Glastonbury is having a year off in 2018. Better spend the summer on a Netflix deep dive and keep the jester hat in the loft for another 12 months right? Wrong! Did you know that a host of music festivals that aren’t called Glastonbury have been going on this whole time, and we haven’t even noticed? Here’s a selection of plucky upstarts that are every bit as welly-worthy as that Somerset farm.
We Are FSTVL
May 25-27, Damyns Hall Aerodrome, Upminster (wearefstvl.com)
The festival season gets going in a big way with this dance gathering in the far east outside London. Eleven stages host… what’s the collective noun for big name DJs? A klaxon? A private jet? The list includes Armand Van Helden, Eric Prydz and Andy C. There’s a heavy rap and grime presence too with the likes of Lethal Bizzle, Bugzy Malone and the man who can never be hot, Big Shaq.
July 20-22, Hill Farm, Oxfordshire (truckfestival.com)
This intimate gathering south of Oxford is no more grand as it enters its 20th year, and still gives some of its proceeds to the local Rotary Club. The line-up isn’t unambitious though, with jolly troubadour George Ezra and indie dance band Friendly Fires prominently positioned. De La Soul, Jake Bugg and Everything Everything are also on board.
July 26-29, Standon House, Standon, Herts (standon-calling.com)
Holding about 10,000 campers and placed just outside the M25, this one has a fancy dress theme (the future, this time) and a colourful mainstream line-up that includes Paloma Faith, Bryan Ferry, Goldfrapp and The Bootleg Beatles. There’s also a packed dance selection, if you want to know where not to pitch your tent, including 2ManyDJs and Hot Chip.
Aug 2-5, Hever, Kent (neverworld.co.uk)
LeeFest, a tiny festival that began life in an enterprising chap’s garden, has now moved and rebranded but still keeps things cosy with just 5,000 attendees. This year they have a sandy beach complete with mermaids, a paint fight on the schedule and chart-topping headliners in the shape of Bastille and Clean Bandit.
Aug 17-18, Hylands Park, Chelmsford (rizefestival.co.uk)
It’s a new name but not much else for the event formerly known as V Festival. It’s still the place to go to see anyone who’s been in the top 40 over the past year, including Rita Ora, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man and James Bay. As headliners for the rebrand they’ve gone for safe Britrock veterans Liam Gallagher and Stereophonics.
Aug 24-26, Richfield Avenue, Reading (readingfestival.com)
Those who enjoy being angry on social media expressed disappointment in this year’s line-up for venerable Reading and its sister festival in Leeds, but it looks like a pretty standard Reading mix of American rock, homegrown indie pop and hip hop to me. Past-their-prime giants Fall Out Boy and Kings of Leon top the bill on Friday and Sunday, with Kendrick Lamar offering something more daring on Saturday.
BEST FOR KIDS
July 26-29, Lulworth Castle, Dorset (campbestival.net)
The closest you’ll get to the worshipful atmosphere of a Glastonbury headlining set by Radiohead this summer is when Mr Tumble takes to the Camp Bestival stage. The CBeebies legend is back again (though I preferred his earlier work) at this gathering where a handful of toddlers in an elaborately decorated garden centre trolley is an essential accessory. Orbital, Simple Minds and Rick Astley will entertain the grown-ups.
Aug 16-19, Glanusk Park, Brecon Beacons (greenman.net)
As if the bubble shop wasn’t enough of a draw for kids, Green Man also has a stream to play in, busy children’s and science fields, and an array of family activities for “settlers” who want to stay all week. The tiered ampitheatre around the main stage means it’s easy for small people to see headliners The War on Drugs, Fleet Foxes and John Grant too, though it’ll be past their bedtime.
Aug 24-26, Kingham, Cotswolds (thebigfeastival.com)
Blur bassist Alex James’s farm opens its gates again and remains surely the only UK festival with a “cheese hub”. For kids there will be serious tree climbing with a rope and harness, a petting zoo and the opportunity to meet Peppa Pig and Paddington. For adults there’s a mix of stars from the worlds of cooking (Marco Pierre White, Raymond Blanc, Mark Hix) and music (Craig David, Paloma Faith, Clean Bandit).
