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Lancaster's Cultural Life - Festivals, Heritage, and Theater

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Lancaster has a lively cultural scene with a busy calendar of festivals and renowned museums housed in heritage buildings. The University of Lancaster runs the Lancaster International concert series, and a holds a valuable art collection open to the public, while keeping the city supplied with a curious, enthusiastic student crowd. Held every summer, Play in the Park is one of the UK's biggest outdoor theatre events.

theatres and plays


The Grand Theatre is one of 2 active theatres in Lancaster, and was originally built during the reign of King George III in 1782. It hosts more than 450 guests on 2 grand levels, as musicals, drama, opera, and dance recitals occupy the stage, as well as occasional talks and even folk and pop gigs. The Dukes is the main professional theatre in town, and a busy spot for arts events throughout the year. On July and August evenings, you can join the Dukes' popular promenade theatre, and follow actors from scene to scene across Williamson Park.


Lancaster Grand Theatre


Among England’s oldest continuously operating theatres, the Grand’s current building dates from 1908. The interior is decked out with red, white, and gold stucco, plush carpets, and vintage drapes. Monthly guided tours take you behind the scenes.


St. Leonard’s Gate, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 1NLTel: +44 1524 64695


Lancaster Grand Theatre website


The Dukes


Housed in a converted church, the Dukes is a buzzing hub of creative activity. Here you can attend art exhibitions, comedy shows, music, film, and dance performances, and as well as new and classic theatre.


Moor Lane, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 1QE. Tel: +44 1524 598500


The Dukes website

Museums in heritage buildings


Lancaster City Museum is a Grade II listed Georgian building, and holds a valuable collection of historic paintings. You'll find art and artifacts relating to the local Lancaster Regiment on the upper floor, in the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum. Another heritage icon is the listed Judges’ Lodgings Museum, inside Lancaster’s oldest townhouse. Here you can see portraits of prominent Lancastrians, and take a break in the period rose garden at the rear of the building.


Lancaster City Museum


A visit to this museum gives you a real sense of local history, as you wander the grand interior of what was the old town hall. The exhibitions are regularly changed to keep things fresh for local and visiting art-lovers.


Market Square, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 1HT. Tel: +44 1524 64637


Lancaster City Museum website


Judges’ Lodgings Museum


This Lancaster museum is especially renowned for its well-preserved collection of 18th-century furniture. Most of these pieces were hand-crafted at the local Gillow workshop, and made for the original Judges’ Lodgings.


Church Street, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 1YS. Tel: +44 1524 32808


Judges’ Lodgings Museum website


Lancaster University


At the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA) you can see live theatre, classical music concerts, art shows, and dance recitals from the UK and abroad. The university's Nuffield Theatre supports experimental works, while the Great Hall hosts the renowned Lancaster International Concerts. Inside the Peter Scott Gallery, you'll find Britain’s most impressive collection of Lancastrian ceramics, as well as Japanese and Chinese art, and prints by Dürer and Miró. Also on campus is the Ruskin Library, a marvel of later 20th-century architecture. Letters, diaries, and drawings belonging to that great Victorian critic are displayed in its Whitehouse Collection.


Nuffield Theatre


One of the largest professional studio theatres in Europe, the Nuffield’s “black box” studio presents experimental works, contemporary dance shows, and live art performances.


Great Hall Complex, Lancaster University, Bailrigg, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 4YW. Tel: +44 1524 594151


Nuffield Theatre website


Lancaster International Concerts


For nearly half a century, Lancaster University's Great Hall has welcomed world-famous orchestras and musicians to perform live. Classical, jazz, and contemporary concerts all sound spectacular here because of the hall's acoustics.


Great Hall Complex, Lancaster University, Bailrigg, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 4YW. Tel: +44 1524 594151


Lancaster International Concerts website


Festivals and events


Lancaster's busy festival season lasts from May to October. Visitors of all ages fill the city during the Food and Drink Festival, Lancaster Jazz Festival, and Lancaster Music Festival. Keen readers flock to Litfest, Lancashire’s annual celebration of the written word, which has been going since 1978. As well as fostering new talent and celebrating great authors of past and present, Litfest arranges other events and workshops throughout the year. Look out also for First Fridays, a monthly mini-festival of the arts held at various venues across town.




Lancaster's popular annual book festival draws lively literary crowds to story-telling sessions, open-mic events, and poetry readings. If you're lucky you might hear one of your favorite authors read aloud from their latest work.


The Storey (and other venues), Meeting House Lane, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 1TH. Tel: +44 5124 62166


Litfest website


First Fridays


On the first Friday of every month, Lancaster Arts City invites major local and national artists to perform at different venues throughout the day. The eclectic program ranges from creative cinema screenings to music, literature, and visual art.


Various venues. First Fridays website