Summer is coming, summer is coming! And that means one thing—festival season. European festival culture is an amazing thing, but no one quite seems to produce the variety, scale, and quality of music and arts celebrations as the UK. Between April and late September, peaking in July and August, diverse and robust parties large and small pop up across the land. Here are five of the best:
Having Glasto at the top of the list is pretty much a no-brainer. It’s been going strong since 1970, with big names hitting it every year since then (David Bowie was one of the first). Whoever is at the top of the charts currently, expect them to be there. Where it really shines though is with the introduction of new acts, many of whom get massive launches into stardom as a result of playing one of the 50 stages at the old Eavis dairy farm where the festival is held. It’s no wonder—150,000 people attend, and news travels fast. All genres are well-represented here, including forays into art, poetry, circus, and other less musical pursuits.
2. Secret Garden Party
Wonderfully weird, SGP takes on a different appearance each year with a new theme. What doesn’t change is its dedication to providing an environment that breeds creativity, free love, and being as chilled out as humanly possible. Famous headliners are not the draw here; rather, meeting people in fantastic costumes and hearing new and wonderful music from new artists are the things to do. Located around a lake and populated with creative and happy people, this is a wonderful place to spend a surreal weekend.
A superlative name for a superlative experience. Bestival brings in big crowds and big names, but still offers a carnival atmosphere where everyone (yes, everyone) is dressed outlandishly in accordance to a theme and shaking their booties to electronic, rock, and alternative music. Expect fireworks, plentiful activities for kids, and bizarrely juxtaposed spots like the infamous “Bollywood Bus Bar.” The Isle of Wight has never been this much fun.
4. T in the Park
Get it? Good. Go. T features fewer but larger stages than Glastonbury, with similarly large headlining acts. This is the place where real, wild, out-of-control parties happen. Maybe it’s just the Scottish air, but the 85,000 or so attendees are known for being appreciative and up for anything when it comes to this party happening in style since 1994. The huge fairground is always a treat, as are the impressively diverse food options that focus on organic offerings. Oh, and the sunsets are beautiful. They really are.
In contrast to the rowdiness of some of the others on this list, Latitude plays it cool with a combination of acoustic and alternative rock music, dance, comedy, poetry, and art. The hipster crowd feels quite at home here, but families do too thanks to the great facilities for children. The music here is guaranteed to be good (think acts like Elbow and Florence + the Machine), but the equal attention to other arts is a nice break from the auditory overload that can overwhelm many festivals.
Inspired yet? Book your tickets now. While you’re at it, secure flights to these locations as early as possible. To get the best deals, British Midland bookings are here. What better way to spend the summer than going festival-hopping?