Who’s up for a festival then? The first of the season, Wychwood, is upon us in just over a month and after that there’ll be somewhere pretty much every weekend where you can wear wellies and be drunk near a band. While Glastonbury may feel increasingly like Eton, in that you have to put your name down for a ticket at birth, there are multiple other magnificent weekenders that steal the feel on a more manageable scale. Here are our picks from those where you can camp, separated by their chief selling points. Choose swiftly and pray for sunshine.
ISLE OF WIGHT
June 12-15, Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight (isleofwightfestival.com)
With a retro image that trades on its earlier existence as the site of sets by Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, the revived Isle of Wight Festival now attracts big names from the modern era. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kings of Leon and Biffy Clyro will all offer a twist on the classic rock sound, but there’s also dance and pop from Calvin Harris, Katy B, The 1975 and Rudimental.
June 25-29, Worthy Farm, Somerset (glastonburyfestivals.co.uk)
It’s a sign of the guaranteed good time that can be had at the daddy of all UK festivals, that Glastonbury tickets went like quinoa in the Healing Fields long before any of this year’s bands were announced. We now know that Arcade Fire and Kasabian will top the bill at the iconic pyramid stage, with Lily Allen, Elbow and The Black Keys joining them. But really people go to experience the stoned vibes of the Stone Circle and the non-stop madness of the lesser fields. Those who evangelise about the experience are right to do so. If you didn’t sort your entry long ago, the last chance to secure any cancelled or refunded tickets is on April 27.
T IN THE PARK
July 11-13, Balado, Kinross, Scotland (tinthepark.com)
Famous for an audience which is lively to say the least, bands love to visit Scotland’s biggest festival, which explains a glittering line-up. Homegrown stars Biffy Clyro, Calvin Harris and Paolo Nutini are understandably high on the bill, along with indie rock from Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand, hip hop from Tinie Tempah and Pharrell and dance from Ellie Goulding and Disclosure.
Aug 16-17, Hylands Park, Chelmsford and Weston Park, Staffs (vfestival.com)
Attracting a laddy crowd and lacking the unhinged nature of some of its peers, V manages to mix the festival favourites you’d expect (Elbow, The Killers and Manic Street Preachers this year) with the biggest pop acts of the moment – Justin Timberlake, Bastille, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith are all in attendance. They recognise the current demand for dance music too, with beat-heavy sets from Alesso, Above & Beyond and Rudimental.
THE HEAD BANGERS
June 13-15, Donington Park, Derby (downloadfestival.co.uk)
Any sunshine won’t alter the all-black uniform of the metal fans who attend this screamfest at the spiritual home of hard rock. Among none-more-metal names such as Lawnmower Deth, Dying Fetus and Turbowolf are bigger bands such as Aerosmith, Avenged Sevenfold and Linkin Park. Status Quo are bravely stepping into the fray too.
July 4-6, Knebworth Park, Herts (sonisphere.co.uk)
After a year off in 2013, the other major metal festival returns with a tried and tested bill that includes the usual suspects, Iron Maiden, Metallica and Slayer. The Prodigy will once again prove that electronic music rocks as hard as any guitar band, while Gary Numan and Frank Turner should vary the volume more than most. What Chas and Dave are doing there is anyone’s guess.
READING AND LEEDS
Aug 22-24, Richfield Avenue, Reading and Bramham Park, Leeds (readingandleedsfestival.com)
There’s less heavy rock on the bill than in the old days, but Queens of the Stone Age, Paramore and Blink-182 will all require earplugs. The ubiquitous Arctic Monkeys are the other headliners, while elsewhere it’s indie pop from Vampire Weekend, Jake Bugg and Foster the People, with a smattering of dance and hip hop from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Chvrches[CORRECT] and Disclosure. The teenage crowd will lap it all up with hormonal enthusiasm.
THE ARTY PARTIES
July 17-20, Henham Park, Southwold (latitudefestival.com)
You don’t go to Latitude just for the music. English National Ballet is there, as well as the RSC and numerous other theatre and dance troupes. There are also more authors and poets than you get in your typical field, and enough comedians to leave every TV panel show seat empty that week. If you do fancy seeing some bands after all that, Damon Albarn, The Black Keys and Two Door Cinema Club will be on the main stage.
FESTIVAL NUMBER 6
Sept 5-7. Portmeirion, North Wales (festivalnumber6.com)
Taking place for the second year in Sir Clough William Ellis’s remarkable Italianate village on the Welsh coast (famously the setting for the cult TV series The Prisoner, hence the name) this weekender is like wandering through one giant art installation. There are happenings at every turn, with theatre and spoken word events mingling with music from Beck, London Grammar and Neneh Cherry.
THE BEAUTY SPOTS
Aug 1-3, Lowther Deer Park, near Penrith, Cumbria (kendalcalling.co.uk)
Set in a deer park in the Lake District, this two-time winner of Best Small Festival at the UK Festival Awards won Best Medium Festival last year, so is clearly going up in the world – to outer space, in fact, with a fancy dress space theme this time. Alongside unique attractions such as Tim Burgess’s Tim Peaks Diner and a Real Ale Festival, there’s music from Suede, Example, De La Soul and the Happy Mondays.
Aug 14-17, Glanusk Park, Brecon Beacons (greenman.net)
With a huge green hill looming over the low-key main stage, the main attraction at this pastoral affair is the scenery. Folk and indie rock are on the musical menu, with cult acts Neutral Milk Hotel and Bill Callahan joining harmonious softies Daughter and First Aid Kit. Otherwise, just lie back and enjoy the Green Man’s Wicker Man vibe.
