Summer holiday ideas

The perfect summer holidays involve a mixture of activities and laziness. We’ve collected together a huge range of activities you might want to try; we’ll leave the laziness up to you.

Head for the beach – even if you’re in the city

The real beach is always best and wherever you live in the UK you should be able to reach a beach on a day trip. Many of them have special events over the summer – regattas, carnivals, themed festivals. Check your local newspaper/news website and find out more about travelling round the UK on our pages here.

But if you want to stay closer to home, you can find “pop-up” man-made beaches in cities including London, BirminghamNottingham, and Cardiff.

Get fitter and healthier

Try setting yourself some realistic, fun challenges and targets over the summer holidays. You could perhaps try to:

  • go for a walk or jog every day (best in the early morning or evening on hot days). Free, available everywhere, and works just as well by yourself or with friends and family
  • play some sort of sport or game once a week – even something as simple as football in the park, or bat and ball on the beach will leave you feeling more relaxed and happier
  • learn some new recipes for good food that you’ll actually enjoy eating (there’s no point forcing yourself to eat something you hate – especially in the holidays)

We have lots of advice and information on our health pages, including eating well and getting enough exercise.

Set yourself a Summer reading challenge

Rediscover the joy of reading for your own pleasure, away from the demands of school or college work. You may be too old now for the libraries’ annual Summer Reading Challenge but you can still use your local library – and perhaps even set yourself your own challenge? You could perhaps aim to read:

  • All the books on the Agnes reading list!
  • All the books in Zoella’s 2017 Book Club
  • One new book each week
  • Only books by authors you haven’t read before
  • Only books written by authors from different countries
  • Books set in places you’re visiting over the holidays

Or you could, of course, simply read absolutely anything you want to.

see a film in the open air

Open-air cinema used to be something that only happened abroad, but more and more UK places are taking a chance on the summer weather and showing films outside. Normally these are older films and classics rather than new releases, but there’s something very magical about an outdoor performance. Even better, some are free!

Time Out lists the London options here. Outside London, the best place to look for outdoor screenings near you is probably your local newspaper website; for example The Birmingham Mail has compiled a list of outdoor film showings in the Birmingham area this summer and Kent options are listed here.

See a film inside a cinema

There are lots of good films out this summer. Depending on your taste you might like:

  • Dunkirk (12A)(out 21 July – great cast including Harry Styles!)
  • The Beguiled (15) (out now – Sofia Coppola’s American Civil War drama, set in a girls’ boarding school)
  • Baby Driver (15) (out now – action chase movie with great soundtrack)
  • Wonder Woman (12A) (out now – a female superhero for once!)


experience a Summer concert or festival

Check out your local newspaper or news site for concerts, events and festivals near you – be prepared to give everything a go!

The two big summer festivals are the Edinburgh Fringe – find details here  – and the London proms – details here. Do check them out if you’re in or near Edinburgh or London over the summer. They both offer a huge range of events, and a very special atmosphere – and there are bargains to be had.

Not so many bargains at music festival weekends, but if you have the money you could perhaps try Wilderness in Oxfordshire (3-6 August), Boardmasters in Cornwall (9-13 August), V Festival in Essex (19-20 August). Don’t forget to check the age restrictions and advice on what to bring.

Go on an adventure holiday

The YHA offers adventure holidays in some of the most beautiful parts of Britain, giving you the chance to try new activities in a friendly, supportive environment – check them out here. Some are already booked out, but there are still some places available: £379 for five nights/four days of non-stop action, all accommodation and meals included; some bursaries available.

Enrol on a summer school or course

There are summer schools and courses all around the country on all sorts of subjects. Some are very expensive but these are worth a look:

  • science and engineering workshops at the Royal Institute in London, throughout July and August – many are already sold out, but have a look to see what’s still available here
  • 4-day fashion summer schools for 11-18 year olds at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London £300 per course – or for only £10 you can learn to draw like a fashion designer on 16 August
  • FREE residential cyber courses around the country run by the National Cyber Security Centre (part of GCHQ) – again, many are fully booked but you might be able to find something that suits you here
  • FREE portraiture taster sessions and 3 day workshops at the National Portrait Gallery in London for 14-21 year olds – see here
  • FREE swim safe courses around the country for 7-14 year olds – learning how to swim safely outdoors, run by Swim England and the RNLI. You can also volunteer to help at these courses if you’re 18 – or if you’re 16 or 17 and accompanied by an adult. Find more details here

Teach yourself a new skill

If you can’t afford a course or summer school, try teaching yourself! Don’t forget our own Life Skills pages, including cooking, crafts , first aid and simple DIY. Other possibilities include:

  • a new language (or at least some words in a new language!). Duolingo is free and a good place to start
  • a musical instrument – YouTube is your friend
  • map-reading – ready for your summer expeditions (see below)

Do a big project

It can be fun to get stuck into a big creative project over the summer holidays. You could try:

  • painting a big canvas for your room – blank canvases are quite cheap to buy, for example here 
  • making a giant collage – cutting out pages torn from magazines or catalogues, or perhaps bits and pieces from your holiday adventures (tickets, brochures, photos…)
  • painting your own curtains  – buy simple calico and some fabric paints and let your imagination run riot.  Get inspiration from some curtains recently painted by our friend Sarah Campbell on her instagram.

