So many festivals so little time and budget. Nowadays we are very much spoilt for choice of this summer activity. Having recently come back from Secret Garden Party, and as I am getting ready to leave for Shambala this weekend, I am now going to more festivals than ever.
As a seasoned Glastonbury goer, my festival journey started back in 2008. Fresh faced (from glitter) and not knowing what to expect I arrived at Worthy Farm with the biggest backpack carrying my belongings for miles just like the other 150,000 festival goers. Fast forward 5 days and I had quite possibly the best time of my life filled with so many moments of joy and happiness shared with some very close friends and often complete strangers. It is needless to say that I have been going back every year, well almost. I have missed the last two.
Either way if you are thinking which festival and whether to go at all here is my low down of the main ones and some very old pictures to go with it.
Secret Garden Party
Starting with SGP as this is the one I just went to few weeks ago, so it sits very fresh in my mind.
Set in a beautiful Cambridgeshire countryside park (deer park to be precise during non-festival months) SGP benefits from close proximity to London, picturesque lakes and lots of pretty rolling hills. It has been very cleverly designed for crowd control and stage/sound separation. Sound is actually exceptionally good there, with several dance stages set in the woods. There is even a secret swimming swamp. Aside form music there are lots of fun events happening like the infamours Bearded Kitten stage fun and dance offs. I especially loved the fireworks – this year they were very intergalactic featuring intervention from X-Files and Star Wars with Darth Vader’s ship parked nicely in the main lake. Given that I wore a Darth Vader outfit, it was a win-win for me.
When: Typically 3rd weekend of July
Crowd: mainly under 21s, with rarely seen over 25s
Music: mainly Dance/Techno live sets with plenty of 24hr entertainment
Food & camping: Good selection of food including popular London street food traders such as Le Bun. Camping is set within 5 minute walk from main activities. East camping recommended as much quieter and with lots of space. Easy shower options at £3 a go.
The best bit: beautiful grounds, facilities and camping site available, proximity to London
I visited this small boutique festival back in 2013 for a hen do, and it was perfect for that set up (15+ girls camping, going out and eating together in the blazing hot sunshine). This is definitely one of the more cultural festivals, with lots of theatre, live talks, workshops and shows. It also has a great focus on food with Ottolenghi and Polpo putting on full banquet meals back in 2013, I am looking forward to seeing who will be their selected chefs for 2017. We really enjoyed the roller disco on Sunday, perfect for a bunch of girls who just wanna have fun!
When: 1st/2nd weekend of August
Crowd: mix of family and youngsters that don’t mind paying £80 for a banquet meal (in a tent)
Music: good selection of folk, pop, indie and theatre. This year headliners were: Robert Plant, Flaming Lips and Crystal Fighters all brilliant bands to watch live
Food & Camping: there is gourmet food and lots of it. We camped in the campervan area and had lots of space to ourselves including easy access to showers and toilets without much queuing
The best bit: the relaxed feel of the festival. The masquerade ball on Saturday. The place felt luxurious and very safe!
Not so nice bit: things shutting early and being slightly on the expensive side
Went to Shambala last year (2015) and going again today! This small diverse festival is set on the beautiful grounds in Northamptonshire. With plenty of activities, debates and workshops to do, the festival attracts the people who are really into fancy dress, want to be part of a festival community and maybe get involved in something a little bit different. There are usually two days of fancy dress, one being Friday, and one on Saturday followed by a parade of everyone in their very elaborate outfits at 6pm. Here people go to some serious extreme of dressing up, and it is amazing to watch whole families get into it. They also have fireworks on Sundays.
When: August Bank holiday weekend (End of August)
Crowd: mix of all ages
Music: tends to be a mix of reggae, afro beats and easy dance with 2016 headliner being Sister Sledge
Food & Camping: mix of veggie and organic food stalls. Last year they had Shakshuka stall, which was a massive hit for breakfast/brunch with our team. This year the festival is doing veggie/vegan food only. Lots of camping facilities divided in zones (including kids camping and party camping areas) with plenty of shower rooms near by.
The best bit: the fancy dress & effort that everyone goes to, everyone being so friendly, the grounds, the proximity to London
Not so nice bit: lack of headliner music, however this is an arts festival, so I am just being picky
This festival held on Isle of Wight also featuring rolling hills, pretty forest settings and lots of fancy dress on Saturdays. Bestival’s co-owner Rob da Bank always successfully tries to impresses with good line up acts. We went to Bestival back in 2012 and were camping in the campervan area, which was a bit of a walk but still really good fun. We also happened to all dress up as penguins (all 14 of us) for the animal theme and every time we saw another penguin we gave them a hug (all 14 of us!). Lovely.
