Monday, May 27, 2024

The 15 best UK music festivals, from Lost Village to Boardmasters

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As we start to look forward to those long, heady days of summer, chances are you’ll be thinking about booking a holiday or two. For many, music festivals are the perfect chance to get away from it all – whether that’s in a bustling seaside town or the middle of a verdant forest oasis.

It’s no surprise that, as headliners seem to grow more predictable with each year, music fans are becoming more discerning about where they choose to spend their money. For festival organisers, that means going above and beyond when it comes to offering an out-of-this-world experience.

Gone are the greasy burger trucks of yore – in their place are Michelin-starred chefs and three-course dining experiences. Health nuts can still get their fix away from home thanks to a plethora of yoga and pilates classes, dance sessions and swimming pools. Feel like treating yourself? Plenty of festivals now offer a full spa experience, from saunas and hot tubs to on-site massages, facials and aromatherapy.

Music events today are as much about the overall experience as they are the lineup. So with that in mind, we’ve picked out our top festivals for 2024, featuring everything from country hoedowns and Abba tribute acts to boujee banquets and raucous inner-city danceathons.

The Great Escape

Scenes at The Great Escape in 2023 (The Great Escape/press)

Where: Brighton, Sussex

When: 15-18 May 2024

For those who love nothing better than discovering a brand new band or singer, The Great Escape is as good as it gets. The British equivalent to Texas’s annual SXSW conference, TGE attracts music industry folk in their droves, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the Next Big Thing. Whether you’re into pop, indie, hip-hop, folk, country or drill, there’s plenty to keep you occupied as you stroll around Brighton’s cobbled streets from one venue to the next.

Need a break? Tuck into fish and chips on the seafront (beware the seagulls). Once you’ve rested your feet, head on over to The Independent’s stage at the Old Market, where you’ll get to see rising indie-rock band Wings of Desire, sharp alt-pop singer-songwriter Bo Milli, alt-rock/Americana artist Gia Ford, and Irish folk-pop band Kingfishr. Remember, you heard them here first! Roisin O’Connor

Mighty Hoopla

Crowds soaking up the sun during a performance at Mighty Hoopla festival, 2023 (Sarah Louise Bennett)

Where: Brockwell Park, London

When: 1-2 June

Do you regularly quote obscure X Factor auditions from 2005? Can you reel off Steps B-side tracks at the drop of a hat? Are you counting down the days until Dannii Minogue’s rightful return to the UK charts? Then Mighty Hoopla is one festival you cannot miss this summer. After its beginnings in Victoria Park in 2017, the annual queer-friendly party has made a home in south London, uniting 30,000 pop, dance and alternative music fans for a truly fabulous extravaganza.

Across two days, attendees can enjoy more than 200 artists and performers across 10 stages, including Nelly Furtado, Jessie Ware, En Vogue, Rita Ora, Bananarama, Cher Lloyd, Rachel Stevens and Eve. Real Housewives fans can even count on Countess Luann of the New York franchise making her UK performance debut. No matter the weather, Mighty Hoopla will be sure to bring the sunshine to Brixton. Nicole Vassell

Parklife

Where: Heaton Park, Manchester

When: 8-9 June

Fans at Parklife festival in Manchester (Katja Ogrin/PA) (PA Archive)

Expect gun fingers, high BMP raving and stank faces at this year’s Parklife; Manchester’s raucous dance musical festival. Parklife has a track record for outdoing the rest in its scope of headliners across the spectrum of electronic and pop music. This year is no different, with acclaimed American rapper Doja Cat, British Afroswing pioneer J Hus and returned girl group Sugababes all billed headliners. Meanwhile, heavyweight international DJs such as Peggy Gou, Kaytranada, Four Tet and Jyoty will be energising the rave-ready crowds. See you two-stepping in the field? Ellie Muir

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Black Deer

In with the herd: Revellers at Black Deer 2023 (George Harrison)

Where: Eridge Park, Tunbridge Wells

When: 14-16 June

Yee-haw season is officially upon us, thanks largely to Beyoncé and her country-themed album, Cowboy Carter. So grab your stetson and shimmy on over to Eridge Park, where you’ll find some of the finest country, Americana and bluegrass artists. In a bit of a coup, organisers have managed to get one of the world’s most revered guitarists, Joe Bonamassa, as headliner.

He’ll be joined by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow and Canadian-American crooner Rufus Wainwright, plus homegrown talents such as The Staves, Villagers, Bess Atwell, Brògeal and Divorce.