Have a look at our Make Beautiful Things pages for further inspiration.

Do a long walk/bike trail

Doing a long walk or bike trail can give you a real sense of achievement. Find a like-minded friend to go with you, see what footpaths or bike tracks are near you, and plan your expedition thoroughly beforehand.

Get a holiday job

Lots of places are looking for casual workers over the summer – check out our suggestions for part-time work here.

And finally….

Get the best summer sounds with our handpicked 17 tracks for the summer of ’17!

We hope you all have the best summer ever!


General Election update

As you know, there will be a UK General Election on 8 June 2017. General Elections are a vital part of UK democracy, and the result will affect you all. See more about how the UK works on our page here.

If you can vote, we urge you to do so; your vote could make a real difference. You will need to be 18 or over on 8 June, and have registered to vote; if you haven’t yet registered, register now at this link; you’ve got until 11.59 pm on 22 May if you want to vote in this General Election.

Even if you can’t vote, you can still play your part in the election; and even if you don’t think of yourself as politically active, it’s good to know what is going on in your country.

With that in mind, we’ve had a look at the manifestos of the three main political parties, which were published this week. A manifesto sets out what a political party would do if it was in Government – how it would raise and spend money within the UK, what changes it would make to UK law, and what actions it would take internationally. A manifesto aims to persuade voters that the political party’s aims are the right ones, and that the party will actually be able to achieve them in Government.

The manifesto documents are long and detailed; they cover important issues like Brexit, the NHS, defence, industry, immigration, law and order and the environment. If you have a particular interest in any particular issue, find out what each party is saying about it – you can find the links to all the manifestos below.

Below, we’ve  dug out a few points from each manifesto each that refer particularly to young people (though it has to be said that there are not that many…).We’re not making any comment or judgement on any party or any policy ourselves. We have simply presented these proposals as the manifestos present them, and in alphabetical order of party! We’ll update with other party manifestos as they are published.

You are the future; you decide.



You can find the full 84-page manifesto (called “Forward, Together”) here.

  • Schools  The Conservatives say they will continue with their policy of free schools, building at least 100 a year. They will allow new grammar schools (currently banned), but these will have to allow pupils to join at other ages, not just 11.
  • Technical education and apprenticeships The Conservatives say they will reform and improve technical education to provide “a  real choice between technical and academic routes” at 16. They will  establish new “institutes of technology” in every city in England, providing both degree courses and higher-level apprenticeships. They will create 3 million apprenticeships for young people by 2020 and introduce “significantly discounted” bus and train travel for apprentices.
  • Mental health The Conservatives say they will publish a Green Paper (a document with Government proposals) on young people’s mental health before the end of 2017. They will reform Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services so that treatment is provided more quickly and nearer home.
  • Domestic violence The Conservatives say they will introduce a new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill; this will provide for a new aggravated offence if behaviour is directed at a child. They will create a domestic violence and abuse commissioner in law.
  • Digital world The Conservatives say they will “educate today’s young people in the harms of the internet and how best to combat them, introducing comprehensive Relationships and Sex Education in all primary and secondary schools to ensure that children learn about the risks of the internet, including cyberbullying and online grooming”. They will give people more control of their own data, including the ability to require “major social media platforms” to delete information held about them at the age of 18.

The green party

You can find the full manifesto (called “The Green Party for a Confident and Caring Party” here).

  • Schools The Green Party says it will bring Academies and Free Schools into the local authority system, abolish SATS and reduce class sizes.


  • Further and higher education The Green Party says it will scrap university tuition fees, fund full student grants and greater public investment in further and higher education. It will restore Education Maintenance Allowance and “enable apprenticeships” to all qualified young people aged 16-25.


  • Housing The Green Party says it will protect young people’s housing needs by reinstating housing benefit for under-21s, stop Local Authorities declaring young people “intentionally homeless”, and invest in community house-building projects to provide affordable, secure housing options for young people


  • Work The Green Party says it will scrap age-related wage bands and will raise the national minimum wage to living wage levels for all.