When: usually 2nd weekend of September
Music: great selection with this year’s line up including The Cure, Major Lazer and Hot Chip
Food & Camping: boutique camping available with pre-erected tents, so perfect for anyone who is not keen to carry all the bits and bobs across the water.
The best bit: easy set-up of the festival with great stages and line ups, the ferry over to Isle of Wight and the beautiful countryside.
Not so nice bit: hearing horror stories of people being robbed on their walk back to the tent
Every year somewhere in Pilton, Somerset, on a Worthy farm something really magical happens – over 200,000 people decend on the grounds to watch music history unfold and participate in over 100 stages of contemporary arts activities. Glastonbury, often referred to as the mother of all festivals, has been run by Michael Eavis for over 45 years for a reason. It had seen the biggest bands play, the worst floods, baking sunshine, people get married, and so on with now 6 of it’s stages broadcast live on BBC television. I personally had seen the biggest stars take on the Pyramid stage including the Rolling Stones, Beyonce and Jay Z just through 6 years of going there. So many joyful moments to remember, it will still be the best festival out there in my eyes.
When: 21st -25th June 2017
Crowd: mix of all ages and over 150,000 of them!
Music: all the best stuff out there at the time. With over 100 stages the selection of music cannot be beaten
Food & Camping: now there are lots of fields to camp, we always camped in the Dairy or Pains ground near Park Stage, showers are a pain as there are always queues. Worthy Farm is an alternative camping area if you fancy having a pre set tent spot.
The best bit: Too many to name! The line up, the variety of acts, the amazing & crazy night life (just think of Shangri La, Block 9 and Arcadia), the selection of amazing food, endless cups of chai and main act discussions
Not so nice bit: it is quite an effort to get there, and so much walking whilst there.
Also sometimes the crowds are just a bit too big. And finally getting the actual ticket is a pain!
This East London festival takes place in the beautiful Victoria park and has now grown from Saturday day to a full weekend shindig. If you don’t like camping then this is the best solution you get as every year it produces a very decent line up with a bonus of all your (non-camping) London friends going. I had been going to Field Day since 2011 and had seen it grow and improve better and better.
Crowd: Variety of all ages, but mainly 21+
Food: Plenty of the best street food that you would have seen in London
Best bit: being able to walk home and sleep in your own clean bed after having a shower
Not so nice bit: the sound quality is compromised, this is of course because the park is set within residential area. Festival also finishes at 10.30, so it is purely a day thing.
Love box & Citadel
Lovebox is another great festival that takes place in Victoria Park on Friday and Saturday mid July usually featuring couple of big headliners and great selection of DJs. The festival has now grown and on Sundays it turns all indie and foodie and becomes Citadel festival instead.
Music: in 2016 Major Lazer and LCD Soundsystem were headliners together with Miike Snow, Diplo and Jamie Woon. Citadel’s headliner was Sigur Ros, Caribou and Leanne La Havas
Best bit: Great music acts on your doorstep (if you live in East London). It was very TOWIE on a Friday perfect for crowd watching.
Not so nice bit: Lovebox tends to have long queues to get drinks.
British Summer Time
Located in the centre of London in the prestigious Hyde Park next to Park Lane and Marble Arch, this festival consists for of two weekends of live music acts and comes with some serious headliners, this year being Massive Attack, Florence & Machine, The XX, Carole King, take that, Mumford & Sons, with final Sunday acts being Steve Wonder & Pharell. 2016 was the first year I went and I would happily recommend anyone going if they just fancy watching their favourite bands play in a nice green setting without leaving London, or in the case of my festival buddy within 5 minute walk from their work.
Crowd: Mix of all ages, it was great to see youngsters next to senior citizens all enjoying the same music
Music: We went on the opening night when Massive Attack was headlining, together with Patti Smith, TV on the Radio, Ghost Poet and the awesome band I have personally happen to know the Animal Noise.
Best bit: Centrally located and beautifully curated I was surprised at the quality of the sound given this very central location
And although the summer is coming to an end (my heart is bleeding as I am saying this) it is still not too late to jump on the festival wagon in 2016. How about that last minure trip to Shambala, or Bestival or Festival number 6?! And if all fails there is always 2017, after all tickets for Glastonbury are coming back on sale at the start of October. So make sure to register for tickets now (here) if you are planning on going in 2017 and good luck with the ticketing process. Let me know if you need any tips or guidance with that!