Here comes the summer! Your guide to the best festivals of 2011

From U2 at Glastonbury to film and theatre under the stars, literature at Woodstock and the boutique beauty of Green Man, a great summer awaits. Elisa Bray selects the highlights
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The Independent Culture



It will be hard to top Glastonbury's 40th anniversary triumph last year. This year's curveball comes in the form of pop star Beyoncé, bringing some glamour to the closing night, while U2 are here to perform the show that was replaced by Gorillaz last year and Coldplay bring their stadium indie-rock to the Pyramid Stage on Saturday. But Glastonbury is not just about the main stage: Tinie Tempah, Paul Simon, Laura Marling, B B King, Mumford and Sons, The Chemical Brothers, Queens of the Stone Age, Pendulum and Morrissey are a few of the other acts appearing across the vast site.

Worthy Farm, Pilton ( www.glastonbury 22-26 June, £195

T in the Park

This riotous festival grows every year, and now 180 acts will perform across the Balado Airfield, including Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Pulp, My Chemical Romance and Plan B. T is a party festival where attractions include a ferris wheel, the Wild River Log Flume and a bungee ball, plus Fancy Dress Friday.

Balado, Kinross-shire, Scotland ( 8-10 July, £155


Amidst the fancy dress, expect to see The Cure's only 2011 European festival performance along with P J Harvey, The Maccabees, Fatboy Slim, Katy B, DJ Shadow and The Drums. Expect a hedonistic vibe at the three-day festival at leafy Robin Hill, and fan favourites such as the Bollywood Tent, where party-going revellers will be able to enjoy the Pink Flamingo Cocktail Bar, and wind down at the Pamper Lounge.

Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight, ( 8-11 September, £170

Isle of Wight

The sleepy island's biggest event is steeped in history since 1968. This year sees Kings of Leon, Kasabian, and the Foo Fighters rocking up Seaclose Park, as well as Pulp, Beady Eye, Iggy and the Stooges, The Courteeners, Plan B and special guest Jeff Beck.

Seaclose Park, Newport ( 10-12 June, £175


Offering the ultimate music-loving party experience, with a massive beer garden, food stalls, chill-out areas and interactive games, Wireless is more hedonistic than its indie counterparts. The Black Eyed Peas, Pulp, The Chemical Brothers, Plan B, Chase and Status, Tinie Tempah, The Streets and Grace Jones are all performing.

Hyde Park, London ( www.wireless 1-3 July, £142

V Festival

For the pop chart followers, V offers stomping headline action from Rihanna and Eminem one night, and Arctic Monkeys and Plan B the other, with Dizzee Rascal, Kaiser Chiefs, Duran Duran, Manic Street Preachers, Razorlight and Jessie J also appearing. It's also perfect for day trippers who don't want to camp.

Weston Park, Staffordshire and Hylands Park, Chelmsford ( 20-21 August, £149


With a track record for snagging exclusive headliners, Reading and Leeds is the ultimate festival for young alternative rockers. This year boasts double-headliners The Strokes and Pulp, plus fellow headliners My Chemical Romance and Muse. Elbow, Interpol, The National, Two Door Cinema Club, Friendly Fires, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Deftones will also appear.

Bramham Park, Leeds and Richfield Avenue, Reading ( and 26-28 August, £192.50



Nominated for best family festival at the UK Festival Awards every single year running for its ever-expanding children's literary festival, which this year features Judith Kerr, the 100s of arts workshops, and mask-making which culminates in a colourful parade through the festival. Traditionally folk and world music-leaning, Eliza Carthy, Ian Anderson playing Jethro Tull, Afrobeat band Baraka and Afro Celtic dance band Baka Beyond collide with big names from the indie world The Charlatans and The Bluetones playing old hits in one of their last ever performances. There's also performance poetry from John Cooper Clarke, and comedy from Robin Ince.

Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury, Cheltenham ( 3-5 June from £115

Secret Garden

The most imaginative among the festivals sees arts, music and fancy-dress costumes go hand in hand. You'll feel out of place if you're not wearing fairy wings, and as well as a hay-bale play pen and dazzling circus performers, expect art boats that will take festival-goers around the lake, and tunnelled labyrinths. Music is an eclectic mix including Leftfield, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Mystery Jets, Guillemots, The Bees, Mylo and I Am Kloot. The kids' area is an entire land for young gardeners, featuring egg hunts, kite flying, circus shows and workshops, jewellery-making and karaoke.

Mill Hill Field, Cambridgeshire ( 21-24 July, £155

Standon Calling

This year's "Gods and Monsters" theme is bound to influence the stages, set design, installations, interactive theatre and costumes. In addition to performances from Spiritualized, Battles, Penguin Café, John Cooper Clarke and Saul Williams, there is also the option of enjoying a nightclub in a cowshed or a dip in the onsite swimming pool. You'll find an arts and crafts area for children featuring painting, drawing, playdough and mural-making.

Standon, Hertfordshire ( 11-14 August , £120

Summer Sundae

Set in De Montfort Hall in the city centre (so camping is not essential and there are decent facilities), Summer Sundae's friendly vibe is matched by the family-friendly acts. It showcases emerging talent in bluegrass, folk, and electronica over six stages, along with established acts such as The Maccabees, Toots and the Maytals, The Jim Jones Revue, Kitty Daisy & Lewis, Teddy Thompson, The Phantom Band and Example. There is also high-calibre comedy with a line-up including Rob Rouse and Abandoman, while the Kidzone, curated by The Spark Children's Arts Festival, will allow the younger members of the audience to partake in Victorian games, create disguises, and embark on a treasure hunt.

De Montfort Hall, Leicester ( 12-14 August, £115

The Big Chill

Children enjoy a fun-packed mini festival of their own at the Boutique Babysitting kids club, housed in two large, climate-controlled tipis, where fully qualified childcare professionals are on hand to lead children on a magical festival journey with a range of age-specific activities, including experimenting with their own music studios, production, wardrobe and stage areas. With a UK festival exclusive from headliner Kanye West, also expect to see The Chemical Brothers, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Empire of the Sun, Neneh Cherry, Calvin Harris and Janelle Monáe.

Eastnor Castle, Deer Park, Hertfordshire ( 4-7 August, £165

Camp Bestival

The baby sister to Bestival features Primal Scream presenting Screamadelica, Blondie, Laura Marling and ABC for the parents, with Mark Ronson and Katy B catering to the teens. The little ones can enjoy the outdoor play area's space-hoppers, hula hoops, crazy bikes, and circus skills, talent show and disco. Fun for all the family is to be had at circus shows from the 50ft Big Top and interactive shows from the Treehouse Theatre Company, as well as at the Insect Circus Stage and Bollywood Tent; comedy, spoken word, a crafts marquee, fireworks and theatre in the woods also feature. Zingzillas will have the children singing along.

Lulworth Castle, Dorset ( 28-31 July, £170


You won't find the biggest names in pop at this intimate family event, but plenty of boutique and luxury options. Tricky, Frank Turner, and SixNationState will headline, with Andy Burrows (I Am Arrows), Gold Panda, Dub Pistols and The Jim Jones Revue also performing. Activities for children include a storytelling appearance from CBeebies' Katy Ashworth, family arts and crafts, juggling and circus workshops, puppet shows, hula-hooping, magicians and book reading with the children's author and illustrator Elissa Elwick.

Vicarage Farm, Winchester ( www.bliss 30 June-3 July, £65


The premiere festival for world music now takes place from Spain to Abu Dhabi. The Afrobeat pioneering legend Baaba Maal, Mexican lightning-speed guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, Bellowhead, Johnny Depp's band of choice Taraf de Haidouks, and Manchester's I Am Kloot play. When they're not on stage, artists are giving cooking demonstrations of their native dishes in the Taste the World tent, while new this year is the Human Library.

Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire ( 28-31 July, £135



Run by the people behind the giant Cream nightclub, the impressive dance line up includes Ferry Cortsten, Eddie Halliwell, Judge Jules, Steve Angello and Erol Alkan along with UK festival exclusives from Tiësto and Paul Van Dyke.

Daresbury, Cheshire ( 26-28 August, £135


A bit of a glitch meant they had to change venues, but Glade return smaller this year with headliners Trentemøller, Drumcode Records and Global Communication. Also confirmed are Andrew Weatherall, Photek and Dreadzone.

Old Warden Park, Bedfordshire ( 10-12 June, £135


The musically experimental can expect to see Jamie XX, Guy Called Gerald, DJ Format & Friends, Kollektiv Turmstrasse, Round Table Knights, Phil Kieran (live), Lee Foss, Max Cooper (live), Zeds Dead, Perc and Chris Coco.

Anglesey, Wales ( 30 June-3 July, £80

South West Four

London's electronica festival welcomes headliners Underworld and Pendulum as well as Magnetic Man, Sven Väth, Sasha, Laurent Garnier, and Eric Prydz, playing for the first time as Cirez D. John Digweed, Laidback Luke and Pete Tong are also confirmed.

Clapham Common, London ( 27-28 August, £85

Global Gathering

The giant of dance festivals takes place all over the world. In an airfield in the midst of the Cotswolds, Pendulum, Tinie Tempah, Chase and Status, Underworld, Eric Prydz, Professor Green, Beardyman, Jaguar Skills, Sasha and Stanton Warriors all perform.

Long Marston Airfield, Warwickshire ( 29-30 July, £99



With a theme of New Gods: Icons and Ideas in a Changed World, the philosophy and music festival holds powerful talks and fiery debates "examining the big ideas that are set to shape the world in the coming decades" where leading thinkers mix with cutting-edge musicians. This year will be bigger than ever before, with more than 350 events, plus live performances, comedy nights and film screenings. Thinkers and writer appearances include Philip Pullman, Vince Cable, A C Grayling, Simon Armitage, Jez Butterworth, Emilia Fox and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

Hay on Wye ( 26 May-5 June, tickets vary

Woodstock Literary Festival

At the end of the summer, Woodstock's celebration of all things literary takes place in venues around the town and at Blenheim Palace itself. National and international figures gather to talk about their books and literary heroes, debate major cultural, political or social issues, and lecture on a host of topics.

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire ( 15-18 September

Althorp Literary Festival

Hearing famous authors in the setting of one of England's best-loved historic houses has proved to be a winning combination, and in its eighth year, the programme includes Larkin' Around, The Antonius Players' exploration of Philip Larkin's work; Gordon Campbell's history of the genesis (as it were), the construction, and the effect of the King James version of the Bible; and a performance of the internationally acclaimed one-man show A Step Out of Time from West End director, actor, poet, author and illustrator Sir Timothy Ackroyd.

Althorp, Northampton ( literaryfestival) 10-12 June, single session tickets £12

Port Eliot

Set in the grounds of the ancient south-east Cornwall estate, this primarily literary festival will see appearances from Hanif Kureishi, John Cooper Clarke, Peep Show's Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, Rosie Boycott, AC Grayling. Martin Scorsese has chosen the films for the outdoor cinema, which include The Red Shoes, All about Eve and Murder on the Orient Express. Music comes from British Sea Power, Bellowhead, Andrew Weatherall and Caitlin Rose.

St Germans, Cornwall ( 21-24 July, £140


Cheltenham Open-Air Theatre Festival

Inspiring Shakespearean performances are on offer with the Rain or Shine Theatre company performing Much Ado about Nothing and Heartbreak Productions' The Taming of the Shrew, while the critically acclaimed company The Pantaloons will bring Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to life. Evening entertainment includes a screening of the cult musical classic Little Shop of Horrors.

