May Top Picks
Festival fever has hit Cornwall this month. Here are 20+ events you can enjoy with family and friends.
Kicking off with Padstow’s May Day on the 1st, it’s all festivals, fairs and fun this month. Whether you’re interested in art, literature, live music or food and drink there is something for everyone. Sing and dance the night away on Perranporth Beach with your favourite stars, or celebrate local Cornish traditions by taking part in Flora Day and the Bolster Pageant. Why not take a trip to the Scilly Isles? With a packed programme coming up including 2 festivals and their famous World Pilot Gig Racing Championships it’s the perfect time to visit.
Keep an eye out for our new summer guide which is coming out soon. With heaps of fantastic events over June, July and August, you’ll have almost too many things to see and do over the holidays. We even struggled to narrow down our top picks this month!
1. Padstow May Day
Wed 1st May, 2019
Padstow Town Centre
May day (or “Obby “Oss as it is known outside of Padstow) is the biggest day in Padstow’s calendar. It is not unusual to see 30,000 people crammed into the little town. It is a day when Padstonians from all over the world return to their roots.
Each and every 1st of May, the Old Oss and Blue Ribbon Oss are let loose from their stables to roam around Padstow. A tradition that has taken place for centuries, the narrow streets of this Cornish fishing port fill with tens of thousands of people every year, all jostling for a glimpse of the famous Obby Oss…As the procession moves around the town, dancers perform a traditional gyrating dance to the sound of the accompanying musicians and drummers. Last, but not least, are the “followers” young and old who follow the procession every year and join in the singing of the traditional “May Song”
2. The Smugglers Den Pie & Ale Festival
Thu 2nd — Mon 6th May, 2019
The Smugglers Den, Newquay
In its 20th year, the annual Pie & Ale Festival will not disappoint. Make a weekend of it and sample the huge selection of real ales and ciders on offer. Meaty and vegetarian pies are available in the ‘festival’ marquee and function room with the the full menu and daily specials being served in the pub which is open as normal.
3. Cornwall International Male Choral Festival
Thu 2nd – Mon 6th May, 2019
Various venues across Cornwall
This year’s International Male Choral Festival is taking place across a number of Cornish venues including St Michael’s Mount, Truro Cathedral, The Eden Project, Trebah Garden, Minack Theatre and Tate St Ives.
More than 60 male choirs participate from across the world, the UK and, of course, Cornwall. In addition to concerts and other public singing activities, the festival includes symposia, workshops, master classes and tuition sessions for directors and singers. It also features an educational programme involving local schools.
4. The Masked Ball
Fri 3rd – Sun 5th May, 2019
Beacon Crag, Porthleven
The Masked Ball is an immersive, multi-level party kingdom with ballers all dressed to excess in a venue carved out of the cliffs overlooking the stunning Mount’s Bay. A one of a kind event situated in the quintessentially Cornish fishing village of Porthleven. This is a proper party.
Attracting throngs of costumed revellers, The Masked Ball features original top-flight dance talent music played out to one of the best crowds in festival land. Over the last eleven years, the various stages have been graced with world-class acts and underground DJs alike, including Phil Hartnoll (Orbital), Bonobo, Andrew Weatherall, Norman Jay MBE, Nightmares on Wax, Craig Richards, Portishead’s Andy Smith, Hot Chip, Optimo, Daniele Baldelli, Live at Robert Johnson’s ATA and Horse Meat Disco to name only a few.
5. Saltash May Fair 2019
Sat 4th May, 2019
Saltash Town Centre
Saltash May Fair is the annual event staged for the people of Saltash, celebrating the community, businesses and organisations of the town. The Fair, organised by a team of volunteers will feature music, stalls, bouncy castles and delicious food. Their primary aim is to promote all things local, but participation from outside Saltash is also very welcome!
6. St Agnes Bolster Festival
Sat 4th – Sun 5th May, 2019
Chapel Porth Beach, St Agnes
The Bolster Pageant has been staged each May Bank Holiday weekend for the last 20 years on the cliffs at Chapel Porth Beach. The festival is held during the first May Bank Holiday each year and tells the tale of the Giant Bolster, who having ravaged the locality and terrified the locals is finally brought his comeuppance by a fair village maiden. Members of the public are welcome at all of the event’s proceedings, and for those that want to get really involved they can get themselves made up in traditional fashion, in preparation for the day’s festivities.
7. Black Prince Flower Boat Procession
Mon 6th May, 2019
Millbrook, Kingsand & Cawsand
A traditional May Day festival to banish winter and welcome in the spring and summer – with hope for a fruitful harvest from land and sea. The Black Prince flower boat, launched from Cawsand Beach, will be decked in fresh flowers, after being carried shoulder high through the local villages, by ratings from HMS Raleigh. Other festivities include music, song and dance through the streets, Maypole and Morris dancing, Town Criers and young Town Crier competition, crowning the May Day King and Queen, garden fetes, music and choirs, green men, the traditional Cornish chough, and local fayre.
