Films, festivals and football: The ultimate summer survival guide

So much art, so little time just how will you get the cultural fix you’re looking for?

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The Independent Culture

Summer is coming and with it a glorious calendar of arts events, activities and releases. But that’s not to say the next three months are an easy ride for the cultural adventurer – and so, here we address some seasonal anxieties in our summer survival guide.

It’s blockbuster season in the cinemas again, but I hate franchises, sequels and Spandexed superheroes. Is there any hope?

OK, so we can’t even tempt you into the new Godzilla reboot with the fact that it stars Juliette Binoche? Well, don’t worry, there are a host of more cerebral thrills to be found among all the crash, bang, wallop. The Two Faces of January (16 May), an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith thriller, stars Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen and promises seasonally sun-dappled Mediterranean vistas mixed with pitch-black intrigue. Then, towards the end of May, history may just be made with Jimmy’s Hall, rumoured to be the last ever film of kitchen-sink king Ken Loach. 

Next month – finally – sees the British release of Fruitvale Station (6 June), a moving, micro-budget indie about the unlawful shooting of a young black man in San Francisco. Meanwhile, for lighter palates, there’s Chinese Puzzle (20 June), the third in French director Cedric Klapisch’s “Spanish Apartment” romcom trilogy which catches up with former twenty- somethings, now on-the-cusp-of-forty Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris and plays like a lighter version of Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight. And talking of Linklater, he’s back with Boyhood (11 July); filmed over 15 years, it charts the progression of a family headed by dad Ethan Hawke and mum Patricia Arquette ... and we’re mooning over the melancholy beauty of the human condition already.

Last summer, I was mostly dancing around my kitchen to “Get Lucky”; what should I be moving to this summer?

If there’s nothing to match that behemoth, there are many fine cuts to have you imagining being up all night to the sun (even if you’re up at 7am to put out the bins). 2014’s greatest Daft Punk substitute? The debut album of Norwegian DJ/producer Todd Terje, a brilliant collection of retro-futurist dance music that runs the stylistic gamut from samba to Moroder. Meanwhile other album releases to mobilise the limbs include the third from fierce NYC disco collective Hercules and Love Affair (out 26 May), which finds them at their most joyfully debauched, and the debut from Clean Bandit (out 2 June), the ace chart-topping group who, against all odds, have made the words “classical-dance crossover” palatable.

As for individual tunes, Robyn & Royksopp’s “Do It Again” sees the Scandi-electro-pop compatriots team up for a number that is almost as “crying on the dancefloor” brilliant as the former’s “Dancing On My Own” - while talking of throwing shapes on your tod, “Solo Dancing” by Nottingham singer-songwriter Indiana is ridiculously seductive, as, even more so, is the strung-out remix by Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard. And for a slice of pure cheese, try “NRG”, the latest from duo Duck Sauce, which samples a 1980s non-hit (Melissa Manchester’s “Energy”) to create an uproariously silly, parody workout song that should induce air-punches aplenty.

It’s T-minus one month to the World Cup in Rio and I can barely contain my excitement. Is there any cultural activity to keep me going in the meantime?

Well of course! Starting with documentary Next Goal Wins, (in cinemas from Friday), which follows the American Samoa national team, aka “the worst team in the world” in their attempt to qualify for Brazil. Meanwhile, closer to kick-off, Amnesty International is holding its first football film  festival Sidelines (Hackney Picture House 6-8 June), which will explore the intersection of sport and human rights via films such as Looking for Rio, a documentary about the status of football as a way of life in Brazil’s first city, directed by a certain Mr Eric Cantona.

For the beautiful game on stage, meanwhile, check out Turfed, a new play premiering at enterprising new venue Hackney Downs Studios (9-21 June): developed by Brazilian directors Renato Rocha and Keziah Serrea, it will use the philosophy of football to explore the issue of homelessness.

And for stage-setting Brazilian vibes, meanwhile, may we recommend album Sonzeira: Brasil Bam Bam Bam (out 19 May), a survey of the country’s sounds commandeered by Gilles Peterson and performed by a collective of its musical great and good.

I’ve gone off massive festivals: the cost, the crowds, the queues, the corporate sponsorship. What genuine alternatives are out there?

In the Woods takes place in a secret woodland location – an enchanted party with only 900 tickets, this is as boutique as you could wish. The band Laurel Collective curate line-ups of new musical talent, and bonfires will keep the spirits up till sunrise (29-30 Aug). There’ll be plenty more utterly uncorporate dancing-round-campfires at teeny Welsh festival Fire in the Mountain on a farm near Aberystwyth (30 May to 1 June), while Loopallu is also set in a stunning location on the west coast of Scotland and has made a name for itself as the place for an end-of-season knees-up (26-27 Sept).  

If you’re after a super-sharp musical line-up, Beacons brings the party to the Yorkshire Moors with a superb roster of modern electronica and folk including Jon Hopkins, Daughter and East India Youth (7-10 Aug). LeeFest began as a 16th birthday party in Lee’s back garden… eight years on, it’s grown into a proper festival, but has kept that intimate feel and maintains a cap on numbers (just 2,000). Now held on a farm outside Croydon, it’s an easy hop for Londoners (11-13 July). And it’s all aboard for the uber-twee Indietracks in the Midland Railway Centre in Derbyshire (25-27 July). Watch Gruff Rhys and Allo Darlin’, then ride on a steam train ….

I’m sick of spending the summer holidays going to rubbish attractions for kids, and missing out on all the hot gallery shows – there must be some that are both genuinely grown-up AND child friendly?

Fear not: this lot will keep the in-gallery screams to a minimum. Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern (to 7 Sept) is a bold, bright and beautiful blockbuster. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of coloured paper and scissors to hand for when you get home… Jim Lambie’s equally colourful show at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh (27 June to 19 Oct) features rainbow-striped floors and mirrored ladders stretching to the ceiling. And, if you know the little ’uns  like to run rings round the art, take them to Chatsworth House, where Michael Craig Martin’s vividly-hued sculptures are dotted around the grounds (to 29 June).

Got reluctant teens in tow? The British Library’s Comics Unmasked exhibition should be daring enough to hold their gaze (to 19 Aug). Or show respect for their tech addictions with Digital Revolution at the Barbican (3 July to 14 Sept): this immersive show about cutting-edge creativity in film, music and video games features work from Bjork, Amon Tobin and, plus special FX by the teams behind the films Gravity and Inception.

I just haven’t got the energy for the Edinburgh Festival this year – the travel, the nightmare of finding a half-affordable place to stay, the 2am show times… there must be an easier option?

Brighton Festival, curated by choreographer Hofesh Shechter, opened yesterday; the experimental theatre, dance, talks and music continue until 25 May. And Udderbelly has brought the Edinburgh fringe fixture that is the Underbelly’s sweaty purple-cow tent to London’s South Bank – catch comedians Andrew Maxwell, Ed Byrne, Frisky & Mannish and more before they decamp to Scotland (to 13 July).

Music festivals have been extending their reach into the rest of the arts, of course – Latitude led the way, but new kid on the block Festival No.6, in the wonderfully weird Welsh town of Portmeirion, has a great line-up of comedy, storytelling and literature this year (5-7 Sept). And there’s international theatre in London all summer: LIFT  (19 May to 6 July) features Belarus Free Theatre and Forced Entertainment, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival picks up the baton with an emphasis on outdoor, large-scale and street theatre (20-28 July), and the ever-improving Camden Fringe (28 July to 24 Aug) really does rival Edinburgh in terms of presenting theatre and comedy from the experimental margins.