In the first of three festival season previews, we present our eclectic pick of UK-wide events
After two years of covid-related cancellations, disruption and uncertainty we finally have a full summer of music festivals to look forward to in the UK. Familiar, established names return to take their place alongside newcomers, and the good news for those still interested in attending is that tickets are still available for many of them.
In the first of a three part series – with our picks for London and Europe to follow – here’s our pick of some of the best music festivals happening this year across England and Wales.
WOMAD celebrates its 40th anniversary with another eclectic and energising line up that brings sounds from around the world to Charlton Park in Wiltshire. Inspired headliner choices include The Flaming Lips, Angelique Kidjo, Kae Tempest, Gilberto Gil, Nitin Sawhney and Fatoumata Diawara, a selection that well reflects the festival’s focus on celebrating equality, inclusion and all round musical excellence.
The headliners are backed up by the likes of A Certain Ratio, Kanda Bongo Man, Lianne La Havas and Les Amazones D’Afrique. The rest of the line up may contain less in the way of established, recognisable names but that’s part of the fun of WOMAD – you never know what you might stumble across, be it Indian percussion ensembles, high velocity Cuban funk or a myriad of Africa-hailing sounds and styles. The festival never fails to bring a shot of much needed hope and positivity and given broader global events of recent years it may be needed now more than ever.
• WOMAD takes place at Charlton Park, Wiltshire from 28-31 July. More at womad.co.uk
End Of The Road
End Of The Road returns once again to Larmer Tree Gardens in Salisbury with another line up that justifies why it has become one of the most loved and anticipated events in the festival calendar. Headliners Pixies, Fleet Foxes, Bright Eyes and Khruangbin offer notable enough names at the top of the bill but lower down the card is where the festival’s strength truly lies. Securing the presence of The Magnetic Fields feels like a small coup, Aldous Harding and Perfume Genius will be popular options and the inclusion of the likes of Greentea Peng, Sudan Archives and Nilufer Yanya shows how they continue to broaden their musical palette.
• End Of The Road takes place from 1-4 September at Larmer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire. More at endoftheroadfestival.com
The organisers of Green Man have outdone themselves this year with an impressive line up that pulls from varied musical quarters. Kraftwerk are perhaps the most eye-catching name on the bill with Michael Kiwanuka closely following. Festival favourites Metronomy and Bicep also feature and provide another example of a festival expanding its usual musical outlook. Names like Beach House, Low and Parquet Courts offer a greater sense of familiarity while the quality extends all the way down to the bottom of the bill, meaning some difficult decisions will need to be made when planning picks.
• Green Man takes place from 18-21 August at the Brecon Beacons, Wales. More at greenman.net
It may have, predictably, sold out a long time ago but any festival preview that didn’t acknowledge the behemoth that is Glastonbury would feel somewhat incomplete. It returns with a suitably celebratory line up this year, headliners including Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar with Diana Ross appearing in the ‘teatime legend’ slot. The rest of the card is as wide-ranging and bewilderingly impressive as we’ve come to expect. For those of us not fortunate enough to be going, watching on television from the comfort of sofas remains a somewhat second best option.
Bluedot continues to be one of the most exciting newcomers to the festival scene, delivering another line up of exclusives that will have others looking on enviously. Naturally, Björk playing with the Halle Orchestra is the beaming highlight but there’s a depth to the bill that also features Mogwai, Groove Armada, Hannah Peel and Paraorchestra performing The Unfolding and the rejuvenated Spiritualized among others. Jodrell Bank once again provides the spectacular backdrop.
• Bluedot takes place from 21-24 July at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire. More at discoverthebluedot.com
Reading & Leeds
Reading & Leeds continues to be the big youth-centred festival in the UK, and once again brings together notable luminaries from the worlds of hip hop and rock, with a sprinkling of contemporary pop thrown in for good measure. Headliners include Dave, Megan Thee Stallion, Halsey, Arctic Monkeys and Rage Against The Machine while the likes of Little Simz, Run The Jewels, Bastille, Wolf Alice & Fontaines DC feature elsewhere. It’s a pretty formidable line up that plays to their strength as a festival, and also one that makes progress on ensuring a greater representation of female artists than in some of their previous years.
• Reading and Leeds Festivals take place from 26-28 August at Richfield Avenue, Reading and Bramham Park, Leeds. More at readingandleedsfestival.com
Black Deer may still be in its infancy compared to some of its competitors but they’re rapidly making a name for themselves as an Americana/folk festival of note. This year they’ve secured some impressive big names in the form of Van Morrison, Wilco, James and The Waterboys while other solid choices include Courtney Marie Andrews, Hiss Golden Messenger, Imelda May and Madison Violet. The lower tiers of the bill meanwhile offer many opportunities to delve deeper and find new artists to embrace.
• Black Deer takes place from 17-20 June at Eridge Park, East Sussex. More at blackdeerfestival.com
Music may only be part of the experience at Wilderness but their selection offers something different, feeling both bijou and carefully curated with Underworld, Jungle, Years & Years taking the headline spots. There’ll also be appearances from the likes of Róisín Murphy, Peggy Gou, Jordan Rakei and Gabriels. Perhaps more so than other festivals, Wilderness has an upweighted focus on the arts, food and wellbeing resulting in an event with possibly one of the most distinct identities this summer.
• Wilderness takes place from 4-7 August at Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire. More at wildernessfestival.com
Cambridge Folk Festival
As always, this year’s Cambridge Folk Festival line up arrives with a mix of beloved heritage acts nestling alongside rising newcomers, with the music spanning both the traditional and modern. Highlights include appearances from Suzanne Vega, Billy Bragg, This Is The Kit, Hurray For The Riff Raff and Seasick Steve, with anticipated performances too from Irish veterans Clannad, “west Africa’s most iconic dance band” Orchestra Baobab, song interpreter and traditional music specialist Sam Lee and Scottish broadcaster and folk mainstay Julie Fowlis.
• Cambridge Folk Festival takes place from 28-31 July at Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge. More at cambridgelive.org.uk/folk-festival
Latitude returns with a line up that is deceptively broad in styles while also featuring some exclusive festival appearances. Featured names that are not frequently spotted elsewhere this year include Lewis Capaldi, Foals, Snow Patrol, Phoebe Bridgers and The Afghan Whigs. The line up is further bolstered by the likes of Self Esteem, Rina Sawayama, Caroline Polacheck, Modest Mouse, Mdou Moctar and much more. We’ve enjoyed the times we’ve attended in 2015, 2016 and 2018 and this year should be another event to remember.
• Latitude takes place from 21-24 July at Henham Park, Suffolk. More at latitudefestival.com
Kite is an event that bills itself as “a brand-new festival of ideas and music for curious, inquisitive, and cultural minds” and it has a line up to back up that claim. In terms of music, it offers a varied curation of acts including this year’s Meltdown curator Grace Jones, TLC, Saint Etienne, Mavis Staples, Self Esteem, Tom Misch and more. The Heavenly label are also presenting their own handpicked selection that features the likes of Confidence Man, The Orielles, Gwenno and Black Country, New Road among others. The ‘ideas’ section of the programme sees an impressively wide-ranging list of speakers appear to tackle some weighty subjects. Ai Weiwei, Jarvis Cocker, George Monbiot, David Miliband, Armando Iannucci, Delia Smith, Richard Dawkins and others will all be on site and the festival also offers attendees the chance to learn new skills from some of the country’s brightest creative talent in a series of highly engaging and accessible lessons.
• Kite takes place from 10-12 June at Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire. More at kitefestival.co.uk