Soak up some culture during your visit to Chelmsford, with plenty to enjoy on its creative scene. The nearby Hylands Park is home to many big-name festivals and events throughout the year, and there’s no end of locations to explore across the city for the whole family.
Culture in Chelmsford
For art browsers and buyers alike, Chelmsford offers a series of unique and intimate galleries – the perfect places to pop in for some culture whilst you are exploring the city centre or out shopping.
A Tardis-like gallery, with a small shop front yet large on the inside, Gallery43 on Moulsham Street offers a hand-curated selection of contemporary British artwork, including paintings, limited edition prints, jewellery, crafts and gifts. They hold regular exhibitions, and it’s a great space to rent for private events and parties with a creative twist.
Chelmsford’s Whitewall Gallery is part of a nationwide network of over 40 art galleries, displaying a beautiful range of works from internationally acclaimed artists and emerging talents. Located just off the High Street, visitors are welcome to browse. Look out for their regular exhibitions and ‘meet the artist’ events. There’s also the independent Chelmer Fine Art Gallery within the Chelmer Shopping Centre, which showcases a large number of artists and has expert staff who are happy to source specific requests.
For a great family day out and the chance to learn a lot about the history of the city of Chelmsford, head to the Chelmsford Museum at the heart of Oaklands Park. With interactive displays and activities (rather than endless cases of stuffy exhibits), you can learn about the area’s wildlife and its history back to the Ice Age, including the military and the industrial era. After the kids are finished dressing up in historical outfits, visit the Essex Regiment Museum on the same site, which showcases weaponry, medals, uniforms and more.
To find out more about the industrial history of the area, keep an eye out for the public open days at Sandford Mill Museum, a science education area offering educational activity days celebrating science, nature and industry. Located just a 10 minutes’ drive out of the city centre, it’s housed in an old red brick mill, where you can find early Marconi radios and a section on the Titanic, along with old naval equipment.
Or, if you feel like locking the kids in a Victorian police cell for some peace and quiet, you can do just that at the Essex Police Museum! Open on Saturdays, as well as for various events, your family can practise being PC Plod for the day, trying on uniforms and taking fingerprints. There’s a wide range of historical police artefacts – including the classic 1960s Noddy Bike – and they hold regular Kids’ Club events with crafts and trails related to cops and robbers in Essex history.
There’s an endless selection of events and activities across Chelmsford; so many that it’s impossible to name them all. Find foodie and drink festivals across the city parks, as well as musical acts from local jazz bands to Beyoncé – Chelmsford has it all!
The area’s most famous annual event for over 20 years was undoubtedly V Festival held at Hylands Park, with international superstars such as Foo Fighters, Beyoncé and Oasis over the years. The festival ended their partnership with Virgin in 2017, yet fans won’t be missing out. From August 2018, there’ll be a new two-day RiZE; a pop, urban and dance music festival that can hold up to 90,000 people.
Another alternative event also held at Hylands Park is the yearly Fling Festival – a one-day music and arts event usually held in June. Offering a selection of great performers, including the best of local talent, you’ll be treated to music, comedy, burlesque, curious sideshows and more. Organisers encourage you to let out your ‘inner child’ and try out your hand at potato art, belly dancing, knobbly knees competitions and many other creative events amongst the various stalls, stages and tents!
If amazing food and drink is everything that you need for a good day out, you may want to try the Essex Fine Food Show at Chelmsford City Racecourse. Meet celebrity chef, get you cookbooks signed and feast to your heart’s content, sampling the tasty wares from over 100 artisan producers.
Or, for an alternative festival aimed at the smallest members of the family, visit the 3Foot People Festival (also held at Hylands Park) each June. It’s the country’s largest outdoor festival for little ones, aiming to wear them out with fun-packed days of music, theatre and storytelling, crafty workshops, sporty activities and interactive play. Even catering for babies with sensory workshops and more (something that children's festival organisers often forget), over 14,000 tiny tots, toddlers and family members visit the beautiful estate over the three-day event.