The 50 Best festivals
There's no Glastonbury this year, but that doesn't mean your summer has to be a music washout. Elisa Bray and Jenny Stevens preview the season's hottest tickets
Elisa Bray is Music Editor of the Independent. She has been a festival-goer since 16 and has judged the prestigious Mercury Prize. This summer she is especially looking forward to Wilco at Wilderness.
Jenny Stevens is Deputy News Editor of NME magazine (nme.co.uk) and has written for the Independent and The Quietus. The first festival she ever attended was Electric Picnic in Ireland.
Brighton's annual three-week festival of arts has classical music highlights the Jerusalem Quartet, British bass and Grammy winner Matthew Rose, and pianist Steven Osborne. Don't miss guest director Vanessa Redgrave opening the festival with a celebration of her life.
Details: 5-27 May, from £7.50 (brightonfestival.org)
The Great Escape
Scattered across more than 30 of Brighton's venues, Great Escape is like the south coast's SXSW – brimming with music industry folk, it features over 300 new bands alongside established indie popsters Maximo Park, We Are Scientists and Mystery Jets. Don't miss the raft of this year's hotly tipped acts including bookish alt-popsters Zulu Winter.
Details: 10-12 May, from £38 (escapegreat.com)
Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music
For Baroque lovers, Lufthansa has plenty of Handel and Bach, and opens with revered viol player Jordi Savall. Other unmissables include the UK premiere of Vivaldi's opera L'Olimpiade and the festival's finale, Handel's Ode for St Cecilia's Day performed in Westminster Abbey.
Details: 18 – 26 May, from £10 (lufthansafestival.org.uk)
For the hippest new acts, look no further than this one-dayer at east London's Victoria Park. Its sixth year sees hotly-tipped Grimes, Toy, SBTRKT, Friends and Django Django, but there's also established acts Beirut, Mazzy Star and Metronomy. Jubilee-themed games on the Village Green include sovereign throwing and an egg and silver spoon race.
Details: 2 June, £45 (fielddayfestivals.com)
Loch Ness is the stunning backdrop to an eclectic mix of dance, rock and pop acts at this year's NME awards winner of best small festival. Mumford and Sons, Ed Sheeran, Noah and the Whale, Justice and Biffy Clyro are appearing at Dores. There's a DJ competition and comedy from Tim Minchin.
Details: 8-10 June, from £64 (rockness.co.uk)
One of the best for folk and world music with Bellowhead, James, The Cuban Brothers, Dodgy and Seth Lakeman on the bill. Annually nominated for Best Family Festival at the UK Festival Awards, kids' entertainment at the Cheltenham Race Course-situated event includes a Waterstones-supported children's literature festival.
Details: 8-10 June, £115 (wychwoodfestival.com)
No Direction Home
The new addition from those behind End of the Road shares its popular big sister's indie, folk and Americana vibe, with Richard Hawley, The Low Anthem, Dirty Three, Gruff Rhys and Martin Carthy on the bill. Also some of the most inventive activities on the festival calendar at Welbeck Abbey, Sherwood Forest: try your hand at instrument making and songwriting at the old boathouse, Chango drumming, and late night campfire sessions.
Details: 8-10 June, £105 (nodirectionhomefestival.com)
Download lost its rival when Sonisphere cancelled this year, leaving it the main option for anyone identifying as a true rock fan. Its 10th year certainly has the heavy hitting names in metal and hard rock at Donington Park, with Black Sabbath reforming for their first show since 2005, playing songs from their first new album with their original line-up for 33 years. Also headlining are The Prodigy, and Metallica, who intend to play the Black Album in its entirety.
Details: 8-10 June, £190 (downloadfestival.co.uk)
The 65th edition in the beautiful marine setting of Aldeburgh in Suffolk sees Oliver Knussen celebrate his 60th birthday as Artist in Residence. Other highlights are the Monteverdi Choir conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, the premiere of the never completed Universe Symphony by Ives, and Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. Bring your dancing shoes for a 1940s and 1950s Swing Jive tea dance led by local dancers on Aldeburgh Beach.
