The 50 Best festivals
Whether you want to party in the park, rock out in the woods, hang out with the kids or dance until sunrise, Elisa Bray previews this summer’s top events for indie, pop, classical, art and jazz fans alike
Expect to find everything from classical to rock in 181 venues across Brighton and Hove and up to the South Downs. Highlights are the Bach series of concerts and Barb Jungr, while over at Glynde Place is the Meadowlands festival, offering rock from British Sea Power and Sweet Billy Pilgrim. Now until 2 June; free; brightonfringe.org
The Great Escape
This festival showcases hot new acts across the bars and clubs of Brighton, alongside seminars from industry figures. Tom Odell, The Strypes, David Rodigan, Little Green Cars, Iggy Azalea, Chvrches and Unknown Mortal Orchestra are on the bill. Billy Bragg, Everything Everything and Bastille perform at the Dome.
16-18 May; £49.50; mamacolive.com/thegreatescape
Best frocks and champagne picnics abound here. This year sees a new production of Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, while Billy Budd marks the centenary of Benjamin Britten. Verdi’s Falstaff, Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie, and Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and Michael Grandage’s production of Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro complete the performances in the South Downs.
18 May to 25 August; from £100; glyndebourne.com
East London’s one-day festival at Hackney’s Victoria Park is the go-to festival for hip indie acts. Established acts include Animal Collective, Bat for Lashes, Django Django and Four Tet, while rising stars are Chvrches, Daughter, Savages, Palma Violets and Solange. Head to The Village Green for stalls and games, from tug of war to winkle-picking.
25 May; £45; fielddayfestivals.com
Young rock and pop names appear at this brilliant value Newcastle two-dayer. Twenty-five thousand will head Quayside each day for Paloma Faith, The Vaccines, Jake Bugg, Ellie Goulding, Rudimental, Bastille, The Strypes, and Aluna George.
May 26-27; £39.50, day tickets £29.50; evolutionfestival.co.uk
Sunrise: Another World
The green Sunrise launches its utopian festival micronation on the new site of Thoulstone Park, in rolling Wiltshire hills. Friday sees host DJ Krafty Kuts joined by The Freestylers and Utah Saints, while Dub Pistols and 2 Tone stars The Beat curate the rest. With the theme ‘Around the world in 80 days’, entertainment includes a buzzing food market, street entertainers, and talks at the debating venue.
30 May to 2 June; £115; sunrisefestivals.co.uk
There’s a feel-good line-up at family-friendly Wychwood at Cheltenham Racecourse, with Soul II Soul, Human League, Toploader and Kate Nash, plus Bill Bailey with his comedy songs, including a Downton Abbey dub version. The children’s literature festival is back.
31 May to 2 June; £120 (kids under 10 go free); wychwoodfestival.com
Loch Ness is the backdrop to this festival uniting rock, pop and dance. Music from Plan B, Example, Basement Jaxx, Madness, The Vaccines, Bombay Bicycle Club, Ellie Goulding, Fatboy Slim and Ben Howard. Comedy from Jim Jefferies and Dylan Moran.
7-9 June; £139, day tickets £59; rockness.co.uk
This student-friendly event, now in Manchester’s Heaton Park, remains one of the best-value festivals in the UK for pop, hip-hop, electronica and indie. With Plan B, Rita Ora, Example, The Horrors, Jessie Ware, Jurassic 5, TEED, Johnny Marr, AlunaGeorge, Four Tet and The Maccabees.
8-9 June; £69.50; parklife.uk.com
Founded by Benjamin Britten, this year’s Aldeburgh is at the core of a 12-month celebration of the composer’s centenary, with his first opera, Peter Grimes, performed on the beach. The festival mixes old and new, with John Eliot Gardiner leading two all-Bach concerts, a rare performance of Stockhausen’s Kontakte and violinist Marques Toliver.
