Dust down the sleep­ing bags and camp­ing stove, the start of fes­ti­val sea­son is only a cou­ple of months away. These days, music fes­ti­vals are work­ing hard­er to attract a fol­low­ing, offer­ing debat­ing ses­sions and work­shops, ban­quets and bal­loon­ing, hop­ing to carve out a unique and iden­ti­fi­able image from a sea of for­mu­la­ic events.

Here are a pick of the fes­ti­vals for 2014, most of which I’ve attend­ed over the years. I like these ones because they seem to attract a good bal­ance of ages and social group­ings (fam­i­lies, cou­ples, friends), they are small enough so it’s not too much of a slog to the are­na from your tent, and most are in fair­ly scenic locations.

Bearded Theory May 22 – 25

It’s not sur­pris­ing that Beard­ed The­o­ry won Best Small Fes­ti­val in the UK Fes­ti­val Award 2013. This is a real­ly friend­ly event which gets the sea­son off to a good start, and does­n’t take itself too seriously.

Asian Dub Foundation play
Asian Dub Foun­da­tion 2013

There are three stages and a fan­tas­tic tran­cy dance tent, so there’s always some­thing to see with­out get­ting bam­boo­zled by choice. The Stran­glers, UB40, Dread­zone, Wilko John­son, Ege Bamyasi, The Orb Soundsys­tem, and 3 Daft Mon­keys are just some highlights.

Bearded Theory seller

Sun­day sees fam­i­ly day and the infa­mous beard com­pe­ti­tion. The loca­tion has changed this year: Cat­ton Hall, near the pret­ty vil­lage of Bar­ton-under-Need­wood, is its new home.
Tick­ets £94.80.
Web­site: Beard­ed Theory

Hop Farm July 4 – 6

Yes, Hop Farm fes­ti­val is mak­ing a come­back. Now under new man­age­ment, this Kent fes­ti­val has put togeth­er an inter­est­ing­ly mixed line­up – Ray Davies, Bri­an Wil­son of the Beach Boys, Grace Jones, Echo and the Bun­ny­men, Mid­lake, Max­i­mo Park, Bel­low­head. There’s a com­e­dy tent fea­tur­ing Jo Brand, and, as before, there’s a small stage in camp­ing. Although Hop Farm was always ‘all about the music’, attract­ing artist such as Prince, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, it was beset by tick­et­ing and oth­er issues which hope­ful­ly are now things of the past.
Tick­ets £135

Beacons August 7 – 10

A rel­a­tive new­com­er which is mak­ing quite a splash, Bea­cons has inject­ed some fresh ener­gy into the fes­ti­val cal­en­dar. Set in north York­shire, this is a true music and arts event, with a strong line up and plen­ty of com­e­dy and art – there are films, talks and lec­tures includ­ing roam­ing per­for­mances and art instal­la­tions. Camp­ing Under the Stars offer lux­u­ry tip­is and tents. The line­up includes Daugh­ter, Dark­side, The Fall, Eag­ulls, Sweet Baboo  and Money.
Tick­ets: now onto Tier 3, tick­ets are £109.45.

Green Man August 14 – 17

This one-time folk-based event now offers more of a mix of musi­cal gen­res. Green Man fes­ti­val takes place in a tru­ly mag­i­cal set­ting, with the main stage in a nat­ur­al audi­to­ri­um against the majes­tic back­drop of the Black Moun­tains. Fol­low the twists and turns of paths to dis­cov­er oth­er stages, food, bars and shops. There’s a late-night dance stage in a beau­ti­ful walled gar­den. Chil­dren are par­tic­u­lar­ly well catered for with Ein­stein’s Gar­den – sci­ence, nature, sport, art and more.

The burn­ing of the Green Man at mid­night on Sun­day is a dra­mat­ic cli­max. The line­up promis­es Michael Chap­man, Daugh­ter, Beirut, Cari­bou, Angel Olsen, Lanterns on the Lake, Tun­ng… and many more.

Adult tick­et: £166.50. Camp­ing avail­able 3 days before fes­ti­val starts.


The Green Man – before he burns


Towersey Festival  August 21 – 25

Well here it is, Tow­ersey’s Gold­en Jubilee! The grand­fa­ther of fes­ti­vals in Oxford­shire stretch­es over five days, a folk extrav­a­gan­za enhanced with a host of ceilidh work­shops, incor­po­rat­ing fes­ti­val and vil­lage loca­tions. This is a fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty event that’s grown over the years, with­out sell­ing out.

