You’re in an unfamiliar town for an afternoon at the football. It’s lunchtime, more or less. You Googled the pubs before you set out, obviously, but how can it be anything other than a bonus to find a food festival in progress in the town? Two food festivals, in the case of Sheffield on 28 September. Out at Ponds Forge there’s Cheese Fest inspired by Wallace & Gromit; meanwhile at the Students Union the Sheffield Vegan Festival will be in full swing. Liverpool are at Sheffield United that afternoon, in a 12.30 kick-off – that leaves time to indulge yourselves before and after, and if you overdo it you could tackle Photomarathon Sheffield that day as well. Whether you’re an omnivore, a picky eater or an Asian gourmet, there’s likely to be something for you.
Food & Drink Festivals
There are extensive food & drink festivals at Manchester (where the away teams are Arsenal at United on 30 Sep, Wolves at City 5 Oct); Newport (Carlisle 5 Oct); Tranmere (Gillingham 7 Sep); and with live music Wigan (Charlton 21 Sep). The Festival of Food at Oxford (Gillingham 28 Sep) looks like a more local, home-grown affair. Cheese Milton Keynes (Wimbledon 7 Sep), Sheffield (Liverpool at Sheff Utd, 28 Sep), Lincoln (Sunderland 5 Oct) Chicken Wings Leyton (Swindon 7 Sep) Korean
There are Korean Festivals at Preston (Bristol City 28 Sep) and Wimbledon (Shrewsbury 14 Sep). Food may not be the main focus. Street Food Lincoln (Oxford 21 Sep), Cheltenham (Stevenage 7 Sep) Vegan Reading (Blackburn 21 Sep), Sheffield (Liverpool at Sheff Utd, 28 Sep)
Music-lovers among the tribes of traveling football fans are in for treats around the country in September. And the treats are shared out, geographically and in musical styles, from baroque in Bristol to blues in Carlisle.
Here are some of the music festivals to look for:
Baroque at Bristol (where the away team on 21 Sep is Swansea at Bristol City)
Early Music at Liverpool (Sheff Utd at Everton on 21 Sep) Blues/Rock at Carlisle (Oldham on 28 Sep) Classical on different scales at Leicester International Music Festival (Spurs on 21 Sep), Proms Swansea (Forest on 14 Sep), Royal Philharmonic Tranmere (Gillingham on 7 Sep) and Chamber Music at Hull (Cardiff on 28 Sep)
The British Country Festival is at Blackpool (MK Dons on 14 Sep) Folk at Leeds (Derby on 21 Sep) Gospel/Christian with Ignite at Salford (Forest Green on 28 Sep) and BayFest at Morecambe (Northampton on 28 Sep) Jazz is on the menu in Liverpool (Wolves at Everton on 1 Sep) and Swansea (Stoke on 5 Oct) OrganLiverpool (Newcastle at Liverpool on 14 Sep), Lincoln (Oxford on 21 Sep)
And if you fancy a Victorian Music Hall singalong, head for Leyton Orient (Swindon on 7 Sep)
There are other live music events on various scales and catering to various tastes at: Huddersfield (Millwall on 28 Sep), Plymouth (Cheltenham on 21 Sep), Portsmouth (Bolton* on 28 Sep), Reading (Blackburn on 21 Sep)
The city of Lincoln hosts the Motorhome Show Season Finale on 20-22 September. If you’re an Oxford United supporter with a motorhome, you could combine your passions. On some of the same roads on the same days, similar vehicles will be heading for Doncaster where there’s a VW Festival on 20-22 September. That will sort the posh out from the proles among the visiting Peterborough fans.
I only once went to a football match in anything that might pass muster at a Motorhome Show event. That was a VW Campervan. The vehicle made its own contribution to fuel efficiency by refusing to go faster than 50mph. Reverse gear was elusive, which made parking a challenge. We left Hertfordshire at 11.30am and failed to get to Tranmere Rovers in time for kick-off. But we were dilatory in setting off, lingered over lunch and may not have been 100% committed to Tranmere v Oldham, so I can’t lay all the blame on Volkswagen.
Campervan veterans would have recognised us as naïve beginners. As we settled in at a Wirral campsite, we basked in the admiring attention our VW drew. But when the admirers returned to their Saturday evenings in palatial Xanadu-style encampments, or drove off to an award-winning restaurant in West Kirby, we faced a night in a confined space with no dinner. A fish & chip van visiting the camp-site partly rescued the situation.
Later, we walked down a lane to the water’s edge and watched the sun go down over an offshore wind-farm. As a recreation of the Hippy Trails blazed by the original generation of VW Campervan owners, this was barely satisfactory. But we were neither hippies nor stoned, and the VW at least was authentic.
If you travel around the country in a motorhome and you like the Towns of Two Halves idea that anywhere can be a tourist destination, you should take a look at Your RV Lifestyle‘s very thorough 100 Things to do in England. How many do you agree with? What d’you reckon they’ve missed?
Mismatch of the Day is at Cheltenham on 24 Aug. Visiting Swindon Town fans can choose between a Brian Jones 50th Anniversary Walking Tour or the regular Ghost Tour.
The Coals to Newcastle award goes to Southend United, who make trips to Stevenage and Lincoln where urban beaches will compensate them for leaving their own perfectly good beach behind. Southend’s opening match is at Coventry, just 14 miles from another mock Copacabana at Solihull. And on 10 Aug Southend host… Blackpool.