  • EU The Green Party says it will guarantee the rights of young people to study, work, live and travel in the EU, including through schemes like Erasmus.


  • Health The Green Party says it will provide more funding for sexual health awareness campaigns and greater access to free condoms and sexual health clinics. It will remove VAT from sanitary products and ensure


  • Voting and citizenship The Green Party says it will introduce “non-biased” political education and promote active citizenship. It will lower the voting age to 16.


  • Public transport The Green Party says it will phase in free local public transport for young people and students




You can find the full 123-page manifesto (called “For the Many Not the Few”) here.

  • Schools Labour says it will create a new unified National Education Service (NES) for England to move towards “cradle-to-grave learning” that is free at the point of use. It says it will not “waste money” on free schools or grammar schools.
  • Further education and apprenticeships Labour says it will restore the Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16-18 year olds, and invest more in the Further Education sector. Further Education courses will be free at the point of use. Labour says it will “set a target to double the number of completed apprenticeships at NVQ level 3 by 2022”.
  • University education Labour says it will reintroduce maintenance grants for university students, and abolish university tuition fees.
  • Social security Labour says it will restore housing benefit to 18-21 year olds.
  • Mental health Labour says it will increase the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people. It will ensure that access to a counselling service is available for all children in secondary schools.
  • Looked after children Labour says it will extend “Staying Put” arrangements to support all children and young people in residential and other forms of care until they are 21.
  • European Convention on the Rights of the Child Labour says it will make this convention part of UK law.
  • Domestic violence Labour says it will appoint a commissioner to set new standards for tackling domestic and sexual violence. It will make age-appropriate sex and relationship education a compulsory part of the curriculum “so young people can learn about respectful relationships”.
  • Digital world Labour says it “will ensure that young people understand and are able to easily remove any content they shared on the internet before they turned 18”.
  • Voting Labour will reduce the voting age to 16.



You can find the full 94 page manifesto (called “Change Britain’s Future”) here.

  • Schools The Liberal Democrats say they will scrap the planned expansion of grammar schools. They will include in SRE teaching about sexual consent, LGBT+ relationships, and issues surrounding explicit images and content. They will “challenge gender stereotyping and early sexualisation, working with schools to promote positive body image and break down outdated perceptions of gender appropriateness of particular academic subjects”.
  • Training for work The Liberal Democrats  say they will improve opportunities for vocational education, and expand the range of vocational qualifications. They say that they aim to double the number of businesses which hire apprentices.
  • Mental health The Liberal Democrats say they will ensure that schools provide immediate access for pupil support and counselling. They will make the promotion of wellbeing part of a school’s statutory duty. They will improve access and waiting times for mental health services, and consider establishing a new dedicated mental health service for children and young people.
  • Travel The Liberal Democrats will introduce a new Young Person’s Bus Discount Card, for young people aged 16–21; this will give a two-thirds discount on bus travel
  • Voting The Liberal Democrats say they will introduce votes at 16 for all elections and referendums across the UK.


UKIP (UK Independence Party)

You can find the full 63 page manifesto (called “Britain Together”) here.

  • Schools UKIP say they will open a grammar school in every town, and will adapt the old 11+ system to add transfer examinations up to the age of 16. They will require Ofsted to conduct snap inspections of schools when parents or pupils have raised concerns that girls are being offered unequal access to music, dance, PE or drama lessons, or are otherwise discriminated against. They will make first aid learning compulsory so that all pupils obtain a “Basic Life-Saving Diploma”.


  • Work education/training  UKIP say they will introduce a scheme similar to Germany’s Dual Vocational Training system, in which students attend classes at a vocational school and receive on-the-job training at a company. They will introduce practical lessons on “employability” and setting up your own business into the syllabus.


  • University education UKIP say their long-term goal is to abolish tuition fees entirely once economic conditions allow. Meanwhile they ill immediately restore maintenance grants and abolish tuition fees for undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students, provided they work in their discipline and pay tax in the UK for at least five years after they complete their degree. They will cover the cost of all tuition fees for medical students, provided they commit to working within the NHS for at least ten out of the fifteen years after they qualify.


  • Mental health UKIP say they will develop a national school-based counselling strategy for England, on a par with Wales and Northern Ireland. Specialist counselling services will be available in all secondary schools. UKIP also say they will review advertising, broadcast and editorial codes so that healthy body images are promoted and men and women are treated with dignity.


  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) UKIP say they will strengthen the criminal law on this. They will implement a screening programme for girls identified to be at risk of FGM from birth to age sixteen, consisting of annual non-invasive physical check-ups. They will also carry out additional check-ups on girls at risk when they return to the UK from trips to countries where FGM is known to be customary.