Details: 8-24 June, from £6.50 (aldeburgh.co.uk)
Parklife has gone from strength to strength. Last year it expanded to two days, while this will be its final year at Manchester's Platt Fields Park as it's outgrown the venue. 20,000 will attend for an indie, pop and electro line-up of Flaming Lips, Noah and the Whale, Justice, Dizzee Rascal, Azealia Banks and a host of rising bands including Friends and Spector.
Details: 9-10 June, from £38.50 (parklife.uk.com)
Beach Break Live
This student-friendly bash taking place on the beach in Pembrey Country Park has a strong pop and dance-pop line-up with Ben Howard, a live set from Chase and Status, Dizzee Rascal, Labrinth and Maverick Sabre. 20,000 will attend its sixth year.
Details: 14-17 June, from £109 (beachbreaklive.com)
The three-day party in East London's hip Victoria Park hits the 10 year mark this summer. Friday's roster hails the best in electronica – from Crystal Castles to Hot Chip while Saturday's pop focus sees Kelis, Emile Sande and Friendly Fires take to one of the 10 stages, culminating in Sunday's event, where Grace Jones headlines again alongside Lana Del Rey. Expect designer wellies, unrivalled hedonism and excessive amounts of body paint.
Details: 15 – 17 June, from £29 (lovebox.net)
A strong line-up for the folk, acoustic and roots festival in the east Yorkshire town with a rare performance from Steeleye Span, and Martin Carthy and Joe Brown on the bill. Also featuring comedy, film, spoken word, acoustic sessions, workshops for all ages and plenty of real ale.
Details: 15-17 June, from £11 (beverleyfestival.com)
If you fear a Glastonbury shaped hole in your summer, Sunrise takes place the same summer solstice weekend and down the road, in Bruton, Somerset. It's among the most environmentally-friendly festivals in Britain, and boasts a folk line-up including The Imagined Village, The Egg, and Hidden Orchestra.
Details: 21-24 June, £115 (sunrisecelebration.com)
Isle of Wight
It's the biggest coup of the festival season – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play their first ever UK festival and their first UK show in 20 years at Isle of Wight. Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam are the other headliners in this big name bash also starring Elbow and Tinie Tempah.
Details: 21-24 June, £190 (isleofwightfestival.com)
Founded by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the Orkneys festival includes music and a pre-show talk by the resident composer. Must-sees are the midsummer production of Carmen in Orkney's own "bull-ring"' featuring the Royal Academy of Music orchestra, Tippett's oratorio "A Child of Our Time", the Arakaendar Bolivia Choir and Florilegium performing a newly discovered Baroque repertoire, and celebrated ensemble The Cardinall's Musick.
Details: 21-30 June, from £8 (stmagnusfestival.com)
Maintaining its branding and VIP-free ethos, in five years Vince Power's Hop Farm is already on the map. It's hard to trump last year's bill of Prince and Morrissey, but it returns with a stellar line-up of veteran acts, a one-off UK show from Leonard Cohen, and further exclusives Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and Suede. Damien Rice, Dr John and White Denim are also on the bill, while it's Bruce Forsyth's first ever festival, aged 84. It's excellent value with no booking, parking or camping fees. Bring your deckchair.
Details: 29 June – 1 July, from £55 (hopfarmfestival.com)
The family-friendly weekender in Woodmancott, Hampshire, sees Guillemots, Eugene McGuinness, Toy, Pete Roe, The Noisettes and an intimate performance from Patrick Wolf on a grand piano. Science labs, painting labs, water zorbing, DJing classes, illustration and writing workshops for kids.
Details: 29 June – 1 Jul, from £16 (blissfields.co.uk)
Back 2 Back
Making its first journey from Rio de Janeiro to London, the festival celebrating African roots has three stages of funk, reggae, dub, hip-hop, samba and blues. Host Gilberto Gil headlines the Sunday, supported by Toumani Diabate, Friday features Macy Gray, but Saturday boasts the best line-up with Roots Manuva, Hugh Masekala and Femi Kuti.
