From Latitude’s vast celebrations to boutique events in Kent, we count down the 30 best festivals on the UK’s extraordinary summer music scene.
Queen of the arts festivals, Latitude is as much about theatre, literature, ballet and comedy as it is music. The award-winning event has a top-drawer line-up with Damon Albarn’s one UK summer festival appearance, Two Door Cinema Club, The Black Keys, Bombay Bicycle Club, Haim and First Aid Kit. Comedy stars include Simon Amstell and Dara O’Briain, while the RSC, Sadler’s Wells and English National Ballet provide dance and theatre.
One to watch: Baltimore synth-pop band Future Islands at the i Arena.
17-20 July, Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk
The lush, rolling hills of the Brecon Beacons are the stunning backdrop for this festival, which boasts a rich Americana and folk line-up. Cult psych-folk rockers Neutral Milk Hotel make their only UK festival appearance, Mercury Rev play their landmark Deserter’s Songs album, while the rarely-seen Beirut, First Aid Kit, The Waterboys, The War on Drugs, Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen are also on the bill.
One to watch: indie-pop band Woman’s Hour.
14-17 August, Crickhowell, Brecon Beacons, Wales
Festival No 6
Set in the coastal village of Portmeirion, home of 1960s cult series The Prisoner, Festival No 6 has been winning awards since day one. The line-up and entertainment matches the sophistication of the setting (which other festival has a resident composer and choir?) with Beck, London Grammar, Pet Shop Boys, Neneh Cherry and Bonobo. Plus authors, comedians, poets and a cinema. Don’t miss the carnival.
One to watch: sonic sculptor East India Youth, who darts between Harold Budd-esque neo-classical soundscapes, Brian Eno ambience, Detroit techno, and the electropop of Pet Shop Boys.
5-7 September Portmeirion, Wales
Expect a celebratory vibe from the hard-rock and metal festival, which makes its return after a two-year hiatus to mark 40 years of live music at Knebworth Park. Metal giants Iron Maiden and Metallica co-headline for the first time on a British bill together. It’s Maiden’s only UK show this year, while The Prodigy, Slayer, Therapy? and Limp Bizkit will also appear.
One to watch: acid punk four-piece Bo Ningen.
4-6 July, Knebworth Park, Hertfordshire
The Pixies headline the Sunday, Metronomy the Saturday, while The Horrors and Jon Hopkins are also on the bill. But this two-dayer is still the place for catching hip producers and rising stars, such as SOHN, SBTRKT and East India Youth. There’s also fete-style fun – think three-legged races, tug-of-war and stalls – at the Village Mentality.
One to watch: electropop band Arthur Beatrice.
7-8 June, Victoria Park, London E3
End of the Road
Impromptu performances in magically lit woods, a woodland library, an intimate vibe, and a line-up catering for discerning fans of indie folk, alt-rock and Americana, make this boutique festival very special indeed. This year’s edition features The Flaming Lips, Wild Beasts, John Grant, St Vincent, Yo La Tengo and Stephen Malkmus, while members of Beach House, Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes come together to celebrate Gene Clark’s 1974 album, No Other.
One to watch: enchanting singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler.
29-31 August, Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset
In the Woods
The line-up of this tiny 1,000-ticket festival may be concealed until the week of the event, but that doesn’t put off loyal punters lured by the promise of the best new talent, that has in previous years included Lianne La Havas, Alt-J and Ghostpoet. Now in its ninth year, the winner of best independent festival 2013 is held in an enchanted secret woodland location in Kent, with immersive theatre, interactive games, pub quiz and art installations.
One to watch: pulsing indie electronica from Oxford band Glass Animals, the first signing on Paul Epworth’s Wolf Tone.
29-30 August, TBC, Kent
London’s best dance festival has M.I.A. co-headlining the Saturday with hip-hop star Nas, performing his debut album, Illmatic. There’s also Chase & Status, Bonobo, DJ and in-demand producer Tensnake, and a rare appearance from the Berlin techno supergroup Modeselektor and Apparat.
One to watch: LA newcomer Banks brings her fusion of R&B and electronic grooves.
18-19 July, Victoria Park, London
Reading and Leeds
The double-header still draws some of the biggest names in rock, with The Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Paramore, Blink-182, Jake Bugg, Bombay Bicycle Club and Vampire Weekend. There’s a dance stage, too.
One to watch: Kettering psych-rockers Temples.
22-24 August, Richfield Avenue, Reading; Bramham Park, Leeds
British Summer Time Hyde Park
Fans of pop, heavy rock and folk-rock are all catered for in the second edition of BST. The biggest coup is the reformed Libertines headlining on Saturday 5 July, while the heavy-rock devoted Friday 4 July is headlined by Black Sabbath and Soundgarden. Two further days, featuring McBusted, Tom Jones and Little Mix, will please pop fans, while Neil Young, Midlake and The National make for a stellar line-up on 12 July.