Tuckwell Amphitheatre, Cheltenham ( 17-30 July, £4-£16

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

The only permanent professional outdoor theatre in Britain has a line-up of plays for all the family and a warm atmosphere. The opening play is Lord of the Flies, followed by a reworking of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera with Punchdrunk's choreographer Maxine Doyle. Plus, Shakespeare's Pericles reimagined for children over six, and Gershwin's Crazy for You.

Regent's Park, London ( now to 10 September, £14-£49.50

Everyman Summer Theatre Festival

The Pirates of Penzance, one of Gilbert & Sullivan's best-loved operettas, has been re-vamped and re-scored for this year's festival. Family-friendly entertainment is also on offer by way of a Beano-inspired performance of Ken Campbell's Old King Cole.

St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff ( 6-30 July, £11 per show

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival

This festival prides itself on stripping away unnecessary theatrical artifice, aiming to provide access to works without assuming any prior knowledge of the author or play in question. Comedies and tragedies including A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, All's Well That Ends Well and Romeo and Juliet will be performed in full period costume, with live Elizabethan music across venues and University Colleges.

Various locations, Cambridge ( 11 July- 27 August, £15 per show



Aldeburgh offers concerts, operas, masterclasses, films and open-air performances at different venues in the Aldeburgh/Snape area. London Sinfonietta and Exaudi make return visits, and there are major premieres by Elliott Carter, Harrison Birtwistle and the composers Peter Eötvös and Marco Stroppa. The Britten-Pears Orchestra will work with Pekka Kuusisto and Sir Colin Davis, preparing performances of Britten, Tippett and Mozart, and Jean-Guihen Queyras performs all the Britten Cello Suites over the course of a day that also includes the premiere screening of John Bridcut's film about Rostropovich.

Aldeburgh, Suffolk ( 10-26 June, prices vary

BBC Proms

It's not an open-air festival, but it is the largest classical-music festival in the world. Highlights include the Proms' first complete performance of Swan Lake, Rossini's William Tell conducted by Antonio Pappano, Glyndebourne Festival Opera bringing Handel's Rinaldo to the Royal Albert Hall, plus Nigel Kennedy. Events such as Gustavo Dudamel and the Simó* Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and Verdi's Requiem may have sold out immediately, but you can always Prom on the day for £5.

Royal Albert Hall, London ( 15 July-10 September, from £5

Garsington Opera

In its new home at the gardens of an English country estate set in rolling parkland, Garsington Opera shows three operas for one month. It has always championed rarely performed works in addition to the greats, and this year sees productions of Vivaldi's La Verita in Cimento, Mozart's The Magic Flute and Rossini's Il Turco in Italia.

Wormsley Estate, Chiltern Hills ( 2 June-5 July, £90-£155

Glyndebourne Festival

The grand opera festival opens with a new production of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The shows taking place at the 1,200-seat opera house will be a new production of Handel's Rinaldo and revivals of Mozart's Don Giovanni, Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, Dvorák's Rusalka and Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw.

Lewes, East Sussex ( 21 May-28 August, £10-£250



The stunning panorama of the Highlands will be your view at this high-energy festival, which caters to dance and indie fans. Watch Paolo Nutini, The Chemical Brothers, Kasabian, Glasvegas, The Cribs, Magnetic Man, Mark Ronson DJing and DJ Shadow perform on the banks of Loch Ness. Rising bands and comedy are to be found in the pub Howard's End, with Never Mind the Buzzcocks's Sean Hughes.

Clunes Farm, Loch Ness ( 10-12 June, £149

Lounge on the Farm

It may be tiny – the festival has doubled this year to 4,000 guests – but it has a decent line-up, with The Streets, Ellie Goulding and Echo and the Bunnymen headlining. The Vaccines, Example, Katy B, Cornershop and Cast are also on the bill, with Phil Kay and Sean Hughes forming the comedy line-up and a tent dedicated to theatre and performance from Canterbury's The Players. As it's held on a working farm, expect to mingle with some furry four-legged festival-goers.

