Take one dining table

Helen Stone,-Interiors Writer

Missing your favourite bands or those big ring-around-the-calendar dates for summer? Recreate your own and bring all the fun of the festivals home for a change

Any other year and you might have been one of the thousands racing to secure the hottest tickets for the big summer events. Things may be smaller this year but that’s no reason to play down the fun. 

Whether it’s the competitive buzz of sporting events, the chance to jump around to your favourite tunes or something more sedate such as a literary festival, visualise all the things you love about the occasion then go all out to bring that vision to life. Missing the crowd? Look on the bright side – there’ll be no queues either and you can always up your numbers by live streaming on Zoom. 

Making your festival a multi-sensory affair will make it feel more real. Pitch a tent or marquee, set up a street food stall and plan your playlist well in advance. Sports days will require medals – even better if you can rustle up a podium and some hot-from-the-finish-line commentary and action-replay videos too. Flower shows, meanwhile, will benefit from floral-themed accessories and the beauty of a few potted plants in bloom.

And whether your event is for six people, two households or just you and the dog, this is a wonderful chance to take time out to celebrate all the excitement of past favourites. Enjoy reliving a bit of that magic now, knowing full well those days will be coming round again soon.



A book festival might not call for too much external stimuli but it definitely demands a comfy seat such as a lounger, garden sofa or chair with cushions and perhaps some shade from a parasol too.

Start stocking up on your must-reads now and complement the print with podcasts and interviews with favourite authors and new discoveries. Noise-cancelling headphones can be useful to dull any din from neighbouring gardens and think about adding evocative scent from a candle to conjour up an atmosphere that complements your plot. Don't forget the refreshments too. A cool bag of goodies will keep you fed and watered until the very last page.

Feeling more sociable? Gather the book club and stock up on picnicware for your refreshments of choice.


I like my summer reads to be an imagination window that allows me to live in other people’s shoes and see the world through their eyes

Nikesh Shukla,-Author of Brown Baby, published by Bluebird

Outdoor music is the soul of summer whether your tastes are pop, opera, R&B or grime. And it’s hard to beat that laid-back and convivial vibe of friends, a few drinks and a great soundtrack under blue skies.

You can go large this summer with all the kit you might need for a home booth from decks and portable speakers to beanbags and even a Tiki bar. Add to drinks in the garden with everything from dedicated playlists and DJ sets, to taste-of-summer cocktails served up in fancy barware – plastic of course – while dressing the space with themed bunting and fun garden accessories.

Looking to play outside after dark? How about a silent disco, synching headphones and phones to your favourite streaming app?

Number one on my playlist is Groove Armada’s Superstylin’. All it takes is the first bar of this banger to evoke that festival glow

Vick Hope,-BBC Radio 1 DJ, on Sundays 4-7pm

It’s not just the little ones who like to run around as soon as the sun comes out. Sports day can reveal hidden talents as well as not-so-hidden competitive streaks so design a tournament that plays to everyone’s strengths.

A touch of nostalgia can give it a sense of occasion – think old-fashioned fun like egg-and-spoon races and hoopla. And, if space allows, an obstacle course will appeal to all ages – make it a steeplechase with a paddling pool water pit for cooling off on the hottest days. 

Set up a league table and take turns at being referee – everyone likes a go at being in charge, especially the smallest competitors. Pile on crowd-pleasing refreshments, add camping chairs for spectators and don’t forget the medals – they’ll be winning mementoes of a truly fun-packed day.

Kids love competition and copying their sporting idols, so watch Wimbledon then have a go at tennis in the garden with a washing line or bench as a net

Jamie Murray OBE,-Tennis player & Tournament Director of Battle of the Brits, 21-22 Dec 2021

It’s probably too late for planting prize-wining blooms for this summer but there is still so much you can do to capture the magic of a flower show. Work with what you have got, making pots and cut flowers the centre of your display, then gather your green-fingered buddies for a plant swap, before getting out the deckchairs and serving afternoon tea on the lawn.

The big shows like Chelsea are all about celebrating creativity so get in on the act with a box of watercolours and have a go at your own masterpiece based on the plants in your garden (or an artfully arranged vase of flowers). Or how using about modern calligraphy to create mini chalkboard-effect signs and labels for seeds and seedlings?

Fancy doing it all again next year? Plan and sow ahead with bright perennials such as orange red-hot pokers, lime green euphorbias and purple alliums, and annuals such as zinnias and cosmos for a late hit of colour.

String up festoon lights and bunting and place flowers in fun vessels like cans and enamel jugs to create outdoor centre-pieces.

Alice Vincent,-Author of Rootbound: Rewilding a life, published by Canongate

Who needs to be stuck in traffic en route to the campsite when a whole world – and universe – lies waiting outside the back door?

A garden camp out is a wonderful way to discover the beauty of your own outdoor space, especially at night. Make it an adventure from start to finish with a classic cook out and marshmallows toasted in the flames of a fire pit. Leave the screens indoors (except for astronomy apps, of course) and take turns to tell stories, encouraging growing imaginations to run wild.

Light lanterns as night falls, set up the telescope and look to the skies, admiring the stars that have guided our ancestors for thousands of years. When it’s time for sleep, snuggle down into cosy duvets and sleeping bags and wait for the dawn chorus to begin. Morning will be here before you know it.


Use an app: they are great for identifying objects in the heavens. My favourites are Star Chart, Planets and Star Walk 2.

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock,-Scientist & Presenter of The Sky at Night, BBC Four

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