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Bank Holiday weekend: Your lockdown entertainment guide

Staff Writer

Reading time: 7 mins

Bank holiday weekends are normally a time for going outside to sunbathe in the park or having a BBQ with friends and family. While you can’t quite do all those things during the coronavirus lockdown – although you can have video calls while burning meat in the garden, if you’re lucky enough to have one – there are all manner of events to join in from your own living from.

The early Bank Holiday Friday marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day, and you can stream celebrations throughout the day and evening. Elsewhere, there’s a three-day literary festival, a one-day jazz festival, several concerts, multiple pub quizzes, a live watchalong of a film and comedians playing board games.

Here’s your Bank Holiday lockdown entertainment guide.

The Big Book Weekend – 8th to 10th May

The three-day virtual festival aims to unite the best of the cancelled UK literary festivals from 8th May to 10th May. It will comprise video interviews, panel discussions and more, alongside archive conversations and film adaptations of books. Robert Webb discusses his literary work with acclaimed literary journalist Alex Clark. Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, discusses Girl, Woman, Other with Creative Scotland’s Mairi Kidd. Neil Gaiman celebrates 100 years since the birth of legendary fantasy and sci-fi guru Ray Bradbury with the award-winning Bradbury biographer and writer Sam Weller. Maggie O’Farrell discusses the joy and importance of book festivals with Damian Barr. Alexander McCall Smith reads a special message to readers and festival organisers to inspire and uplift, written especially for the Big Book Weekend. And there’ll be a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Anne Brontë’s birth, including live readings from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Homeschool Festival – 8th to 10th May

Music mag Dork has gathered together musicians for a three-day music festival, which unfolds over multiple online stages, all condensed into one handy website: The line-up includes Tom Grennan, The Aces, L Devine, Alfie Templeman, Bloxx, The Sherlocks, The Ninth Wave, SPINN, Bad Sounds, Born Ruffians, Tim Burgess and more.

VE Day Concert – 8th May

The Royal Albert Hall will stream a concert for free on YouTube, featuring Katherine Jenkins singing We’ll Meet Again. The concert will give the nation a moment to pay tribute to the fallen men and women of World War II and salute the country’s VE Day Veterans, many of whom are experiencing uncertainty and isolation. It is also an opportunity to thank the Armed Forces who, alongside the NHS and many others, are coming together to serve the country. Welsh mezzo soprano Jenkins will sing wartime favourites including The White Cliffs of Dover and We’ll Meet Again – the latter performed as a virtual duet with Dame Vera Lynn and featuring Classic BRIT Award winning saxophonist Jess Gillam. The concert starts at 6pm.

VE Day: BBC One – 8th May

To mark the 75th anniversary of VE day, the BBC and the Royal British Legion honour and celebrate the Second World War generation with an evening of memories and music. Featuring some of those who remember this historic day, and performers including Adrian Lester and Anton Du Beke. The programme starts at 8pm and will climax with a nationwide singalong of We’ll Meet Again at 9pm. An address by the Queen follows.

Shambles Show and Tell – 8th May

The Cosmic Shambles Network continues its almost daily drop of new video streams from Robin Ince and chums, with this Friday morning’s Show and Tell featuring Josie Long, Francesca Stavrakopoulou and Luke Daniel Peacock. Starts at 10am.

England Pub Quiz – 8th May

John Barnes and Ray Parlour host an official English football pub quiz, sponsored by Bud Light. Questions are read out on YouTube and Facebook, starting at 8pm. Prizes include a tour of Wembley, a signed England shirt and hospitality tickets for the next England match at Wembley.

David Gilmore Gig – 8th May

At 5.00pm, Pink Floyd’s Gilmore concludes his run of free gigs streamed on YouTube, with a recording of David Gilmour Live At Pompeii – a concert that took place in July 2016, 45 years after he first played there for Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii. The concert features songs from throughout David’s career, including the title tracks of his two most recent solo albums – Rattle That Lock and On An Island – as well as Pink Floyd classics.

Comic Relief Plays Dungeons and Dragons – 8th May

Comic Relief live-streams comedians attempting to play the fantasy tabletop game on Twitch. Sue Perkins, Nish Kumar, Ed Gamble and Sara Pascoe will be the party of adventurers, guided by Dungeon Master and host of Questing Time, Paul Foxcroft. Tune into at 7pm.

Cheltenham Jazz Festival – 9th May

Cheltenham Jazz Festival will be going digital this Bank Holiday weekend, with a virtual one-day festival streamed online. The free event will be held on Saturday 9th May, aiming to recreate the essence of the festival and showcase some of the top acts originally set to perform at the 2020 festival. The online event will feature exclusive sets from Irish singer-songwriter Imelda May, cultural pioneer Nitin Sawhney, award-winning trumpeter Laura Jurd, ambient improvising trio Chris Mapp and Stillefelt, the 16-piece Electric Lady Big Band, The TC Quartet ft Denny Ilett, soul/rocker Roachford, beatboxer Shlomo and Showcase sessions with two rising stars from last year’s Free Stage: Rosie Tee and Amahla. The festival will kick off at 3pm on the Cheltenham Festivals YouTube channel.

Royal Albert Home: Sarah Brightman – 9th May

Sarah Brightman’s Royal Albert Hall concert from 1997 will be streamed on YouTube to raise funds for COVID-19 relief charities. Recorded on 24 September 1997, the show saw Sarah perform an unforgettable concert of well-known Classical and Broadway pieces by composers such as Puccini, Gershwin, Delibes, Bernstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber. She is joined by special guests including Andrea Bocelli for the iconic Time to Say Goodbye, and Andrew Lloyd Webber on piano while Sarah sings the title song from his musical Whistle Down the Wind, as well as a special duet of Pie Jesu with Adam Clarke. The stream starts at 8pm and is available on-demand for 72 hours.

Lionsgate Live: Eddie the Eagle – 9th May

Lionsgate is streaming four films from its library for free on Saturday nights on the Lionsgate UK YouTube channel, aiming to encourage donations to NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Urgent Appeal and The Film and TV Charity COVID-19 Emergency Response. This weekend, it’s Eddie the Eagle, Dexter Fletcher’s film about the real life British skier who became an unlikely sporting legend, which is irresistibly feel-good stuff. Irresistibly, we say. The stream starts at 6pm.

The Rolling Stones – 10th May

The Rolling Stones continue Extra Licks, their Sunday streaming of past concerts for free on YouTube. Gigs stream at 8pm every Sunday until 7th June, with each concert available on-demand after. Last week’s Out of Control, recorded at the Estadio Unico Ciudad de La Plata in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is still available.

National Theatre at Home

This week’s National Theatre at Home stream is Antony Cleopatra. At the fringes of a war-torn empire the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and Mark Antony have fallen fiercely in love. In a tragic fight between devotion and duty, obsession becomes a catalyst for war. Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient, James Bond: Spectre) and Sophie Okonedo (Chimerica, Hotel Rwanda) play Shakespeare’s famous fated couple in his great tragedy of politics, passion and power. Available on-demand until 7pm on Thursday 14th May. For National at Home’s complete line-up.


Radiohead has been releasing concert recordings on YouTube for free every Thursday throughout the lockdown – including Live from a Tent in Dublin, Coachella, Buenos Aires, Berlin and Bonnaroo.


Metallica has also been releasing gigs for free online on Mondays on YouTube, including Live at the House of Vans, Copenhagen, Munich and Michigan.

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