20 of the best British music festivals
With summer on the horizon, it's almost time to don your wellies, put daisies in your hair and groove in the grass at one of the UK's best music festivals...
The days are getting (a teeny bit) warmer and our lunchtimes longer as we escape the office in search of some much needed vitamin D. And our weekends? Well, they are about to be spent knee-deep in mud, rocking in a mosh pit or trying out a spot of yoga on a remote Cornish beach.
Yes, it's nearly festival time. And whether you fancy an inner city rave or a stage in the shadow of a Welsh mountain, a weekend that's all about the music, or a side order of craft ale with your favourite bands, the UK's flourishing festival scene has it all. There really is something for everyone...
Where? Victoria Park, London
When? June 11-12
Line up: James Blake, PJ Harvey, Mystery Jets, The Temper Trap, Roots Manuva
Hipsters and hippies alike love Field Day for its cool, edgy yet unthreatening atmosphere. There’s a bit of everything, from big crowd-pleasers to strange, new offerings which you might not have heard of, but you’ll have great fun stumbling across. A few years ago the festival felt slightly disorganised but now it’s got stages arranged according to genre, with more bars, toilets and food tents than before. It feels a lot like going to a great party – it’s relaxed, full of friendly, fun souls and you never know quite what will happen. The crowd is varied but there are certainly lots of well-dressed urban types in their twenties and thirties just dropping in for the day. The really good thing is its location: being in London, it's easy to find a tube or train home when your legs are wobbly from all that dancing to all those bands you didn’t even know you liked.
Where? Seaclose Park, Isle of Wight
When? June 9-12
Line up: The Who, Queen + Adam Lambert, Stereophonics, Faithless
Isle of Wight kicks off the serious festival season every June with an impressive line-up of musical icons. Set within the south coast’s sunny microclimate, you do need to cross a body of water to get there, but it’s still only two hours from London.
After almost 50 years, the festival is a British classic, having hosted the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie. Its early days as the ‘UK’s Woodstock’ are legendary but the festival still impresses even if it’s a slightly less hippie, much more civilized affair nowadays. I mean, we doubt Hendrix stayed in a PodPad with 24 hour security…
Where? Donington Park, Derby
When? June 10-12
Line up: Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Deftones, Rammstein
Download is the festival of choice for heavy rockers, punks and metal-heads. The music is going to be loud and your weekend is going to get messy.
If your ears are in need of a break there’s also laser tag, wrestling, circus workshops and a football tournament to entertain you. You might think this isn’t the place for especially comfortable sleeping arrangements, but if you need a good night’s kip before you mosh, Download is home to RIP campsite (yes, that does stand for Rest In Peace) which boasts a Little Shop of Horrors and Hell’s Kitchen for much-needed sustenance.
Motorhead were set to be performing at this year's festival but since frontman Lemmy's death earlier this year, Download has decided to rename their main stage The Lemmy Stage for 2016.
Where? Hyde Park, London
When? July 1-10
Line up: Florence + the Machine, Take That, Stevie Wonder, Kendrick Lamar, Mumford and Sons, Olly Murs
The emphasis here is on good, wholesome festival fun. The names of the stages sum up the quaint ethos: Great Oak Stage, The Theatre, Village Hall and Bandstand. The 50,000+ crowd isn't particularly rowdy or easily stereotyped – mainly due to the utterly diverse acts on stage (from the likes of Tom Jones and Black Sabbath to Taylor Swift and The Who). There something very middle class about the whole thing – for example you can buy VIP tickets and stand at the front, while the unlucky sods behind you fight it out with the masses. This is the place to see incredible acts without getting dirty, missing the last tube or coming home with a fag burn in your T-shirt.
Where? Worthy Farm, Somerset
When? June 22-26
Line up: Adele, Muse, Coldplay, Disclosure, Ellie Goulding, The 1975, Cyndi Lauper, James Blake
Bad news: if you don't have a ticket yet, you'll have to wait until next year. The 150,000 tickets sold out (again) in a record time this year, six months before the line-up was announced. Why? Because you can easily go five days without seeing a single one of the hundreds of bands. What makes this ageing hippie and giant of a festival special is the rest: the comedy, cabaret, circus, poetry and debating stages; the dozens of beautifully decorated tents that dish up chai tea and massages; the kids' playground; the stilt-walkers and spontaneous performances; the dystopian underworld that only comes to life at night; the pleasure of stuffing yourself silly on organic food and chewy cider. It's certainly changed since 1970 when 1,500 people paid a pound to see T-Rex and enjoyed a complimentary pint of milk – but veterans argue it's as friendly as ever.