The Knowledge is shared by Morecambe and Peterborough. Thanks to a quirk of the league fixture list and the Carabao Cup draw, Morecambe visit Mansfield twice in four days; Peterborough play at Oxford on the same pair of days. Click on the links to make the most of your visits.
The Happy Eater award belongs by a nose to Leeds United. Their visit to Wigan coincides with a Food Festival; to Ipswich with an event called The Feast; and back home there’s Leeds Beer Week at the end of the month.
Weird Ride (previously the Ride the Wild Lightning award until the judges discovered what that expression meant) also goes to Leeds. Their trip to Bristol City on 4 Aug could include a detour to Bristol’s M Shed, where the chance to ride in an electric dockyard crane cabin is on offer.
Zen Men of the Month are Tranmere Rovers’ fans. They could attend a performance of Moby Dick on SS Great Britain in Bristol, an Aardman exhibition in the same city, an International Kite Festival at Portsmouth or their own One Wirral 2019 at home. Runner-up: Wycombe’s trip to Bristol Rovers coincides with the International Balloon Fiesta.
Traditionally, the match-day experience is incomplete without a visit to licensed premises. That can be before and after the match: there are some games you wouldn’t want to watch sober. But the licensed premises don’t have to be some low dive that doesn’t mind who it serves. There are highlights in all four divisions in August:
LeedsBeer Week (where the visiting team is Swansea 31 Aug) LeicesterGin Festival (Bournemouth 31 Aug) SouthendBeer Festival (Blackpool 10 Aug) StevenageGin & Funk Festival (Exeter 10 Aug)
In the towns you’ll visit following your team, some of the goings-on will be particular to the town. In other words you might not get the chance anywhere else. That means, unfortunately, that you might not get tickets either – local people will tend to hear about the events first. But if you keep an eye on Towns of Two Halves, the website will be updated on a regular basis.
Here’s a sample of some of the film and TV-related events around the country in August. They may not exactly be once-in-a-lifetime things, but they’re not daily occurrences either.
BradfordFilm Festival (where the visiting teams are PNE 13 Aug, Oldham 17 Aug, Forest Green 24 Aug) BristolAardman: Early Man (Leeds 4 Aug, Wycombe 10 Aug, Cheltenham 13 Aug, QPR 17 Aug, Tranmere 20 Aug, Oxford 24 Aug, Middlesbrough 31 Aug) BristolFriendsFest (Oxford 24 Aug, Middlesbrough 31 Aug) ChelseaStanley Kubrick (Leicester 18 Aug, Sheff Utd 31 Aug) GillinghamCall the Midwife location tours (Burton 10 Aug, Newport 13 Aug, Blackpool 20 Aug, Bolton 31 Aug) ManchesterFriendsFest (Chelsea 11 Aug, Spurs 17 Aug) SheffieldFilm & Comic Con (Barnsley 10 Aug)
When you’ve made a long journey only to see your team beaten, it can be hard to regard the day as time well spent. But if the fixture list takes you to the following places this month, there’s a chance to make the trip more worthwhile:
Bradford Our Plastic Ocean (may be of interest to travelling Cambridge United fans on 3 Aug, PNE 13 Aug, Oldham 17 Aug, Forest Green 24 Aug) BrentfordFestival for the Environment (Hull City 17 Aug) BristolInsect Festival (QPR 17 Aug) BristolReWild our Planet (Leeds 4 Aug, Wycombe 10 Aug, Cheltenham 13 Aug, QPR 17 Aug, Tranmere 20 Aug, Oxford 24 Aug, Middlesbrough 31 Aug) BristolSummer Holidays: Climate Action (Leeds 4 Aug, QPR 17 Aug, Middlesbrough 31 Aug) LeedsWar on Waste (Forest 10 Aug, Brentford 21 Aug, Swansea 31 Aug) MiddlesbroughFragile Earth (Brentford 10 Aug, Wigan 20 Aug, Millwall 24 Aug)
This is a sample of what you’ll find to do (apart from watch the match) when you follow your team around the country. Check out all the destinations at Towns.
How better to bond with your kids than to treat them to an away game with all the trimmings? The question then becomes… what trimmings? Wagamama for lunch? Something from Wilko in case the action doesn’t hold their attention? You can do that, of course, but you can do better.
How much better? That will depend on their ages, interests and on where you’re going. Here are some possibilities for before and after the match. Try not to let that become ‘instead of the match’:
The Circus is in town at Grimsby (where the away teams are Bradford 10 Aug, Doncaster 13 Aug) Lincoln (Southend 17 Aug)
Dinosaurs will be roaming Lincoln (Accrington 3 Aug, Southend 17 Aug, Fleetwood 31 Aug) Newcastle (Arsenal 11 Aug, Watford 31 Aug)
You can’t fail with Lego Cheltenham (Scunthorpe 10 Aug) Crystal Palace (Everton 10 Aug, Villa 31 Aug) Derby (Swansea 10 Aug, Bristol City 20 Aug, WBA 24 Aug) Newcastle (Arsenal 11 Aug, Watford 31 Aug)
When your team loses its 100% record on the first afternoon of the season, you’ll have a distinct sense of being Back to the Future. Some of the players, you realise, belong in Jurassic Park – even the one (usually strolling around the midfield) who thinks he is The Greatest Showman. Out in the fresh air all afternoon, why not spend some more time out of doors and take in a showing of the real thing?
Back to the Future at Crawley (where the away team is Salford 10 Aug)