MORE THAN MUSIC
May 25-28, Hay on Wye, Hereford (hay.htlgi.iai.tv)
This one in the literary town of Hay bills itself as the world’s biggest philosophy and music festival, though it’s unclear how much competition there is. Big name speakers include Noam Chomsky and Anna Soubry, there’ll be live music from The Orb, Badly Drawn Boy and Ana Matronic from Scissor Sisters, plus a circus and masked ball to boot.
May 25-27, Silverstone, Northants (speedmachine.com)
If philosophy’s not your bag, how about motorsports instead? The arrival of the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Silverstone has been expanded into a full festival with off-site camping, Egaming, pimped cars to look at, a live performance from Dizzee Rascal and DJ sets from Basement Jaxx and the crew at Ministry of Sound.
July 19-22, Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire (discoverthebluedot.com)
With the gigantic Lovell Telescope looming above, this is the idea place to mix music and science. There’s a Space Pavilion and a Planet Field, and music by a galaxy of stars such as The Chemical Brothers, The Flaming Lips and Gary Numan. The Blue Planet nature series, performed with a live soundtrack from the Halle Orchestra, should hit the sweet spot between the two worlds.
Aug 2-5, Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire (wildernessfestival.com)
Still probably the poshest summer festival, Wilderness is far from as rough and ready as its name with its spa, boating lake and food by Ottolenghi and Petersham Nurseries. Sadler’s Wells will host dance performance, The London Review of Books is doing something cerebral, while Bastille, Jon Hopkins and Nile Rodgers & Chic will provide the music.
Aug 8-12, Watergate Bay, Newquay, Cornwall (boardmasters.com)
Essentially a professional surfing contest with a live soundtrack, Boardmasters has a sea view, a skate and BMX show and a lively music line-up that includes headliners Catfish and the Bottlemen, The Chemical Brothers and George Ezra, plus Kano, Years & Years and Rag ‘N’ Bone Man.
July 12-15, Henham Park, Southwold (latitudefestival.com)
There’s a lake for swimming in, highbrow setups from the Lyric Hammersmith and Sadler’s Wells, plus they paint the sheep. The music line-up is invariably smart and interesting too. This year sees Solange’s bold soul rubbing up against the likes of Wiolf Alice, Mogwai, Alt-J and The Killers.
Aug 2-5, Lulworth Castle, Dorset (bestival.net)
No longer on the Isle of Wight, these days Bestival shares a bucolic site with its cheeky litle sister Camp Bestival. This year the biggest change is a shift from September to early August, but the usual nonsense will be available with a circus theme, art in the woods and raving on exercise bikes. Music comes from London Grammar, MIA and Grace Jones, plus there’s the first UK sighting of Mark Ronson and Diplo’s Silk City collaboration.
Aug 9-12, Matterley Estate, Winchester (boomtownfair.co.uk)
This festival near the city of Winchester claims to be a city itself and comes with a crazy sci-fi story about its origins involving corrupt corporations and heroic hackers. In their 10th year they’ve scored a coup with an appearance from cartoon giants Gorillaz, while Jimmy Cliff, Goldie and Enter Shikari will also be in attendance.
End of the Road
Aug 30-Sept 2, Larmer Tree Gardens, Salisbury (endoftheroadfestival.com)
End of the Road also signals pretty much the end of festival season. Music comes first here, and the invariably impressive line-up this time features sonically daring women St Vincent and Feist, plus the return of Vampire Weekend as well as Velvet Undergound man John Cale. All that, plus peacocks.
Sept 6-9, Portmeirion, North Wales (festivalnumber6.com)
The recent winner of Best Small Festival at the NME Awards, this one makes Sir Clough William Ellis’s Italianate village in Wales even more magical with the addition of site specific performances and a “Saturday Night Spectacle”. Those bringing the noise include Franz Ferdinand, The The, Jessie Ware and The Charlatans.
June 29-July 1, Glynde, East Sussex (lovesupremefestival.com)
It’s named for a John Coltrane album and certainly jazzy in feel overall, but Love Supreme’s 2018 line-up stretches to include disco from Earth, Wind & Fire, funk from George Clinton and classic rock from Elvis Costello and Steve Winwood. Newcomers Tom Misch and Mr Jukes bring down the average age of the bill a little.