7-23 June; from £6.50; aldeburgh.co.uk
Isle of Wight
This has a stellar mix of legends and of-the-minute pop stars. The Stone Roses, The Killers and Bon Jovi headline, while Blondie, Ellie Goulding, Paul Weller, Paloma Faith, Bloc Party and The Maccabees are also on the bill. New this year are the outdoor hot tubs, cake and cocktails at the vintage tea rooms, and the Bohemian Woods stage for world music.
13-16 June; £185, day ticket £75; isleofwightfestival.com
Sonisphere is still on hiatus, so Download retains the crown of leading hard-rock festival. Slipknot, Iron Maiden doing their “Maiden England” set, and German industrialists Rammstein will entertain at Donington Park, Derbyshire. Plus Queens of the Stone Age, Alice in Chains, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Korn and Motorhead.
14-16 June; £195, day ticket £82.50; downloadfestival.co.uk
Taking the reins at London’s Southbank Centre, Yoko Ono has secured new wave icon Siouxsie’s first performance in five years. Patti Smith, Marianne Faithfull, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Iggy and The Stooges, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Boy George also appear. Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band opens, and the closing show is a performance of Double Fantasy, John Lennon and Ono’s final album.
14-23 June; from £10; meltdown.southbankcentre.co.uk
Billed as a music holiday for its enviable new seaside location, varied accommodation and venues scattered around Newquay, BBL is a student bash with a solid pop, dance and folk line-up. Jake Bugg, AlunaGeorge, Devlin and Lucy Rose will play the main stage on Fistral Beach, and the 300 acts include Scratch Perverts, By the River and Neil Halstead.
20-24 June; from £40; beachbreaklive.com
The UK’s biggest festival makes up for its absence during last year’s Olympics with the Rolling Stones’ first ever appearance at Pilton. Arctic Monkeys and Mumford & Sons also top the Pyramid Stage, and a genre-spanning line-up includes Dizzee Rascal, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Vampire Weekend, Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright, Portishead, The xx, Cat Power and Sinead O’Connor.
26-30 June; £205; glastonburyfestivals.co.uk
Hard Rock Calling
If you missed the Olympics, this is your first chance to watch a show at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Bruce Springsteen plays on Sunday, with Alabama Shakes and Black Crowes, while Kasabian play their only UK festival on Saturday, plus Paul Weller, Miles Kane and Klaxons.
29-30 June; day tickets from £51.75; hardrockcalling.co.uk
The radio station has launched a new festival off the back of its famous London club nights, bringing dance and hip-hop acts to 5,000 fans on Great Yarmouth Beach. Chase and Status, Tinie Tempah, Rita Ora, Dizzee Rascal, Katy B, Rizzle Kicks, and Rudimental are the big names, while rising stars include K Koke and Angel.
29-30 June; £80; kissbeachfestival.co.uk
Regarded as the “urban Aldeburgh”, this line-up varies from symphonic grandeur to intimate chamber music. Highlights are Nicola Benedetti, Faure’s Requiem and Poulenc at Gloucester Cathedral, and Mark Kermode’s night of film music by Mike Oldfield, Hermann and Jonny Greenwood, performed by the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
3-14 July; from £12; cheltenhamfestivals.com
The branding-free Hop Farm has been forced to scale down and will only have 10,000 party-goers this year, but not at the cost of its line-up. Saturday celebrates all things psych and shoegazey, with a set from My Bloody Valentine, The Horrors, Dinosaur Jr and Rodriguez, while Jimmy Cliff and Martha Wainwright appear on Sunday at Paddock Wood, Kent.
5-6 July; £135, day tickets £65; hopfarmfestival.com
Love Supreme Jazz Festival
The first instalment of Jazz FM’s Glynde Place festival will appeal to jazz lovers and beyond. Esperanza Spalding, Melody Gardot, Brand New Heavies and The Soul Rebels, Bryan Ferry, Jools Holland, Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, Michael Kiwanuka, Courtney Pine, Gregory Porter and Soweto Kinch are on the bill.