Merton Farm, Canterbury ( 8-10 July, £105

Hop Farm

Held in the middle of a field, with no sponsorship, branding or VIP frippery, the small Hop Farm keeps it all about the music. Last year Bob Dylan was the draw, and this year is no less starry, with Prince's first UK show in four years, a UK festival exclusive. Other acts include Morrissey, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Iggy and the Stooges and Brandon Flowers.

Paddock Wood, Kent ( 1-2 July, £130


Feis took over from the Irish Fleadh festivals taking place at Finsbury Park from 1990-2004. With Vince Power at its helm, the founder of the Mean Fiddler Group and the festival supremo behind the Hop Farm and the Spanish Benicassim festivals, it combines the best of Irish music. It boasts the one UK festival performance from Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Christy Moore with Declan Sinnott, the reformed Cranberries, The Gaslight Anthem, Imelda May, The Waterboys, The Undertones, Thin Lizzy and Clannad.

Finsbury Park, London ( 18-19 June, £120

Underage Festival

Founded in 2007 by the then 14-year-old Sam Kilcoyne, who was fed up with being too young to get into gigs, Underage lives up to its name by admitting only 13- to 17-year-olds (except for the performers) – and definitely no parents. Teenagers will see performances by Devlin, Miles Kane, Maverick Sabre, Janelle Monáe and Crystal Fighters. There's a curfew of 8pm.

Victoria Park, London ( www.underage 5 August, £25


Known as Poshstock for its clientele, which last year included David Cameron, its sizeable VIP following and its former setting on the 6,500-acre Cornbury estate owned by Lord and Lady Rotherwick, Cornbury has moved to a new location in the Cotswolds for its eighth year. James Blunt, Ray Davies, The Faces fronted by Mick Hucknall, and Status Quo are on the line-up. The village green offers country fete-inspired rides and entertainment.

Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire ( 1-3 July, £160


End of the Road

Living up to its name in terms of its late-summer timing and location in beautiful secluded gardens, with just a 5,000-person capacity End of the Road is one of the most intimate events. It also boasts the best alt-country and folk line-up with Joanna Newsom, Beirut, Midlake, Laura Marling, Mogwai, The Walkmen and Wild Beasts. Entertainment includes art installations, comedy, cinema, a woodland library, a forest dance floor, a Victorian piano stage and Scrabble Sunday.

Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset ( 2-4 September, £145

Green Man

Boasting one of the festival calendar's most stunning locations in the heart of the Brecon Beacons, Green Man also has one of the music calendar's highlights in headliners Fleet Foxes. Explosions in the Sky, Noah and the Whale, Villagers and The Low Anthem will also all play sets that allow artists more time. Films, kids' workshops, comedy, a ceilidh and an all-night bonfire also feature.

Glanusk Park, Brecon ( 19-21 August, £135

Sunrise Celebration

Pioneering the possibility of festivals being truly green and sustainable, Sunrise is powered by renewable fuel. Performers include Johnny Flynn, Lamb and The Orb.

Bruton, Somerset ( 2-5 June, £130


It's not just a music festival: a commitment to performance arts has helped Latitude grow from a few thousand to 25,000 people in its six years. Alongside top indie acts Paolo Nutini, The National and in their one UK festival appearance, Suede, you'll find ballet from the English National Ballet and Sadler's Wells on the lakefront, plus shows from the Gate, Bush and Lyric Theatres. Comedy and a decent literary bill are also on offer.

Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk ( 14-17 July, £170


Field Day

A long way from its initial teething problems with the sound and queues, Field Day has become one of the hippest dates on the musical calendar. The Coral, Willy Mason, Wild Beasts, Villagers, Gruff Rhys and Anna Calvi are the established and rising talent at this one-dayer, while the Village Mentality area on the Village Green offers a mix of country pastimes-inspired traditional side stalls and fete games (think tombola and coconut shy).