There’ll be plenty to entertain in between sets, too, whether you’ve an appetite for authentic BBQ and southern comfort food, or fancy a spot of axe-throwing to fight off the Sunday scaries. ROC

Forest Live

The Delamere Stage at Forest Live (Paul Dulac)

Where: Six forests around England

When: Various dates between June to July

Take in some of England’s most spectacular scenery while soaking up equally excellent pop music. Forest Live is a festival with a mission: to protect and nurture England’s areas of natural beauty for everyone to enjoy, along with supporting important conservation projects.

There’s something for all the family this year, from a boogie with Nile Rodgers and Chic, to rocking out to Johnny Marr, Sting and Bryan Adams. Meanwhile pop fans can get their fix thanks to Paloma Faith, who will swap the skyscrapers of her soaring ballad “New York” for the towering pines of Thetford Forest. Pack yourself a picnic and go down to the woods today. ROC

Glastonbury

Glastonbury is exactly what you make it (Getty)

Where: Worthy Farm, Somerset

When: 26-30 June

The granddaddy of UK festivals, taking place on a vast canvas of farmland in Pilton, Somerset, is exactly what you make it. It can be a hippie bohemia, with its late-night pill-popping and Healing Field sound baths. It can be a family affair, perfect for kids who rarely get covered in grass-stains anymore, likewise for the overgrown kids they call parents.

Or it can really be about the music – even in a less starry year (there was, alas, no Madonna or Taylor despite fervent speculation), the lineup for Glastonbury remains unbeatable. Coldplay, SZA and Dua Lipa are headlining, Shania Twain has taken the legends slot, and everyone from Little Simz and PJ Harvey to Idles and Cyndi Lauper can be found on the lengthy list of acts flying in for a long weekend of sun, sweat and noise. Adam White

The Recipe

Jazmine Sullivan is one of the first artists announced for The Recipe, a brand new London festival (Getty Images for Essence)

Where: Gunnersbury Park, London

When: 6 July

West London is cooking up something special with the impending launch of The Recipe festival. Organised by day party and brunch specialists DLT, The Recipe is a slow jams and R&B-focused celebration headlined by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jazmine Sullivan, in what will be her first UK performance since 2014.

Elsewhere on the lineup, American artists SiR, Alex Isley and Destin Conrad add even more soul to proceedings, while homegrown talent Shaé Universe holds down the fort as the sole British artist announced thus far.

Interestingly, this festival is all-inclusive; after paying for your ticket, you can enjoy unlimited food and drinks from a diverse range of vendors, including Wray and Nephew, Sweet Dee’s Jerk and Dirty Burger. Ticketholders can also enjoy a complimentary beauty treatment or two, meaning you can soak up the festival vibes while looking your best – at no extra cost. A recipe for success, if we’ve ever heard one. NV

British Summer Time

Shania Twain is headlining British Summer Time 2024 (AP)

Where: Hyde Park, London

When: 29 June-14 July

If sleeping in a tent isn’t exactly your vibe this festival season, British Summer Time offers an alternative day event option complete with artisan food stalls, fresh cocktails, a luxury VIP area and humongous headliners. Over a series of weekends in June and July, pop heavyweights such as Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, Grammy Award-winning R&B queen SZA, pop princess Kylie Minogue, country-pop icon Shania Twain and Robbie “let me entertain you” Williams will take to the stage in London’s leafy Hyde Park. And while the festival only has one stage, this is arguably the one festival where the support acts (Paolo Nutini before Kings of Leon, and Sampha opening for SZA) are as scream-worthy as the headliners. Lydia Spencer-Elliott

Latitude

Festivalgoers at Latitude (PA)

Where: Henham Park, Suffolk

When: 25-28 July

Keane! Kasabian! Reverend and the Makers! This year’s Latitude lineup is absolutely revelling in Noughties nostalgia and we are here for it. The vibrant three-day celebration of music and arts, which will also see performances from London Grammar, Duran Duran, CMAT and Nile Rodgers & Chic, returns to its magical, wooded location in Suffolk for its 19th year.

But this event isn’t just about the music. Comedians such as Jo Brand and Sara Pascoe are bound to tickle your funny bone, while you can get your thinking cap on thanks to an abundance of authors, poets and dancers. To cool off after all that action, you can follow a winding, fairy-lit path and jump into the lake at Henham Park for a spot of wild swimming. Bliss. Ellie Harrison

Wilderness

Diners enjoy a gourmet experience at Wilderness Festival (Andrew Whitton)

Where: Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire

When: 1-4 August

Now in its 13th year, Wilderness is bougie and it’s not ashamed of it. Yes, David Cameron is a regular, but where else can you go to a festival with a spa, paddle board yoga, and lavish banquets cooked by chefs such as Richard Corrigan and Asma Khan? Set on the tranquil grounds of the Cornbury Park estate, all those lovely wholesome activities don’t mean festivalgoers won’t be able to have a serious boogie, too.

