A people-watcher's guide to festivals and festival-goers

The UK is alive with festivals: musical, literary, foodie and more. Alice-Azania Jarvis identifies some of the exotic sub-species to be spotted in these summer habitats. Illustration: Simon Spilsbury
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The Independent Culture

1: T in the Park

Legend has it that, when the sun comes out in Scotland, the entire male population dons T-shirts and drinks Irn Bru.

People-watchers will find no better place to observe this phenomenon than at T in the Park, Scotland's premiere music festival. Parklifers, who favour headliners of the meaty, beaty variety, are thought to be attracted by the blue-and-white flags. They enjoy insisting loudly that "T" is better than Glastonbury.

9-11 July, Balado Park near Kinross, Scotland

2: Ludlow Food Festival

Ludlow's Goodtime Gourmets may be recognised by their reverence for such basic items as pork pies or broad beans. These mainly placid urban foodies can become agitated when confronted with non-organic foodstuffs and may show signs of polite confusion when farmers to whom they have asked erudite questions respond in non-urban accents. If they're lucky, Monty Don might act as translator.

10-12 September, Ludlow, Shropshire

3: Tewkesbury

Mediaeval re-enactment enthusiasts spend much of the year in hiding, for fear of social persecution. Tewkesbury offers a rare chance to behold the History Boys in their natural habitat: Europe's largest mediaeval "fayre". Dress inconspicuously here, so as not to frighten the creatures; it is not unusual for them to be armed.

Saturday 10 to Sunday 11 July , Lincoln Green Lane in Tewkesbury town centre, Gloucestershire

4: Wychwood

Wychwood Wonders flock to this charming Cheltenham weekend because – they never tire of saying – "it's the most family friendly festival in the universe" and "so much easier than Glastonbury when you've got the little ones with you." There's also a feeling (rarely articulated) that there's a slightly better class of person here. They even sell organic lemonade – and it's all sponsored by Waitrose! Bliss.

4-6 June, Cheltenham race course, Gloucestershire

5: Hay-on-Wye

Several sub-species – collectively known as the Hay Stack – converge each summer on this famous gathering: North London Literati; Fashionistas; Book Groupies; Chattering Classicists. You might catch the occasional self-congratulatory cry of a Nicholas Cleggola. No one has yet discovered whether these creatures come here for the literary wisdom, or simply to see and be seen.

27 May to 6 June, Hay-on-Wye

6: Cheltenham Jazz Festival

The Cheltenham Civiliser can be recognised by its repeated cry: "Goodness, how civilised!" And, indeed, civilisation cannot have achieved that many peaks higher than a festival where jazz lovers get together and toast the Great British Summer. It's also an excuse for grandpa to don his panama hat and ask after Jamie Cullum's wife.

Barclays Cheltenham Jazz Festival (28 April–3 May) and HSBC Cheltenham Music Festival (2–17 July), Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

7: Womad

For the Womad Nomad, life's overriding priority is one's global understanding through the medium of dress. The finest specimens aim for something for each continent. Peruvian hat? Good. Namibian sandals? Top marks. Ukulele from Camden market? Go on then. Deodorant, by contrast, is by no means obligatory, while Coca-Cola is considered downright offensive. Sounds such as "Salif Keita", "Cheikh Lô" and "Tony Allen", can often be discerned in the Nomad's complex cries, along with – allegedly – "Rolf Harris".

23-25 July, Charlton Park, Wiltshire

8: Glastonbury

Evolution has turned the Glastonberry into one of the most multi-formed species on the festival landscape. Types range from neon-wigged ravers to be-trilbied tweedsters. The essential rule seems to be: if in doubt, dress like Kate Moss. Even if you're a man. Famous specimens (in additon to Ms Moss) include Lily Allen, Damon Albarn, Michael Eavis, and a – be-trilbied Andrew Marr. This year's festival may also see the appearance of a new subspecies: the disgruntled U2 fan.

23-27 June, Worthy Farm, Pilton

9: Serenata Boutique Art Fair

Despite all evidence to the contrary (Aldeburgh, The Cheltenham Music Festival), organisers of the Serenata Festival insist it is Britain's first-ever classical music festival. Don't argue. Indulge them, and enjoy the spectacle of the Serenartists: casual art collectors (identifiable by their media glasses, polo shirt, rare Peter Blake prints, etc) who flock to the partnering art fair.

26-28 August, Smedmore Estate Wareham, Dorset

10: Bestival

Bestival encourages visitors to sport fancy dress for their three-day Isle of Wight excursion. Bestivalists – a kind of Hipster-Trustafarian cross – find this handy for disguising aristo bone structures as heroin chic (though not so handy for all-weather protection). The setting is idyllic. But wait, is that a hen party? Ugh, we are so not coming next year.