One to watch: Canada’s alt-rock act Half Moon Run meld rhythmic layers and harmonies.
4-6 July and 12-13 July, Hyde Park, London W2
If the idea of a “five-day summer camp” appeals more than a straight-up festival, this new bash is for you. Local star Ben Howard headlines, alongside Jack Johnson, Spiritualized and Amadou and Mariam. Take Exmoor or seaside excursions to surf and rock climb or stay onsite for yoga, late-night forest parties and campfire feasts.
One to watch: Birmingham grunge-pop band Swim Deep.
17-21 July, Castle Hill, North Devon
If you can brave rowdy crowds, non-gourmet food, and the blatant corporate takeover, V Festival is a stage to some of the biggest names in pop. Justin Timberlake and Ed Sheeran play one day, with The Killers and Lily Allen on the other, at the two venue, two-day bash. Blondie, Chic ft Nile Rogers and All Saints are also performing.
One to watch: young rock’n’rollers The Strypes.
16-17 August, Hylands Park, Chelmsford; Weston Park, Staffordshire
T in the Park
One of the UK’s biggest music festivals, with 85,000 festival-goers a day, this year’s line-up is topped by Biffy Clyro, Calvin Harris, Paolo Nutini and Arctic Monkeys. Don’t miss, either, the Pixies and Pharrell Williams on the Saturday.
One to watch: Cambridge band Lonely the Brave with their powerful, uplifting rock.
11-13 July, Balado airfield, Kinross-shire, Scotland
Wireless has spilled out of its London home and now shares its acts with Birmingham. It’s a battle of hip-hop superstars this year, with Kanye West and Drake both headlining, while Bruno Mars brings some pop relief. Outkast and Pharrell make guest appearances and Rudimental are also on the bill. Rap is the highlight – Iggy Azalea, Schoolboy Q and Angel Haze all take their place alongside pop stars Ellie Goulding and Robin Thicke.
One to watch: Classically trained musicians turned strings-and-beats-fusing chart-troublers Clean Bandit.
4-6 July, Finsbury Park, London N4; Perry Park, Birmingham
Bestival’s kid sister is one of the best for families. There are concerts for babies, a big top and bouncy castle for children, the new Teenarena, and Basement Jaxx, De La Soul, James and Johnny Marr for the parents. The theme is circus, and new this year is Project Wild Thing, a celebration of nature, with bird-watching, falconry and campfire cooking.
One to watch: fast-rising Nick Mulvey, the Portico Quartet founder member turned leftfield acoustic folkie
31 July-3 August, Lulworth Castle, Dorset
Isle of Wight
Rock heavyweights Red Hot Chili Peppers play their only UK performance of the year here, while Kings of Leon and Biffy Clyro also headline. Calvin Harris and Rudimental lead the dance contingent, and there’s pop from Travis, Katy B and Clean Bandit.
One to watch: Birmingham indie pop band Swim Deep.
12-15 June, Seaclose Park, Isle of Wight
The UK’s biggest festival has well and truly returned to its guitar-band roots, with Arcade Fire and Kasabian headlining, along with Metallica, the first ever metal band to take top billing in the festival’s 44-year history. Dolly Parton takes the afternoon legend slot, plus the Manic Street Preachers, Lily Allen, Jack White and The Black Keys. As ever, though, there’s something for everyone, with more than 2,000 acts on offer.
One to watch: exciting London duo Jungle.
25-29 June, Worthy Farm, Pilton
Hop Farm Music Festival
It’s all about legends at the revived Hop Farm, with Ray Davies & Band, Brian Wilson, Grace Jones and Echo and the Bunnymen on the bill. The veteran acts are bound to attract the more mature festival-goer – but there’s also a kids’ area, and the vintage fun fair, pottery-making and circus performers will appeal to everyone.
One to watch: Australia’s The Jezabels, for playful pop.
4-6 July, Paddock Wood, Kent
Indie-rock music finds its festival niche at 2000 Trees. Headliners include Blood Red Shoes, Frightened Rabbit and Band of Skulls, but watch out for gig scene favourites Tall Ships and Wolf Alice. 2000 Trees won grass-roots festival of the year in 2013. Expect plenty of skinny jeans and big hair.
One to watch: rising rockers Darlia
10-12 July, Upcote Farm, Withington, Cheltenham
Secret Garden Party
With its abundance of art installations, fancy dress costumes and face paint, Secret Garden Party is like a Burning Man festival in the English countryside. Music comes from Public Enemy, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Little Dragon and Morcheeba. Party until dawn at the dance stages, or hop aboard an art boat for a ride around the lake.
One to watch: Danish electropop singer Mø has a rep for high-energy performances.