Details: 30 June – 1 July, from £35 (barbican.org.uk)
Cheltenham Music Festival
Big names at this year's "urban Aldeburgh", with violinist Nigel Kennedy, cellist Steven Isserlis, and pianist Benjamin Grosvenor. There's a focus on English music with a programme featuring Delius and Elgar.
Details: 4-15 July, from £15 (cheltenhamfestivals.com)
Dance and pop take over Hyde Park with this year's star-studded line-up. Rihanna makes one of two London performances, Nicki Minaj and Drake star on Sunday, while Friday has The Roots, Childish Gambino and Santigold.
Details: 6-8 July, from £55.25 (wirelessfestival.co.uk)
T in the Park
The UK's second biggest music festival pulls in the biggest names in rock and pop. A newly-reformed Stone Roses, Kasabian, Florence and the Machine, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and New Order will take to the stage in Balado in Kinross-shire in Scotland. With 85,000 music fans, expect all the usual grand scale festival fare.
Details: 6-8 July, from £70 (tinthepark.com)
The York Early Music Festival
The awe-inspiring York Minster is one of the city-centre venues for Britain's biggest early music festival. This year's theme has a focus on music from the Renaissance. Must-sees include Gallicantus performing with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny and Robert Hollingworth's I Fagiolini presenting Alessandro Striggio's Mass in the Minster.
Details: 6-14 July, from £12 (ncem.co.uk)
Its abundance of arts, and Henham Park's proximity to the Southwold seaside, makes Latitude ideal for culture-vulture families. This year's line-up will draw many indie music fans, too, with Bon Iver, Elbow, Paul Weller, Metronomy, Laura Marling, Wild Beasts, and Lana Del Rey.
Details: 12-15 July, £175 (latitudefestival.co.uk)
Hard Rock Calling
Blending rock legends with up-and-coming acts, this year's weekender at Hyde Park sees Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Soundgarden, reuniting after a 14-year hiatus. They're joined by Alison Krauss, the Mars Volta, Iggy and the Stooges and 18 rising acts.
Details: 13-15 July, from £55.75 (hardrockcalling.co.uk)
The enchanting Port Eliot estate in Cornwall hosts this chilled out arts and music festival. Music is provided by Suggs, The Bees and Cate le Bon, with DJ sets from Geoff Travis and Tim Burgess, while Caught by the River combines nature and music. A strong literary line-up includes Tracy Chevalier and India Knight. Fine food will be served by Peter Gordon and Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Cornwall.
Details: 19-22 July, from £150 (porteliotfestival.com)
The Secret Garden Party
The fancy-dress-fuelled fairy-tale weekender in Mill Hill Field in Abbots Ripton, has a strong line-up this year with Orbital, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Little Dragon, Alabama Shakes and Lamb. Think Burning Man in the English countryside. Art abounds, with installations and art boats picking up "Gardeners" around the lake. New this year are a stage dedicated to latino, ska and reggae, and dance and yoga classes. Look out for surprise 10th birthday celebrations at the lake. Dance stages are open until dawn.
Details: 19-22 July, £195 (secretgardenparty.com)
It's dropped back to a two-day festival, but with just as strong an indie and folk-pop bill for its 15th anniversary celebrations. Guillemots, The Low Anthem, Mystery Jets, The Temper Trap, British Sea Power, Villagers, and Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly are set to perform at Hill Farm, Steventon, Oxfordshire.
Details: 20-21 July, £69 (truckfestival.com)
Tinie Tempah, Chase and Status, Skrillex, Roni Size and Magnetic Man are some of the names performing across a dozen stages at the 11th edition of this dance fest at Long Marston Airfield, Stratford Upon Avon. DJ sets in abundance, while Armin van Buuren will host an exclusive arena with his radio show A State of Trance.
Details: 27-28 July, £99 (globalgathering.com)
It's a festival for children, but adults will be charmed by the Insect Museum and Gruffalo theatre show at Lulworth Castle, Dorset. New this year is the first summer panto Beauti and the Beast of Lulworth Castle and the Fantastic Mr Fox opera. But it's as much for the parents, with music from King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, Hot Chip, Adam Ant, dance from the English National Ballet, and comedy headed by Jimmy Carr. Scroobius Pip again curates the popular spoken word.
