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Al fresco events this summer!

Picnic baskets at the ready! What’s better than going to the cinema, theatre or a gig? Going to them outside of course! Here’s my pick of the best places to see an al fresco performance locally, from open-air films and street food to some Shakespeare in the park.


1. Dirty Dancing at Hyde Hall, Chelmsford

Nobody puts baby in a corner, right? Definitely not at Hyde Hall, where you can sway along to Swayze’s amazing moves as you watch this classic movie outside on a giant screen in stunning grounds. Watermelon not included. 
17 August; 8.15pm, tickets £17.50.

2. Mamma MIa / West Side Story, Hedingham Castle

Two films over two days in the grounds of a 12th Century castle is pretty special we have to admit. What’s more, you can take a picnic (or buy a hot dog or burger!) and there’s a bar too. Cheers. 
22-23 August; gates open 7.15pm, tickets from £10.53.

3. Outdoor Film & Street Food Fest, Castle Park, Colchester 

Photo: @ Dave Peck

Choose from loads of outdoor screenings in Castle Park throughout this four-day fest, including Jumanji, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Bridesmaids, Clueless and Back To The Future. There’s street food for nosh and you can buy a four-day pass to see all 12 movies if you’re truly obsessed with al fresco screenings! 
21-24 July; kids go free with a paying adult, tickets from £13. 


4 As You Like it, Stanley Hall, Halstead

Shakespeare’s comedy performed open-air in the grounds of an Elizabethan moated Manor House is a treat, so bring a chair, pack a picnic and arrive early as the gardens are gorgeous. 
10 July; gates open 12.30pm, 3pm performance, tickets from £10

5. Much Ado About Nothing at Shotgate Park, Wickford

Shotgate’s first open-air theatre event promises to be a hit this summer, from the dose of culture via Shakespeare’s riotous play to the drinks and food. Bring your own blankets and picnic. 
29 July; 6.30pm, tickets £10.

6. The Three Musketeers, Hedingham Castle

See young D’Artagnan get to the big city to follow in his father’s footsteps and become one of the king’s musketeers in this family-friendly musical full or sword fights, magic and songs. Picnics welcome.
10 Aug; doors open 5pm performance at 6pm, from £12. 

7. Pride & Prejudice at Tymperleys, Colchester

Watch Jane Austin’s Bennet sisters wrestle with matrimony in the delightful setting of the garden of this historic, timber-beamed house in the heart of the (new) city! Pack a picnic and arrive early to soak up the atmos.
11 Aug, gates open 5.30pm play starts 7pm. 

 8. Rapunzel at Hylands House, Chelmsford 

Let your hair down (sorry not sorry) and take the whole family to see this fun production, which involves water guns, jokes and songs, in the manicured acres of Hylands – bar available! 
15 Aug; gates open 4pm, from £8. 

9. Cinderella, Flatford 

What better setting for an enchanted kingdom and faraway land than the National Trust’s Flatford, Constable’s former hangout and home to a scenic river and bucolic countryside. Refreshments available or take a picnic and something to sit on. 
27 Aug; gates open 3pm, performance 4pm, tickets £19.80


10. Elbow at Audley End, Saffron Walden

Throw those curtains wide, because Guy Garvey and band are coming to Essex al fresco and we’re more than ready to wave our arms in the air and sing our hearts out at this summer concert, which also has Richard Hawley in the line up. 
13 Aug; gates open 4pm, finishes 10.30pm, tickets £66.40. 

11. Music in the Park, Southend on Sea

Free performances at the bandstand in Priory Park are running every weekend (Sat & Sun) throughout the summer until 25 September, so take your pick from the high Voltage Big Band to a jazz quartet or Southend Operatic Society and come along with a blanket and enjoy! 
From 3-4.30pm, free. 

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