Where? Vicarage Farm, Winchester
When? July 1-2
Line up: Dizzee Rascal, Everything Everything, Shy FX, Norman Jay MBE
Blissfields started life as a petite party in a Hampshire field, and has blossomed into a thriving festival. Run by the Bliss family, it recently outgrew its original home and decamped to a bigger farm near Winchester. It’s retained much of its local feel in the move, but Blissfields now attracts festival goers from around the UK after a pint of Hampshire ale, a local feast and a slice of summer sunshine. (It officially never rains on Blissfields' weekend.)
There are plenty of live bands to entertain, plus the Hidden Hedge to please dance lovers, but Blissfields is also the place to embrace your inner crafter with jewellery making, pottery crafting and tie-dying stalls.
Where? Strathallan Castle, Perthshire
When? July 8-10
Line up: The Stone Roses, Calvin Harris, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Disclosure, Bastille, Tom Odell
Scotland’s stand-out festival is in its 23rd year. This will be the second in its new home. T in the Park moved from Balado, Kinross-shire - its home for the last 18 years – to Strathallan Castle last summer.
T’s range of stages for established chart-toppers and untapped talent will be setting up camp in the new location, alongside stalls where you can get your hungry hands on some Scottish delights – hot smoked salmon rolls from Loch Fyne, homemade Shepherd’s pie from Perthshire and organic Northumberland Lamb Shish kebabs. Just don’t head straight for the fairground afterwards…
Where? Southwold, Suffolk
When? July 14-17
Line up: The Maccabees, Beirut, The National, The Lumineers, New Order, Chvrches
East Anglia’s hottest festival Latitude is in its 11th year this year. The secret to its success? Its eclectic mix of music, art and drama – the perfect festival for culture vultures. Latitude attracts impressive music acts, but if you fancy a break from the bands there is comedy (this year from the likes of Russell Howard, Josh Widdecombe and Al Murray, to name a few), poetry, open-air theatre, dance shows, inspiring talks, cabaret and interactive art exhibitions.
Where? Victoria Park, London
When? July 15-16
Line up: Jungle, Run the Jewels, Major Lazer, LCD Soundsystem, Jack Garrett, Stormzy
Anti-hipsters beware, there's a slight congregation of bearded, top-knot, skinny jean wearing East Londoners here that will make you want to sing 'I Love My Life as a Dick Head' at the top of your voice. For everyone else: Hackney's Victoria Park becomes a throbbing mass of ravers, rioters, wannabe rappers, fashion students and those sharing trays of quinoa salad. Instagram at the ready… things are going to get pretentious.
Where? Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon
When? July 21-24
Line up: Air, Primal Scream, Caribou, The Temper Trap, Beardy Man
Silliness is the order of the day at Secret Garden Party. Think bonkers art projects, paint fights, a dance off stage, mass fancy dress in a field, weird installations, and some 26,000 revellers.
Everything at Secret Garden Party has an otherworldly feel about it. And this year it’s set to get a stage more surreal with the theme Gardeners of the Galaxy. "Explore the world of Science Fiction and imagine a new garden out of the old. Using the inspiration of Arthur C Clarke, Azimov, Philip K Dick and Douglas Adams we are going to grow our imaginations from childish roots up into something more..."
Image: Danny North
Where? Charlton Park, Wiltshire
When? July 28-31
Line up: Roots Manuva, Lura, Lula Pena, Soom T, Heartbeat, Broadway Sounds
Global music is the theme of the much-loved Womad festival. The line-up is eclectic and features established musicians as well as aspiring artists from around the globe. It's about discovering new sounds and enjoying music you've never heard before.
There's a food market inspired by international flavours too, as well as a All Singing All Dancing Tent where you can learn anything and everything from yoga to Sabar dance lessons. Add to that poetry, art, therapies, tree climbing and a eco focus and you've got yourself one special weekend.
Where? Newquay, Cornwall
When? August 10-14
Line up: Chase and Status, James Bay, Kaiser Chiefs, Primal Scream
Extreme sports meets good music at this surf-inspired celebration by the sea. The weekend of Boardmasters turns Cornwall's Newquay into a heaving mass of sun worshipers, who come and watch the finest boarders rip on the UK's most famous surfing beach. At every Boardmasters festival there are pro skate and BMX comps plus tons of beach bars and markets selling gifts and art. Forget Thailand's Full Moon Party – you can experience one of the world's best beach parties right here in the UK.
Image credit: Graham Joy
Where? Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire
When? August 4-7
Line up: Robert Plant, The Flaming Lips, Crystal Fighters
At Oxfordshire’s Wilderness festival, art, culture and food enjoy equal billing with the music. This year the likes of Robert Plant and The Flaming Lips are rubbing shoulders with debates about censorship, socialism and the refugee crisis plus photography exhibitions, a lakeside spa, a deli run by Deliciously Ella, croquet, cricket and brew beer with foraged ingredients. There’s even a chance to learn about fire walking and perfume making – and to indulge in a bracing spot of wild swimming. If that’s not a strange and exciting way to spend four days, we don’t know what is. Where do we sign up?
