15 Things to do under £20 (or free!) at Buxton International Festival

You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy yourself at Buxton International Festival, running from 6 – 23 July 2023. Recognised nationally and internationally as one of the UK’s leading arts festivals, BIF is a summer celebration of the very best opera, music and literature at the heart of the beautiful Peak District in the spa town of Buxton.


There are plenty of ways to enjoy BIF on a smaller budget! Whether you enjoy the best chamber music, boogie-woogie jazz gigs, listening to commentators and politicians debate their latest books, or, you want to try opera for the first time, here’s our pick of best 15 events for £20 and under, with some events completely free.

FREE Events

Festival Masses

Buxton Musical Society and the Buxton Madrigal Singers, under the direction of Michael Williams MBE, present a special service (one of three during the Festival) in the atmospheric setting of St John’s Church. Please be in your seats by 10.50am for the service.

🗓 9, 16, 23 July 11am – 12.10pm (later finishing time of 12.30pm on 16 July)

📍 St. John’s Church

🎟 FREE (donations welcome).



Song at Six

Don’t miss these free 15 minute concerts, performed by members of the Festival’s Young Artists Programme. Take a breath of fresh air in the beautiful surroundings of the Pavilion Gardens, relax and have your spirits lifted by these talented young singers.

🗓 7, 8, 11, 12, 15, 18, 21, 22 July, 6pm

📍 Pavilion Gardens

🎟 FREE entry


Visit Waterstones

Once again our hugely popular Waterstones pop-up shop will be located inside the Pavilion Gardens, throughout the festival (near the entrance to the Octagon and Ice Cream Parlour). You’ll be able to buy books by speakers appearing at the BIF Book series but also lots of other books too – it’s a mini Waterstones with a little bit of everything!

🗓 6 – 23 July

📍 Pavilion Gardens

🎟 FREE Entry


Enjoy a glass of Champagne at the new Conservatory Champagne Bar

New for 2023! Visit Buxton’s newest Champagne Bar in the recently refurbished botanical Conservatory at the Pavilion Gardens. Offering pre-theatre and interval drinks; pre-order your drinks at pavilion.gardens@parkwood-leisure.co.uk.

🗓 6 – 23 July

📍 Pavilion Gardens

🎟 FREE Entry

Events under £15

Opera Talks

Hear from the creative teams behind the BIF opera and musical and get insights into the history, music and vision behind this year’s productions. Opera Talks will take place before all BIF productions, apart from Orlando, which will take place before the opening performing only. Times vary, check each link.

🎟 £3


La sonnambula at Buxton Opera House

🗓 8, 12, 16, 19, 22 July



The Land of Might-Have-Been at Buxton Opera House

🗓 7, 11, 15, 18, 21 July



Il re pastore at Buxton Opera House

🗓 9, 13, 17, 20 July



Orlando at Pavilion Arts Centre

🗓 10 July



Scenes From a Musical

After a hiatus of three years our ‘Scenes From’ series is back, by popular demand. BIF presents an hour-long re-imagining of The Land of Might-Have-Been.

🗓 20 July, 3pm – 4pm

📍 The Palace Hotel

🎟  £15



Tom Holland: Pax: War and Peace in Rome’s Golden Age

In a trilogy that began with Rubicon, and Dynasty, award winning historian and broadcaster Tom Holland now arrives at the period which marks the apogée of the Pax Romana. It provides a portrait of the ancient world’s ultimate superpower at war and at peace; from the gilded capital to the barbarous realms beyond the frontier; from emperors to slaves. Featuring many of the most celebrated episodes in Roman history: the destruction of Jerusalem and Pompeii; the building of the Colosseum and Hadrian’s Wall; the conquests of Trajan and the spread of Christianity. Pax gives a portrait of Rome at the very pinnacle of her greatness.

🗓 12 July, 12.30pm – 1.30pm

📍 Buxton Opera House

🎟 £15



Baroness Catherine Ashton: And Then What?

So much of modern-day democracy still takes place behind closed doors.

From 2009 to 2014, Lady Ashton was the EU’s first High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security. Arriving in Brussels with no significant experience of international diplomacy, she faced the challenge of representing twenty-eight nations during one of the most turbulent times in living memory; including Russia’s invasion of Crimea to the Iran nuclear deal.

Baroness Catherine Ashton takes us behind the scenes to show us what worked and what didn’t and how it felt to play a part in tackling the major international crises of our times.

