UK music festivals are renowned around the globe for their creativity and their clout in capturing the coolest acts around. They also form one of the most saturated music festival markets in the world.
And with 2020's festival season effectively cancelled, attention begins to turn to 2021. We give you the ultimate lowdown on the best UK music festivals for 2021, including the almighty Glastonbury, TRNSMT, Isle of Wight, Parklife, Reading & Leeds, Download, Junction 2 and Boardmasters.
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Festival lineup (2020): Sir Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar
The clear standout from this list, Glastonbury sets the bar when it comes to worldwide music festivals. It hosts the biggest names in music on its famous Pyramid Stage, but it's the other side of Glastonbury that really sets it apart.
Take a stroll through Shangri-La – the festival's night time district – and you'll be thrown into a themed world full of immersive theatre and shenanigans, soundtracked by electronic music's finest and underground names.
Or just up the path there's Arcadia, the sprawling spider-like, flame-throwing structure, open to only the most hardcore ravers, or the more cosier circus and cabaret field, where some of the country's best comedians come together with drag queens and trapeze magicians.
When & where: 23rd - 27th June 2021; Pilton
Festival lineup (2020): Tyler, the Creator, Skepta, Lewis Capaldi, Khalid, Jorja Smith, Giggs, Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Robyn
Parklife Festival is one of the UK's most popular and famous weekend music festivals, laying on a programme of diverse and cutting-edge music inside Manchester's Heaton Park.
Curated by a number of the UK's most renowned clubbing brands, the weekender has rubber stamped its position at the very front of the country's dance music scene.
When & where: 12th - 13th June 2021; Manchester
Festival lineup (2020): Skepta, Kings of Leon, The 1975, Dizzee Rascal, The Kooks, Loyle Carner, Mura Masa, Damian Marley
Hidden amongst the swell and sunshine of the south-west coast of England, Boardmasters mixes the best boarders in the world – whether they’re surfers or skaters – with BMX kings, and soundtracks the action with dance dons, folk stars, and pop favourites.
With cliff-top sessions and surf shack shows, it's only a cocktail short of the best weekend of the year. Ready to make your Instagram followers jealous?
When & where: 11th - 15th August 2021; Newquay
BST Hyde Park
Festival lineup (2020): Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, Pearl Jam, Little Mix, Post Malone
BST Hyde Park – or British Summer Time Hyde Park to some – brings a host of the world's biggest artists to the famous London Park for a series of events each summer.
When & where: July 2021; London
Festival lineup (2020): Foals, Stereophonics, Primal Scream, Supergrass, Blossoms, Craig David presents TS5, The Kooks, Dizzee Rascal
Each summer Kendal Calling curates a diverse lineup that spans across the genres, taking in rock, indie and dance music, while also laying on a wide range of food and drink, as well as quirky art installations, pop-up bars, a market, and a cinema. All in the beautiful surroundings of Cumbria's Lake District.
What's more, Kendal Calling is also a perfect festival to take the family to, thanks to its dedicated kid's area that'll be showcasing all kinds of entertainment throughout the weekend.
When & where: 29th July - 1st August 2021; Penrith
Junction 2 Festival
Festival lineup (2020): Jon Hopkins [live], Adam Beyer, Four Tet, Ben Klock, Amelie Lens, Nina Kraviz, Blawan, Maceo Plex
Junction 2 Festival is a London techno festival, showcasing some of the genre's finest names inside west London's Boston Manor Park each June.
Held underneath a motorway, it's easy to see where the festival's name originates, but the industrial-cum-park setting is the perfect accompaniment to Junction 2's gritty, but alternative, sound.
When & where: 4th - 5th June 2021; London
South West Four
Festival lineup (2020): Major Lazer, The Streets, Kano, Krept & Konan, Rudimental, Kelis, Andy C, Stefflon Don
If London ever needed an extra club, South West Four is it. And what a club it is. Forget those tasteless, champagne with sparklers joints, this is an open-air party palace that sorts out the essentials first: music, music and more music.
A coming together of the EDM world, their understudies, and up-and-coming stars, the four stages of house, techno, minimal, trance and electronica will fill your ears for the evening, before you head out to one of the countless after parties.
When & where: August 2021; London
Y Not Festival
Festival lineup (2020): Royal Blood, Richard Ashcroft, Craig David presents TS5, Bombay Bicycle Club, Rag'n'Bone Man, Levellers, James, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
Y Not Festival has come a long way since it started out over 15 years ago, scooping up the UK's Best Small Festival award and becoming one of the country's most popular intimate festivals in the decade and a half since.
It takes place in the beautiful surroundings of the Peak District National Park, curating a lineup that spans from rock and indie into sprinkles of dance.
When & where: 29th July - 2nd August 2021; Pikehall
Isle of Wight Festival
Festival lineup (2021): Lionel Richie, Lewis Capaldi, Snow Patrol, Duran Duran, Happy Mondays, Primal Scream, Razorlight, Jess Glynne
The reincarnation of one of the UK’s first ever festivals continues to pull in the world’s biggest guitar slingers and the hottest craftsmen and women from pop and electronic genres.
Born in 1968 and still rocking out strong 50 years later, IoW has lived through decades of musical and cultural change, always staying relevant and incredibly popular.
When & where: 17th - 20th June 2021; Isle of Wight
Festival lineup (2021): The Streets, Andy C, Shy FX, Holy Goof, Hybrid Minds, Kings of the Rollers, SaSaSaS, Jaykae
NASS Festival is the UK’s biggest celebration of music, street art, skate and BMX, and is the UK's only professional action sport and music festival.
