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 everyone. 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!
Hosted every September, the Rye Arts Festival is a wonderful celebration of the arts, and 2018 will be the 47th year of the event. The largest arts festival in East Sussex, it promises yet another eclectic programme, spanning classical and contemporary music, dance performances, literature, art exhibitions and more.
- When: 15th-30th September 2018
- Where: Various venues throughout Rye
This jazz-funk festival is gaining a great reputation, and is also easily reached via public transport from throughout East Sussex. Love Supreme’s line-up often features some musical titans as well as making room for new bands that still carry the torch. Among the iconic acts who performed at the 2017 festival are The Jacksons, Gregory Porter, George Benson and Herbie Hancock. The festival setting is beautiful too, so be sure to book early.
- When: 29th June-1st July 2018
- Where: Glynde Place, Glynde, East Sussex, BN8 6SX
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 and a great place to sample some for yourself while in Kent. The festivities kick off with the traditional seafront procession, before the food fair is held alongside live music, workshops and a number of activities for children.
- When: July 2018
- Where: Various venues throughout Whitstable
Southbeats is a festival which showcases huge names and breaking talent from the world of dance music. Taking place at the Port Lympne Reserve in Kent, some of the top DJs and dance acts to have appeared at 2017’s festival include Basement Jaxx, Example, Sigma and Mistajam.
- When: September 2018
- Where: Port Lympne Reserve, Hythe, Kent, CT21 4LR
Other festivals to check out:
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 of world class opera events. It’s also home to the Glyndebourne Opera Cup, a competition showcasing the rising stars of opera. Bring a picnic and champagne to enjoy during some of the best live events available in the UK throughout the Great British summer.
- Where: near Lewes, East Sussex, BN8 5UU
Located in the historic city of Canterbury, The Marlowe is an acclaimed theatre which brings a variety of plays, comedy and music to the stage, each guaranteed to entertain or leave you thinking. One of the region’s leading cultural venues, there are more than 350 performances hosted here every year.
- Where: The Friars, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2AS
This iconic art-deco style seafront pavilion in Bexhill is a must see for its unspoilt charms. The De La Warr is a wonderful art space hosting a bold programme of artistic events, live music, stage shows 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.
- Where: Marina, Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex, TN40 1DP
The Assembly Hall Theatre is one of the largest in Kent offering a packed programme of music, comedy, theatre, opera and more, with a variety of shows catering to all tastes. With a performance taking place here almost every day, there’s bound to be something great to watch while you’re in the area.
- Where: Crescent Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 2LU
Other fantastic venues
The Jerwood Gallery is a modern art exhibition space along the seafront in Hastings Old Town. It has a busy ongoing calendar of events with a focus on modern and contemporary British art. The Jerwood Collection aims to showcase the best of British and contains pieces by Sir Stanley Turner, LS Lowry, Augustus John, and Sir Frank Brangwyn. A number of temporary exhibitions also visit the gallery throughout the year.
- Where: Rock-a-Nore Road, Hastings Old Town, East Sussex, TN34 3DW
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, which have included pieces by Anthony Gormley and Tracey Emin. Be sure to visit if you love contemporary art in all its guises. Despite the calibre of the artworks on show, admission is completely free.
Image: John Lord
- Where: Rendezvous, Margate, Kent, CT9 1HG
An award-winning contemporary art gallery in the heart of Eastbourne, the Towner Gallery started from a collection of just 22 paintings in 1923. The new state-of-the-art premises opened in 2009, and, alongside its number of visiting exhibitions, is home to its own collection of more than 4500 works, specialising in modern British art.
- Where: Devonshire Park, College Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex, BN21 4JJ
Folkestone is a paradise for lovers of the arts as it’s home to its very own thriving creative quarter, which houses a number of creative businesses and artists’ studios. It’s a great place to browse some of the works by numerous up and coming artists, as well as a great opportunity to find your own unique artwork to take home.
- Where: Tontine Street, Folkestone, CT20 1JP
More great galleries
MUSEUMS AND COLLECTIONS
Image: Amanda Slater
One of Kent’s finest 17th century buildings, the Rochester Guildhall is a great introduction to the history of the local area, featuring a number of items and exhibits from over the centuries. Among the highlights are the Dickens Discovery Room, a Victorian drawing room and a reconstruction of part of a prison hulk.
- Where: 17 High Street, Rochester, ME1 1PY
Found at the splendid Quex House, the Powell-Cotton is one of the UK’s most fascinating private collections. It chronicles the work of Percy Powell Cotton, an explorer who travelled Africa and Asia, and brought back with him a world-class collection of natural history artefacts. Many of these can be seen in the museum alongside collections of 19th century fine arts, antique furniture, weaponry, ceramics and archaeology.
Image: Amy Meredith
- Where: Quex Park, Park Lane, Birchington, Kent, CT7 0BH
Established over 120 years ago, the Hastings Museum is home to an eclectic collection of exhibits, including the Native North American collection and the interactive dinosaur gallery. Two galleries also tell the story of Hastings in finer detail: Before Hastings, chronicling those who lived in the area from the prehistoric to the Saxon age, and The Story of Hastings in 66 Objects.
Image: George Redgrave
- Where: John’s Place, Bohemia Road, Hastings, East Sussex, TN34 1ET
The Weald & Downland Living Museum brings over 950 years of rural living to life across its several buildings, all set across a 40-acre site. Among the rooms and buildings to be seen in all their traditional glory are the Tudor kitchen, Victorian smithy, bakehouse and dairy, with demonstrations of crafts such as blacksmithing taking place throughout the day.
- Where: Singleton, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0EU
More fascinating museums
If you’ve been persuaded to base your next holiday in Kent or Sussex and treat yourself to some of the cultural delights above, take a look at our varied collection of wonderful Kent cottages and holiday homes in Sussex.
And for even more great days out in the region to remember, why not try a visit to one of our top Kent and Sussex vineyards?