Here’s an update of some of my top festival recommends for 2014 and as of the time of posting, still have tickets available. These are all small to medium-sized gatherings (no hour-long trudges to the arena). All these festivals have plenty of well thought-out activities for children and a fairly broad age range of attendance, so whether you are going as a family, a couple, a group of older people or solo – you’ll find lots to keep you occupied, musically and otherwise.
Bearded Theory May 22–25
The new venue at Catton Hall is looking good, it is flat, and well drained so there’ll be no tyres getting stuck in the mud if it rains. Bearded Theory are down to the last few remaining tickets, so get your skates on. Wilko will not be performing, he’s undergoing treatment so it’ll be sad not to see him but we wish him well. Dress up theme for Sunday is Magic and Sparkles – and of course – beards. I can’t wait.
Cornbury July 4–6
Nestled in the Cotswolds in the Great Tew Estate, Cornbury Festival combines beautiful scenery, a gentle ambiance and a friendly vibe. Taking place in term time, it caters wonderfully for those bringing pre-schoolers, who can join in the Pirate Pantomime and Circus Skills with Circus Kaos. Open to everyone are Bhangra dancing and the Bollywood Dance workshop. Every year, Cornbury seems to quietly set about curating a well-rounded musical line-up with a few absolute gems.This year for me its Simple Minds who steal the limelight… although Suzanne Vega comes a close second. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, The Feeling and Peatbog Faeries are also making appearances.
And Sunday’s headliner has just been announced – The Gipsy Kings, as part of their 25th Anniversary Tour. Cornbury encourages new talent with their Campfire Sessions, so to be in with a chance as one of the six shortlisted acts, check their website.
Ealing Blues Festival July 19, 20
Lots of fantastic blues all afternoon and evening in Walpole Park, Ealing, sadly no camping! This is a great event with a good bar and plenty of food choices, extended since last year to a weekender – and all for £5 a day or only £8 for the weekend.
Womad 24- 27 July
This world music festival is as much of an institution on the festival calendar as Gxxxxxy (you know the one). There is a very special feeling at this gathering, and I’ve always been thrilled by the sheer amount of music to explore. This year, Nitin Sawhney, Mulatu Astatke, Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni ba are ready to entertain you. Gourmet Gigs is thrilled about the foodie angle of Womad this year: there’s a new Taste the World restaurant curated by local foodie Dave Penfold. Performers will cook some of their own traditional dishes, and a Bedouin tent in the Arboretum will serve platters of different ethnic foods. Feast nights include Fridays Spice Route and The Sugar Route on Saturday. The kids area will feature cookery workshops, run by Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation Ambassador Danny McCubbin.
Deerstock July 25–27
This small family festival near Nottingham has almost sold out, with tickets a very reasonable £40. There are two stages, plus a Stage in the Glade this year for buskers. Camping and real ale. The Bedroom Hour are just one of the bands playing.
Kneedeep August 1 – 2
It may have started with eleven people, but the numbers have grown somewhat. However Kneedeep is still small but perfectly formed. The Cornish boutique extravaganza kicks off in, as usual, a secret location near Liskeard. The lineup includes fabulous Leeds band Eagulls, Islet, Peggy Sue, and er… plenty more to come, wait and see.
Beacons August 7–10
The north Yorkshire festival which is making a big name for itself. A huge variety awaits at this gathering – a lively mix of music, art, debate, comedy. There’s special attention paid to the food on offer too. Beacons keep on adding to the already packed line-up, so keep checking back. Glorious and eccentric British Sea Power are now appearing, along with Jon Hopkins, Joan as Police Woman and Daughter.
End of the Road August 29–31
The lineup is now complete, headliners are Gene Clark No other Band who include members of Beach House, Fleet Foxes and Fairport Convention. No wonder EOTR has become such a wildly successful event, the curation is well measured and thoughtful, sets are longer than average rather than ‘festival crowd pleaser’. The site, at Larmer Tree Gardens is beautiful with lots to explore, and peacocks venture out after bands come off stage. Tickets are up to Level 4. TIP: check their ‘returns’ website, you may pick up cheaper tickets which were bought early.
Festival No 6 Sept 5–7
Families are mostly back in the swing of school terms, uniforms, homework… so this last blast of summer is most welcome. Although it’s Wales. In September. Not always the most Caribbean of climates, but no fear, Festival No 6 takes your mind off impending autumn with the most awe-inspiring venue of all, Portmeirion Italian village. A great lineup and a massive camping choice – from yurts, teepees, lotus belle tents and more. The hotel is sold out. The lineup this year includes Bonobo, Jimi Goodwin from Doves, Pet Shop Boys, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Steve Mason and I’m delighted to see The Undertones on there as well.
Which festivals have caught your eye this year? I’d love to hear where you are going, and why? Is it the lineup, or are you faithful to one festival every year?
All details of tickets, bands etc, were checked and correct when this blogpost was published, 21st May 2014.