Showcased across four days and 11 stages at the Bath & West Showground, NASS lays on a weekend of sports competitions in Skate, BMX, Inline and FMX, as well as music from the worlds of drum and bass, hip-hop, grime, house and more.
When & where: 8th - 11th July 2021; Shepton Mallet
All Points East
Festival lineup (2020): Tame Impala, Kraftwerk 3D, Massive Attack, Caribou, Iggy Pop, Glass Animals, Johnny Marr, Neneh Cherry, Nils Frahm
After a thrilling debut in 2018, All Points East has become a staple of east London's Victoria Park as they continue to take things to an even higher level.
From late May till early June they lay on two weekends of multi-flavoured music, comedy, outdoor film screenings, theatre, children's activities and more.
When & where: May 2021; London
Reading & Leeds Festivals
Festival lineup (2020): Rage Against the Machine, Stormzy, Liam Gallagher, Run the Jewels, Migos, Courteeners, Gerry Cinnamon, Sam Fender
Reading and Leeds are the type of riotous events that Bank Holidays are made for, providing a platform for rising and established indie bands, metal groups, next generation dance, hip hop and alternative pop acts. If they ain’t playing here, they ain’t worth seeing.
When & where: 27th - 29th August 2021; Reading & Leeds
Festival lineup (2021): Courteeners, Liam Gallagher, Lewis Capaldi, Ian Brown, Foals, Snow Patrol, Sam Fender, Keane
Started as a replacement for T in the Park, the city centre event includes all the revelry of a traditional music festival, but also gives festival-goers the chance to explore the city's bars, restaurants, nightclubs and cultural attractions.
When & where: 9th - 11th July 2021; Glasgow
Festival lineup (2020): HAIM, Liam Gallagher, The Chemical Brothers, Michael Kiwanuka, The Lumineers, Keane, Charlie XCX, James Vincent McMorrow
Taking over the idyllic English countryside, Latitude is, as its tagline proclaims, much more than just a music festival. With DJs hidden in the woods, colourful sheep roaming the tufty fields, opera on the lake, film debuts in its onsite cinema, clowns under canvas, actors treading the boards, local ales, dance troupes and a huge children’s area, there's something to keep whatever age entertained. Oh, and there’s a full programme of music too.
When & where: July 2021; Southwold
Festival lineup (2020): KISS, Iron Maiden, System of a Down, Korn, Deftones, The Offspring, Disturbed, Volbeat
Probably the most prestigious hard rock and heavy metal festival in the world, Download took over from the legendary Monsters of Rock Festival at Derby's Donington Park.
Its three days packed full of the biggest names from the 70s right up to the newest generation, and if the heavier end of the spectrum is your thing then Download will take a heck of a lot of beating.
When & where: 4th - 6th June 2021; Derby
Festival lineup (2020): Foals, Supergrass, Loyle Carner, Bicep [live], Kelis, David Rodigan, Jayda G, Elder Island
If there’s one thing Britain’s festivals do brilliantly, it’s boutique bashes. One of the more posh and pretty gatherings in the event calendar, Oxfordshire’s Wilderness Festival is the type of place where you can watch a bona fide legend on the stage, enjoy a banquet feast, a science lecture, soak in a hot tub, and watch a one man performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
When & where: 5th - 8th August 2021; Charlbury
Festival lineup (2020): A$AP Rocky, Lil Uzi Vert, Skepta, D-Block Europe, Meek Mill, Young Thug, AJ Tracey, Burna Boy
Wireless is not quite bigger than hip-hop, but it's certainly getting that way. This supafly soiree is the best chance to see a line up of urban legends, leaning heavily on the side of rap, grime, hip-hop and R&B.
Pair that with fairground rides, chill out areas, bars and artists singing booths to keep days filled, and you'll begin to understand why this is the only UK date this pedigree of rap stars book in advance.
When & where: 2nd - 4th July 2021; London
Festival lineup (2021): deadmau5, Carl Cox, Martin Garrix, Adam Beyer, Tiësto, Timmy Trumpet, Erix Prydz, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike
Dance brand Cream has become a global superstar, taking its legendary parties across continents; and yet it all began as an offshoot from Liverpool's Cream nightclub.
Now in Daresbury, Creamfields attracts tens of thousands every year seeking to party to the finest names in dance, along with immense visuals, lighting and pyrotechnics. Joined by a devoted following, Creamfields continues to shape the dance scene as we know it.
When & where: 26th - 29th August 2021; Daresbury
Festival lineup (2020): Tyler, the Creator, Disclosure, Khalid, Anderson .Paak, Jorja Smith, Charli XCX, Hot Chip, FKA Twigs
London’s beat lovers, freaks and hipsters convene for an annual party created by Groove Armada. A colourful mix of dance dons, rock gods, vintage markets, bespoke bars and fairground tides, Lovebox is a carousel of creativity.
When & where: 11th - 13th June 2021; London
Festival lineup (2020): Wu-Tang Clan, Underworld, The Libertines, Kano, Damian Marley, Mura Masa, Kelis, Orbital
A boiling pot of vibrancy, theatre, fantasy, escapism and camaraderie, Boomtown Fair is a hub of diverse and non-commercialised musical movements whose roots stretch far and wide. Consisting of nine districts with a different emphasis, you may be chilling to some folk one minute, and then travelling at 180 BPM to some drum & bass the next.
When & where: 11th - 15th August 2021; Winchester
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