Enjoy the fantastic entertainment options in little ol’ Newbury. The truth is, the town punches well above its weight. Between the Corn Exchange, The Watermill Theatre, Newbury Racecourse and Newbury Showground, you can see some of the biggest names in entertainment, not to mention some of the highlights of the county’s entertainment calendar.
Entertainment in Newbury
At the top of your entertainment options in Newbury is the Corn Exchange. As you can tell from the name, this resplendent building on the Market Place was once the local exchange, where the people of Newbury, and the surrounding Berkshire county, would trade corn, wool, livestock, and later oil, insurance and farm machinery. It first opened its doors in 1861 and has been one of the town’s most important buildings ever since.
However, since the 1990s, the Corn Exchange has had a very different purpose. It’s now a 400-seat professional theatre with a wonderful, year-round programme of shows. You can see the classics, as well as more contemporary drama. On top of that, there’s comedy, dance, and family shows, not to mention a Christmas pantomime that’s always popular with the people of Newbury. It’s the best place in town to see live music, and there’s a 40-seat independent cinema which puts on a wonderful selection of films.
Best of all, the Corn Exchange is less than half a mile, and fewer than a ten-minute walk from our Newbury Town Centre (London Road) hotel, so you can easily make your way over for an evening’s show; see what’s on during your stay.
Your alternative theatre option is The Watermill Theatre, a highly regarded repertory theatre with a worldwide reputation. You’ll find it in the picturesque village of Bagnor, down the road from The Blackbird, a Michelin Star pub that we comfortably rank among the best places to eat in Newbury. The theatre was established in the 1960s in a converted watermill along the River Lambourn. It still has many of its character features, including the waterwheel, wooden beams, and corn chutes.
Despite its rustic appearance, The Watermill Theatre is state-of-the-art and highly regarded by national art critics. Many of its productions have transferred to the West End, and it has incubated the careers of some incredibly talented writers and actors, including the multi-award-winning, all-male Shakespeare company Propeller, which was born in The Watermill.
Newbury is home to one of the most prestigious racing venues in the country. Newbury Racecourse hosts 31 race days each year, including the famous Hennessy Gold Cup, and the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes. There are plenty of bars for you to wet your whistle throughout the day, not to mention places to eat if you get peckish.
The three grandstands offer ample private boxes and premier opportunities if you fancy splashing some cash. The dress code is smart, the atmosphere’s good, and there’s even a bit of royal history behind the racecourse – it was given the go ahead personally by King Edward VII, while Queen Elizabeth II spent her 86th birthday in the Royal Box. As well as being a stellar sporting arena, Newbury Racecourse also hosts huge live music concerts in the summer months, booking big names such as Craig David and Westlife. It also has its own railway station, so getting there’s a doddle.
The Newbury Showground is where you can catch some of the biggest calendar events in Berkshire. This huge outdoor and indoor venue is just off the M4, no more than a fifteen-minute drive from either of our Newbury hotels. It’s home to The Royal County of Berkshire Show, which takes place annually across one weekend in September. It’s one of the most popular agricultural shows in the farming world and – barring breaks during the First World War and the Second World War – has been taking place just outside of Newbury since 1909. If you’re here while it’s on, even if you have zero interest in agriculture, head down and enjoy the live entertainment, and the never ending food and drink.
The Newbury Showground hosts events all year round. Another of the most popular is Retro Festival, which brings retro cars and vehicles, airshows, cover bands, dance recitals and the shopping village to town across a long weekend at the beginning of August. It’s a celebration of all things vintage from the 20s through to the 80s. Mods, rockers, hippies, swingers; whichever era you want to hark back to, this festival is right up your street.