UK FESTIVALS GUIDE 2015 – Evening Standard, 27 Feb 2015

Now the Brits are done and dusted it’s time to start thinking about the other massive events on music’s calendar. Glastonbury, anyone? Or indeed, Reading? And what about T in the Park? With most of the summer’s tent-based entertainment already announced and on sale, now’s a good time to start selecting your favourite field. You may choose based on the whereabouts of an adored band that can’t be missed, or have more specific needs such as bunting-strewn yurts, tolerable toilets or a 24-hour puppet theatre for your children. Whatever your desires, there should be somewhere in our selection that meets them.

Handy for London


Richfield Avenue, Reading, Aug 28-30

Venerable Reading isn’t the grimy rockfest of yore but Sunday evening still gets a bit Lord of the Flies when the absurdly young crowd go stir crazy. Among the headliners, the divisive Mumford & Sons look the most likely to suffer an infamous Reading bottling, while Metallica bring the noise on Saturday and the reunited Libertines send everyone home whistling.


Hylands Park, Chelmsford, Aug 22-23

Still only running over two days despite being one of the most popular festivals, V is often derided for its heavy brand presence and the fact that most attendees look like Big Brother rejects. Yet it’s a handy place to see all the biggest pop acts of the moment. The line-up is announced next week, but is often similar to T in the Park if you want a clue.

Love Supreme

Glynde, East Sussex, Jul 3-5

Just over an hour away on the train near Lewes, this relatively new jazz festival attracts big, old-school names such as Van Morrison and Chaka Khan to its headline slots, while being brave enough to book much more daring stuff further down the bill. Look out for Mercury nominees GoGo Penguin and colourful Gabby Young.

The big hitters


Worthy Farm, Somerset, Jun 24-28

You may have heard of this one. It’s the one UK festival you can’t miss, not least because hours and hours of it will be broadcast on the BBC. It’s gigantic, overwhelming and really can be life-changing, with a magical moment at every turn. Foo Fighters are the only major band announced so far, with hints about Taylor Swift, but who cares? It’ll be brilliant.

Isle of Wight

Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, Jun 11-14

This revived oldie plays up to its retro image. Where once there was Jimi Hendrix, now there will be Fleetwood Mac — a significant coup when many were hoping that they would headline Glastonbury. Relative whipper-snappers on the bill include next big thing James Bay, ubiquitous R&B man Pharrell Williams and blues rockers The Black Keys.

T in the Park

Strathallan Castle, Perthshire, Jul 10-12

Bands often say that they enjoy playing in Scotland the most, with audiences there being keen to say the least, hence the stellar bill for the nation’s biggest festival. There are big, lager-chucking rock bands — Kasabian, The Libertines and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds — plus endless major dance and pop names including Sam Smith, Avicii and Rudimental.

Small and sweet

Secret Garden Party

Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambs, Jul 23-26

This definitive boutique experience isn’t so secret any more. It’s one where the overall vibe appeals far beyond any specific band — though Jungle, Temples and Bernhoft are all fun bookings. This year’s theme is “childish things” so expect grown-ups in onesies watching the goat-racing and mud-wrestling.

Larmer Tree

Larmer Tree Gardens, Salisbury, Jul 15-19

An intimate experience with a woodland backdrop that marks its 25th anniversary this year, so should be putting up even more flags than usual. The children’s activities will appeal, as will the relaxed spaces on the periphery. They haven’t announced their line-up yet, but expect fairly mainstream entertainment such as last year’s headliners Tom Jones and Tom Odell.

End of the Road

Larmer Tree Gardens, Salisbury, Sep 4-6

In the same spot as Larmer Tree, End of the Road is somewhat cooler, with an impeccable line-up of left-field Americans including Sufjan Stevens, The War on Drugs, Future Islands and My Morning Jacket. All that great music, plus the chance to hunt for peacocks in the daytime — what could be finer?

More than music


Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, Aug 6-9

The crusties who once dominated Glastonbury would be horrified by this newcomer, a festival that’s fancier than a spa weekend in Milan. There’s a Lakeside Spa, two opera companies and food from big names including Mark Hix, Angela Hartnett and Petersham Nurseries. The music is A-grade too, with Björk, George Clinton and Ben Howard topping the bill.


Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight, Sep 10-13

DJ Rob Da Bank’s vision of the perfect festival has been so successful that it spawned a spin-off, Camp Bestival, and this year takes place for the first time in Toronto too. A creative crowd will take to this year’s fancy dress theme, “Summer of Love”, with enthusiasm, as well as dancing ’til they can’t dance no more to the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Underworld and Duran Duran.


