Events and Festivals in Shaftesbury and Gillingham

With its fantastic location between two counties, there are always lots of events, festivals, art shows and fayres taking place in and around Shaftesbury and Gillingham.

As well as the much loved annual events such as the carnivals and agricultural shows, many of the local attractions also run their own events programmes. Stourhead House and Gardens and Compton Abbas Airfield are only a short distance away.

Good food is a way of life in rural Dorset!  So naturally, Dorset plays host to a whole range of foodie events throughout the year to celebrate our excellent local produce. If you can’t wait for a foodie event, there are markets and Farmers’ Markets throughout rural Dorset’s towns at Shaftesbury, Sturminster Newton and Blandford Forum.

Spring colour

From late January into February, be sure to visit Dorset’s highest and oldest town to see the Shaftesbury Snowdrops. With the aim of becoming Britain’s first snowdrop town, hundreds of thousands of bulbs have been planted around the town and will make their appearance in late winter. There are snowdrop walks and activities to enjoy.

Food and Drink Festival

The Shaftesbury Food and Drink Festival takes place every May. The town will be filled with stalls, live cooking demos and music.

You’ll find the Anonymous Travelling Market on Park Walk and producers from the Dorset Farmers Market and Dorset Food and Drink on the High Street. The Chefs Stage will be cooking up a storm for you all to try. Swans Yard will be hosting live music and you can join in the dancing at the Abbey Gardens.

If you’re feeling up for a challenge, sign up to take part in the Cheese Race. Keen entrants run up Gold Hill carrying a 35cm (45 – 55 pounds) wheel of locally made cheese. The whole family can take part or just sit back and cheer them on.

Family Fun

In early July, the Gold Hill Fair brings music in the Abbey, dance, stalls, children’s entertainment and much more.

At the end of September, Shaftesbury Carnival week begins. The week leads up to the procession through the streets where donations are collected for charity and awards are given out for best dressed participants.

In the week running up to the Gillingham Carnival procession, expect live music, competitions, quizzes and more. The Carnival takes place in early October.

Shaftesbury Fringe

One of the largest fringe festivals in England takes place in early July. Shaftesbury Fringe is 3 days of performances, live music, readings and comedy acts.

Country shows

Gillingham and Shaftesbury Agricultural Show takes place in August and is a traditional show with 1000s of animals, trade and craft stands and arena events, plus a Kennel Club Dog Show, food hall and farmers market.

Towards the end of September, enjoy a day out at the Wessex Heavy Horse Show and Country Fair. As well as the displays of heavy horses, there are many trade stands, craft stalls, children's activities, displays, vintage vehicles and other attractions.

Get your boots on

The Gillingham Walking Festival takes place in mid September. Along with guided walks, there are other events which welcome walkers to the town.


Celebrate the start of Autumn in style at Shaftesbury Oktoberfest.  Enjoy music from live bands, premium German lagers served in litre steins, drinking games, thigh-slapping, Bavarian bratwursts, pretzels and lots of fun.

Barton Hill Recreation Ground will be transformed into a Bavarian Bierhalle in mid October, offering an authentic German cultural experience.

Christmas in Shaftesbury

To get you in the festive spirit, indulge in some late night shopping in the town centre and enjoy the Michaelmas Fayre and Christmas Street Fair.

Highlightedfor you

VERVE Wellness Festival Sep 25

VERVE Wellness Festival

VERVE celebrates health, wellness and nature. Join us for yoga, Pilates, meditation, sound bathing, breathwork, fitness & dance classes, nature walks and farm runs. Forest bathe in the ancient...

1959: The Golden Year of Jazz Sep 30

1959: The Golden Year of Jazz

The band that offers the sounds of the cool jazz movement of the 50s and 60s and tells a story exploring a rich emotional landscape. The Neil Maya Quartet is one of the South West's most exciting...

Scottish Dance Theatre with Antigone Interrupted Oct 10

Scottish Dance Theatre with Antigone Interrupted

Would you risk everything for what you believe? A young girl ready to die to defend what she thinks is right. A king determined to impose his will as the rule of law. Antigone, Interrupted re-imagines...

The Syrian Baker by Farnham Maltings Oct 15

The Syrian Baker by Farnham Maltings

With almost 5% of the world's population on the move, desperate to get away from trouble, this is a story of those who have decided to go home despite the state of their country. This show is a...

Faure Requiem Oct 16

Faure Requiem

Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir celebrate the return of choral singing in an early evening concert at Sturminster Newton Parish Church on Saturday 16th October at 6.30pm. The central work will be...

Old Herbaceous Oct 24

Old Herbaceous

Pottering amongst the seeds and cuttings at the back of his ramshackle greenhouse in the garden of a Gloucestershire manor house is Herbert Pinnegar. Now in his twilight years, he's full of...

Margo & Mr Whatsit Oct 25

Margo & Mr Whatsit

Do you have an imaginary friend? A little piece of mischief only you can see? Sophia's imaginary friend is called Mr. Whatsit. No matter where Sophia finds herself living, he's always there...

End of the Pier Show by Jonny Fluffypunk Oct 29

End of the Pier Show by Jonny Fluffypunk

At the end of a soon-to-be-closed-down pier in a forgotten seaside town, Pierre the pier handyman spends the last weeks as he always does: catching fish for his old bedridden mother and making strange...

Same Same...But Different by Sonia Sabri Nov 14

Same Same...But Different by Sonia Sabri

'Same Same... But Different' is as fun and magical dance show, engaging for children and grown-ups alike. The show explores our curiosities and fears, the times we feel different and when we...