If you’re a fes­ti­val fan, by now you’re dream­ing of a green field, ban­ners wav­ing in the breeze, the sound of a band on the main stage… yes, fes­ti­val sea­son is near­ly upon us again, and here is my Ulti­mate Fes­ti­val Guide. Most have been per­son­al­ly tried and test­ed, some on a year­ly basis – plus there’s a cou­ple of new ones I have my eye on.

As ever, I’m keen to find fes­ti­vals that have a good bal­ance of ages (child friend­ly, with­out being com­plete­ly over­run), prefer­ably have a dance tent, and have qui­et camp­ing so you can get a vague­ly decent kip.

More fes­ti­vals are adopt­ing the Tier struc­ture to encour­age you to to book ear­ly and some are already on the final tier. Yikes, bet­ter get a move on. Here’s my fes­ti­val cal­en­dar from May through to September…

Bearded Theory   26 – 29 May

pirate3Back in time before the hip­ster beard was yet to be invent­ed, there was a fes­ti­val in a field in Der­byshire called Beard­ed The­o­ry, where fake beards and fan­cy dress were encour­aged, and bands cohab­it­ed hap­pi­ly with a psy­trance dance tent. Beard­ed The­o­ry is a great fes­ti­val sea­son open­er and this will be my fourth. Year after year it plays host to a series of sea­soned rock­ers with a few spe­cials pulled out of the Beard­ed The­o­ry hat. Anoth­er BT plea­sure is Mag­i­cal Sounds, the psytrance/folk lean­ing glob­al music tent. You can’t get friend­lier than the Beard­ed The­o­ry crowd and it’s all for a measly £97.

Lego Man Bearded Theory

Beard­ed The­o­ry good­ies: PIL, Squeeze, Lev­ellers, Turin Brakes, The Orb Soundsys­tem, Astrala­sia, Dub Pis­tols, Black Uhuru.
Check out the site at Beard­ed Theory 

 Field Day  11- 12 June

crowds Field Day

Field Day is the two-day event set in Vic­to­ria Park, east Lon­don. The sheer amount of music this fes­ti­val packs in is a lot to get your head around. Make sure you’re hun­gry too, as Field Day is going all out on great food this year, plus there are craft beer tents too as well as a main bar.

20150606132455 - Ph CFaruolo

When it comes to cura­tion, Field Day con­sis­tent­ly man­ages to get it right, offer­ing two days crazi­ly stuffed with an impec­ca­ble line­up of cov­et­ed head­lin­ers and plen­ty of up and com­ing acts. This year fea­tures the likes of PJ Har­vey, Beach House, Blos­soms, Goat, Sleaford Mods, Thurston Moor. Day tick­ets (sat £54.50, Sun £49.50) and week­ends (£94) available.

Ealing Blues Festival  16 – 17 July

Imag­ine a fes­ti­val with a choice of stages, food stalls, the oblig­a­tory clothes and jew­ellery stalls plus a clair­voy­ant or two, a decent-ish bar, spot­less por­taloos with no queues… ok no camp­ing, but then you can’t have every­thing. It’s only £8 for the week­end too. Eal­ing Blues Fes­ti­val is held in Wal­pole Park, a stone’s throw from Eal­ing Stu­dios. This year fea­tures: Mack, Ben Waters, Tom­my Allen & Traf­fick­er and Mark Har­ri­son. Costs £5 for the day, £8 for the weekend.

Womad  28 – 31 July

It’s the world music fes­ti­val’s tenth anniver­sary, so there’s plen­ty being organ­ised over at Wom­ad tow­ers. Over the years, Wom­ad (pic­tured, top) has grown from being a glob­al music fes­ti­val to one that cel­e­brates a more expan­sive view of a coun­try’s cul­ture. Take the food angle – there’s the Taste the World stage, lux­u­ri­ous ban­quets and even cook­ery class­es. On the inter­na­tion­al line­up are George Clin­ton Par­lia­ment Funkadel­ic, Side­step­per, and Afriquoi, a dancey Lon­don five-piece.


Also Pat Thomas who brings his Afrobeat sounds with the Kwashibu Area Band, and French-Lebanese trum­peter Ibrahim Maalouf. Wom­ad attracts peo­ple of all ages, you’ll often see fam­i­lies attend­ing, with grand­par­ents enjoy­ing music with their grand­chil­dren. For those look­ing for com­fort, there are posh loos (Lah di Dah Loos), and a bril­liant spa which means you don’t have to go home feel­ing like a wreck. Adult week­end tick­ets £175.

