It’s that time again, time for the weather to get warmer, the flowers to start opening and for the first festivals to come along, dragging us out of the house. And boy, does May have a lot going on, whether it’s the biggest Leonardo da Vinci exhibition since the 1950s, watching England take on Pakistan at Cricket, or popping to a festival. On that latter note, if you fancy a festival May has got your back: there’s a food festival, a craft festival, a music festival, a book festival, an arts festival, a watercress festival (you read that correctly) and even the Chelsea Flower Show. There’s definitely something here that will get you out and about. Get choosing and, make sure to book an advance train ticket to save over 50% on your travel.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing

Now - 6 May
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Southampton City Art Gallery

This is a real last chance to see. Since February 12 galleries and museums around the country have been hosting drawings by Leonardo taken from the Royal Collection. In the South Western Railway region that means there have been drawings at two venues, Southampton and Bristol. The images are taken away on 6 May so grab the opportunity to see a Leonardo while you can.

24 May -13 October
The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace

One of the great things about living on our network is the easy access to London. Because if you do miss out on either Southampton or Bristol you have a second chance. You can go and see all the drawings that have been scattered around the country on display. The collection will comprise over 200 drawings by the greatest of the Great Masters and, to place this in context, the last exhibition of its scale was hosted in 1952 – when most of the modern artists you’ve heard of hadn’t even been born. Definitely one to plan a trip for.

Exeter Food and Drink Festival

4-6 May
The Exeter Food and Drink Festival is one of the brightest events taking place over the early bank holiday. Expect cookery demonstrations, workshops, live music and a slew of producer stalls as the backdrop to a filling and fulfilling event.

The Food and Drink pavilions house the different producers who are all foodie obsessives and all a ploughing a very narrow furrow, whether that’s artisan cider, truffle oil, gourmet marshmallows, world champion cheeses or something some other delicious marvel. Don’t forget to bring a shopper!

The line up for the Meet the Chefs events is phenomenal from Michael Caines MBE, Mitch Tonks and cookery class master Bini Ludlow. And for those with a taste for the finer things there’s even a 7 Chefs Dinner hosted at Exeter Golf Club that promises for one night only to be one of the best restaurants in Exeter.

Don’t forget in the lead up to the Food and Drink Festival there’s also the Exeter Beats Festival 3-5 May – details at the same web link above.

Small Island at The National Theatre

Now-10 August
As a novel Small Island was that rare thing: a great read and an epic story that educated easily as much as it entertained. The story tells the tale of Jamaica’s history via characters arriving in the UK on the Empire Windrush.

At the time of writing the reviews are not yet in but this promises to be one of the most affecting plays at the National for quite some time and it comes with a whole host of talks and events. This is a must for everyone, not just the multitudes who’ve read and loved the book.

London Craft Week

8-12 May
Across the city

Now in its fifth year, this promises to be another year of fascinating edification as the talks, demonstrations, workshops and exhibitions continue London Craft Week’s ongoing journey of discovery. There’s far too much going on spread across the whole of London to zone in on anything so either pop to the website above or download the pdf programme (11.2Mb) and start planning your trip. Whether it's the art of millinery, thatching, knife-making or weaving there is something here to grab your attention and they are all hosted at amazing spaces across the capital.

England vs Pakistan One Day International

11 May
The Ageas Bowl

The weather, as discussed, is turning for the better and the sun is getting its spring bonnet on. So what better way to get out in the great outdoors than watch a fast-paced game of cricket.

This is the second England vs Pakistan ODI of the season with the first taking place on 4 May at the Oval, for the rest of the fixtures head to the ECB for details. Head to either Southampton Airport Parkway Train Station or Hedge End Train Station – a rail shuttle will be available for the event free of charge.

The Bath Festival

17 - 26 May
The Bath Festival comes in two distinct parts:

Part One: The Party in the City

This takes place on the evening of 17 May when the entire city is taken over by music events. There’ll be more than 2,000 performers in over 30 venues and three outdoor arenas – and Bath really lets it’s regency locks down. One of the best things about it is that it’s free for all and everyone turns up to watch.

Part Two: The Bath Festival proper

Author talks and readings make up the main part of the festival, with quite a few music gigs thrown in. In book-land all of your celebrity favourites are here, whether that’s Darcy Bussell, Jo Brand, Michael Parkinson or Jim Al-Khalili. There are also actual authors with Luke Jennings the man behind Killing Eve and brilliant northern poet Simon Armitage and others doing a turn.

But that’s not all… when the festival ends there’s the Bath Festival Finale Weekend featuring Van Morrison on the Sunday and Clean Bandits headlining Saturday and tons more besides. Bath really is pushing the boat out this year.

Watercress Festival

19 May
Alresford

You may have never considered watercress as a celebrant in an annual festival… it might be that you’re entirely unaware of the Alresford Watercress Festival. Well, let us wake you to a new reality.

On the river Itchen between Winchester and Alton you’ll find the wonderful market town of Alresford recognised as the UK’s Capital of Watercress… which is where the festival comes in.

Every third Sunday in May the town sets out stalls and has a bumper street party where you can buy crafts, food and drink. There’s a procession of performers every festival at 10am who accompany the Watercress King and Queen as they distribute the low in fat, high in vitamin K plant and after that it settles to an itinerary of general and congenial entertainment and enjoyment.

This is a true slice of a wonderful English tradition in one of the loveliest places on the South Western Railway line and we’d urge you to place it on your agenda – once you have, there’s little chance you’ll ever remove it.

Dot To Dot Festival

25 May
Bristol

You can count on Bristol to have an authentic, innovative music festival, and that’s what Dot To Dot has always been. Over three nights in three cities (Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham) Crystal Nights, Jordan Rakei, Swim Deep and a ton more acts will gather on stages across their host city for a fantastic festival of the brightest and best established and emerging artists in the country. Hop on a train to Bristol Temple Meads for one of the first and best music festivals this year.

2019 Chelsea Flower Show

21-25 May
Here it comes again, one of the most glamorous, inspiring and quintessentially British events on the calendar. Every year the Chelsea Flower Show fills the skies of Chelsea with incredible fragrance and BBC2 with an array of eccentric presenters.

But there’s more to Chelsea than just fancy hydrangeas and a sea of complex hats. There’s dining with Raymond Blanc, there’s live music and entertainment, an artisan food market and cocktails. As well as incredible talent and inspiration, new flowers and gardens – including one designed by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge. So there’s every chance that if you’ve never shown any interest in the Chelsea Flower Show previously you’ll end up having an absolutely fantastic time. Well, everybody else seems to.

Salisbury Arts Festival

24 May - 9 June
Across the city

Every year the arts festival here punches above its weight with, [significant inhalation], music, spoken word, film, dance, circus, theatre, comedy and family events. This year the festival celebrates the 1969 moon landings and, more terrestrially, the 1989 fall of the Berlin wall. There’s definitely something happening here that will appeal, whether it’s a gig by comic Marc Watson, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra playing Holst’s The Planets at Salisbury Cathedral or The Lord Chamberlain’s Men performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream outdoors in Cathedral Close.

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