Where? Matterley Estate, Winchester
When? August 11-14
Line up: Levellers, Fun Lovin Criminals, Beardyman, The Correspondents
BoomTown is a festival unlike any other. The elaborate set up involves the building of a fictional town, complete with elections, passports and a post-office. The town's streets are like film sets, stuffed full of performers – mermaids, cowboys, pirates, you name it, BoomTown's got it. And the music is just as eclectic as the performances. Think ska, folk, gypsy, reggae, world, punk, disco, electro-swing, jazz, blue-grass, bass, jungle and techno. It's fair to say anything goes.
Where? Brecon Beacons, Wales
When? August 18-20
Line up: Belle and Sebastian, James Blake, Wild Beasts, Warpaint, Battles, Slow Club
You can’t get much closer to nature than this laid-back festival in the heart of Wales’ Brecon Beacons. Even Green Man’s main stage, the Mountain’s Foot, is a giant grassy amphitheatre in the shadow of the Table Mountain. There is a decidedly folky feel to this festival, with acts like Laura Marling, Feist and Mumford & Sons headlining in the past. But the kid-friendly festival isn’t just about the music. There is a stellar comedy tent, brilliant food stalls, art installations, science experiments to wow kids and adults alike, yoga, meditation and a side order of pagan ritual, which comes to a head on Sunday night when the Green Man is ceremonially and spectacularly sacrificed to the flames.
Where? Weston Park, Birmingham and Hylands Park, Chelmsford
When? August 20-21
Line up: Justin Bieber, Sia, Faithless, Bastille, Jess Glynne, Tinie Tempah, Rita Ora, James Morrison
V Festival is the ultimate festival for pop-lovers, hosting an array of chart-topping acts year-in, year-out. Previous summers have seen the likes of Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake grace the stage, and this year it's continuing to celebrate with a suitably star-studded line up.
If you fancy following suit and doing V in star-studded style, there are yurts, gypsy caravans, airstreams and sleeping huts in which to lay your head, while V Festival's VIP louder lounge is a favourite spot for visiting celebrities. You don’t have to be famous to get in, but you do have to part with more money for your extra special wristband and the chance to bump into a member of Little Mix in the loos.
Where? Daresbury, Cheshire
When? August 25-28
Line up: Alesso, Chase and Status, Avicii, Pete Tong, Calvin Harris, Fatboy Slim
Run by international dance brand Cream, it's no surprise that Creamfields is something of a mecca for dance, house and electro lovers. This festival is all about the music and ticket holders take their tunes seriously. Cream put on impressive lights displays, confetti, lasers, smoke, fireworks and flames to accompany their world-renowned DJs and please the tens of thousands of fans who have braved the British weather to rave in a field. The festival shut early in 2012 after heavy flooding, so campers have had their fingers crossed for sun ever since...
Where? Richfield Avenue, Reading and Bramham Park, Leeds
When? August 26-28
Line up: Foals, Disclosure, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Fall Out Boy, The 1975, Two Door Cinema Club
Reading and Leeds are mainstays of the UK festival scene. They are grungy, giant music monsters that consistently attract big names to their multiple stages. If your idea of a festival involves craft beer and a Malaysian curry, these giant events probably aren’t for you. Reading and Leeds are about the music, not the local produce and the poetry tent. Having said that, if you want to party hard like you did in your teens and you don’t mind getting a little messy in the process, walk this way.
Where? Portmeirion, Wales
When? September 1-4
Line up: Noel Gallagher, Hot Chip, Bastille, Super Furry Animals, Broken Social Scene
Portmeirion, a picturesque village on the North Welsh coastline, might seem an unlikely spot for a festival, but it’s what makes this location so special. Number 6 takes over the village, made famous as the setting for The Prisoner, with bands, DJs (and Welsh male choirs) performing everywhere and anywhere, from the town hall to tents on the sandy beach.
This boutique festival is a great choice if you don’t fancy slumming it or forgoing your morning shower. There are luxury yurts, tipis and plenty of hotels and cottages in the surrounding area to choose from. You can even stay in the historic Portmeirion Castle, and top off your day with a trip to the champagne and oyster bar in Portmeirion gardens. Fancy.
Where? Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight
When? September 8-11
Line up: The Cure, Hot Chip, Wolf Alice, Katy B, Years & Years, The Human League
Bestival marks the second time each summer the Isle of Wight is inundated with campers keen to rave in fields and cover their faces in glow-in-the-dark paint. It boasts a line up as impressive as the Isle of Wight festival, though the vibe is a little different. Bestival is like one weekend-long fancy dress party with out-of-this-world, larger-than-life props. The theme this year is The Future so who knows what to expect. "Prepare yourselves for a Bestival unlike any other," says Rob da Bank.
Head to Camp Bestival in Dorset for the festival’s family-friendly little sister festival.