Our festival piece looks a little different this year. It’s been a difficult and rather harrowing task putting it together as many have decided – and are still deciding – to cancel, mainly due to the lack of Government-backed covid insurance. Operating on a knife edge is everyday stuff for festival organisers, but this is on another scale entirely. Huge losses were incurred last year and festivals cannot survive a second similar experience.
Recently Bluedot festival, Bearded Theory, Neverworld and Wychwood postponed. Sea Change festival in Devon was an early adopter of the digital festival in 2020, and very good it was too. They are also taking a break however they are putting together some online gigs instead, check their site. And, only debuting in 2019, Anthropos festival (reviewed here) has also leapfrogged over 2021.
However we will put on our half-full glasses and celebrate those that feel able to go ahead. Some old favourites are set to happen and it’s a good sign to see a sprinkling of new festivals popping up – there are many more day events this year including All Points East. Ticket sales are healthy (many carrying over from last year), proving there are a good many folk desperate to get back to the fields to dance, discover new music and raise an eco cup of warm cider to the return of good times.
Kaleidoscope festival 24 July
The parkland surrounding Alexandra Palace is perfect for an outdoor festival with plenty of room to roam and, with sloping grounds, you’re bound to get a great view of the stage. Kaleidscope, which debuted in 2018, first took place in 2018. Groove Armada are set to headline, with The Coral and Norman Jay also appearing. Mr Wilson’s Second Liners (seen above at Festival No 6) will get the party atmos going. There will probably be more artists added to the bill.
Womad festival 22–25 July
Their bookers have not had an easy time of it this year but Womad, the World Music and Dance festival, is back for 2021 with an amazing lineup. Overseas travel being restricted, the lineup contains more UK artists reflecting musical and artistic traditions from all over the world. Anoushka Shankar, The Comet is Coming, Nitin Sawhney, Stornoway, Electric Jalaba and Nubiyan Twist all feature. Womad are also big on Food of the World too, so expect the festival’s legendary cooking demonstrations and talks.
South Facing Festival 5 – 29 August
|This series of concerts is an exciting development for anyone spending summer in the capital. A brand new, month-long, outdoor series will be happening at the iconic Crystal Palace Bowl and after ten fallow years, the amphitheatre is back in action. Set to star over the month are a range of artists: Dizzee Rascal & The Outlook Orchestra, Supergrass, The Streets, Max Richter, ENO and more. Gourmet Gigs are looking forward to 7th August with Jane Weaver, The Orielles, Kay J Pearson and more, plus the 15th with The Comet is Coming and Gilles Peterson. Although we like the look of all of them, really.|
South Facing festival
Watchet festival 27 – 29 August
A recent recipient of the Govenment’s Culture Recovery Fund, this small festival in West Somerset is expecting to happen but ticket sales have just been frozen until end of May. The vast majority of acts who were booked for last year are still set to play this time round too. A small number of overseas acts, notably Sister Sledge, are dependent on easement of travel restrictions but contingency plans are in place if they are unable to fulfil their booking. Three live stages host more than 60 live acts, including Gabrielle, Sister Sledge, Shed Seven, Toyah, The Blockheads, Sound of the Sirens, Dr Meaker and The Leylines. Cider and Real Ale bar prices are super low!
Moovin’ 27–29 August
The cowsheds at Whitebottom Farm, Stockport is the location for this brilliant dance-focused fest, only half an hour from Manchester and set in lovely countryside. It’s a small festival, kept deliberately intimate. The lineup is held back for now until things are more settled but past lineups have included Mr Scruff, Transglobal Underground, Krafty Kuts, Afro Cluster, Roni Size and 808 State.
Towersey festival 27–30 August
If you’re thinking of heading off to a folk festival this year, here’s one of our favourites. Taking place in the village of Towersey on the Oxfordshire border for 50 years, Towersey is like a big, friendly village festival. Steeleye Span, This is the Kit, Talisk, Whapweasel, Celtic Heartbeat are just a sample amongst a huge roster over its four festie days. There’s plenty of opportunity for Ceilidh lovers to tire themselves out in the dedicated Ceilidh tent, plus you’ll find lots for children.
Victorious festival 27–30 August
This coastal festival attracts big crowds every year – Madness, The Streets, Fontaines DC, Seth Lakeman and Morcheeba are on this year’s lineup. A recent second wave adds lots more to the bill: Nile Rodgers & Chic, Frank Turner, Clean Bandit, Jade Bird Lottery Winners, The Mysterines and Porridge Radio. Plus Portsmouth goes Ibiza with a DJ set by Annie Mac. This is a non-camping festival with very reasonably priced tickets sold daily. Out-of-towners can stay in an offsite campsite or bed down in university accommodation. Tickets are £35 per day.
Wide Awake 3rd September
This new day festival for London gets the Gourmet Gigs vote: it offers a thoughtful and well curated and mix of artists, from left-field indie, post punk, electronica, techno, jazz. Black Midi, Dream Wife, Scalping, Songhoy Blues, Tinariwen and David Avery will be appearing. More women on the lineup than on some lineups this year too. Wide Awake takes place at Brockwell Park, which has seen an uptick in day festivals over the past few years.
Wide Awake festival.
Manchester Psych Fest 4th September
Manchester plays host to the Psych Fest this September with a truly amazing lineup. The fantastic Tinariwen and Stereolab both headline with Dry Cleaning, Whyte Horses, Julia Bardo, The Lounge Society and plenty more. Venues are scattered around Manchester’s centre: the O2 Ritz, Gorilla, Dancehouse, Deaf Institute and YES. Lots of food and arts will be dotted around, for a truly buzzy Manchester day.
Manchester Psych Fest
Sensoria Festival 1–9 October
Benefitting from its position later in the year (and an award from the Culture Recovery Fund), Sensoria Festival, based in Sheffield has been celebrating music, film and digital since 2008. Events, performances, screenings and talks will be happening at spots around the city, creating a real party atmosphere.
Director Jo Wingate has announced the launch of the Sensoria Social programme, which will bring musicians and filmmakers together to share ideas and collaborate. More details to be revealed soon… and lineup details too. If you’re interested in taking part, and are inspired by the themes SuperNature and Better Together, get in touch with the festival organisers, they would love to hear from you.
Focus Wales 7–9 October
Now in its tenth year, Focus Wales is an industry showcase event bursting with live music over 20 stages, conferences, talks, workshops and more, all taking place around the town of Wrexham. The festival features a mix of international artists with a spotlight on emerging Welsh talent. This year sees Gruff Rhys, The Twilight Sad, Tim Burgess, Cara Hammond and Bandicoot set to appear. Focus Wales also hosts arts and film this year. Tickets are very reasonably priced, with Day Passes on Thursday £25; Fri and Sat £35 per day.
*Gwyl festival in March 2021 saw four Welsh festivals combine forces and put eight days of entertainment online. Focus Wales took part, showcasing several Welsh artists such as Adwaith, Catrin Finch, Cara Hammond and Islet. The performances can still be seen here. See Gourmetgigs Gwyl review here.
Details are correct at the time of publishing.