There’s no need to fret about Glastonbury not taking place this year; there are plenty of fantastic festivals happening all over the country. Here’s my personal pick of the bunch – all have some tickets available, but I wouldn’t recommend pondering for too long. 

Bearded Theory  24 – 27 May

Always a brilliant start to the festival season, Bearded Theory packs in a great lineup on several stages, including the Woodland Stage, set in an arboreal wonderland, plus Magical Sounds tent which features global psychedelia where you can throw a few shapes from noon till the small hours.

Robert Plant

Add fancy dress, a fake beard competition, a ton of family stuff including school on the Friday – and if that’s not enough, maybe you’ll be tempted by the ridiculously low ticket price of just over £100 for 4 days. Bearded Theory seems to have a hotline with, well someone up there, because the weather is usually hot and sunny. Catton Hall in Derbyshire is the setting, and with less than 10% of tickets remaining, it’s time to get your skates, and your beard, on.

The Woodland Stage

Top of the bill this year is Robert Plant and the Sensational Shapeshifters, Jesus Jones, Blossoms, Idles, The Jesus and Mary Chain. Magical Sounds features Eat Static, Astralasia and many more. For tickets, just click here

How the Light Gets In   25 – 28 May

With several years under it’s belt, How the Light Gets In is the world’s largest philosophy and music festival, and this year there’s a strong lineup with Rowan Williams, Noam Chomsky, Lawrence Krauss, David Nutt, Diane Abbott, Neil Strauss and Martha Fiennes. Also Helen Lederer and Matthew D’Ancona.

The setting is idyllic Hay on Wye at the edge of the Black Mountains, with events taking place in atmospheric and intimate venues.

 

The Orb

On the music side of things are The Orb, Ana Matronic, Badly Drawn Boy, The Correspondents, Nerina Pallot and more. Watch out for funky, jazzy Town of Cats collective too. Tier 3 tickets now available at £168 with camping. Click here for tickets and details

Festival of Voice Cardiff  7 – 17 June

There’s a wealth of arts festivals in Wales; one very welcome addition making its second appearance is this Biennial event set in Cardiff, taking place at a multitude of venues. The Festival of Voice Cardiff places an emphasis on collaborations, such as Gruff Rhys performing with BBC National Orchestra of Wales (10 June), who celebrate their 90th birthday this year.

Laura Veirs will perform on Saturday 9 June. Photo by Jason Quigley.

The first wave of announcements includes an intimate evening with Patti Smith on 11 June in St John’s Church, Canton. The following day, Patti takes to the main stage at Wales Millennium Centre for An Evening with Patti Smith, also featuring Lenny Kaye and Tony Shanahan (12 June).

Other headline artists appearing at Wales Millennium Centre are Ivor Novello singer songwriter, Passenger (14 June), plus Nadine Shah who opens for Billy Bragg on the first night of the festival (7 June) with a special Voices of Protest evening. Also appearing are Laura Veirs and Ibibio Sound Machine.

For tickets, contact Festival of Voice

Also festival  29th June – 1 July

If you’d like to retreat to a beautiful part of the countryside to nourish and revive your mind and soul with good conversation, wonderful food plus a tempting array of workshops, Also could be the perfect solution. This small festival, set in rural area of Warwickshire, was created by Salon London and year upon year manages to come up with a raft of inventive events, whether it’s the arts, sciences, psychology and philosophy you’re interested in. 

Subjects on the agenda this year include: understand how being more altruistic could make them more successful, whether the internet is killing democracy, the political power of music, the science of leading films. There are DJs and live musicians to provide the soundtrack to the weekend, whilst Also’s beautiful lakeside banqueting tent hosts fine dining experiences. 

This years’s theme is ‘Isle of Noises’ as festival-goers of all ages are invited to get involved, with everything from experimental cocktail classes to contemporary dance and rave yoga. 

On top of this will be a Friday Food Festival, where Also will play host to their favourite local Cotswold’s suppliers, on hand to stock up guests for the weekend with their homegrown, fresh produce. Food lovers can also take part in Clever Pleasures, an experiential programme of masterclasses. 

Also is set in Compton Verney in Warwickshire, with 50 acres of Capability Brown landscape to wander over plus its own lake for guided wild nature swims. Or head down to the Beach, where you’ll find a Rum Shack, restaurant and floating stage. Click here for tickets and details.

Bluedot festival   19 – 22 July

The stellar family-friendly Cheshire festival has been extended to four days for 2018 – giving you more time to get into the wonderfully curated mix of music, science, talks, poetry and more, with the wondrous Lovell telescope looking down benignly at the explosion of events, ideas and creativity going on around it. Thursday’s star feature is The Blue Planet in concert with The Hallé Orchestra. The main music lineup sees The Chemical Brothers, The Flaming Lips, Slowdive, Crazy P, Amber Arcades, Public Service Broadcasting, Boy Azooga, Algorave and lots more take to the stage over the long weekend. I’m heartened to see Drahla on the lineup, likewise Dub Pistols who will present their Outta Space DJ set, curated exclusively for Bluedot.

Bluedot festival main stage
Bluedot festival main stage (that’s Orbital!)

The Gadget Show’s Dallas Campbell will present his ‘Ad Astra! – An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet’ alongside physicist and broadcaster Professor Jim Al-Khalili, who asks the question ‘Does Life Need Quantum Mechanical? The emerging science of quantum biology’.