Details: 26-29 July, £185 (campbestival.net)
Cambridge Folk Festival
Faithful folkies meet newer folk-pop acts at the near 50-year old festival. English folk singer-songwriter Nic Jones performs his first full concert since a car accident 30 years ago as a headliner at Cherry Hinton Hall, while Billy Bragg celebrates Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday. Joan Armatrading, June Tabor, The Unthanks and Lau are from the trad world, while Dry the River and Seth Lakeman represent the younger folk-pop school.
Details: 26-29 July, £120 (cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk)
The Magic Loungeabout
If the civilised festival experience appeals, this luxurious weekender is for you. Broughton Hall, North Yorkshire, is its stunning setting for disco, indie and folk from The Charlatans and disco legends Chic feat. Nile Rodgers and Benjamin Francis Leftwich. For kids there's yoga and DJ classes, while adults are pampered in the spa, or watch music documentaries.
Details: 27-29 July, £112 (themagicloungeabout.net)
Co-founded by Peter Gabriel, Womad reaches its 30th birthday this year at Charlton Park in Wiltshire. This year's headliners include Japan's Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Norwegian songstress Ane Brun, and bamboo ensemble Narasirato from the Solomon Islands. Lose your offspring at one of the many children's workshops, find some spiritual healing in the World of Wellbeing, or get some retail therapy in the vast global market.
Details: 27 – 29 July, £135 (womad.co.uk)
Set in the stunning surroundings of Lowther Deer Park, Kendal Calling boasts a mixed pop and rock roster from Dizzee Rascal, James and Ghostpoet. Established in 2006, it's managed to maintain its independent vibe despite upping sticks to a bigger space for its growing crowd. Expect real ale, fancy dress and, of course, Kendal Mint Cake in abundance.
Details: 27 – 29 July, £105 (kendalcalling.co.uk)
Following in the footsteps of Patti Smith, David Bowie and, most recently, Ray Davies, Antony Hegarty, of Antony and the Johnsons, is curating this year's Southbank festival. Expect some weird and wonderful choices from the musician and artist for 12 days of music, debate and performance.
Details: 1-12 August, TBC (meltdown.southbankcentre.co.uk)
Violinist Nicola Benedetti makes her first appearance here, joining the London Symphony Orchestra to perform the complete Szymanowski and Brahms symphonies. Other must-sees include Prokofiev's Cinderella by the Mariinsky Ballet and orchestra, and Opera North's The Makropulos Case.
Details: 9 August – 2 September, from £8 (eif.co.uk)
A small, but tastefully chosen rock, soul and indie line-up including Wilco, Rodrigo Y Gabriela alongside C.U.B.A., Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and Spiritualized will perform in Oxford's Cornbury Park. Other must-sees include the Roaming Opera, and a forest masked ball from the Old Vic.
Details: 10-12 August, £119 (wildernessfestival.com)
Strummer of Love
Commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of Clash frontman Joe Strummer, The Pogues, Badly Drawn Boy, Frank Turner, Billy Bragg, Roots Manuva and KT Tunstall perform at the one-off festival for 5,000 at a secret Somerset location. Mirroring Strummer's support of rising talent, the bill also includes Slow Club and Fionn Regan.
Details: 17-19 August, £175 (strummeroflove.com)
Wales's thriving, family-friendly event picks the best acts across folk, alt, country and dance. Van Morrison heads this years' bill, along with Feist, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Jonathan Richman, and the Felice Brothers. Nestled in the Glanusk Park in the Brecon Beacons, it boasts a stunning location, and a 24-hour booze licence.
Details: 17 – 19 August, £145 (greenman.net)
A blend of legendary and hip, rising acts alongside excellent children's activities makes this city bash in Leicester's De Montfort Hall and gardens perfect for families. Older fans will appreciate Adam Ant, Public Image Limited and Death in Vegas, while youngsters will head to the indoor stage for Sway, Katy B and Ghostpoet.