8. Helston Flora Day
Wed 8th May, 2019
Helston Town Centre
This ancient spring festival celebrates the end of winter and marks the arrival of the new vitality and fertility with the trees and flowers bursting into life. The houses and shops of the town are decorated with greenery and floral arrangements to express the spirit of renewal.
When the big bass drum strikes the first beat of the dance at seven in the morning, the spirit of the day is stirred and the celebrations commence. Some eighty couples dance through the streets, entering selected houses and shops to drive out the darkness of winter and bring in the light of spring.
9. St Ives Food & Drink Festival
Fri 10th – Sun 12th May, 2019
Porthminster Beach, St Ives
Taking place on the iconic Porthminster Beach, the St Ives Food and Drink Festival promises culinary experts, attractions and a wide variety of local beverages and food over 3 days. A fantastic range of activities, music and entertainment with plenty of fun for all the family. The event committee works with the very best local businesses to deliver the best food and drink festival every year.
10. Fowey Festival of Arts & Literature
Fri 10th — Sat 18th May, 2019
Since 1997 Fowey’s Arts and Literary Festival has brought countless internationally renowned writers, performers and entertainers to Cornwall, creating a buzz of excitement in the town and attracting festival-goers from across the UK and overseas. This year will feature talks, workshops, practicals, walks, art trails, secret gardens and more. Plus an extensive programme for children and live music.
Originally inspired by the famed author Daphne du Maurier, the festival continues to include a strand of du Maurier themed events from walks showcasing the inspiration behind the author’s stories to book readings and debates.
11. Callington Mayfest
Sat 18th May, 2019
Callington Town Centre
Callington MayFest is now in its seventh year and has become the largest participative community event in Callington. On the day, the streets and local indoor venues are packed with a host of things to do for all the family, whatever their taste: music, dance, theatre, children’s entertainment, an artisan market – and loads more. This year there is the added excitement of a Viking re-enactment, taking visitors back to the days of the Battle of Hingston Down!
In the run-up to the day itself, there are FREE workshops covering music-making, song, Latino dance and samba drumming. These are intended for people – from novice to experienced – who would like to work with new mentors to discover a different approach in their field or would just like to “have a go” at some taster sessions.
Sun 19th May, 2019
Lostwithiel Town Centre
LostFest is a celebration of all that Lostwithiel and the surrounding area have to offer in the way of crafts, tasty food, street entertainment and live music. From samba to Morris dancing, barbershop quartets to pop, there will be entertainment in all venues and on every street corner to keep toes tapping. Chock-a-block with stalls selling arts, crafts, antiques and lots of other goodies, the festival supports local UK-based artists and artisans, and several stalls will be holding demonstrations and workshops. Not forgetting the fantastic food stalls on offer, selling delicious festival food from all corners of the world.
13. Tunes in the Dunes
Fri 24th – Sun 26th May, 2019
Tunes in the Dunes is a brand new festival, set on the beautiful golden sands of Perranporth beach. With a back drop of scenic cliffs and sand dunes, this will be a truly unique event where you can enjoy an ice cold beverage with your feet in the sand and the ocean only a stone’s throw away.
Born from the incredible live music that has been happening at The Watering Hole, the UK’s only venue on a beach, sit back and prepare to be taken away by the magic that Tommy Job & the team will bring for the festivals 5th year.
14. Porthilly Spirit
Fri 24th – Sun 26th May, 2019
Trefesa Farm, Rock
This May will see the inception of a brand new three-day event, showcasing and celebrating the finest elements of the outdoors, food, wellbeing, and music, tucked away in a secluded location on the north Cornish coast.
Porthilly Spirit in an independent event perched on the mouth of the Camel Estuary, close to Rock. The programme of talks, workshops, feasts, outdoor experiences, wellbeing classes, and family activities will make it a haven for lovers of both the great outdoors and first-class food and drink.
Headline acts include Tom Odell and Gilles Peterson, with food from Tomos Parry of Michelin-starred restaurant Brat and author and cook Anna Jones.
15. Bude & Stratton Folk Festival
Fri 24th – Mon 27th May, 2019
Various locations in Bude & Stratton
Bude and Stratton Folk Festival is a friendly mix of folk events held annually on the late May Bank Holiday weekend in beautiful North Cornwall. The festival will feature music, song, dance, storytelling and children’s events, and welcomes numerous talented guest performers, many internationally known. Local dance sides will perform, as well as children from local schools, who give a dance display on Saturday morning. Festival-goers can join in workshops, open mic stages, music sessions, sing arounds as well as a barn dance.
16. Fal River Festival
Fri 24th May – Sun 2nd June, 2019
Various locations in Falmouth
This fantastic 10 day celebration is a not-for-profit community festival which encompasses over 150 events varying from music and drama, the arts and heritage to gig racing, swimming, walking and lots more. The festival will be running for its 14th year in 2019. It’s a chance to embrace the places, people, history, culture, sport and industry that are connected by this very Cornish river.
With its diverse mix of events taking place at dozens of locations around the Fal River, the festival offers something for everyone and is the perfect opportunity to engage with life on the river and discover some of its fascinating history.