This year’s headliners include Jessie Ware and Faithless, with Alison Goldfrapp, DJ Craig Charles and – joyfully – Abba tribute band Bjorn Again also on the bill. Plus, Wilderness is threatening to steal Latitude’s crown as the best UK festival for arts programming. You can hear conversations with artists and authors like Jeremy Deller and Caroline O’Donoghue, comedy sets from reigning Edinburgh champ Ahir Shah, and even attend a “drag queen wine tasting”. Oh, and Claudia Winkleman’s going to be there. Say no more. Jessie Thompson

Green Man

Festival goers enjoy the atmosphere at Green Man Festival (Gary Wolstenholme/Getty)

Where: Brecon Beacons, Wales

When: 15-18 August

A family-friendly festival set within the bucolic Welsh countryside, Green Man returns for its 22nd year with a strong, diverse lineup that skews towards the folkier end of the festival spectrum. Headlining this year are indie rock savants Big Thief, British singer-songwriter Sampha, electronic guru Jon Hopkins, and post-punk duo Sleaford Mods.

There’s plenty to get excited about further down the bill too, from folk singer turned actor Johnny Flynn to art pop idiosyncrat Julia Holter and raucous Irish trad group The Mary Wallopers. The Brecon Beacons provide a stunning backdrop to the music, while the chilled-out, accessible vibe makes this an ideal option for festivalgoers looking for something more than just a three-day sesh. Louis Chilton

End of the Road

Idles are headlining End of the road 2024 (Getty Images)

Where: Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset/Wiltshire

When: 29 August-1 September

Held each year in the twilight of festival season, End of the Road festival is set to cap off the summer of 2024 with its trademark eclecticism. Larmer Tree Gardens, a picturesque site at the intersection of Dorset and Wiltshire, plays host this year to Bristol rockers Idles, indie shoegazers Slowdive, Fever Ray (the solo project of Swedish singer-songwriter Karin Dreijer), and folk-rock maven Bonnie “Prince” Billy.

A giddy assortment of genres and vibes fill out the rest of the festival: among them Yo La Tengo, Sleater-Kinney, English Teacher, CMAT, and Lankum. Part of the joy of End of the Road, however, lies in the curatorial depth of its non-musical strands. The comedy and literature lineups are yet to be announced, but if last year’s crop are anything to go by, there should be a glut of worthwhile events, all staged within a serene woodland setting. For cinephiles, there’s also a dedicated film tent, which is sure to screen a lively programme of classics, recent releases and deep cuts. LC

Lost Village

Scenes from Lost Village festival (Lost Village)

Where: Lincolnshire

When: 22-25 August

For the most discerning of ravers, Lost Village invites you to, quite literally, lose yourself in its abandoned forest near the village of Norton Disney, Lincolnshire. Among the hidden gardens, disused airbase and dilapidated buildings you’ll discover Michelin-starred chefs serving up lakeside banquets, and DJs (comprising the majority of the lineup) dishing out the beats.

It’s the best of both worlds: you can stay up all night soundtracked by Midland, Maribou State, The Blessed Madonna, Yaeji and Floating Points, before seeking out the restorative properties of a wood-fire hot tub or Finnish sauna. Lost Village also prides itself on its creative workshops, encouraging guests to swap stories and ideas – perhaps you’ll be lost for a few days, but you might be surprised by what you find. ROC

Boardmasters

Music fans enjoy the sunset at Boardmasters in Cornwall (Will Bailey)

Where: Newquay, Cornwall

When: 7-11 August

Boho meets electro at Cornwall’s Boardmasters. Think reiki sessions and yoga classes in the morning with headline sets from Stormzy, Chase & Status and Bicep in the afternoon. So, if you’re all about balance, this one’s for you. Originally founded as a surfing competition, Boardmasters’ beautiful Newquay site offers endless views of Cornwall’s stunning coastline.

Daily DJ sets and surfing contests take over Fistral Beach, just a short cliff walk away from the festival’s main stages where indie acts, such as Sam Fender and Tom Odell, sit alongside drum and bass DJ Nia Archives and Ibiza favourite Andy C on the five-day lineup. LSE

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