The virtual festivals to attend this summer

From art to film, music to literature, these are the festivals taking their impressive line-ups online this year. By KATIE BERRINGTON

Contributors taking part online in the Dezeen Virtual Design Festival

Art and design

Dezeen’s Virtual Design Festival is the first of its kind to launch, with a remote rolling program running until June 30. Comprising performances, screenings, exhibitions, interviews and talks (all taking place online, of course), it features an impressive roster of global architects and designers as guest speakers.

Prestigious art fairs Frieze and Art Basel have also launched digital platforms in place of their global annual events, to connect leading galleries – through individual ‘viewing rooms’ – with collectors and art enthusiasts. So far, the Art Basel Hong Kong and Frieze New York iterations have taken place, with both generating much excitement in the art world. Like the in-person events, they take place over a period of days, opening first to VIPs and then to the general public.


Hay Festival has announced its first ever digital program, with writers and readers coming together for live broadcasts and interactive Q&As. Exploring new releases and current issues with the theme #ImagineTheWorld, more than 100 writers, policy makers, historians and innovators will join the virtual line-up from May 18 to 31.

The Big Book Weekend features author events that were due to take place at a variety of now-cancelled literary festivals – with Alexander McCall Smith, Hafsah Aneela Bashir, Marian Keyes and Bernardine Evaristo among the headline names – and they are all available to watch online now.

Glyndebourne will be screening a performance of The Marriage of Figaro on May 24


From Coachella to Glastonbury, many of the headline music festivals of 2020 have been cancelled, but ticket holders can still swap campsites for a sofa set-up (or pitch a tent in the garden for a true festival feeling). On the classical front, Glyndebourne has left its glorious country-house grounds for an Open House online instead, streaming a full-length past opera from its archives every Sunday. Viewers are invited to dress up if they so wish, in keeping with the event’s usual dress code. And caterers Restaurant Associates will host a live picnic demonstration on May 23, so that opera lovers can enjoy an authentic taste of the occasion, too.

It isn’t only the classical scene expanding its horizons: Radio One’s Big Weekend is going ahead with live sets from pop artists recorded in their homes and played on the festival’s virtual ‘stages’. Download Festival will also bring its rock acts to the digital arena, hosting three daily shows of music, interviews and unseen past footage, from June 12 to 14.

Food and drink

Food and drink festivals may not naturally lend themselves to the virtual realm, but that hasn’t stopped new formats being tried and tested (although tastings are, of course, limited to what you have in your cupboards). The Virtual Food Festival launched in the spring, with chefs Rick Stein and Angela Hartnett on the billing, to connect communities to local suppliers. Fringe events include recipe demonstrations, expert cooking tips and showcasing the produce of small businesses. If you miss any of the live-streamed activities, they are all available to watch and follow along with afterwards on YouTube.

Try your hand at some new dishes with the Virtual Food Festival’s workshops


Forgoing the usual star-studded premieres, some of the biggest film festivals across the world have come together to create We Are One: A Global Film Festival. The digital-only 10-day event, courtesy of YouTube and Tribeca Enterprises, brings together the likes of Sundance, Venice, Berlin, BFI London, Mumbai, Marrakech, New York, Sydney and Tokyo. Running from May 29 to June 7, the program will present feature films, shorts and documentaries, free to watch on YouTube, with donations being taken for the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 fund.