17. Isles of Scilly Events
World Pilot Gig Championships
Fri 3rd – Sun 5th May, 2019
This May will mark the 30th anniversary of the now famous ‘Gig Champs’ where the islands come alive for the busiest weekend of the year. More than 150 men’s and women’s teams, plus veterans and super-veterans from across the UK, Europe and beyond descend on Scilly to compete across three days for the most coveted prize in pilot gig racing – and then party long into the final night!
Creative Scilly Festival
Fri 10th – Weds 22nd May, 2019
This new cultural festival will celebrate the islands’ culture and creativity on a scale beyond anything hosted on the islands before. Building on the foundations of the long established and well-loved Art Scilly week, the Creative Scilly Festival will feature an eclectic mix of events from visual art, literature, comedy and the spoken word to hands-on workshops, demonstrations, public art displays, performances, gallery openings and fun nights out across the five islands.
Scilly Folk Festival
Fri 24th – Tues 28th May, 2019
Hot on the heels of the Creative Scilly Festival is the ever-popular annual Scilly Folk Festival. A long weekend of music, song and dance is in store, featuring some of the best folk music from Scilly and the South West.
18. Narrative Craft & Art Fair
Sat 25th — Sun 26th May, 2019
Cornwall College, St Austell
Come along to a fresh, new contemporary craft and art fair at St Austell College: a family and dog-friendly festival style event involving students, musicians and some of the best makers and artists in the South West.
Enjoy drop-in circus skills workshops with Vagabond Youth Circus, buskers playing live music including singer songwriter Sky-Anna and folk group The Rosevilles; festival face-painting and hair-wraps. Plus make your own pancake with Miss Elvy’s Skool of the Wild open fire cooking.
The festival aims to offer a positive, relaxed weekend where people can meet and talk to makers about their stories, processes and inspirations; chill out on the sea-view lawns, have a bit of street food or a cream tea and treat themselves to something unique to treasure.
19. Port Eliot Dog Festival
Sat 25th May, 2019
Port Eliot Estate, Saltash
This May the whole family, including four legged friends, are invited to Port Eliot Estate to take part in the Dog Festival.
With stalls, refreshments and entertainment, as well as a family dog show and agility course, the day will have something for everyone. Don’t miss the highlight of the day – Roo and Lark, Port Eliot’s resident whippets will be hosting a special tea party for canine friends. This is a unique experience both for the dogs, who get to enjoy an incredible dog-friendly spread, as well as for owners who stand back and watch the chaos unfold!
20. Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival
Sat 25th May, 2019
Sterts Theatre, Upton Cross
Following this year’s theme of ‘conversations’, ‘One Day in May’ will showcase a stunning line-up pairing poets new and established. The poets will be reading from their work as well as talking to each other about their practice, influences and experiences. The day, presented in partnership with Cornwall-based publisher Guillemot Press, will open with a special poetry workshop and round off in style, celebrating the greats of rock n roll in poetry and music.
21. Open Studios Cornwall
Sat 25th May — Sun 2nd June, 2019
Artists, makers and designers at Krowji, Cornwall’s largest creative hub in Redruth, will open their studio doors to the public as part of Open Studios Cornwall 2019. This event will showcase over 300 artists in their studios across Cornwall from Saturday 25th May – Sunday 2nd June 2019. Visitors will have the opportunity to see behind the scenes, meet the makers and purchase art, crafts and gifts.
22. Wilder Festival
Sun 26th May, 2019
Mount Pleasant Ecological Park, St Agnes
A naturally wild day out for everyone, organised by Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Come and enjoy wildlife workshops and advice, forage & feast, live music, street food, the animals of Feadon Farm Wildlife Centre, bird-ringing demonstrations with the Cornwall BTO, wild art, forest schools, welly-wanging!… and other wildlife friends visiting from across Cornwall. Bring your friends and family along to this free event, as well as your best woodland animal, insect or marine-themed outfit!
23. The Great Estate Festival
Fri 31st May — Sun 2nd June, 2019
Scorrier House, Redruth
Welcome to the Great Estate, the most rambunctious Garden Fête! Featuring the return of the vintage fairground, woodland silent disco, secret gin garden, The Whispering Woods, burlesque sessions, Madame Wong’s House of Wrong, classical corner, glamping, hot tubs, The Sanctuary and the Swamp Circus plus much more. Expect major international headline acts, a rambunctious mix of comedy, theatre, music and the arts, all within the beautiful grounds of Scorrier Estate.
24. Stomp and Twang Americana Festival
Fri 31st May — Sun 2nd June, 2019
Princess Pavilion, Falmouth
A first for Cornwall. The Stomp and Twang Americana Festival brings you current US and UK stars and legends from the world of Country, Blues, R&B, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Bluegrass and Cajun music. A unique and exciting event celebrating the vibrant culture of the southern US, through a busy programme of music, food and dance.
A family friendly event, all ages will love the foot stomping musical treats. Kids activities will occur daily and all ages will be able to take part in intimate workshops with successful songwriters and virtuoso musicians to learn about their influences and experiences. Traditional food offerings will bring to Cornwall the tastes and smells of southern states cooking, and a speciality bar will add to the ambience, see y’all there!