Missed out on Glastonbury tickets? Or feeling the pinch and want the outdoors experience for less? These beauties are the finest fests in the land, all for under 100 squids, chosen and (on the whole) personally experienced by me. Book tickets now and get ready for a very chilled out summer.
Tag line: Greenest festival in the land
Where: Secret location near Usk in Wales
Costs: £88 for a weekend ticket
About: Incredibly chilled out, family-friendly festival that somehow doesn’t lose an inch of cool by it. The music is all in circus big tops in this festival extension of one of Glastonbury’s most popular areas. You won’t have heard of any of the bands here but it doesn’t matter in the least – you’ll be having too much fun attending drunken tea parties and meditating with hippies in the woods.
Highlights: The huge campfire and amazingly friendly atmosphere.
Tag line: New and underground British music
Where: Upcote Farm, Gloucestershire
When: 14th-16th July
Costs: £59 for weekend ticket
About: Dirt cheap tickets and a stunning festival site. Big on music but lots of atmosphere – there are nature walks and sheep dog trials for those rare moments when you’re not drunk down the front of the main stage. 2000 Trees is the best place to fall in love with bands you’ve never heard of and spend the rest of the year irritating your mates with references to them.
Highlight: set by Los Campesinos – do not miss.
Tag line: The UK student festival
Where: Pembrey Country Park, South Wales
When: 16th-20th June
Costs: £99 for weekend ticket
About: A student staple on the festie circuit, but definitely a good shout if you’re under 25 and not adverse to semi naked young ladies dancing to Tinie Tempah around you for a few days. Beach Break has it’s very own beach for sandy dancing, myriad bars and a strictly pop music line-up that makes it a recipe for a salty, messy weekend costing just shy of £100.
Highlight: Watching the sun come up on the beach, surrounded by passed-out revellers.
Tag line: Officially the best value festival in the UK
Where: Fallowfields, Manchester
When: 11th – 12th June
Costs: £58.50 for weekend tickets
About: Six arenas and a huge main stage playing big names including Chase and Status, Mark Ronson and Annie Mac, Manchester’s answer to London’s park parties includes themed chill out zones and giant bouncy castles and is your best bet up for festivals up north. With weekend tickets selling for a little over £50 there’s a real emphasis on value for money.
Highlights: Fantastic quality food stalls and sexy massage ladies.
Harvest at Jimmy’s
Tag line: the festival of food and music
When: 9th-12th September
Costs: £97.50 for weekend tickets.
About: It doesn’t get more relaxed than this. The main stage is surrounded by hay bales and picnic blankets at this friendly mini festival (only 1000 tickets were printed in 2008) that combines famous names in music and food. Watch KT Tunstall rock out on guitar whilst noshing on amazing lemongrass chicken concoctions and getting pleasantly tipsy on strawberry cider. One to take your partner to for a weekend that won’t leave you both feeling trampled.
Highlight: Sampling sausages handmade by Jamie Oliver.
Tag line: 2 stages. 2 days. Bands. Free camping. Bar. Food. Art. Activities.
Where: Gilcombe Farm, Somerset
When: 29th-30th July
Costs: £30 for early bird weekend tickets
About: Described by the Sunday Times as one of the ‘biggest bargains of the festival season’. Hats are compulsory wear at this brilliant little farm, run by a crack team of locals. All funds go to charity, giving you a warm fuzzy feeling whilst you enjoy two stages playing acoustic, dub and folk beats and a huge hog roast that is great for the munchies.
Highlight: Winning the best hat competition: respect.
Tag line: the largest arts festival in the world
When: 5th-29th August
Costs: individual event prices
About: Everyone has to go once in their lives. Book a B&B now to avoid last-minute costliness and then simply wander the streets, dipping in and out of gigs, comedians, odd little theatre productions… the range of creative performances available is huge, which means that everyone’s experience of the festival is unique. Very special.
Highlight: Seeing an unknown comic do a tiny gig in a pub and knowing you’ve discovered the next big thing.
Tag line: music festival offering up an exemplary cross section of leftfield bands, artists and DJ’s.
Where: Victoria Park, London
When: 6th August
Costs: £44 for the day
About: Five hilariously titled stages (Eat Your Own Ears Main Stage, Adventures in the Beetroot Field Stage, Village Mentality Stage, Bugged Out! Stage and the Bloggers Delight Stage) host a massive range of performances. My favourite is the Village Mentality, which has well has hosting hip bands also oversees a sack race, tug of war and egg and spoon race. Tickets always sell out, so get in there now.
Highlight: The 2011 line-up is an indie kid’s delight.
Bristol Harbour Festival
Tag line: Bristol’s biggest cultural event and one of the biggest free festivals in the country.
When: 29th-31st July
About: Completely free and totally awesome, Bristol Harbour fest is a huge celebration stuffed with music, dancing, circus performers, food and, er, boats. 2011 is the 40th anniversary so expect exciting stuff. If the sun is shining it’s a fantastic place to be. Make sure you sample local Somerset cider, on sale in different stalls dotted around the harbourside.
Highlight: The unbelievable circus acts performing death-defying acts above the crowd’s heads.
Tag line: I’m not actually sure, as it’s in Serbian.
Where: Novi Sad, Serbia
When: 7-10th July
Costs: £89 for a 4-day festival pass
About: Fancy heading to a festival abroad? Exit is held in a fortress and is suitably European and unusual but with big music names included: 2011’s line up includes Arcade Fire, Beirut and Deadmau5. Plus, you’re right by the Danube if you feel like getting away from the crowds with a dip in the river.
Highlight: Returning home with a very limited but unusual Serbian vocabulary. Фуцк!
My favourite of all of these has to be the lovely lovely Croissant Neuf, which can only be summed up by watching this video (which handily I am in, dancing with a mustache!)