5-7 July; £129.60, day tickets £54; lovesupremefestival.com
Known as Poshstock for its combination of pop, champagne and Morris dancing, this has a varied line-up. At Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, catch Van Morrison, Keane, Squeeze, Beverley Knight, Echo And The Bunnymen, Amy Macdonald, Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern’s band Sadie And The Hotheads, Bellowhead and Seth Lakeman.
5-7 July; £190; cornburyfestival.com
The 35th year opens with an operatic double bill of Saint-Saens’ La Princesse Jaune and Gounod’s La Colombe. Other highlights include La Finta Giardiniera, penned by Mozart at 17, the UK premiere of Sciarrino’s The Killing Flower, and Benjamin Britten’s three haunting Church Parables. Free events include a tiny walk-in whale-shaped theatre, a storytelling yurt, and tasters of the festival’s operas in the Pavilion Gardens Bandstand.
5-21 July; from free; buxtonfestival.co.uk
The urban/pop festival has moved to the Olympics site. Snoop Dogg and Frank Ocean star on Friday and Saturday sees Emeli Sande, Rita Ora and Calvin Harris. Sunday has Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Katy B, Magnetic Man and Jessie Ware. No camping involved, weekend tickets are sold out.
12-14 July; Sunday tickets £83.50; wirelessfestival.co.uk
Scotland’s biggest pop festival celebrates its 20th year with a big-bucks line-up at Balado, Kinross-shire. 85,000 will see headliners Mumford & Sons, Rihanna and The Killers plus Kraftwerk, Stereophonics, Frank Ocean, Snoop Dogg, Dizzee Rascal, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jake Bugg and Phoenix among 200 artists performing.
12-14 July; £194, day ticket £75; tinthepark.com
It’s Wagner’s bicentenary and the world’s greatest classical festival has its first complete Ring cycle. Nigel Kennedy plays Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Sakari Oramo begins his tenure as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra on the First Night, and the first Urban Classic Prom features Fazer, Laura Mvula and Maverick Sabre.
12 July - 7 September; from £5; bbc.co.uk/proms
A folk, blues and rockabilly line-up includes Van Morrison, Dexys, Seasick Steve, Imelda May, Richard Thompson Electric Trio, Bellowhead, KT Tunstall, Sam Lee and Lau. There’s theatre, film and an artists’ quarter for adults, while children can enjoy crafts and shows in the lush Larmer Tree Gardens near Salisbury.
17-21 July; from £140; larmertreefestival.co.uk
An unrivalled programme of arts and music attracts a cultured crowd of 35,000. This year’s big draw is Kraftwerk, playing their 3D set, also Bloc Party, Foals, The Maccabees, Hot Chip, Alt-J, Beach House, Mark Lanegan, Yo La Tengo, Cat Power and Calexico. Among the many highlights in Henham Park, Suffolk, are lake-side dance from Sadler’s Wells, theatre and Germaine Greer in the literature tent.
18-21 July; £190.50, day tickets £84; latitudefestival.com
The three-day party in Victoria Park, East London, has Plan B, Goldfrapp, Azealia Banks, Jurassic 5, Mark Ronson DJing, Jazzie B, Wiley, SBTRKT, David Rodigan, Julio Bashmore, Flying Lotus, Gold Panda and Netsky. Art installations and body paint galore will contribute to the colourful carnival atmosphere.
19-21 July; from £29; lovebox.net
Americana Festival Americana takes over The Sage in Gateshead. Highlights are The Mavericks, Heritage Blues Orchestra, Matthew E White, Shelby Lynne and Willy Mason. Don’t miss the musical boat trips on the Tyne and the Cajun supper with Grammy-winning Steve Riley and The Mamou Playboys.
19-21 July; from £14; thesagegateshead.org
The UK’s number one festival for world music and folk features Gilberto Gil, Rokia Traoré, Asif Ali Khan, Osibaba, and the UK’s Alice Russell and Mercury nominee Sam Lee, in Charlton Park, Wiltshire. Don’t miss Taste the World, where musicians cook up their native dishes. Also a San-Fran disco bar, workshops and children’s activities.