9-12 September, Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight

11: Hampton Court Palace

Far from the inebriated masses of Glastonbury, Hampton Courtesans – ladies of a certain age from, generally, Home Counties villages – don dresses and Marks & Spencer sunglasses to take in the sunset delights of Jools Holland and Simply Red. Gents, think summer casual. And may we recommend the picnic hampers? They're Villandry – natch!

8 June-19 June, Hampton Court Palace, Surrey

12: Goodwood Festival of Speed

Watching Top Gear is like going to the zoo. Yes, you can gawp at the petrol-heads, but remember – it's not their natural state. At Goodwood, by contrast, you can see how at least one branch of the species – the Goodwoodentop – behaves away from the cameras, the scripts and the production crews. Marvel at its hoarse bray, and its balding, corduroyed glory. You might even get to touch one. If you do, we recommend Jenson Button.

2-4 July Goodwood, Chichester

13: Great British Beer Festival

Comedy hat? Check. Pint of real ale? Check. Many of the essentials for the Great British Beer festival await your purchase at every other stall of this Camra event. For the rest – beard, beer belly, Y-chromosome – it's best to bring your own. This gloriously basic celebration of ale, cider and perry is the spiritual home of the Pub Landlord, but also attracts foreign exchange students. Women are welcome – really.

3-7 August, Earls Court, London

14: 'V' Festival

No, you haven't wandered on to the set of Hollyoaks. This is "V", where a certain kind of festival-goer – the V-Type – gets to be a pop fan without fear of ridicule and/or of accidentally drifting into the death metal enclosure. Fake tan is crucial, but rumours of the grass being covered by plastic are, we're told, no more than rumours. Queen of this year's event will be Cheryl Cole, with a special mention (for dedication) to Jack Tweed.

21-22 August, Hylands Park in Chelmsford, Essex, and Weston Park in South Staffordshire

15: Edinburgh

Edinburgh Extroverts flock to the various aspects of the annual festival as predictably as swallows to summer Britain. Their guiding principle seems to be: if you're not in a show, pretend to be. And if anyone feels that sitting in an attic above a church at quarter to midnight watching the latest in avant-garde performance tricycle doesn't really count as fun, well, tough. From the louche to the luvvie, the species comes in many forms. Just don't expect to meet any locals. You wont.

13 August-5 September, Edinburgh

16: Leeds/Reading

How can a festival be in two places, 216 miles apart? The clue is in the shared culture. Ritual campsite arson (not endorsed in these pages) has become a virtual rite of passage for inebriated teens on both sites. For the average Reading Rioter, Reading/Leeds is their first festival, boasting a healthy mix of indie, rock and metal. This year's should be a bumper edition, with a one-off headline performance from The Libertines – which is sure to provide a model for mature behaviour. Flaming gas canisters ahoy!

27-29 August, Richfield Avenue, Reading/ Bramham Park, Leeds

17: Cropredy Convention

You don't have to have a beard to be a Cropredy Crusty, but it probably helps. This is a folk festival for proper folk folk (as it were); those whose idea of the genre is limited to Noah and the Whale may feel more at home at Latitude. Essential Cropredy checklist: straw hat, campervan, sensible shoes. Morris Dancers welcome.

Fairport's Cropredy Convention, 12-14 August, Cropredy, near Banbury, Oxfordshire

18. Woodstock

Sponsored by this newspaper, Woodstock is to Hay what Latitude is to Glastonbury: smaller, cooler and with an infinitely more discerning clientele – namely, the gentle, thoughtful, Independent-reading Woodstock Wanderer. Attractions include literary luminaries from right across the publishing industry, including some that you may recognise from these very pages.

16 September to 19 September, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

19. Cornbury

Don't be fooled by the Elvis impersonator up front. True Cornbury Campers (of either sex) are best identified by their faded T-shirts and khaki shorts. A relaxed affair – also sponsored by The Independent – Cornbury expects little in the way of fairy wings or funny wigs from its attendees. Embrace this. A Northface windcheater is ideal all-weather camouflage. Mini-campers are also welcome at the event's "magical carnival."

3-4 July, Cornbury Park, Charlbury, Oxfordshire

20: Latitude

Vaguely folky Suffolk affair, many of whose Latitudinarian adherents are drawn from the suddenly time-rich ranks of New Labour. Last year's visitors to the "thinking man's Glastonbury" were treated to the sight of the then Culture Minister Ben Bradshaw rocking out to Grace Jones. This year, observers of the species hope to see a dominance contest between leadership rivals David and Ed Miliband. (But which one has the best music taste? Our money's on Ed.)

15-19 July, Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk (www.latitudefestival.co.uk)

21: Aldeburgh

The superannuated aristocrat of British music festivals, Aldeburgh – founded in 1945 – attracts its own breed of elderly purist. The Classical Brit, immaculately dressed and behaved, shuns the Suffolk sunshine for the acoustic delights of Snape Maltings or the austere pews of the local churches. No raised voices or over-exuberance, please: this is musical appreciation at its most erudite.

11-27 June, various venues, East Suffolk

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