Britain may be famous around the world for good manners, proper tea and a love of queues, but there’s another area in which we really excel: the music festival. Having emerged from pagan celebrations dating back centuries, the festival scene of today is one offering live music, local food and an extra-long weekend of sheer revelry – plus more than a little mud, of course.
So for those of our lovely customers thinking of spending their summer with tens of thousands of like-minded hedonists around Britain, here are some of the best on offer.
The Isle of Wight Festival
Seaclose Park, June 12 -15
Whilst recent years have seen the Isle of Wight Festival usurped by Glastonbury in terms of sheer status, it was the first icon of its genre and was even responsible for inspiring a certain Michael Eavis to put on his own event.
It began back in 1968 with performances from Jefferson Airplane and Arthur Brown, but it was the now-legendary 1970 event which etched the Isle of Wight Festival firmly into the annuls of history. Estimated to have been attended by some 600,000 people, it boasted a breathtaking line up of Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Chicago, The Doors, The Who, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Moody Blues, Free, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Miles Davis and many others. The legacy of this 1970 festival is tinged with sadness, though, as – less than a month after his performance – Jimi Hendrix was dead.
The same fate almost befell the entire festival (especially after it led to an act being passed which prevented gatherings of 5,000 people or more on the Island) but, after a 32-year hiatus, it was revived in 2002. Since then the festival has been seen as the season opener proper and enjoyed huge success – even if those days of 600,000 attendees is long gone. This year sees headline sets from Biffy Clyro, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kings of Leon.
Pilton, June 25 – 29
No self-respecting countdown of UK festivals is complete without this, the daddy of them all. Since its emergence in 1970 (when tickets cost £1 and included a free pint of milk), Michael Eavis’ humble event has gone on to become the world’s premier music festival. There are no other events across the world which come close to being spoken of in the same awed reverence as Glastonbury.
Over the years, Pilton has played host to acts including; T.Rex, David Bowie, The Smiths, Oasis, Pulp, Radiohead, Blur, Manic Street Preachers, Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Muse, Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, The Who, Stevie Wonder, U2, Beyonce and The Rolling Stones. This year will see Arcade Fire and Kasabian top the Pyramid Stage bill, with a third special guest headliner still to be announced.
As always with Glastonbury, the music – and even the headliners – play second fiddle to the raft of alternative events taking place on around 100 stages. Comedy, circus, cabaret and even a 1990s New York-style nightclub offer all the alternatives a festival-goer could ever need.
T in the Park
Balado, July 11 – 13
For evidence of a real success story, look no further than T in the Park, Scotland’s largest popular music festival.
Held annually since 1994, the event has gone from a relatively small-scale affair in Lanarkshire to a three-day event taking pride of place at a disused airfield north of Edinburgh. It has even gone on to win a raft of awards, including the prestigious International Festival of the Year, beating off competition from other events in Australia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. This year, some 85,000 people are set to descend on Balado for the festival, having been tempted along with the promise of headline performances from Biffy Clyro, Calvin Harris and Arctic Monkeys.
What really sets “T” apart from its peers is the crowd. Despite having to regularly bat off accusations of being Scotland’s premier gathering of “neds” wanting to engage in little more than drinking and hooliganism, countless bands throughout the decades have hailed the unparalleled energy that greets them from crowds north of the border.
Festival No 6
Portmeirion, September 5 – 7
If tents as far as the eye can see and mud to your nostrils doesn’t appeal, then maybe Festival No 6 in Wales’s stunning Portmeirion will be more attractive.
Now in its third year, Festival No 6 takes place around the – shall we say peculiar – town which was constructed largely from scratch in the 20th Century to resemble a Mediterranean villa. That’s not all that sets Festival No 6 apart, though, as it also includes poetry readings, stand up comedy, art exhibitions, film screenings and much more (as well as the music, of course). The mantra of “a festival unlike any other, in a place like no other” really is accurate.
One of the last festivals of the summer, No 6 welcomes some well known names to North Wales. Previous headliners were Spiritualized, Primal Scream, New Order, James Blake, My Bloody Valentine and Manic Street Preachers. Two for this year have already been revealed – Beck and London Grammar – with a third to come shortly.
The above are some of the most noteworthy music festivals taking place across Britain this summer, but that’s certainly not all. In fact, there are all these – and more – to choose from as well.
Reading and Leeds
Richfield Avenue and Bramham Park, August 22 – 24
Britain’s biggest rock festival may be known for its typically younger demographic, but manages to pull in a bankable line-up every year. This summer will see Arctic Monkeys and Blink-182 headline, with Queens of the Stone Age and Paramore chosen to share the duties on the remaining night.
Weston Park and Hylands Park, August 16 – 17
Another festival in two parts, V is among the poppiest, most radio friendly of them all. This year is no exception, with headlining duties shared between The Killers and Justin Timberlake, who will alternate between the Essex and Chelmsford.
Glanusk, August 14 – 17
Taking place in the beautiful Brecon Beacons, Green Man is an adult and family-orientated music festival focused primarily on indie, electro and folk acts. This year will be Green Man’s 12th, which is surprisingly good going for a wholly independent, family-run event. It will see performances from Beirut, Neutral Milk Hotel and The Waterboys, with more to be announced over coming weeks.
The Great Escape
Brighton, May 8 – 10
Unlike all of the above, The Great Escape isn’t a camping festival but one that takes place in various music venues and nightclubs dotted around Brighton city centre. Wild Beasts, Example and Kelis will play shows at the Dome, but these require additional top-up tickets on top of the festival wristband. Those not wanting to pay the extra can still enjoy 300 acts, though, including some of the best new or emerging talent from all across the globe.
Camden, June 20 – 21
Camden Crawl occupies a similar position as the Great Escape, albeit (of course), in London. Having returned from last year’s Irish sabbatical, the Crawl will take to 25 stages across Camden once more, bringing Tall Ships, Steve Mason, Alexis Taylor and many more along for the ride.
Knebworth Park, July 4 – 6
This summer, Knebworth Park will be rocking to one of the UK’s heaviest mainstream festivals. After taking a year off, Sonisphere is returning bolder than ever, with headline sets from The Prodigy, Iron Maiden and Metallica, with the latter undertaking a set comprised entirely of fan requests.
Donnington Park, June 13 – 15
The slightly older brother of Sonisphere, Download emerged as nu-metal begin to crash the UK Top 40. This year sees Avenged Sevenfold headline the Friday and US rockers Aerosmith close proceedings on Sunday. Between them, nu-metal godfathers Linkin Park will play début LP ‘Hybrid Theory’ in full.
Henham Park, July 17 – 20
A decidedly more mellow feel, meanwhile, befalls anyone headed to Suffolk’s Latitude. As much about the poetry, arts and comedy as it is the music, Latitude has become the event of choice for families or the more mature festival-goer. In keeping with its eclectic history, this year will see the likes of Two Door Cinema Club, Damon Albarn and The Black Keys fighting for attention with Dara O’ Briain, Simon Amstell and even the Royal Shakespeare Company.