Returning for the first time since 2019, this is the summer extravaganza we’ve all been waiting for. Alex Fice finds out what to expect…
A melting pot of entertainment, tasty food and sensational live music from famous faces and local musicians, The Big Weekend is widely regarded as one of the highlights of the summer calendar. Delivered by Cambridge City Council and Cambridge Live – and sponsored by Cambridge Water – this free outdoor event is on Parker’s Piece from Friday 1 to Sunday 3 July, hoping to enliven the city after several years on standby.
Starting the weekend with a bang, quite literally, is a Friday night party, complete with epic live acts and incredible fireworks. From 6pm, head over to the main stage and enjoy an early evening DJ set, which opens a string of performances expertly compèred by Star Radio. Taking the mic first is Cambridge’s very own Big 10, known for dynamic ska tributes and entertaining stage antics, so prepare for brassy tunes and hip-swinging hits.
Next up, a dash of the early noughties with an appearance from S Club, who’ll perform some of their biggest tunes like Don’t Stop Movin’ and Reach, ensuring energy levels are through the roof. Bringing the night to a climax will be certified disco diva and voice of M People, Heather Small, whose powerful vocals and uplifting songs such as Search for the Hero and Proud are sure to provide a rousing end to the evening’s music, before an epic firework finale at 10pm.
Saturday sees local organisations, musicians and food outlets flock to Parker’s Piece en masse, to provide plenty of wholesome entertainment. From digital activities in the Gaming Hub, to hands-on science experiments in the Cambridge Festival Fun Lab. Unleash your competitive side in the Sports Zone, get creative in the Art Tent, and visit the University Museums of Cambridge Make and Create tents for face painting and more.
Alliance Française are also around on both Saturday and Sunday, perfectly placed next to the French market, where you can expect mouth-watering treats like French honey and jams, plus delicious flaky pastries. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in Cambridge, Alliance Française has been coming to The Big Weekend every year since 2012 and can’t wait to return. “I don’t know anything else like The Big Weekend in Cambridge; for me, it’s the event to go to,” says director Patricia Dalby. “People come out with family and friends, have a drink, listen to some music – it’s a very light atmosphere. And only once a year!” The marquee is set to be a hive of activity throughout the weekend, with opportunities to get stuck into the languages and cultures of France and Spain. Find performances by Franco-British and Franco-Spanish bands, salsa classes and language taster sessions.
Live music remains central to The Big Weekend, with a mix of genres ensuring all tastes are covered. Hitting the Main Stage are English pop-rockers The Hoosiers, who headline on Saturday night, plus London Afrobeat Collective. There are local legends in the line-up including eight-piece party band Four Doors Down, 2022 Cambridge Band Competition winners Oli Harris & The Lonely Hours – and under-18 winners The Daze – plus False Hearts, who formed in Cambridgeshire in 2016 and have been making waves in the UK rock scene ever since. You can also expect appearances from Strawberry Lace, The Collaboration Choir and Daft Funk – a truly eclectic array!
Sunday marks the return of the much-loved Cambridge Mela, a celebration of South Asian culture through music and dance. Take advantage of delicious food, arts and crafts stalls, workshops and entertainment from the community. The mastermind behind Mundian To Bach Ke, Panjabi MC, is the headliner, supported by Apache Indian, Mumzy Stranger and VP Bhangra Dancers and Drummers.
Local talent is a given, with performances of Bharatanatyam (a South Asian classical dance form) by Sanskruti and Natyanjali, a medley of live acts by the Bangladeshi Welfare & Cultural Association – plus plenty more.