UK 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 festival markets in the world, so here are 20 of the best festivals every music fan living in or visiting the UK should check out. And with Secret Garden Party sadly no longer with us, and Glastonbury taking a well earned rest, there are a couple of spots up for grabs...
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- Top 20 Music Festivals in Europe
- Top 10 Electronic Music Festivals in the UK
Headliners: Gorillaz, Die Antwoord, Limp Bizkit
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: 9-12 August 2018, Winchester
Headliners: M.I.A., London Grammar (+ Friday night headliner TBA)
The UK’s much lauded, award-winning boutique fiesta has as many forms of silliness and absurdity as it does musical performers – and there’s around 1,000 of them. With legendary late night mischief, pianos popping up in the woods, lit up lakesides, mass fancy dress, along with poetry, theatre, comedy and plenty more to discover, the only thing you’ll struggle with is fitting it all in.
When & where: 2-5 August 2018, Lulworth Castle
Headliners (2017): Carl Cox, Eric Prydz, The Chainsmokers (+ more TBA)
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: 23-26 August 2018, Daresbury
Headliners: Catfish and the Bottlemen, The Chemical Brothers, George Ezra
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: 8-12 August 2018, Newquay
Headliners: The Killers, Solange, alt-J
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: 12-15 July 2018, Southwold
Headliners: Rick Astley, Clean Bandit, Simple Minds
With all the playful nonsense of its naughty older sister event Bestival, Camp Bestival offers the same novelty of fancy dress and late night silliness, but with a twist: it’s completely family friendly.
Taking place in a beautiful English castle, it has everything from medieval jousting to face painting with music, comedy and poets hand-picked by Rob da Bank.
When & where: 26-29 July 2018, Lulworth Castle
Headliners: Ozzy Osbourne, Avenged Sevenfold, Guns N' Roses
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: 8-10 June 2018, Derby
Headliners: Ricardo Villalobos, Andrew Weatherall, Ben UFO
Few festivals – if any – make as remarkable an impression after only one edition as Houghton. Curated by British electronic music veteran Craig Richards and produced by another firm favourite Gottwood, the festival's debut won praise on basically all counts – lineup, scheduling, sound quality, location, atmosphere. Let's hope they can keep it up.
When & where: 9-12 August 2018, Houghton (Norfolk)
The Great Escape
Headliners: Mist, Pale Waves, Phoebe Bridgers,
Brighton’s music bonanza is a seaside holiday with a difference, as the beachside waves mix with the sound of breaking bands, boasting some 400 of the 'Next Big Things' in 35 venues, with just one wristband getting you into every one.
When & where: 17-19 May 2018, Brighton
South West Four
Headliners: Marshmello, Chase & Status, Armin van Buuren, DJ EZ
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-comings 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: 25-26 August 2018, London
Green Man Festival
Headliners: The War On Drugs, Fleet Foxes, John Grant, Grizzly Bear
As far as festival locations go, Green Man Festival takes in the might of the UK’s landscape with its backdrop of the Brecon Beacons’ Black Mountains in Wales, and the folk-led lineup fits it perfectly.
Hidden in the hills are 1,500 performers to discover across the comedy, theatre and literary worlds, complimented by the host local ales and ciders on offer, and the various spas and therapies to nurse away those hangovers.
When & where: 16-19 August 2018, Brecon Beacons
Isle of Wight Festival
Headliners: Kasabian, Depeche Mode, The Killers, Liam Gallagher
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.
When & where: 21-24 June 2018, Isle of Wight
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Headliners: Childish Gambino, N.E.R.D, Skepta, SZA
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: 13-14 July 2018, London
Reading & Leeds
Headliners: Kendrick Lamar, Kings of Leon, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco
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: 24-26 August 2018, Reading & Leeds
We Are FSTVL
Headliners: Andy C, Carl Cox, Eric Prydz
With its Best Medium-Sized Festival prize still gleaming from its gantries, We Are FSTVL continues to go from strength to strength, with even more colour and more incredible EDM masters.
Try its 16 stages, 200 DJs, stylised stages and VIP arena with bubbling hot tubs, spa treatments, gourmet food and champagne bars for a weekend (and hangover) you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.
When & where: 25-27 May 2018, London
Headliners: The The, Franz Ferdinand, Friendly Fires
Almost every festival claims to be 'unique', but in the case of this North Wales' curiosity it's a fairly solid claim. Partly due to its setting in a faux-Italian village, and partly because of its intriguing programme of music, arts & culture, debates, workshops, food & drink, comedy and more.
When & where: 6-9 September, Portmeirion
Headliners (2017): 65daysofstatic, Clap! Clap!, Barely Legal
Described as "heartfelt, purposeful hedonism" Shambala is a four day indulgence of perfectly blended creativity and participation, where revellers can feast upon circus acts, stand-up comedy, debates, and interactive theatre in a selection of beautifully decorated venues.
Pioneering, intimate and truly innovative, Shambala is a place to play, revitalise, and make lots of new friends.
When & where: 23-26 August 2018, Northamptonshire
Headliners: Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Liam Gallagher, Stereophonics
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.
After a thrilling debut in 2017 that saw sets from Radiohead, Kasabian and Biffy Clyro, the festival has announced it will expand to two weekends in 2018.
When & where: 29 June - 1 July and 6-8 July 2018, Glasgow
Headliners (2017): Two Door Cinema Club, Grace Jones, Bonobo
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: 2-5 August 2018
Headliners: J. Cole, Stormzy, DJ Khaled & Friends
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: 6-8 July 2018, London
Is that about enough to plan a festival-filled summer with? Let us know when you're done...
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