Do any of these proposals inspire you? Do you think you should be able to vote at age 16? What other issues do you think the parties should include in their manifestos? Get in touch with us, via Facebook, Instagram or at


Agnes Q & A with legendary textile designer Sarah Campbell

Sarah Campbell is an internationally acclaimed textile designer. Collier Campbell, which she founded with her elder sister, Susan Collier, created distinctive, colourful patterns over many decades for a huge range of fashion and homeware producers including Liberty of London, Cacharel, Jaeger, and Marks & Spencer. Collier Campbell designs were even used by Yves St Laurent in his first off-the-peg collection in 1971.  Since Susan’s sadly early death in 2011, Sarah has worked alone, creating a beautiful range of textiles and homeware products, and running inspiring textile workshops for all ages.

We are absolutely thrilled that Sarah has agreed to answer some questions for Agnes.

Photo of Sarah Campbell by Miki Yamnouchi

What was the best thing about your teenage years?

I made some good friendships which are still going strong.

What was the worst thing about your teenage years?

Confusions and disappointments – with myself, my family, politics and the world.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Have courage, but don’t be foolhardy.

Did you have any ideas about your future career when you were at school? Did you always know that you would do something creative?

I wanted to be an explorer, and planned to read anthropology and archaeology at Cambridge! I never considered creativity as being a special ‘thing’  –  I don’t think it was a word that was used very much.

How did you become a textile designer?

I started as a teenager helping my older sister Susan, who was developing her career as a textile designer. She was busy, and soon had two little children, and because I could draw and paint she asked me to come and help her with her work…. I learnt about design by doing it really.  We worked together for fifty years.

What do you enjoy most about being a textile designer?

I love painting, I’m fascinated by pattern, I’m drawn to what’s called the decorative arts – so, for me, the best thing about being a textile designer is that I can enjoy all those things and earn my living too.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

My latest new idea..

What is the best part of running creative workshops for teenagers?

Young people seem to have a natural confidence; it’s lovely to offer the space, time, ideas, materials and the opportunity to use them all without the constraints of school, curriculum and sensible-ness.

What would you say to girls who think they have no creative or artistic talent?

You do!

Do you have any particular suggestions for girls who might want to try something creative but don’t know where to start?

My advice generally is start with what you can do – things develop. For instance,  look around you – it’s worth noticing what you like, what pleases you, and really considering what and why that might be. It can be a tiny thing – the way you like to arrange your cup and plate at table, say – write a description, paint a picture, compose a poem, make a collage about it, invent alternatives, make a little book about them…you’ll soon start to think creatively and then there’ll be no end to what you might make and do.

Sarah Campbell

April 2017

If you’re feeling inspired, check out Sarah’s website which is a wonderful feast of colour and pattern; it also gives information on her upcoming workshops and talks, which come highly recommended by Agnes.  You can also follow Sarah on Instagram.

And don’t forget to check out our own Making beautiful things pages for more creative ideas.

Easter holiday ideas

With longer days and better weather, Easter holidays are the perfect time to head out and try new things, without spending a lot of money. Even if you’re revising for exams in the summer, make sure you schedule time for fun and relaxation – these will make you more effective as well as happier.

Whatever your interests, and wherever you live in the country, we hope you’ll find inspiration in the Agnes Easter Things To Do List 2017.

Watch some sport

Rowing If you’re in London, head to the Thames to watch the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races on Sunday 2 April. The women’s race starts at 4.35 pm and the men’s at 5.35 pm; there is usually a great atmosphere on the river bank, and lots else going on; you can find out all you need to know on the official website here.

Horse-racing A spring day at the races can be a great experience. You’re unlikely to get tickets for the Grand National at Aintree in Liverpool on Saturday 8 April, but check out other racecourses near you: including Carlisle, ChepstowDoncaster, KelsoKempton Park and Newcastle. Many have special family or open days to encourage new racegoers. If you live in the country, you may also have a local point-to-point, often on Easter Saturday – check your local newspaper or news website.

Cricket County cricket matches are beginning to start, and your local county club may well have special ticket offers to encourage visitors during the unpredictable spring weather. You can find links to all the different county cricket club websites on “county” tab of the England and Wales Cricket Board website here.

Athletics You can join the crowds watching the London Marathon for free on Sunday 23 April – find out everything you need to know on the official website here.

Play some sport

There are lots of sports courses and camps all over the country at Easter and you should be able to find one near you, whether you want to develop your existing sports skills or try something new. Try your local university or schools as well as sports centres.