🗓 11 July, 10am – 11am

📍 Pavilion Arts Centre

🎟 £12


Dr Jonathan Kennedy: Pathogenesis – How Infectious Diseases Shaped Human History

Dr Jonathan Kennedy argues that germs have done more to shape humanity at every stage, from the first success of Homo Sapiens over the equally intelligent Neanderthals to the fall of Rome and the rise of Islam. The latest science reveals that infectious diseases are not just something that happens to us, but a fundamental part of who we are.

🗓 19 July, 10am – 11am

📍 Pavilion Arts Centre

🎟 £12



Tomiwa Olowade: This is Not America: Why We Need a Different Conversation on Race

Across the West, racial injustice has become a matter of urgency. In his new book New Statesman contributing writer Tomiwa Owolade argues that, in the rush to get it right, we have been looking in the wrong place. Too much of the debate around racism in Britain is viewed through the prism of American ideas that do not reflect the history, challenges and achievements of black communities at home.

Humane, empirical and passionate, his book promises to start a new conversation around race, and vitally, shed light on black British Life today.


🗓 13 July, 4pm – 5pm

📍 Pavilion Arts Centre

🎟 £12



Henry Dimbleby and Jemima Lewis: Ravenous – Why our appetite is killing us and the planet, and what we can do about it

Few people know the workings of the food system better than Henry Dimbleby, founder of the Leon restaurant chain, government adviser and author of the radical National Food Strategy. The environmental damage done by the food system is also changing climate patterns. What can be done?

🗓 13 July, 10am – 11am

📍 Pavilion Arts Centre

🎟  £12


Events £20

Buxton Festival Dance Band

Get your dance shoes on and join the party, with BIF’s 10-piece big band and professional dancers to show us how it’s done!

Once again, join us for a night in the beautiful surroundings of The Octagon as we step back in time. Our very own ten-piece big band with singers will play music that makes you want to dance. During the first set, as you sit back and enjoy a drink our professional ballroom dancers show you the moves. After the interval, the floor is open for us all to have a go at everything from the tango to the foxtrot, and from the jive to the rumba.

🗓 16 July, 8pm – 10pm

📍 The Octagon

🎟 £20



Shez Raja

Following spectacular performances at leading UK venues – including Ronnie Scott’s and the Jazz Café – as well as major international festivals, Shez and his band have forged a reputation as one of the most entertaining live acts on the scene today. He merges his rich musical heritage with a hugely diverse playing experience to create dynamic and passionate music that blends East with West.

🗓 8 July, 7.30pm – 10pm

📍 Pavilion Arts Centre

🎟 £20



Graham Clark at the Jazz Café, Pavilion Gardens

Local hero and ace violinist Graham Clark brings his acclaimed quartet to the festival.

With a strongly personal approach to playing violin, he has played in many jazz, rock and experimental contexts, including a long partnership with Daevid Allen of ‘Gong’, several improvising groups, and numerous recordings. Since 2005, Graham has been putting on a weekly jazz duo gig in Buxton.

🗓 21 July, 10pm – 12am

📍 Jazz Cafe in The Pavilion Gardens

🎟  £15



Julie Edwards  and Kevin Dearden at the Jazz Café, Pavilion Gardens

They had considered themselves all but retired from performing, but, following the pandemic, it seems that Julie and Kevin have happily returned to the jazz scene. Returning to the jazz scene following the pandemic, Julie Edwards and Kevin Dearden are fast becoming one of the top attractions on the jazz circuit.

🗓 13 July, 10pm – 12am

📍 Jazz Cafe in The Pavilion Gardens

🎟  £15



Lucy Crowe and Joseph Middleton: The Four Seasons: Summer / Soprano and Piano

Joseph Middleton – described as ‘one of the brightest stars in the world of song and Lieder’ by BBC Music Magazine – has devised a sequence of song recitals exploring responses to the four seasons, with four singers taking a season each and their last song or encore leading us into the next season. For Spring, the second recital in his series, he is joined by soprano Lucy Crowe.

🗓 12 July, 11.15am – 12.15pm

📍 St John’s Church

🎟 Tickets £20 – £25 (Balcony tickets are £20



Solis Trio

Solis Trio is a London-based, all female brass ensemble, which formed seven years ago at Wells Cathedral School. They won the Musicians Brass Company Prize in July 2021, and became young artists to the scheme. They have performed at the Lord Mayor’s Big Curry Lunch, The London Marathon and the Frome Festival. They are due to perform as part of the Ferrandou Musique scheme in August 2023.

🗓 16 July, 12.30pm – 1.30pm

📍 Pavilion Arts Centre

🎟 Tickets £20 – £25 (Balcony tickets are £20)



Buxton International Festival runs from 6 – 23 July 2023. Click here to see the full programme.