END OF THE ROAD
Aug 29-31, Larmer Tree Gardens, Salisbury (endoftheroadfestival.com)
They’ve got peacocks, you know – as well as a main stage covered with foliage and a gorgeous woodland backdrop. A carefully curated music line-up will include the psychedelic madness of The Flaming Lips, Wild Beasts’ plush indie rock, world-punk from Tune-Yards and an enticing tribute to Gene Clark of The Byrds featuring current US indie stars.
THE WORLDLY ONES
July 4-6, Glynde, East Sussex (lovesupremefestival.com)
The home of opera becomes a jazz festival for one weekend in July, albeit one with a broad definition of the term. Jamie Cullum stars alongside Nina Simone-alike Laura Mvula, with rockabilly queen Imelda May joining rap icons De La Soul the following day. Further down the bill things get more experimental, with Melt Yourself Down, Polar Bear and Snarky Puppy all turning up.
July 24-27, Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire (womad.co.uk)
Possibly the only festival where the bands’ countries of origin are listed alongside their names to aid the decision-making process. You’re sure to make an exotic discovery at this long-running World music extravaganza, whether from close to home like Wales’s 9Bach, or much further afield like Ethno Trio Troitsa from Belarus or the Mali/Cuba face-off that is Fatoumata Diawara & Roberto Fonseca.
July 31-Aug 3, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge (cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk)
This is the 50th Cambridge Folk Festival, which tried to mimick the Newport Jazz Festival in the Sixties and now has its own relaxed feel as well as a wide-ranging line-up that belies its name. Van Morrison, Sinead O’Connor and Richard Thompson are the big attractions, but look out too for more youthful folk from The Rails and Megson, blues from the North Mississippi Allstars and classic African sounds from Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
ELECTRIC DAISY CARNIVAL
July 12-13, Milton Keynes Bowl (electricdaisycarnival.com)
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July 25-26, Long Marston Airfield, Startford Upon Avon (globalgathering.co.uk)
There are 16 arenas for 50,000 clubbers at this Midlands regular, with more live bands than some of the others including Chase and Status, Katy B, Tinie Tempah and The Prodigy. From the DJs, French chart botherer David Guetta leads the charge, with Alesso, Eric Prydz and Madeon among the other big names.
Aug 22-24, Daresbury Estate, Halton, Cheshire (creamfields.com)
You can camp at Creamfields but may not use your tent, with dance music banging away until the small hours. The DJ line-up contains pretty much all the big names of the moment such as Avicii, deadmau5[CORRECT], Armin Van Buuren and Calvin Harris. Newer stars including Hardwell and Duke Dumont also appear, while Radio 1 presenters Zane Lowe and Annie Mac should offer a bit more personality.
Sept 4-7, Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight (bestival.net)
This wacky one conceived by DJ Rob Da Bank is usually the final fling of the festival season, where fancy dress and general silliness abounds. The line-up is pretty dance music heavy this year, with Major Lazer, Basement Jaxx, Disclosure and current chart stars Clean Bandit all on the bill, while much booty will also be shaken to the more retro sounds of Candi Staton and Chic featuring Nile Rodgers. There’s plenty of hip hop too, from Outkast, Busta Rhymes and The Pharcyde.
THE FAMILY FESTS
May 30-June 1, Cheltenham Racecourse (wychwoodfestival.com)
Wychwood is always nominated for Best Family Festival at the UK Festival Awards, and this year celebrates its 10th birthday. There’s a Kids Literature Festival that runs alongside the bands, with contributions from the Roald Dahl Museum and Winnie the Witch creator Korky Paul. For the adults the music has a retro feel, with The Levellers, The Stranglers and 10cc’s Graham Gouldman leading the charge.
SECRET GARDEN PARTY
July 24-27, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambs (secretgardenparty.com)
The definitive boutique festival experience is small and beautiful, branding-free and with an anything-goes feel. Kids will love the Guerilla Science tent and all the parades. There’s also a stage on a lake and the promise of a giant paint fight. A poppy music line-up includes Clean Bandit, Foxes and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
July 31-Aug 3, Lulworth Castle, Dorset (campbestival.net)
The original Bestival’s precocious little sister feels like it’s for kids first and gown-ups a distant second. You’ll bash your knees on a trolley containing several urchins every few yards as you make your way to watch Basement Jaxx, Johnny Marr or De La Soul, and just try getting near the main stage when Mr Tumble or Horrible Histories are on. If you bring a few young’uns yourself, though, they’ll love you forever.
THE FOODIES’ FAVOURITES
July 17-21, Castle Hill, North Devon (somersaultfestival.com)
This inaugural festival near the sea in Devon looks like a classy affair, with four top restaurants offering fine dining – Fifteen Cornwall, Nathan Outlaw, Pitt Cue Co. and The Ethicurean. You can also organise canoeing, mountain biking and surfing trips from the site, and the music line-up is surfer heavy too, with Jack Johnson and Ben Howard topping the bill.
July 24-27, Port Eliot Estate, St Germans, Cornwall (porteliotfestival.com)
A boho literary festival with a growing music side that this year features Jimi Goodwin of Doves, Gruff Rhys from Super Furry Animals and hotly tipped new singer-songwriter Luke Sital-Singh. Foodies will want to visit the Big Kitchen in Port Eliot House, where there will be demonstrations by Russell Norman and Luke Bishop of Polpo, Skye Gyngell, and Sam and Sam Clarke from Moro. There’s plenty of author action afoot too.
Aug 7-10, Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire (wildernessfestival.com)
This relative newcomer sounds more comfortable than most hotel weekends, with a spa, facials, horseriding and food from the likes of Angela Hartnett, Russell Norman and Simon Rogan. If you have time for some music, look out for London Grammar, Jessie Ware, Metronomy and songwriter extraordinaire Burt Bacharach.