Culture is alive and kicking in Kent and Sussex. There are many cultural attractions and destinations throughout the county with events taking place all year long. From theatres to festivals, there will be a cultural highlight in Sussex and Kent bound to strike a chord with anyone. We’ve listed many of the biggest and most popular attractions but we’ve also included some of the lesser known events and places too – if you have the time to pay them a visit, we’re sure you will be pleasantly surprised!
You can find one of the UK’s most famous opera houses, Glyndebourne, in the quaint Sussex village it’s named after. A few miles outside Lewes, it constantly surprises and wows visitors with its long season (summer) of World class opera events. So bring a picnic and champagne to enjoy during some of the best live events available in the UK.
Eastbourne has two grand old Victorian theatres close to the seafront: The Devonshire Park and the Winter Gardens as well as the South coast’s largest theatre, The Congress. They are all managed by the same company and share the same website. The ongoing programme of events is full of West End theatre productions, music, drama, and dance.
There are always events and things to do in Lewes and their festivals seem to be all year round. It is a must visit for its shops too which offer a good variety of independents and established High Street favourites. Perhaps the most famous event is the bonfire night celebrations that keep proceedings traditional and original. Visit their website for a full list of inventive events happening in and around Lewes before you visit.
Rye Jazz Festival, Rye
Now an established annual music event, the Rye Jazz Festival brings some cool big names to Rye every August. As well as the headliners, the event showcases plenty of young up and coming talent. Lots of venues around Rye get very busy for a few days, each August. Visit the website for updates because jazz artists appear for live sessions all year round.
Rye Arts Festival, Rye
Usually hosted in September hot on the heels of the Rye Jazz Festival, The Rye Arts Festival is a wonderful celebration of the arts. 2017 sees the 46th event. It promises yet another eclectic programme of music, theatre, dance and more. The Rye Arts Festival is now one of the UK's leading arts festivals.
Charleston is a country house famous for its links with the Bloomsbury Group, Charleston was the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and welcomed illustrious visitors such as Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, Dora Carrington and John Maynard Keynes. Opened to the public as a visitor attraction in 1986, it’s a lovely peaceful place to visit. Alongside the house, gardens, café and shop, Charleston also hosts a programme of interesting events and exhibitions.
Much Ado Books, Alfriston
Much Ado books in Alfriston is a really special bookshop! They stock pre-loved and antiquarian books and host regular author evenings and talks. If you’re a big reader and enjoy what lies beyond the top ten titles Much Ado is worth a long visit. The village of Alfriston is an unbelievably pretty place too, so explore what the place has to offer and find a relaxing spot to enjoy a picnic.
De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea
This iconic art-deco style seafront pavilion is a must see for its unspoilt charms. At its best on a blue sky day when it really stands out against the sea and sky. The De La Warr is a wonderful art space hosting a bold programme of artistic events, live music, and a diverse film programme. It has a fabulous gift shop that reflects the diversity of its calendar. If you like modern art in all its different shapes and form you must include the De La Warr Pavilion on your holiday itinerary. Previous exhibitions have showcased collections by Anthony Gormaley, Andy Warhol, a showcase on the art of Ladybird Books, John cage, and many more.
Farley Farm House and Gallery, Chiddingly
Farley Farm House and Gallery is the former home of Lee Miller and Roland Penrose, they welcomed some of the leading lights of the twentieth century art world including Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Joan Miró and Man Ray. You can join tours of the house and sculpture garden, much of it looks like the surrealist owners had left minutes before you arrived, so well restored it all is. The garden has great views of the downs. Check the website in advance for opening times.
The Jerwood Gallery, Hastings
The Jerwood Gallery is a modern art exhibition space along the seafront in Hastings. It has a busy on going calendar of events and focuses on 20th and 21st century art. The Jerwood Collection contains some pieces by Sir Stanley Turner, LS Lowry, Augustus John, and Sir Frank Brangwyn. The gallery also hosts temporary exhibitions. In the past it has showcased a selection of Lucian Freud portraits and Quentin Blake. Be sure to check who the lead touring artist on show is, when planning a visit to Hastings.
Love Supreme Music Festival, Glynde
This Jazz-Funk festival is gaining a very good reputation for itself. Glynde becomes a hub of activity for those into the finer sounds in life. The line ups often feature some musical titans as well as making room for new bands that still carry the torch. Glynde is easily accessible by train and bus. Grace Jones and Burt Bacharach headlined at 2016’s festival to give you an idea of the calibre of headline performer. The festival setting is beautiful too, so be sure to book early.
The Electric Palace Cinema, Hastings
If you love seeing films that are a little bit different make your way to the Electric Palace Cinema in the Old Town. They present a wide and interesting choice of unusual films from all around the world. Be sure to check their film listings.
Southbeats Festival, Birchington-on-Sea
Southbeats is a new music festival held near Canterbury in Quex Park that showcases huge names and breaking talent. In 2016, the event had a funfair along with the cream of the crop of international dance music including Kano, Chase & Status, Barely Legal, Blonde, Chirs Lorenzo and more.
Whitstable Oyster Festival
For foodies, the Whitstable Oyster Festival is an unmissable experience. Whitstable is historically known as one of the UK’s best places to harvest oysters, so it’s an apt location for the event. There’s more to the festival than food though, you can also enjoy live music from known bands and personalities. At the 2016 event there was a stand-up comedy night and a firework display. The festival lasts for a week and occurs at a number of venues around the town, so keep an eye on the press to see what 2017’s gathering holds in store.
The Brogdale Collection, Brogdale
At Brogdale you can find the National Fruit Collection, which is the world’s largest collection of fruit trees and plants. It’s the ideal spot to learn all there is to know about fruit, fruit trees, bushes and orchards. Come at the right time of year to see the apples, pears, plums, cherries, cobnuts, strawberries and quinces ripen and grow to your taste! You can take a guided tour too.
The Turner Contemporary Gallery, Margate
Aspects of the works of JMW Turner are regularly on show at this beautiful, spacious art gallery on the seafront in his beloved Margate. Besides Turner’s work there is room for touring modern art exhibitions. Be sure to visit if you love contemporary art in all its guises. Admission is free.
The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury has a varied programme of touring events that covers the broad spectrums of music, dance, theatre, pantomime and more. Situated in the heart of Canterbury, don’t forget to take time to visit the city’s grand Cathedral and its interesting mixture of independent shops and High Street favourites.
The Palace Cinema, Broadstairs
This is probably the cutest, old fashioned cinema in the south east. If you know a better time machine to take you back to the days of Kia-Ora adverts and the good old days of British cinema please let us know. Playing up to date blockbusters, catch a 'flick'; here to remember how a trip to the pictures used to be before the age of the multiplex.