With such a gorgeous hot summer it’s been a good year for music festivals. Glastonbury organiser Michael Eavis who finally bagged the Stones this year is calling it one of their best ever. But my interest is in smaller festivals, partly because I like being able to walk from tent to arena in under ten minutes, partly because of the more intimate atmosphere.

It’s not all been joy for organisers though. Hop Farm festival in Kent cancelled in the spring, after trying to put on a scaled-down event this year. I went to three Hop Farms, starting in 2008 with a one-day event, culminating in a storming set by Neil Young. But as the festival developed into two and 3-day events, ticket organisation went awry, a shame as owner Vince Power managed to book some high-calibre artists. In its second year, for instance, tickets were being given away with cheap purchases from a discount clothing website. This didn’t go down well with those who had paid Hop Farm’s usual slightly over-inflated prices. Hop Farm festival never achieved that ‘loyalty’ status, whereby people will buy tickets year after year, supporting the event regardless of the line-up. Another Kent festival, Lounge on the Farm, similarly had to scale back this year, but the event proved popular with locals and has done well.

Big Chill festival 2008
Big Chill 2008

Also RIP to Nova Festival which made a promising start in 2012, with one of the organisers of Big Chill amongst its founders. Sadly it took place on one of last year’s most soggy summer weekends. It was an event with true vision, a sort of giant house party with art events including a life drawing class (see my header photo), talks and hot tubs plus a wonderfully eclectic lineup.

Catering to the top end are Cornbury and Wilderness festivals. The latter offers horseriding and banquets and has been honoured with a visit by Samantha Cameron, who you probably won’t find swanning around at Bearded Theory.

And talking of which, Bearded Theory proved to be a great little festival with a good lineup and a really friendly crowd (and a beard competition on Sunday afternoon). Next year, it moves to a new venue, Catton Hall. The mix of psytrance and psybeat dance tent and mostly folk bands worked well. Peter Hook is already on the 2014 lineup. I’ll also be returning to the fabulous End of the Road festival: a lineup of startling originality and a beautiful setting. Early Bird tickets are already gone and the tier system is up and running, so waste no time.

Towersey in Oxfordshire is another event I’ve recommended (click here). It’s a real family event and has a gentle feel. I remember it being completely silent at night. Our camping area was nicknamed Acacia Avenue by a friend’s son, so clean, tidy and quiet it was. Next year is its 50th so promises to be a really special event.

There are still a few festivals before the frosts arrive. Festival No 6 in Portmeirion North Wales is happening this weekend, maybe it’s time to head off for a last taste of summer.

What festivals did you go to this summer? Where do you recommend? What are your particular loves and dislikes?

Bar at festival

2 thoughts on “Festivals round up 2013. The greats and the RIPs

  1. Last summer, I went to my first festival in three decades (my last outing was to a very bedraggled Glastonbury: I can still smell the loos). Dragged along to Knee Deep(http://kneedeepfestival.com) in Liskeard, Cornwall, as an escort for my under-age daughter and friends, this celebration of local music, food and friendship was a gentle reintroduction to festival life. Sweet.

    1. That sounds like the perfect way to get back into festivals, there’s a real sense of belonging at small events. I like the ‘secret location’ aspect too. In the south west, there’s a festival called Beautiful Days in Devon which sounds nice, but it books up quickly (it is run by The Levellers). Do let me know if you go to Knee Deep this year!

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