Sched­uled to appear are: Richard Thomp­son, Seth Lake­man, Lau, Geor­gia Ruth, Nan­cy Kerr and James Fagan, The Urban Folk Quar­tet, Debs New­bold plus lots more. All the per­form­ers play in one of the tents, not out­side, and there is plen­ty of seat­ing. And this is the fes­ti­val for you if you like a civilised, silent camp­site for a good night’s sleep.

End of the Road  August 29 – 31

pop up show

Scott Hutchi­son of Fright­ened Rab­bit does a pop­up show pri­or to his main stage slot

In an idyl­lic set­ting with woods and pea­cocks, End of the Road in Dorset has built up a devot­ed fan­base for an event that puts music strong­ly at the fore­front. The cura­tors have an inspired eye for pick­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing mix of artists: a mix of main­ly folk, indie and Amer­i­cana… and they intro­duce notable new acts. Last year Angel Olsen. Artists play long sets, and if you keep an eye out, you’ll stum­ble upon impromp­tu per­for­mances in the pirate ship in the woods (Jarvis Cock­er made a sur­prise appear­ance last year). 

There are plen­ty of fun, arty events going on, and the high-qual­i­ty food is a bit dif­fer­ent from the usu­al fes­ti­val offer­ings. The line­up includes Flam­ing Lips, Wild Beasts, The Hor­rors, Tinari­wen, Unknown Mor­tal Orches­tra, Gruff Rhys, British Sea Pow­er and John Coop­er Clarke.

Says fes­ti­val founder Simon Taffe: “I am very excit­ed to have final­ly got the Flam­ing Lips, one of the best live bands in the world today, play­ing End of the Road on Sat­ur­day night. It’s also a great hon­our to have the Wild Beasts back to play a head­line spot, plus some of the most inter­est­ing live bands around at the moment – White Den­im, John Grant, Yo La Ten­go and many more.”

Festival No 6 September 5 – 7

The star of Fes­ti­val No 6 is the loca­tion, the breath­tak­ing­ly extra­or­di­nary Ital­ianate vil­lage of Port­meiri­on, set on the north coast of Wales (see top pho­to). The vil­lage was the loca­tion for TV series The Pris­on­er. The head­lin­ers this year are Beck and Lon­don Gram­mar (a young band for such an hon­our) and Bonobo. Then there’s Steve Mason, Martha Reeves and the Van­del­las, Los Campesinos!

Fest No 6
Beach, sea, music, debate at Fes­ti­val No 6


Fes­ti­val No 6 is a cul­tur­al fes­ti­val with art trails through the woods, sto­ry tellings and mas­ter class­es plus much more. A dizzy­ing array of accom­mo­da­tion choice con­fronts you: from four-star Hotel Port­meiri­on’s rooms over­look­ing the estu­ary, to Bell Tents bou­tique camp­ing, yurts, Cas­tle Deu­draeth – or per­haps the less salu­bri­ous real­i­ty of your own pop-up tent.
Tick­ets: £160

Some extras to look out for:

How the Light Gets In is a music and phi­los­o­phy fes­ti­val at Hay, stretch­ing over 10 days from May 22. Events take place all over the town, and can be booked  sep­a­rate­ly or on a pass. The cap­ti­vat­ing singer-song­writer Phildel is appear­ing on The Inter­na­tion­al Stage dur­ing the first week. Also per­form­ing are: King Charles, Nick Mul­vey, Sweet Baboo, Mr Scruff and Ner­i­na Pallot.

Lake­fest near Tewkes­bury is a small, fam­i­ly friend­ly event, from 8–10 August. A few Tier 4 tick­ets at £90 remain.

Corn­bury Fes­ti­val looks to be shap­ing up with a host of top acts – Suzanne Vega and Peat­bog Faeries head­line. This event is set in the ver­dant  Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire.

Nib­ley day fes­ti­val is on Sat­ur­day 5th July with the won­der­ful Turin Breaks. Tick­ets go on sale 22 March.

For any­one hol­i­day­ing in Corn­wall this sum­mer, check out kneedeep­fes­ti­val which one of my blog read­ers went to and enjoyed

Lounge on the Farm in Kent is reduced to a one-day event on Sat­ur­day August 2, but will be back to a week­ender for 2015 at a new venue. Line­up not yet announced, tick­ets are £55

PLEASE NOTE: tick­et prices were cor­rect at time of blog post­ing 21/3/2014


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