Though this year’s Glastonbury starred more mud than music, for those watching at home, it was hard not to look on green-eyed. Yes, the weather’s Biblical. And yes, you pay £15 for a hot dog with the nutritional value of a toenail. But it’s worth it for the buzz of a festival.
However, Britain’s outdoor music season isn’t all pyramid stages and collabs with the last surviving Bee Gee. The UK scene has gone from the niche interest of dreadlocked anarchists to a £2.2bn industry. And the smorgasbord on offer has never been tastier. Here’s our pocket guide to this summer’s ‘other’ festivals.
Founded by DJ Rob da Bank, Bestival opened the Isle of Wight up to much more than tax evasion. A focus on the alternative makes it ideal for the festival-goer that courts the margins, without ditching the mainstream entirely; recent headliners have ranged from the pupil-dilating Chemical Brothers, to Outkast’s rap oddities, and the singalong joy of Elton John.
Better yet, Bestival is heavily involved in supporting local charities, which puts a nicer, non-corporate spin on the whole getting-off-your-head shtick.
Great For: Trying something a new (but not too new, mind).
Bad For: Anyone that hates fancy dress – this year’s theme is ‘The Future Is Here!’
Wilderness Festival is a relative newcomer, but it has amassed quite the fanbase since launching in 2011. Perhaps because it appeals to a different class of punter; expect poetry readings, artisanal food stands and a musical lineup big on folk and rock.
You can even go full-on bourgeois with hot tubs and VIP relaxation. This idyllic festival might not have the musical prestige of, say, Reading, but you’ll come back less spiritually empty. A bit like Secret Garden Party, with cheese boards instead of crates of Stella.
Great For: People who get tired at ordinary festivals.
Bad For: A 24-hour party.
Famed for multi-coloured sheep that stomp the Suffolk countryside venue, Latitude is a good midpoint between all the usual festivals – you’ve got big headliners (New Order and The National are set to play for 2016), a sizeable stable of alternative stages and fancy dress-induced mania.
That being said, Latitude prides itself on being a smaller affair, so it doesn’t feel like the aftermath of a Supreme launch when you head back to find your tent. Especially if you’ve pitched it next to the site’s crystal clear lake.
Great For: Families.
Bad For: Losing yourself in the crowd.
If Jess Glynne wailing about ‘no place you’d rather be’ isn’t your idea of a good time (us neither), BoomTown Fair might just be the one.
Its ‘alternative’ line-up does the term justice, including, but not limited to, ska, folk, dub, reggae, punk and world music, all housed under the guise of a makeshift shanty town. And you don’t need to sell a kidney to get there.
Full weekend tickets go for as little as £135 – almost half the price of Glastonbury.
Great For: Actually discovering new music.
Bad For: Knowing the words.
With corporate sponsors reaching ever deeper into UK festivals, Download continues to stick two leather-gloved fingers up at the man. And being on the margins doesn’t make it any less popular.
Since 2003, Donington Park in Leicestershire has been annual host to over 75,000 metallers. You may not see girls with flower garlands, but it is one of the last few festivals that has totally stuck to its aim.
This focus upon the rock scene, however, is both Download’s biggest strength and weakness; if you’re not partial to a Megadeth pit, you’ll probably wish you were dead.
Great For: Fans of mosh, rock and everything in between.
Bad For: Anyone whose wardrobe is light on leather.
Launched as a club night by Groove Armada, Lovebox has moved from pubs to clubs to Clapham to its current home in London’s Victoria Park.
Granted, the lineup is light on subtlety, but as a no-camping daytime festival, those who live in the capital can jump on the Central Line home and recharge before the next day’s session.
The downside to this is the sheer expense; London prices combined with day tickets can cost just as much as a full weekend at a smaller festival elsewhere.
Great For: All the perks of a festival, without the camping.
Bad For: Anyone who’d have to camp because they don’t live in London.
Just as Download panders to the Kerrang! generation, Creamfields is the reserve of dance aficionados. Since its inception during the superstar DJ boom, Creamfields has become a global event with separate festivals taking place in Moscow, Abu Dhabi and Rio de Janeiro.
The bank holiday weekend of August will be hosting the likes of Kryder and Eddie Halliwell – who sound like X Factor participants, but are actually renowned international DJs. The ‘oontz oontz’ may not be for the every man, but if you like your decibels and BPMs turned up, Creamfields could be the one for you.
Great For: Feeling the love.
Bad For: Your mood on Tuesday morning.