Henham Park, Southwold, Jul 16-19

This one is a festival for lovers of all the arts, not just music, with regular appearances from English National Ballet and the RSC, as well as more authors, poets and comedians than you find in most fields. The music line-up is still to be announced but you can trust them to book some big names that will appeal to the smarter set.

Family fests


Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, May 29-31

Waking up in festival season at a time when we’re more likely to roll over and ask for another 10 minutes in bed, Wychwood is a gentle start to proceedings. This permanent nominee in the Best Family Festival category at the UK Festival Awards also incorporates a children’s literature festival. Bands include UB40, The Proclaimers and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Camp Bestival

Lulworth Castle, Dorset, Jul 30-Aug 2

The Lola to Bestival’s Charlie, Camp Bestival is a little sister that puts children first and music a distant second. Impressive live acts for when the littlies have finally dropped off include Underworld, Kaiser Chiefs and Ella Eyre, but really people are there to see The Cat in the Hat Live and Cbeebies legend Mr Tumble.

Beautiful Days

Escot Park, Devon, Aug 21-23

Organised by folk-rock veterans The Levellers, Beautiful Days boasts that it “has no sponsorship, branding and does not advertise” so we must apologise for promoting it here. It puts the kids’ field in the centre, run by Majical Youth Theatre, and has a designated family camping field. Bands will be announced in March.

Top poppers


Southsea Seafront, Portsmouth, Aug 29-30

Tickets are just £18 a day for this south coast knees-up that incorporates a real ale festival and kids arena, plus a lively main stage featuring Tinie Tempah, Basement Jaxx, Texas and Ella Eyre. The Flaming Lips should add some weirdness on the Saturday night.


Brighton City Airport, Brighton, Jun 6-7

Dance duo Disclosure have previously put on Wildlife parties at Glastonbury and Serbia’s Exit Festival, but this inaugural festival of their own is their most ambitious venture yet and it’s already sold out. Pals Rudimental have stepped in to help choose a bill that features them plus men of the moment George Ezra, Sam Smith and Mark Ronson.

For club lovers


Daresbury Estate, Halton, Cheshire, Aug 28-30

London clubbers will more likely be at Clapham Common’s South West Four festival over the August bank holiday weekend but if you prefer to camp (or to pretend to camp — I know what you youngsters are like) you can see Avicii, the Chemical Brothers, Above & Beyond and Armin Van Buuren up north instead.


Damyns Hall Aerodrome, Upminster, May 30-31

With another big dance festival, Global Gathering, taking a break this year, this one much nearer London should appeal. Twelve stages over two days provide a who’s-who of DJ talent, including Carl Cox, Gorgon City, Hannah Wants and Steve Angello. You can’t camp, but you weren’t going to sleep anyway, were you?

Beautiful scenery

Green Man

Glanusk Park, Brecon Beacons, Aug 20-23

The massive hill looming behind Green Man’s main stage provides a perfect sight for afternoon daydreaming. A bucolic setting and hippie feel should put you in the right frame of mind for a relaxed music line-up that includes Calexico, The Staves, Father John Misty and St Vincent.

Festival Number 6

Portmeirion, North Wales, Sep 3-6

Cleverly opting to situate itself in a village rather than a field, Festival Number Six provides weirdness straight from the set of cult TV show The Prisoner. Sir Clough William Ellis’s beautiful Italianate village is the setting for theatre and art trails, as well as music from Grace Jones, Belle & Sebastian and Young Fathers.

Kendal Calling

Lowther Deer Park, near Penrith, Cumbria, Jul 30-Aug 2

With deer roaming about the place and plenty of art, fancy food and a themed fancy dress day, this one ticks the key festival boxes on a small scale. Look out for the Tim Peaks Diner, where Charlatans man Tim Burgess will be holding court, and stay up to see Elbow, Snoop Dogg, Kaiser Chiefs and The Vaccines.

Keep it niche


Donington Park, Derby, Jun 12-14

The UK’s premier heavy rock and metal festival this year, now that chief rival Sonisphere has announced that it’s having a year off. The bill includes space rockers Muse, horror rockers Slipknot and retro rockers Kiss, and pretty much all the other rockers in between.


Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, Jul 23-26

The widest-ranging music bill in festival land, with endless exciting discoveries to be made. This year’s international line-up includes De La Soul and desert blues outfit Tinariwen.

Cambridge Folk

Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, Jul 30-Aug 2

Having begun as a UK imitator of the Newport Jazz festival, Cambridge marked its 50th anniversary last year so could be excused for taking it easy this time around. But an impressive bill with far more than just folk is already being crafted: Joan Baez, Passenger, Frank Turner and Nick Mulvey are all booked.