25-28 July; £145; womad.org
Secret Garden Party
Leave your inhibitions behind for this eccentric event in Mill Hill Field in Abbots Ripton. The theme is Superstition so expect outlandish costumes and art. The music is just as off-kilter, with Regina Spektor, Shout Out Louds, Django Django, Soulwax and The Strypes. DJ sets from Goldie and Zane Lowe, and laser shows set to Balearic beats.
25-28 July; £185; secretgardenparty.com
Cambridge Folk Festival
There’s faithful folkies and folk-pop types at Cherry Hinton Hall, and country too, with Shelby Lynne and The Mavericks, plus Thea Gilmore, Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick, Bellowhead, KT Tunstall, The Waterboys, The Staves and Martin Simpson. There’s also singing, storytelling and workshops.
25-28 July; £126, day ticket from £20; cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk
This has branched out from its folk roots with a bill including Scottish acts Primal Scream, Amy Macdonald and KT Tunstall. The Enemy, Dexys, Bellowhead and Public Services Broadcasting also appear, while stages in East Kirkcarswell include a reggae sound system, the Acoustic Village, and the Solus Tent showcasing local talent.
26-27 July; £95; thewickermanfestival.co.uk
Prepare to party late into the night at Long Marston Airfield, Stratford-upon-Avon. The event was named Best Dance Event at the 2012 UK Festival Awards and Plan B, Disclosure, Rudimental, Example, Katy B, Netsky, Rita Ora, Wiley and Roll Deep are on the 2013 bill.
26-27 July; £115; globalgathering.com
There’s a 90s indie and rave vibe at Lowther Deer Park in the Lake District with Primal Scream, Basement Jaxx, The Charlatans, Public Enemy, Seasick Steve, Johnny Marr, Ash, British Sea Power, Mike Skinner’s The D.O.T. and Lightning Seeds on the bill. For families there are workshops, storytelling and puppetry. The event has an area curated by Tim Burgess, and a real ale tent.
26-28 July; £115; kendalcalling.co.uk
For kids, there’s circus skills, nature, art and theatre workshops, go-karting, dance, beatboxing with Shlomo and Rob da Bank’s Music Club, at Lulworth Castle in Dorset. Parents will be satisfied by a line-up of Richard Hawley, Levellers, The Proclaimers, Ash, Toots and the Maytals, Billy Bragg, John Cooper Clarke, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, plus DJ sets from Grandmaster Flash and Sasha.
1-4 August; £180; campbestival.net
Billed as “small, fresh and loud”, the winner of Best Small Festival at the 2012 UK Festival Awards has The Cribs, The Horrors, Ash, The Enemy and Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip at its Pikehall, Derbyshire, site.
2-4 August; £79.50; ynotfestivals.co.uk
A “celebration of nature and the arts” combines music with outdoor activities – fly-fishing, wild swimming, a masked ball and lakeside spa, at Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire. Music from Empire of the Sun, Noah and the Whale, Rodriguez, Michael Kiwanuka, Tom Odell and Ghostpoet. More treats include theatre from Shakepeare’s Globe, and banquets by Ottolenghi and Mark Hix.
8-11 August; from £99.50; wildernessfestival.com
This festival hosts the big names in jazz – Courtney Pine, Jools Holland, Mavis Staples and Gilad Atzmon – plus rising stars on the contemporary scene, such as the Roller Trio and Zoe Rahman Quintet.
9-11 August; from free; breconjazz.com
The Black Mountains are the backdrop to this indie, folk and Americana-leaning festival. Kings of Convenience, Ben Howard and Band of Horses are on the bill, plus Midlake, Phosphorescent, Low and The Pastels.
15-18 August; £145; greenman.net
Children’s entertainment is abundant at the event in Escot Parkwith rides, circus theatre and crafts. There’s a nostalgia-heavy line-up with Primal Scream, Ocean Colour Scene, festival founders the Levellers, Sinead O’Connor, Arrested Development, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Imelda May and The Wonder Stuff. Five stages include one devoted to folk.
