Art, Theatre, and Culture in Colchester

Colchester is a culturally rich town, home to three theatres, an arts centre and several galleries including the internationally important Firstsite gallery. The town has a thriving artistic commmunity ensuring there is always a strong progamme of exhibitions, theatre, music and more happening in the town.

Beyond the town centre, Colchester lies on the border of Constable Country, an area of natural beauty that inspired the English landscape painter John Constable, and includes the areas depicted in some of his most famous paintings including the Haywain. 

Colchester's history and culture often intertwine. You can visit a Roman Theatre, or look at historic art in the Castle. Further afield you can find Medieveal wall paintings in Copford Church.
Firstsite Art Gallery, Colchester

Colchester's Cultural Highlights



Colchester's contemporary art gallery hosts exhibitions, film screenings, talks, activities and much more.

Mercury Theatre, Colchester

Mercury Theatre

The highly regarded Mercury Theatre stages both touring and self-produced plays in it's main auditorium. It also has a smaller studio theatre.

Colchester Arts Centre

Colchester Arts Centre

From live music and comedy to live art and children's shows, there's always something happening at Colchester Arts Centre

High Street after dark

Colchester Nightlife

Live music, stand-up comedy, dancing, and more. There's something for everyone after dark in Colchester.


Theatres and Shows

James and the Giant Peach at Mercury Theatre

There's no shortage of Theatres in Colchester, with the Mercury Theatre and smaller Headgate Theatre serving the town centre, and the Lakeside Theatre based on the University of Essex campus just outside town.

The Mercury Theatre is the town's largest, and main producing Theatre, whilst the Headgate is the home of amateur theatre in Colchester. The Lakeside stages smaller productions as well as shows by students at the University.

Aside from the traditional theatres, Colchester Arts Centre often programmes plays and more challenging productions, whilst in the summer months you can find pop-up productions in a variety of gardens, churches and unused spaces around town.

View our Theatre Listings

Galleries & Exhibitions

For anyone with even a passing interest in art, a trip to Firstsite is essential. Hosting a rotating programme of exhibitions so there is always something to see, past exhibitions include shows by Andy Warhol, John Constable, and Grayson Perry.

Just over the road you can find The Minories Gallery, run by the Colchester School of Art which has a dynamic exhibition programme, often including locally based artists. Their tearoom is run by Wilkin and Sons, makers of Tiptree Jam, and their shop is a treasure trove of locally crafted items and art.

As well as art exhibitions, you can find a wealth of talks, activities, and performances taking place around town. 

Exhibitions Coming Up and Now On

Bull and Cow

Wladyslaw Mirecki - Watercolours Exhibition

Sat 3 Mar - Sun 1 Apr 2018

Watercolours Exhibition at Chapel Galleries

Work in Progress; Paintings Past to Present

Work in Progress; Paintings Past to Present

Sat 3 Mar - Sun 6 May 2018

Exhibition by Carol Dawson at Jaywick Martello Tower

Chip Night

Chip Night

Sat 10 Mar - Sun 3 Jun 2018

Art Exhibition at Firstsite

Bronze Age

BRONZE AGE c. 3500 BC – AD 2018

Sat 17 Mar - Sun 28 Oct 2018

Art Exhibition at Firstsite

The Britishness Project

The Britishness Project

Sat 17 Mar - Sun 17 Jun 2018

Art Exhibition at Firstsite

Plug IN

Plug In Showcase

Sat 24 Mar 2018

Digital showcase event at Firstsite

Changing Faces

Changing Faces

Sun 25 Mar - Sun 8 Apr 2018

Art Exhibition at the Sentinel Gallery, Wivenhoe

Munnings Sign

RA250: Sir Alfred Munnings and the Royal Academy

Fri 30 Mar - Wed 31 Oct 2018

Exhibition celebrating Alfred Munnings as Past President of the Royal Academy

 Watercolour of Abbey Mill, Coggeshall

Coggeshall Art Group Exhibition

Fri 4 - Mon 7 May 2018

Exhibition of work by local artists in the Church of St.Peter ad Vincula, Coggeshall, over the Mayday bank holiday weekend.

Open Studios

Island Artists - Open Studios

Fri 1 - Sun 3 Jun 2018

Open Studios on Mersea Island


Raqs Media Collective: Not Yet At Ease

Sat 29 Sep - Mon 31 Dec 2018

Exhibition as part of #1418NOW at Firstsite

Historic Art and Culture in Colchester

Cow in river at Dedham Vale

Constable Country

Discover the landscapes that inspired some of the most recognisable art ever produced in Britain. John Constable was born and grew up close to Dedham on the Essex/Suffolk border.

Roman Theatre

Roman Art & Culture

Colchester Castle's collection of objects from Roman Britain is rivalled only by the British Museum. Also in town explore the ruins of a Roman Theatre and be sure to visit Britain's only known Roman Circus.

Copford Church - St Michael's & All Angels

Copford Church

Take a trip out to St Michael and All Angels Church in Copford where you can see some of the best preserved Norman wall-paintings in Britain.

Pallot & Collins Concrete Murals
Pallot & Collins Concrete Murals

Discover a series of concrete murals around Colchester Town Centre depicting its history and famous characters from it's past. 

More Culture in Colchester

Colchester Film Festival

Film Screenings

Browse one-off and special film screenings in Colchester. Watch out for outdoor screenings in the summer and Colchester Film Festival in the autumn


Roman River Music

Classical Music

Regular programmes of classical music are curated by Colchester's arts venues, local churches, and other venues. The Roman River Music Festival is a yearly highlight.

Comedy in Colchester


Colchester has a thriving stand-up scene with several different sized venues hosting a wide range of comedians and shows. you will find a particularly busy schedule during the yearly Colchester Comedy Festival

Live Music in Colchester

Live Music

You can find live music week-in week-out in the pubs and bars of Colchester as well as bigger names throughout the year at venues like Colchester Arts Centre. Every summer, you can also find music festivals in Castle Park.

More things to do in Colchester

Cow in river at Dedham Vale
Wildlife & Green Spaces