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Derby Festé 2018 – everything you need to know plus 19 FREE events

Derby Festé lights up lives every September and has become a must-see event for thousands of people in Derby and beyond and nearly everything is FREE. Here is our overview of how to make the most out of your visit:

This year, Derby Festé has been extended to three days – bringing a bag full of tricks and a sprinkling of magic to the city centre on Thursday 27, Friday 28 and Saturday 29 September.

What is this year’s theme?

The festival is inspired by the nationwide celebration of 250 years of Circus – marking the milestone anniversary of the first circus performance near London’s Waterloo in 1768 by showman Philip Astley.

It is packed full of breath-taking performances, magical parades, international street entertainers, a world of food and drink and plenty of audience participation.

Where and when will the festival take place?

Derby Festé will start at Bass’ Recreation Ground on Thursday September 27 with the first of three exciting and exhilarating circus performances – also on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The Friday evening action largely focuses on the Market Place which will be transformed into a fantastic performance space with a traditional 1950’s sideshow, virtual reality playground and the brilliant Cie Dyptik contemporary dance show all topped off with Bustler Market street food stalls both in the open air and under cover at nearby Riverlights.

Saturday will see a packed programme starting and finishing with parades with a wealth of free street entertainment in between based in the Cathedral Quarter, Riverlights, Intu shopping centre and St Peters Quarter.

What can I do on Thursday night?

Thursday night at 6.30pm will be the first chance to see ‘Now or Never’.

Under a star-studded big top at Bass’ Recreation Ground, Circa Tsuica is a vibrant band of international acrobats and musicians – joined by young musicians from Derby Music Centre Circus Brass.

Join in the feast as acrobats and musicians mingle, make and share pancakes with you before launching into their exhilarating fanfare of music and circus. Watch as they fly, fling and swing across their beautiful tent on trapeze, Cyr wheels, trick bicycles and trampolines whilst playing funky brass music with riotous enthusiasm.

The performance finishes at 8.15pm and the audience will leave with a spring in their step and even a goody bag from sponsors Smith Partnership solicitors.

What can I see and do on the Friday night?

The second performance of Circa Tsuica’s ‘Now or Never’ will start at 6.30pm (tickets need to be booked in advance).

Meanwhile Festé will this year incorporate the return of the popular Bustler Market between 5pm and 10pm – serving tasty and vibrant street food in both the Market Place and nearby Riverlights.

At 6pm the Jon Marshall 1950’s side show event opens.  Entry is just £1 (cash only) for unlimited access to the ‘blast from the past’ spectacles including the Headless Lady and Mummy Show which promise jump-out-of-your-skin moments and terrific entertainment to delight and astonish.

Also, between 6pm and 10pm, head over to the Thrill Laboratory VR Playground. Jump aboard a playground swing, don a VR headset and experience the latest ride experiment by the world’s first Thrill Engineer, Professor Brendan Walker. The swing propels you through a colourful abstract virtual reality – harnessing the fairground ride sensations of speed and weightlessness.

Then prepare to be amazed with the grand finale at 8.30pm. Dance troupe Cie Dyptik take to the metal scaffolding stage in the Market Place to perform ‘D-Construction’ – an energetic hip-hop dance performance with a powerful beat and an oriental twist.

The Friday night entertainment finishes at 10pm – leaving time for everyone to head home and prepare for the full day of circus-inspired fun in the city centre on Saturday.

What’s happening on Saturday?

Derby Festé Saturday programme starts at 11.15am with a circus and carnival parade starting at the Spot, travelling through St Peter’s Street and the Cornmarket and finishing at the Market Place at 12 noon.

Led by a colourful and inflated elephant, the parade includes performers from local schools and community groups – bringing a mixture of dance, circus skills, Samba drumming and West Indian carnival magic.

When the clock strikes noon, Derby’s streets come alive with a programme of free street entertainment including juggling, acrobatics, street theatre, comedy and music.

