This weekend marks the 20th York Residents’ Festival. Anyone with a valid YorkCard can see behind the scenes at York City’s Bootham Crescent ground or gain free entry to a host of museums and attractions. STEPHEN LEWIS reports.

ROLL UP! Roll up!... for a great jamboree of free events and behind-the-scenes visits to some of York's hidden gems.

This weekend is York Residents' Festival: the one weekend of the year when the city's residents unarguably do come first.

The festival has reached its 20th year. More than 50 free attractions and events will be on offer to anyone with a valid YorkCard – and there will be great offers, too, in local shops and restaurants.

Along with free entry to many of York's top museums, houses and other attractions, there are a host of new attractions this year, including:

• A 'behind the scenes' tour of York City Football Club

• A second chance to see short films from the 2014 Aesthetica short film Festival

• Free admission to the Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar

• A 'behind the scenes' tour of Treasurer's House to see how conservators do their work.

The annual festival is York's way of thanking the people who live here for the warm welcome they give to York’s seven million visitors each year, says VisitYork head Kate McMullen.

"It is your chance to explore the city and be a tourist for the weekend – for free," she says.

"We're delighted to be celebrating 20 years of this free event. This year you’ll have the chance to explore behind the scenes at places not usually open to the public and take advantage of some great dining offers."

You can turn up to on the day at some events or attractions; you might need to book in advance for others. For a full list of events, attractions and offers visit

In the meantime, here are a few highlights...


Aesthetica Short Film Festival Screenings
King’s Manor, Exhibition Square
Saturday, January 31, 11am – 9pm

A selection of short films from the 2014 short film festival.

Pre-booking is not required.


Black Swan Folk Club – Winter Folk Day
Peasholme Green
Sunday, February 1 only 2pm to 5.30pm, 7.30pm to 10.30pm

Informal afternoon and evening concerts featuring many of the talented local singers and bands associated with York’s award-winning Black Swan Folk Club.

Free entry to York Card holders. Come and go as you please, space permitting.

Pre-booking is not required.

Clifford’s Tower
Saturday, January 31 and Sunday, February 1, 10am to 4pm (last admission 3.45pm)

Come to York’s top deck for unrivalled views of the city. Perched atop the mighty fortress mound raised by William the Conqueror, Clifford’s Tower was the keep of York Castle, the great northern medieval strong hold.

One hundred free entry tickets will be available to pre-book on a first come first served basis and all residents will receive a discounted entry rate of £1. Residents must hold a valid York Card.

To book a free ticket phone Clifford’s Tower on 01904 646940 (closing date for booking Friday January 30). No booking required for the discounted entry rate of £1.

Fairfax House, Castlegate
Saturday, 11am to 4pm and Sunday, 11am to 2pm

Go behind the scenes to see Fairfax House as never normally seen during its deep-clean winter hibernation.

Learn what makes this house tick and what it is like to be involved in this Georgian York treasure, once better known as St George’s cinema and dancehall.

Fishergate Postern Tower & Red Tower
Piccadilly and Foss Islands Road
Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 3pm

Fishergate Postern Tower, Piccadilly + Red Tower, Foss Islands Road will be open both days from 10am to 3pm. Guided history tour of the postern and tower by the Friends of York Walls. Note: the spiral staircase at FPT is challenging! Ground floor only at Red Tower.

Henry VII Experience, Micklegate Bar
Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm

Free admission from 2pm onwards on presentation of York card or proof of residency.

Pre-booking is not required.

Holgate Windmill
Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 4pm

Come and see York’s only surviving windmill, restored and in full working order. Stoneground flour milled here is available for sale.

Mansion House
Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 3pm

The Mansion House, home to the Lord Mayors of York since 1732, remains one of the city’s ‘hidden treasures’. This weekend the doors will be thrown open so residents can explore the magnificent interior absolutely free. There will also be a display of photographs by members of York Camera Club.

National Trust Treasurer’s House
Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 3pm

See behind the scenes during this special free opening for York residents. Find out what conservation means for a place like Treasurer’s House, meet the House Steward and conservation volunteers, take part in some conservation tasks too. Enjoy snacks and refreshments in the Below Stairs café.

Booking is not required.

Quilt Museum and Gallery
St Anthony’s Hall, Peasholme Green
Saturday, 10am to 4pm, last admission 3.30pm

Visit the latest exhibitions at the Quilt Museum and Gallery.

‘All Shapes and Sizes’ an exhibition of quilts revealing complex geometric designs that are pieced to perfection! and ‘Voices from the inside’ a guest exhibition of quilts hand stitched by prisoners trained by Fine Cell Work. Booking is not required.

Richard III Experience at Monk Bar
Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm

Free admission from 2pm onwards on presentation of York card or proof of residency.

Booking is not required.

The Bar Convent, Blossom Street
Saturday until Friday, February 6, 10am to 3pm (closed Sunday)

Explore England’s oldest living convent, learn of its secret past and enjoy a meal in the fabulous cafe. Free entry to the Museum on Saturday January 31 only.

Complimentary glass of wine with each main course over £7. Restricted Wheelchair access. Booking is not required.

The Stained Glass Centre, St. Martin-cum-Gregory, Micklegate
Saturday, 10am to 4pm

Family-friendly activities, an exhibition and craft stalls in this breathtaking Grade 1 building, which contains historic stained glass and fascinating graffiti. Have a go at designing a window or painting on glass.

Stained glass experts will be on hand for demonstrations and discussions. Refreshments will be available. Booking is not required.

UNESCO City of Media Arts Showcase
De Grey Rooms, York Theatre Royal
Saturday, 10am to 4pm

York is the UK’s first UNESCO City of Media Arts. Find out what it all means at the De Grey Rooms as we showcase the creative talents that led to designation and invite you to play a part in its future.

Booking is not required.

West Offices, City of York Council, Station Rise
Saturday, 11am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 3.30pm

Bill Fawcett, author and railway historian, tells the story of York’s first railway station in a presentation entitled ‘Still Serving the People’, followed by a tour of the original station hotel, refreshment rooms and train shed canopy, plus a look round the modern offices of City of York Council. A must for railway enthusiasts.

Booking required – tickets available from West Offices Customer Centre or email

York City Football Club
Bootham Crescent

Experience a behind the scenes tour of the home of York City Football Club – Bootham Crescent. Hosted by YCFC Foundationcoaches, the tour is suitable for all the family.

Tours will last maximum of 1 hour, and will include players dressing rooms, players tunnel, pitchside and matchday hospitality rooms. Numbers are limited per tour and must be booked.

Tours available to start at: 11.30am, 1pm, 2.30pm. Restricted wheelchair access, some areas are only available via steps.

Please contact the YCFC Foundation Office by phone on 01904 559508 or email to book a place. Places must be booked per person. Email confirmation will be provided, to be shown on arrival for the Tour. Parking at the venue is limited.


Out of town attractions taking part in this year’s York residents’ Festival include:

• Beningbrough Hall, Gallery & Gardens

• Castle Howard’s impressive grounds & parkland

• Eden Camp Modern History Theme Museum in Malton

• The 18th century restored Howsham Mill

• The International Centre for Birds of Prey, at Duncombe Park, Helmsley