If you don’t want to do anything organised, or are worried about money, you could just meet up with friends or family for a game of football or cricket or rounders in your local park. You may be lucky enough to find freely available tennis or volleyball courts as well – try this site to find freely accessible tennis. Bring some sandwiches and a bottle of water, and take it as seriously or unseriously as you wish.

Explore somewhere different

There is always something new to see, wherever you live. Our travel pages give your all the practical info you need to make your journeys easily and confidently.

If you’re interested in history or art, and like visiting old buildings, think about joining the National Trust; annual membership isn’t particularly cheap, at £32.40 for 13-25 year olds, but this gives you free entry to all their properties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to properties managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Many National Trust properties organise special Easter events.

Whatever your beliefs, religous buildings can be fascinating places to visit. If you’re not a member of the relevant religious community, and don’t know anyone who is, then you can find some useful advice through these links on  visiting synagogues,  visiting mosques  and visiting Churches. A list of Hindu temples in the UK can be found here and you are recommended to contact your local temple directly to arrange a visit.

If the weather is good – and even if it isn’t – a day at the seaside is always fun. Nowhere in the UK is supposed to be more than 70 miles from the sea, and there are some amazing places you can easily reach by bus or train. Scoop up your friends and family, take a picnic or some cash for chips, and rediscover your inner five year old.

Spend time with animals

The sight of newborn lambs is one of spring’s real treats. You might be able to get up close to them on a farm near you, sometimes for a small fee.

Don’t despair if you’re stuck in the city; you can visit many city farms for free, including Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh, Bath City Farm , and Vauxhall City Farm in London.

get out into the wild

Visit a nature reserve or wild place: try the Natural England website here or the Wildlife Trusts website here to find a nature reserve near you. Many nature reserves are free and have special activities over the school holidays.

You could also join Springwatch’s Do Something Great Campaign.

Be geek and chic

See Holly Smale in conversation with Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney at Oxford Literary Festival on Saturday 1 April at 12 noon – tickets £8

See some art

There are art exhibitions to suit every taste all over the country. You can find a list of current art exhibitions here. Many are free to visit.

Listen to Beautiful Music – FOR FREE

Holy Week, which runs from Palm Sunday on 9 April to Easter Sunday on 16 April, is the most important week in the Christian calendar; churches and cathedrals across the country have special services and concerts, often featuring some of the most beautiful and powerful music in the repertoire, and many ask only for a contribution to the collection. Check out the websites of cathedrals and churches near you.

Win a competition

If you need a break from all that sport and travelling, sit down and write something amazing.

There is a competition especially for girls aged 11 to 16 living in the UK: send in your short story on the subject of family before 7 July 2017.

Mother and daughter writing team Perdita and Honor Cargill are running a monologue/duologue competition – judged in two age groups 10-13 and 14-16, closing date 30 April 2017.

And you have until 7 April 2017 to complete your brilliant entry to the Vogue Talent Contest 2017.

Try a Workshop

There are all sorts of Easter workshops allowing you to try all sorts of new skills, up and down the country. Here are a few to start you off.

If you’re interested in theatre, try one of the Easter workshops for 11-17 year olds organised by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, from 10-21 April 2017.

The National Portrait Gallery in London has a FREE 3-day performance and photography workshop for 14-21 year olds on the ever-fascinating theme of identity, from 11-13 April 2017.

The Fashion and Textile Museum near London Bridge has creative workshops for 12-18 year olds, on 5, 6 and 7 April – £10 -£25.

Also in London, the Royal Institute of British Architects has some special architecture workshops for teenagers – from five hours to four days, £40 to £200 (less if you’re entitled to free school meals), between 4 and 14 April.

And also in London, the famous Leiths School of Food and Wine runs cooking courses for teenagers; very good but sadly also very expensive (£100 per short day).

In London and Hampshire – the Song Academy runs singing and songwriting workshops for 12-16 year olds : various prices and dates.

Leeds College of Art is running an Easter Art School for students from 7 to 18 – £35 per day, from 3 – 12 April 2017.

Sharp Shots is running photography courses for teens in Kent and Surrey, between 3 and 6 April 2017; £35 or £40.

Try your local craft or wool shop for craft workshops. Abakhan has special teenage workshops in Liverpool and Mostyn, North Wales from 11-21 April; £25 each. Made to Sew in Somerset is running a 2-day dressmaking workshop for teenagers – £120. You can find details of different craft course across the UK on

plan your summer holiday!

Because it’s always good to have something to look forward to. We will be giving you plenty of great Agnes suggestions in the coming weeks.

Agnes blog

New blog with interviews, news and more coming soon! Watch this space.