16-18 August; £120; beautifuldays.org
Expect guerrilla theatrics, debates, poetry, life-drawing classes and whisky tasting at Heslaker Farm, Skipton. New this year is an arts field with interactive sonic sculpture. There’s indie-rock, psych and hip-hop with Django Django, Local Natives, Solange, Ghostpoet and Bonobo, and new acts Dutch Uncles, Savages and Temples.
16-18 August; £84.50; greetingsfrombeacons.com
At this year’s two-day pop festival at Highlands Park, Chelmsford, and Weston Park, Staffordshire, the major coup is Beyoncé, and Kings of Leon also headline, with others including Stereophonics, The Script, Emeli Sandé, Calvin Harris, Beady Eye, Jessie J, The Vaccines, Basement Jaxx, Paloma Faith, Rita Ora, Labrinth and Ellie Goulding.
17-18 August; £185, day ticket £89; vfestival.com
The sustainable festival boasts a diverse line-up. Near Market Harborough, Leicestershire, there’s jazz from Courtney Pine, folk from Sam Lee, drum ‘n’ bass from Nicky Blackmarket, Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara and Lou Rhodes of Lam, plus workshops and “healing meadows”.
22-25 August; from £89; shambalafestival.org
Reading & Leeds
This line-up never disappoints. Headliners Eminem, chart-topping Scot rockers Biffy Clyro and Green Day are all playing their only UK festival show this year, as well as System of a Down, Fall Out Boy, Skrillex and Deftones. Indie and pop from Phoenix, Johnny Marr, Foals, Jake Bugg, The Lumineers and Bastille.
23-25 August; £202.50; day ticket £90, readingfestival.com
For the dance festival’s 15th year, top DJs are descending upon Daresbury, Cheshire. David Guetta, Tiesto, Annie Mac, Julio Bashmore, Skream, Paul Oakenfold, Armand Van Helden, Groove Armada, Sasha and Pete Tong appear across 15 arenas and two main stages, while The Prodigy play their only UK gig of the year.
23-25 August; £160; day tickets £75, creamfields.com
End of the Road
Retaining its intimate vibe, with just 5,000 festival-goers, the indie, folk and Americana festival boasts magical fairylight filled woods, a woodland library and impromptu piano performances in the Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset. This year’s line-up includes Sigur Ros, Belle and Sebastian and David Byrne and St Vincent.
30 August – 1 September; £165; endoftheroadfestival.com
In The Woods
Held in a woodland location in Kent by the band The Laurel Collective, this is as independent and intimate as it gets – there are just 1,000 tickets. The line-up isn’t revealed until the day, but expect new talent, art installations and local ales.
31 August; £70; inthewoodsfestival.co.uk
Rob da Bank’s Bestival marks its 10th birthday at Robin Hill Country Park on the Isle of Wight. Expect the obligatory fancy dress – the theme is HMS Bestival. Music from Elton John, Snoop Dogg, MIA, and Franz Ferdinand.
5-8 September; £180; bestival.net
Set in the Welsh coastal town of Portmeirion, the winner of best new festival in the 2012 UK Festival Awards makes its return with the Manic Street Preachers, James Blake, Laura Mvula and I Am Kloot. There’s also talks, comedy and theatre.
14-16 September; £170; festivalnumber6.com
Best for... The whole family
Wychwood - The line-up at this pretty site below the Prestbury Hills has something for everyone and there’s even a mini literature festival for children to get involved with
Best for... Children
Camp Bestival - Circus skills? Check. Go-karting? Check. That’s the kids sorted, while you enjoy The Proclaimers, Billy Bragg, The Levellers and many more live acts
Best for... Manics fans
Festival No 6 - The Manic Street Preachers are finally set to break their self-imposed two-year ban on playing British gigs at this wonderful Welsh event
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