July 26-29, Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire (womad.co.uk)
You could get fully into the globetrotting ethos of Womad by attending one of its other festivals in Australia, New Zealand or Chile, but they’ll bring the world to your door in Wiltshire in any case. Performers announced so far include Mali’s Amadou & Mariam, Camille from France, Ivory Coast’s Dobet Gnahore and Tal National of Niger.
Aug 2-5, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge (cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk)
Now over 50 years old, this weekend has always had a broad idea of what constitutes folk. This year there’ll be punk poetry from Patti Smith, Swedish Americana from First Aid Kit and country from Roseanne Cash and John Prine, not to mention Malian rock from Songhoy Blues.
Aug 23-26, Daresbury Estate, Halton, Cheshire (creamfields.com)
Clubbers who feel like venturing away from London’s South West Four festival on the August bank holiday weekend could head instead to this northern biggie. It hosts an A-Z of top DJs (okay, A-Y) from Above & Beyond to Yousef, with giants Tiesto, Martin Garrix, Axwell & Ingrosso and Diplo in between.
Aug 31-Sep 2, Knebworth Park, Herts (coolbritanniafest.com)
This new one offers the chance to return to the place where Oasis peaked in 1996 and continue that argument about whether Roll With It or Country House was better. Neither Blur or a Gallagher are performing however, on a line-up of second-tier Britpop types including Feeder, Embrace and Ocean Colour Scene, plus acts from the scene that spawned them such as Happy Mondays and Peter Hook & The Light.
Isle of Wight
June 21-24, Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight (isleofwightfestival.com)
It didn’t run from 1971 to 2001, so the Isle of Wight festival has rather less history to celebrate than a few others as it marks its 50th anniversary. This year the former home of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dlyan hosts Van Morrison as a throwback to that era. Slightly younger veterans on the bill include Nile Rodgers & Chic, Depeche Mode and Liam Gallagher. Meanwhile Rita Ora and Camila Cabello should keep the kids happy.
Aug 24-26, Southsea Seafront, Portsmouth (victoriousfestival.co.uk)
There’s plenty for indie rock types to get excited about at this pleasantly situated festival down south. The Libertines will be accepting their status as a heritage act in a headline slot, while Shed Seven, Embrace, Gaz Coombes and Kaiser Chiefs should also provide nostalgic hits. Paul Weller and dance-rock band The Prodigy top the bill on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
June 8-10, Donington Park, Derby (downloadfestival.co.uk)
This update of the Midlands’ Monsters of Rock festival invariably features many of the the biggest beasts of heavy music. Two years since his old band Black Sabbath headlined, Ozzy Osbourne is back in solo guise. Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine and Marilyn Manson will also cause heads to be banged, but the biggest draw will be the reformed Guns ‘N Roses on Saturday.
ONE NIGHT ONLY
June 7-July 1, various Forestry Commission sites (forestry.gov.uk/music)
If the idea of camping in the vicinity of loud music holds zero appeal to you, there are also a few opportunities to see a show outdoors and go home or to a hotel afterwards. Acts including Paloma Faith, Gary Barlow, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott and George Ezra will be touring across seven forest sites this summer. Bedgebury Pinetum is the nearest to London.
Scarborough Open Air Theatre
June 19-Aug 17, Scarborough (scarboroughopenairtheatre.com)
Scarborough’s beautifully situated outdoor theatre has been expanding its programme since its 2010 reopening, and this year hit the news by persuading Britney Spears to appear. Noel Gallagher, Lionel Richie and Gary Barlow will also be there over the summer.
July 18-22, Proms Arena, Lytham (lythamfestival.com)
Taking place on a seafront stage in Lancashire, Lytham hosts a series of individual concerts in the style of Kew the Music or Greenwich Music Time down here. The ubiquitous Nile Rodgers & Chic are on this bill too, as well as George Ezra, Il Divo and Emeli Sande, plus Pete Tong and his orchestra doing their Ibiza Classics.