What are Outdoor Arts?

Joyously liberated from buildings, Outdoor Arts take place all over the public realm. You’ll find us in streets, parks and squares, on roofs and on rivers, across cities, towns and villages, in festivals in fields and festivals in high streets. We’re on mountains and in marketplaces. You’ll see us performing on barges, on buildings, on bridges, on trampolines, on trapezes, on cranes, on cars and in knee-deep mud.

Outdoor Arts are supremely versatile and will pop up pretty much anywhere they can. And more often than not they’re free.

Outdoor Arts includes many different art forms including theatre, contemporary dance, music, traditional dance, puppetry, comedy, pyrotechnics, visual art, digital art and lots and lots of circus. Outdoor Arts crop up in public processions, enormous carnivals and huge melas, as well as at small local festivals, in shopping centres and in front of major cultural institutions. We are very international, with some great companies from around the world visiting our shores and our own work playing an increasingly prominent global role. There’s often mass participation, so sometimes you’ll see a cast of hundreds or sometimes a cast of just one.

In the last twenty years, Outdoor Arts in the UK has developed into a distinct sector, growing from its roots in community arts movements, street arts, carnival, agitprop and radical theatre, which go back to the 1960s. Now, Outdoor Arts has firmly established itself through some nation-defining moments, ever-increasing artistic standards and an ongoing cooperative network. With our incredibly diverse audiences, our work is increasingly being recognised for the role it plays in social cohesion, place-making and community building. But we tend to love them simply for the joy they bring.

The strength of Outdoor Arts was well illustrated by the central role the sector played in the London 2012 Festival and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. And we can never forget that elephant…

To learn more about Outdoor Arts and hear from some of our members, visit our YouTube channel:


To learn more about established venues working with the Outdoor Arts sector, read the Arts Council England’s study with contributions from Jude Kelly, Deborah Bull, Will Gompertz, Angus MacKechnie and Louise Jeffreys:

Beyond Their Walls

To learn more about Outdoor Arts audiences, read The Audience Agency Outdoor Arts Report, July 2018.

Outdoor Arts Audience Agency Report