At last year’s Bluedot, I attended a talk about Fake News, hosted by Carole Cadwalladr – it was all about Cambridge Analytica. This year sees more talks from world-class scientists and thinkers, discussions on key issues such as climate change and the exploration of space, combined with an opportunity to ask the Big Questions of leading researchers. The Dot talks programme is now unveiled, and with discussions on Black Holes, and Tracking the Space Race, the music or science dilemma will make for some difficult choices! Bluedot’s full family-friendly programme of hands-on science experiments and interactive shows are brilliant for kids of all ages too.

Full weekend camping tickets are now on sale and start from £159 outright cost or a £34.80 payment plan.  

Chagstock Festival  20 – 21 July

One of many very small festivals happening all over the country, Chagstock features The Buzzcocks, Imelda May, The Show of Hands, The Correspondents, and plenty more. The family-friendly non-corporate event takes place near Chagford, on the edge of Dartmoor, and only allows around 5,000.

Weekend camping tickets are £95, with day tickets now available (they include one night’s camping). Be quick as this little festival always sells out. Chagstock festival

Womad  26 – 29 July

There’s an amazing lineup at this year’s Womad World Music festival. Thievery Corporation – last in the UK for a storming Roundhouse gig in 2017, will be appearing along with Camille, Mariam and Amadou, Django Django, Hashmat Sultana, Talisk, Leftfield performing Leftism and many more.

WOMAD 

Womad is much more than a music festival, it’s a glorious celebration of cultures in the form of food (with the Taste the World stage where artists cook up their favourite dishes), the World of Children area, dance, art, poetry and more. Be sure to check out the Word of Words, where there’s a book club (you read the book/s beforehand) and even a giant interactive crossword. 

What I loved most about Womad was the atmosphere which is very gentle and chilled and you’re likely to see collections of extended families, from babies to grandparents, all enjoying the festival together. For the Womad website click here

Victorious Festival   24 – 26 August 

It’s not just London that’s forging ahead with heavyweight day festival lineups. South Sea in Portsmouth hosts the mega popular Victorious Festival. The Libertines, The Prodigy, Paul Weller, Paloma Faith, Friendly Fires, Years & Years, Happy Mondays and Everything Everything play this year. 

The no-camping metropolitan festival also has locally sourced food markets and ale stalls, an arts and craft marketplace, a jam-packed kids arena hosting themed games, live performances.

For tickets and details go to: www.victoriousfestival.co.uk

There are plenty of day festivals happening this year, so if that’s more your thing, or you just hate camping, here’s a few: Citadel, All Points East and Field Day in London. Dot to Dot takes place in Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham. Brighton gets in on the act with The Great Escape   – there’s also Love Saves the Day in Bristol and Splendour in Nottingham. And of course there’s the lovely new Cardiff festival above.

Watchet Festival  24 – 26 August

Another little festival with a big lineup, the West Somerset not-for-profit family-friendly event heads into its 16th year with the brilliant Turin Brakes, reviewed recently here, plus Aswad, Scouting For Girls, Cast, The Selecter, Dub Pistols and more.

Turin Brakes
Turin Brakes

Watchet Live CIC, the community charity behind the festival, are recipients of the 2017 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service; the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK. Prices are kept intentionally low at Watchet, from the tickets (£82.50 for a weekend adult camping ticket) to the in-house Cider and Real Ale Bar. Plus you get lovely views of the coast! For the website click here.

Sea Change Festival   24 – 25 August

It makes total sense for a festival to be curated by a record shop – this is what Drift in Totnes did – with the benefit of much local knowledge of music and quirky venues (such as two microbreweries, a ballroom and the restored local cinema) around their hometown.

Sea Change Festival has grown (but not a lot), providing extra camping space as well as extra venues this year for an extended main stage lineup. For your listening and viewing pleasure are Hookworms, Josh T Pearson, Gwenno, The Weather Station, Lost Horizons and Sweet Baboo. Lots more to come too. There are also panel talks, films and events. Tickets are available from the Sea Change website and from Drift Records.

 

Towersey Festival   24 – 27 August

If you like a gentle folk festival, Towersey remains one of the nicest and most community-minded out there. Situated in a rural part of Oxfordshire only a few miles from Thame, it’s been going for over 50 years and attracts the same families year after year. Beth Orton, Big Country, The Proclaimers, The Shires, Soothsayers, Dartmoor Pixies will be appearing. 

Beth Orton
Beth Orton © Tierney Gearon

And if you like a quiet and well-behaved campsite, Towersey is your best bet –  must be all that frenzied Ceilidh dancing at the Festival Dance House that tires everyone out. Tickets for Towersey are here 

Festival No 6    6 – 9 September 

On target for its seventh year, the quirky, beautifully located festival which takes place at ‘The Prisoner’ location of Portmeirion village, this year features Franz Ferdinand and Friendly Fires added to the line up, along with The The, Alexis Taylor, Jessie Ware, Everything Everything, The Charlatans, Django Django, Ride, Anna Calvi and many more.

 

My favourite spot at Festival No 6 is Village Limits (above) set in a clearing in the wood, where you can dance on a pontoon. 

There is always an impressive collaboration between the Manchester Camerata Orchestra and No.6 Composer-in-residence Joe Duddell – this year they will perform the very best of Northern Soul and Motown classics. There are plenty of other events going on too – this year Will Self makes an appearance, so will Elmear McBride who wrote A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. The full arts and culture bill will be revealed over the next few weeks.

Tickets at festival no 6  

Main photo: Festival No 6.

2 thoughts on “Best festivals for 2018

    1. Thanks Steve! I’ve been to most of them – I’m becoming a fan of the ones with debates as well as music. Hope you’ve got one or two lined up for summer…

What do you think?