep 2020
  17. Add 10th CAMRA Real Ale & Cider Festival and Autumn Steam & Diesel Gala at the Spa Valley Railway to your Itinerary

    10th CAMRA Real Ale & Cider Festival and Autumn Steam & Diesel Gala at the Spa Valley Railway

    Royal Tunbridge Wells

    Come and enjoy one of the biggest beer festivals in Kent and Sussex in mid October.

    Type

    Festival

    Dates

    From:
    16 Oct 2020 To 18 Oct 2020

    Venue

    Spa Valley Railway, Royal Tunbridge Wells

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