Victoria Park, London ( 6 August, £39.50

Eden Sessions

The Eden Project's gardens provide a natural amphitheatre for watching bands. Each of the five nights this year is perfectly curated, with Primal Scream and the Horrors on the opening night, followed by Brandon Flowers supported by Mystery Jets, plus the majestic Fleet Foxes with support from the Mercury Prize-nominated Villagers and indie-rockers The Bees. Tickets include entry the day and the day after the gig to the Eden Project, which includes the world's largest greenhouse and is not to be missed.

Eden Project, Cornwall ( 23 June-12 July, £37.50 each night

Hard Rock Calling

The stand-out day is the Friday, when The Killers play their first show in two years – the first time the band perform together since their frontman Brandon Flowers's chart-topping solo album. Expect the hits from their three studio albums. Kaiser Chiefs support, while Bon Jovi and Rod Stewart are the headliners on the other two days.

Hyde Park, London ( 24-26 June, £49.50 per day


Now in its fourth year, the event sees seven shows in the city centre from giants of the rap and rock world Primal Scream, The Specials, Plan B, Elbow and Dizzee Rascal.

Custom House Square, Belfast ( 16-27 August, from £29


Scissor Sisters, Robyn, Beth Ditto and Blondie are on Sunday's strong bill, while the rest of the weekend features The Wombats, Snoop Dogg, Beardyman, Jessie J, Lykke Li and The Drums, among others.

Victoria Park, London ( 15-17 July, day tickets from £28.50

The Parklife Weekender

Because of its tremendous sell-out success last year, Parklife was doubled to a two-day event. Chase and Status, Caribou, Battles, Katy B, DJ Shadow and Mark Ronson.

Platt Fields Park, Fallowfield, Manchester ( 11-12 June, £35 a day, weekend £58.50


Cinema Under the Stars

Watch your favourite films under the stars with a picnic in the grounds of the Duke of Northumberland's London home. Screenings take place in the park's gardens, a huge, Grade-I listed landscape designed by Capability Brown in the 18th century.

Syon Park, Brentford, Middlesex ( 18-21 August

Film4 Summer Screen

A highlight of the summer calendar, featuring everything from special previews to cult classics, all showing on a state-of-the-art screen with full surround-sound. This year's films include The Big Blue, Chinatown, Die Hard and The Spy Who Loved Me. The young and hip crowd sit on rugs with picnics, in the enclosed courtyard. DJs spin the decks before the film starts, when it gets dark at about 9.15pm.

Somerset House, London ( 28 July-7 August

Dream gig: The first time I played Glastonbury

By Harry McVeigh, singer, White Lies

The first time I played Glastonbury I was terrified. We played in 2009 so it was five months after our first album came out. We played to 50,000 people and we'd never played any festivals that size and it was nerve-wracking. It didn't help that we had the one year in ages that Glastonbury was sunny, and the sun was shining right in our eyes. It made it an intimidating experience, but I'm looking forward to playing there the second time; we are perhaps more used to playing to festival crowds that size. It's really exciting.

We are playing much later than we did the previous year – I think we've got a sunset slot, which should be amazing. As with most bands we are going to try and do something special for Glastonbury and it's always good when you work hard and you can deliver something people aren't expecting. Because it's such a huge festival, the whole of the UK turns towards Glastonbury when it's on. It's a really important event for all bands.

I was blown away by the size of it. Me, my friends and us as a band always went to Reading. I remember seeing Queens of the Stone Age, a band that I still love who informed my early music taste, certainly in terms of rock. Glastonbury is more eclectic than that. It was such a great moment when we first played Reading as that was the first time that we could really picture ourselves on the stages we had watched when we were growing up. It was like a dream come true.

You can really tell if a band is talented at playing live if you watch them at a festival. You have no time to sound check, so you literally turn up with your gear and walk on stage and play, and if stuff goes wrong then you have to deal with it as you go. In 2009 we watched Deus play at Latitude festival – the singer's guitar kept breaking and he was changing guitars mid-singing. It was amazing that he managed to maintain his composure. They are effortlessly cool anyway, but that really made me realise they were amazingly gifted.