Details: 17-19 August, £105 (summersundae.com)
Yes it's slick, corporate, and the food is appalling, but V is the leading festival for pop, with The Killers, Snow Patrol, Nicki Minaj, Tinie Tempah and Ed Sheeran on the bill. This year, the biggest draw to the double header at Staffordshire's Weston Park and Chelmsford's Hylands Park, will be the reformed Stone Roses, playing their nearest performance to London this summer.
Details: 18-19 august, £190.50 (vfestival.com)
Folk meets hip-hop at this eco-friendly bash at Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire. Roots Manuva, DJ Yoda and the Trans Siberian Marching Band, and Toddla T represent the hip-hop side, while Billy Bragg and Lau offer folk. Also art installations and workshops.
Details: 23-27 August, £135 (shambalafestival.org)
Consistently voted the No 1 dance festival, it's not hard to see why 55,000 revellers descend upon Daresbury in Cheshire for a line-up of Deadmau5, Tiesto, David Guetta, Example, Paul van Dyk, and DJ sets from Chemical Brothers and Groove Armada. It increased to three days last year. Visit the world's smallest portable nightclub, or relax to laidback beats in the Bedouin tent.
Details: 24-26 August, from £60 (creamfields.com)
Reading and Leeds
Foo Fighters, The Cure and Kasabian headline this youthful festival for rock lovers at Reading's Richfield Avenue and Leeds' Bramham Park. Also on the bill are Florence and the Machine, The Black Keys, Bombay Bicycle Club and The Maccabees. Head to this year's dance tent for Metronomy, Katy B and Azealia Banks.
Bude Jazz 2012
The proof of the love for the Bude Jazz Festival is that following its cancellation, its dedicated followers resurrected it, meaning that its 25th edition will not go uncelebrated. Expect traditional and New Orleans jazz alongside other styles from years past from the likes of Jeff Barnhart, George Huxley, Roger Marks and Dennis Armstrong at the seaside Cornish town.
Details: 28-31 August, £75 (01288 354240)
Set up by a teenage music fan fed up with the lack of entertainment for under-18s, Underage is the festival where youngsters can party without the embarrassment of their parents (it's strictly 14-18 year-olds). The sixth edition at Shoreditch Park sees a cutting-edge line-up of Maverick Sabre, Spector, Summer Camp and Willy Moon.
Details: 31 August, from £19.50 (underagefestivals.com)
End of the Road
Last year's edition sold out in record time for its indie, folk and Americana line-up, and its intimate feel. This year's bill is just as rich, with Grizzly Bear, reformed American indie-rockers Grandaddy, Anna Calvi, Van Dyke Parks, Mark Lanegan and Alabama Shakes. It's the ideal home for indie label Bella Union to celebrate their 15th anniversary with Midlake and Beach House. Retreat to the fairy-light filled woods of the Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset, for a woodland library and impromptu piano performances.
Details: 31 August - 2 September, £150 (endoftheroadfestival.com)
Another stellar line up this year, with The Cure, Elbow, Sigur Ros and The Horrors just some of the big names set for this ever-growing Irish festival. Situated in the rolling lawns of Stradbally Hall, Co Laois outside of Dublin, Electric Picnic has one of the best party atmospheres. Alongside the music, expect impromptu circus performances and lashings of frivolity.
Details: 31 August - 2 September, 230 Euros (electricpicnic.ie)
Hedonistic partying is expected at the dance and rock-oriented Bestival, bringing the sleepy Isle of Wight's Robin Hill Country Park to life. The theme is wildlife, so unleash your inner party beast for 25 Grammy-winning soul legend Stevie Wonder, a reformed New Order, The xx, Orbital, and 2ManyDJs. New this year are appropriate wildlife-related activities the Insect Museum and Animal Tug of War.
Details: 6-9 September, £170 (bestival.net)
Festival Number 6
The riverside village of Portmeirion in Wales is the atmospheric location for this new luxe festival. It's dance-oriented with New Order, Primal Scream, Derrick Carter Does Disco, Mr Scruff, Spiritualized, Jerry Dammers and Don Letts performing in the lush gardens. Further entertainment with screenings and a string ensemble on the estuary promenade. There's also a pop-up oyster and champagne bar, medieval castle dining room and luxury spa.
Details: 14-16 September, from £99 (festivalnumber6.com)
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