Saturday evening will be the last time to catch the final performance of ‘Now or Never’ at the slightly earlier time of 6.30pm which leaves you time to return to the city for the wonderful parade of horses!

The Jon Marshall 1950’s Side Shows and Thrill Laboratory VR Playground will be open from 12 noon to 10pm.

And take a well-earned rest and enjoy food and drink at the Bustler Market in the Market Place and Riverlights (open 12 noon to 10pm).

What is the highlight of the Saturday fun?

The evening parade is always a popular climax to Derby Festé.

This year’s spectacle will be ‘FierS à Cheval’ by Compagnie Quidams which is a herd of beautiful larger-then-life glowing white horses gliding through the Cathedral Quarter.

The parade starts on Queen Street at 8pm then moves down to Sadler Gate, The Strand, St James’ Street, Cornmarket and finally ending on the Market Place at 9.15pm.

Finally you can then see beautiful animations projected onto the iconic QUAD building which celebrates its 10th anniversary and has been created in partnership with University of Derby students.

What is free at the festival?

Just about everything, apart from the ‘Now or Never’ Circa Tsuica shows.  Seats in the big top are limited and cost £10 each. Book early to avoid missing out at

The £1 entry to Jon Marshall 1950’s side shows on Friday night and Saturday daytime are cash only on entry.

So, what’s happening that’s free to see on Saturday?

All the street entertainment throughout Saturday is free of charge so plan carefully to make sure you see as much as you can.

‘Fillage’ by Sur Mesure, 12noon and 3.15pm, Market Place: trampoline and juggling

‘Bingo Lingo’ by Wild N Beets, 12pm and 4pm, the Spot; 2pm, Intu: audience participation with cheeky ‘end-of-the-pier’ humour

Street Circus, 12pm to 5pm, St Peter’s Cross: including jugglers, acrobats, contortionists and resident fire artist and compère ChangoFuego

‘Flagrant Délire’ by Compagnie Yann Lheureux, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, Cathedral Square (outside Derby Cathedral): urban free-runner on a multi level stage

‘Anyday’ by Max Calaf Sevé, 12.30pm and 4pm, Riverlights: trampoline and clowning

‘BLOCK’ by Motionhouse and NoFit State Circus, 1pm and 4pm, Market Place: dance and circus around 25 giant Jenga blocks

‘Testbeds’ by Get Involved, various times at Riverlights: dance and street theatre

‘The (not so) Quiet Revolution of Kindness’ by Hubbub Theatre, 1.30pm, 3.30pm and 5pm, Iron Gate: colourful parade and life music

‘Roll Up Roll Up’ by Simple Cypher, 1.30pm and 3pm, the Spot: hip hop and circus

‘Witness This’ by Company Chameleon, 2pm and 4.45pm, Market Place: contemporary dance

‘Hoops, hoops and more hoops!’ by Angie Mack, 3.30pm, Intu: comedy show

Other free events to enjoy are:

Crafts and Big Scribble, 11am to 4pm, QUAD

‘Showmanship and Performance: 250 Years of Circus’, 5pm to 6.30pm, Déda in Chapel Street: circus-themed photography exhibition

Skate Competition between 3pm to 5.30pm, Bass’ Recreation Ground: organised by Hooked and Rollersnakes

Where can I park and how can I get there?

Derby has a host of car parks throughout the city including council and NCP car parks, Intu Derby, Bold Lane Parksafe and Chapel Street multi-storey. Check the options online in advance. Another option is public transport. Derby Railway Station is only around 10 minutes’ walk from the city centre and Bass Recreation Ground and there is a bus station in the heart of Derby.

Who organises Derby Festé?

Derby Festé is produced and presented by Déda, Derby LIVE, QUAD and Derby Theatre in association with the Without Walls Associate Touring Network. It is funded by Arts Council England and Derby City Council, with sponsorship from the University of Derby, Smith Partnership, Cathedral Quarter and Intu Derby.