Green Man festival  18 to 21 August

Green Man Festival

Going to Green Man feels like a real hol­i­day. It’s tucked away in a beau­ti­ful part of the Bre­con Bea­cons and you can camp on site for a week. Green Man is a bit zeit­geisty: the cura­tors have the knack for spot­ting up-and-com­ing acts mixed with a few head­lin­ers. The main stage is set against a back­drop of moun­tains and it’s one of the most beau­ti­ful of all the fes­ti­val sites. For some gen­tler sounds, head to the Walled Gar­den for a small par­ty atmos­phere. Ein­stein’s Gar­den is the chil­dren’s area, which takes up a sub­stan­tial area of the site. Hot stuff on the line­up: Unknown Mor­tal Orches­tra, Float­ing Points, Fat White Fam­i­ly, Meilyr Jones and Song­hoy Blues. Green Man tick­ets are on the third tier at £175.

Watchet Festival  26 to 28 August

Watchet Festival 2014 ©Pgphotography 2This lit­tle fes­ti­val hits the big time for its tenth year cel­e­bra­tions with a cool line­up. Watch­et Fes­ti­val has three live stages which host more than 60 live acts, and this year sees on stage Peter Hook and The Light, The Feel­ing, the orig­i­nal UB40, Gaz Brook­field and fes­ti­val faves Dread­zone (below). Watch­et Live is a not-for-prof­it fam­i­ly-friend­ly fes­ti­val, and you have to jump on tick­ets for this one as it sells out fast. Watch­et tick­ets are £72.50 for the week­end, includ­ing camp­ing. Seriously.

DREADZONE (2140) 2013 - R Cresta Photography


Festival No 6  1 – 4 September

F6After attend­ing Fes­ti­val No 6 in 2014, I was smit­ten. It’s part­ly the set­ting: the estu­ary with the Ital­ian-style vil­lage of Port­meiri­on. Drift from your tent (or glamp­ing arrange­ment includ­ing the hotel and its cot­tages dot­ted round the vil­lage) to the main stage area with sea and moun­tain views. In Port­meiri­on vil­lage you’ll find talks, choirs, cafes, and all man­ner of pop-up events. By the shore is the hotel ter­race where rev­ellers sip cham­pagne over­look­ing the bay. Look out for the hid­den path through the woods which leads to an F6 piece de resis­tance – a dance stage on the water where DJs pump out dance music day and night.

The Village LimitsThis year’s line­up: Hot Chip, Bastille, Roisin Mur­phy, and Joe Dud­dell & Man­ches­ter Cam­er­a­ta present David Bowie Reimag­ined with spe­cial guest vocal­ists. Fes­ti­val No 6 Tick­ets: £170 plus book­ing fee, Fri­day to Sunday

End of the Road  2 – 4 September

Already on the final tier 4 tick­ets, End of the Road at Larmer Tree Gar­dens is a true music-lovers fes­ti­val, known for its cura­tion and full-length sets – they often man­age to bag elu­sive artists too. Joan­na New­som, Ani­mal Col­lec­tive, Bat for Lash­es, Steve Mason, Deven­dra Ban­hart and more are on the line up for 2016. I love the small­er Into the Woods stage, where pea­cocks wan­der out between sets. Keep your eye out for pop-up sets in the pirate ship in the woods too. End of the Road tick­ets, £175.

OnBlackheath  10th to 11th September

This new fes­ti­val presents a great week­end’s enter­tain­ment as a last blast of sum­mer, or if you’re still feel­ing a bit ‘under fes­ti­valled’ as a friend of mine put it. It’s a real fam­i­ly friend­ly occa­sion, so the par­ents can dance to Hot Chip, James and Belle & Sebas­t­ian while there’s lots for kids too such as Puf­fin Books World of Sto­ries. On Black­heath, tick­ets are £102.92 incl fees for the weekend.

A cou­ple more:

Shrews­bury Folk Fes­ti­val 26 – 29 August: has a good line­up, plen­ty of ceilidh and chil­dren’s events, and can bus you into Shrews­bury town as well.

Truck Fes­ti­val 15 – 17 July : the lit­tle Oxford­shire fes­ti­val with the big line­up, and only £90.50 for week­end tickets

*Tick­et prices cor­rect at time of pub­lish­ing, prices sub­ject to change


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