24-27 July, Mill Hill Field, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon
This excellent value two-dayer and favourite with students has a dance, rap and pop-heavy line-up, with Snoop Dogg, Foals, Bastille, Rudimental, Kendrick Lamar, Disclosure, Soul II Soul, London Grammar, Chromeo, Bonobo, Nero, Moderat, Carl Cox and SBTRKT.
One to watch: indie band Childhood
7-8 June, Heaton Park, Manchester
The best festival for families celebrates its 10th year, with Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats, The Levellers, The Stranglers, 10cc’s Graham Gouldman, Lee Thompson of Madness and Newton Faulkner for the parents, and a literature festival for the children. Theatre, workshops and crafts are for all the family.
One to watch: Champs, an Isle of Wight folk-rock band with winsome melodies.
30 May-1 June, Cheltenham Racecourse
All the biggest names in dance music will feature at Global Gathering this year, from David Guetta to The Prodigy, Tinie Tempah to Chase and Status, as well as a host of chart newbies such as Gorgon City. With 16 stages, this is one of Europe’s biggest dance festivals. The VIP offerings and luxury camping suggest Ibiza in Stratford-upon-Avon.
One to watch: hot electro production duo Gorgon City.
25-26 July, Long Marston Airfield, Stratford-upon-Avon
One of the most civilised festivals of the season, Wilderness bills itself as a “celebration of nature and the arts”. A small but tasteful music line-up includes Metronomy, Burt Bacharach, London Grammar, Sam Smith and Joan as Policewoman, and this year’s exclusive musical fusion, Jessie Ware performing with the Wilderness Orchestra, is bound to be a highlight. The Oxford Shakespeare Company presents As You Like It, and there are banquets with top-name chefs and a cookery school. Try outdoor activities including fly-fishing, woodland foraging and wild swimming, then relax in the wood-fired hot-tubs at the lakeside spa.
One to watch: New Zealand’s Connan Mockasin for skewed psych-pop
7-10 August, Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire
Bestival’s customary hedonistic party vibe and fancy dress will be in full force again on the Isle of Wight, with this year’s theme of Desert Island Disco. The complementary line-up includes big draw Outkast with their exclusive UK festival headline show, Chic ft Nile Rodgers and Candi Staton – and Foals, Beck and Busta Rhymes are also on the bill.
One to watch: Cousin Marnie for sparse tribal beats and earworm folky melodies.
4-7 September, Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight
Europe’s biggest rock and metal festival fights competition from its rival Sonisphere this year with headliners Aerosmith, Avenged Sevenfold and Linkin Park, performing their debut album, Hybrid Theory. The 140-plus bands include Fall Out Boy, Status Quo and The Offspring.
One to watch: ferocious rock duo Royal Blood, channelling Led Zeppelin and Queens of the Stone Age with just bass and drums.
13-15 June, Donington Park, Leicestershire
The champagne flows at this festival, known as “Poshstock” for its clientele that has included David and Samantha Cameron – and there’s a curious traditional music festival-meets-village fete vibe. You won’t find anything cutting-edge on the family-friendly line-up, but there are plenty of big names, including Jools Holland, Simple Minds, Tom Jones, Suzanne Vega, The Feeling and Arrested Development.
One to watch: New country duo The Shires.
4-6 July The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire
Winner of best medium festival last year, Kendal Calling’s home is in the rolling hills of the Lake District, where it keeps its intimate, independent vibe with the homely charm of a local fair. There’s plenty on offer for nostalgia fans, with Suede, Happy Mondays and De La Soul, while Miles Kane, Frank Turner, Example and Tom Odell are also on the eclectic bill.
One to watch: 18-year-old Blackpool singer and Bombay Bicycle Club collaborator Rae Morris.
1-3 August, Lowther Deer Park, Lake District
Billed as the “family-friendly festival for forward-thinking music fans”, there are plenty of hip acts this year, with 2ManyDJs, Sleigh Bells, Hercules and Love Affair and Tune-Yards. Top young folk artists include Nick Mulvey and Johnny Flynn. Activities include a mini golf course, craft village, and the Angel Gardens for young families. New this year is The Larch, a stage devoted to emerging folk and acoustic acts by day, which transforms into a late-night swing dance hall; and the blissful-sounding spa, with its red cedar wood hot tubs and saunas.
One to watch: Uplifting indie synth-pop from Thumpers.
5-6 July, Vicarage Farm, Hampshire
Every act performing at this year’s festival wears their country of origin loudly and proudly. Womad is billed as the World’s Festival, as shown by the huge span of nationalities performing. From Nigeria there is Afrikan Boy, from Ukraine, Dakhabrakha – and the brilliant (and French) Francois & The Atlas Mountains. Womad also offers workshops, a global market, the Taste the World stage, where artists cook their native dishes, and a strong message of acceptance.
One to watch: Welsh language band and Gruff Rhys collaborators 9Bach.
24-27 July Charlton Park, WiltshireReuse content