Best Off-Radar Festivals
When it comes to festivals, don’t believe the hype. Sure, Glastonbury has hosted some of the biggest names in the business (David Bowie, The Smiths, Beyoncé, Jay-Z) and is making headlines this year with the controversy-courting booking of Kanye West, but there’s more to festival season than Worthy Farm and wellies.
The UK is a treasure trove of boutique and niche festivals, featuring the best new and established artists.
With that in mind, here are our top five picks.
1. Festival No. 6
Located in Wales’ pastel-hued, Italian-inspired celebrated tourist village Portmeirion, Festival No. 6 is a mecca for those on the hunt for a more creative experience.
It’s billed as a “bespoke banquet of music, arts and culture” and it does exactly what it says on the tin: this year’s lineup includes Grace Jones, Belle & Sebastian and Kate Tempest across the music stages, and the like of Irvine Welsh and Maxine Peak leading discussions.
Be sure to catch Josie Long in the comedy tent, and make sure you investigate the Gwyllt woods, home to pop-up raves and a floating dance floor on a Chinese lake. Exceptional food and a variety of accommodation options mean this isn’t a festival just for die-hard campers.
When: September 3-6, 2015.
Where: Portmeirion, Wales.
Price: Weekend tickets, including camping, cost £170.
2. End Of The Road
Laura Marling, Sufjan Stevens and Sleaford Mods top the bill at this countryside festival – but music isn’t the only draw. Featuring a comedy stage, film screenings, literature readings, healing sessions and workshops, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of activities to entertain the choosiest festival goer.
The food and drink line-up is also strong, with a number of stalls providing a wide selection of ales, ciders and hot meals.
Six camping areas, including one for camper vans and a designated ‘quiet’ area, cater for everyone.
When: September 4-6, 2015.
Where: Larmer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire.
Price: Weekend tickets cost £195.
Don’t be fooled by its name – Wilderness festival is definitely not a rustic experience. If you’re looking for a high-end festival, this is the ticket: top names headline the music (Bjork, Ben Howard and George Clinton) and food (Angela Hartnett, Mark Hix) offerings, not to mention a programme dedicated to ‘well-being’ – namely in the form of a lakeside spa and yoga classes.
You can also go horse riding, wild swimming and even learn butchery skills. It might seem a little east London-transplanted-to-the-countryside, but it’s actually as beautiful and idyllic as it sounds.
When: August 6-9, 2015.
Where: Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire.
Price: Weekend tickets cost £175
4. The Great Escape
If you’re into music, you’ll have heard of The Great Escape: it’s THE go-to festival for new music.
Hosted in various venues across Brighton, the vibe is very much ‘weekend-long party’ rather than ‘muddy field party’. As festivals go, it’s also incredibly cheap, at just £55 for a weekend ticket – that’s a lot of bang for your buck, as Alabama Shakes, Kate Tempest, Skepta and Dutch Uncles top the bill.
This is less about big names, however, and more about discovering the best bands before they hit the big time. The seaside and all its perks (fish and chips, and late night drinking on the beach) are an added bonus.
When: May 14-16, 2015.
Where: Various venues, Brighton.
Price: Weekend tickets cost £55.
Tramlines is a sprawling festival named after Sheffield’s tram network, covering over twenty of the city’s venues (including four outdoor stages).
Some huge names appear on the bill, and this year Wu Tang Clan, Basement Jaxx and Martha Reeves headline, with Honeyblood, Ekka and The Charlatans also appearing.
Its focus is on value for money (weekend tickets are a mind-blowing £30) and diversity – expect to discover music you never knew you liked in a uniquely urban setting.
When: July 24-25, 2015.
Where: Various venues, Sheffield.
Price: Weekend tickets cost £30.