Best of British festivals in 2012

Camp Bestival

The Songwriting guide to some of the best music-based fun and frolics to be had in British fields this summer

Best of British festivals in 2012

Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the fields… and on the beaches, in the streets, in the grounds of stately homes and just about anywhere else you can think of! Yes, that’s right, festival season is upon us… so here’s a Songwriting guide to some of the best outdoor events coming up in the UK over the next few months.

We haven’t tried to include everything – there are so many festivals in the UK now that there’s just not time/room to list every one of the smaller/more local events, or the ’35 separate gigs in 12 pubs in Grantham calling themselves a festival’-type of, er, festivals. And we didn’t think Songwriting readers would be particularly interested in festivals that feature exclusively pop, dance or metal acts, either.

Instead, consider this a cherry-picked selection of the finest musical delights the UK countryside has to offer in 2012… and look out for a round-up of European festivals coming very soon.


The Gate To Southwell Folk Festival
When? 1-4 June
Who/what? Jools Holland, Brass Monkey, Beoga, Breabach, The Wilson Family, Dougie MacLean, Martyn Joseph, Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings
Where? Southwell, Nottinghamshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £86, family weekend ticket £176
Camping? Yes (£15 surcharge)

When? 1-3 June
Who/what? New Model Army, Goldblade, Dub Pistols and dozens of up-and-coming and unsigned artists. Dogs on string optional.
Where? Manchester Rugby Club, Cheadle Hulme
How much? Weekend ticket £65, day tickets £35
Camping? Yes

When? 1-3 June
Who/what? Lots of local Yorkshire artists, ranging from rock and blues to reggae and funk
Where? Harrogate, North Yorkshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £35, day tickets £15/£20. Kids under 11 free
Camping? Yes

Lunar Festival
When? 1-4 June
Who/what? Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Fionn Regan, Scott Matthews, Jim Moray, Michael Chapman, Richard James, Hannah Peel and lots of other folk and acoustic artists. The festival is brought to you by the team behind Moseley Folk Festival and has quite deliberately been sited in the former hometown of Nick Drake, which gives you some idea what to expect!
Where? Arden, Warwickshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £65, day tickets £25
Camping? Yes

When? 3 June
Who/what? Wheatus and D:Ream headline the main stage but for Songwriting readers, the acoustic stage may be the main attraction, where you’ll find Nick Howard, Jack O’Brien, Michael John Mcglone, Teddy Driscoll, Polly Haynes, Abbie Broom, Yan Baker and Jason Rampling.
Where? Sudbury, Suffolk
How much? £20
Camping? No (it’s a one-day event)

Wirral Folk On The Coast
When? 7-10 June
Who/what? Lots of folk bands, surprisingly enough. And Barbara Dickson.
Where? Whitby Sports & Social Club, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire
How much? £70
Camping? Yes (£10 surcharge)

Wychwood Festival
When? 8-10 June
Who/what? Dodgy, James, Saw Doctors, The Damned and Hawkwind headline a huge bill packed with tons of up-and-coming talent… look out for Tallulah Rendell, Ellie Dussek, Gary Armstrong, Jake Watson and lots more singer-songwriter types
Where? Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £115, day tickets £37, U5s go free
Camping? Yes

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No Direction Home
When? 8-10 June
Who/what? Folk and indie acts including Richard Hawley, Andrew Bird, The Low Anthem, Laura J Martin and – yes! – the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band. A new event from the team behind End Of The Road
Where? Welbeck Estate, Northamptonshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £105
Camping? Yes

Goldcoast Oceanfest
When? 15-17 June
Who/what? A “surf and music” festival. Newton Faulkner, Dry The River, Ben Howard, Peter Bruntnell and Emily & The Woods are among the Songwriting-friendly highlights.
Where? Croyde Bay, North Devon
How much? Adult weekend ticket £45
Camping? No

Beverley Festival
When? 15-17 June
Who/what? Folk, acoustic and roots artists including Joe Brown, Steeleye Span, Chumbawumba, Peatbog Faeries, Abigail Washburn, Henry Priestman, Millie Bolton and many more
Where? Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £98, U11s free
Camping? Yes (£15 surcharge)

Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival
When? 15-17 June
Who/what? Eddi Reader, Glenn Tilbrook, Show of Hands, Mark Radcliffe, All Blacked Up, Les Barker, Merry Hell, Toy Hearts, Babajack, Roving Crows and more TBC in a host of venues around Middlewich. Plus lots of canal boats!
Where? Middlewich, Cheshire
How much? The festival is free but many individual performances charge an admission fee
Camping? Yes (£5/night)

Big Session
When? 15-17 June
Who/what? Eddi Reader, Chumbawumba, The Leisure Society, Osterband & June Tabor, Matt Boulter, Martin Simpson Band, Show Of Hands, Scott Matthews, Roddy Woomble, Jake Morley, Duotone and many more in “an informal atmosphere of big shows, small gatherings and unique collaborations”
Where? Catton Hall, Derbyshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £93
Camping? Yes (£15 surcharge)

Sunrise Celebration
When? 21-24 June
Who/what? A 100% ‘green’ festival, run on sustainable energy and with a site-wide organic food policy. Artists include The Imagined Village, Gaudi, The Egg, Warsaw Village Band, Mungo Hifi, Hidden Orchestra, Laid Blak and Urban Folk Quartet and there are lots of speakers on new age, green and spiritual matters
Where? Bruton, Somerset
How much? Adult weekend ticket £115
Camping? Yes – with tipis and yurts available for hire if you want to do it in style

When? 21-24 June
Who/what? Neville Staple, John Otway, Hugh Cornwell, Vintage Trouble, The Lake Poets, Jah Wobble, Martha Cook, Silver Trees, DJ Derek, The Rhythmites and many more. Has a dedicated acoustic stage with open-mic sessions.
Where? Hillside Rural Activities Park, North Yorkshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £70, U12s free
Camping? Yes

Isle Of Wight Festival
When? 21-24 June
Who/what? Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Madness, Suzanne Vega, Jessie J, Elbow, Biffy Clyro, Noah & The Whale, Dry The River, Joan Armatrading, Professor Green, Thunderclap Newman, Stackridge, Howard Jones and many more
Where? The Isle Of Wight
How much? Adult weekend ticket £160, U6s free
Camping? Yes (£30 surcharge)

Guernsey Festival
When? 23-24 June
Who/what? Macy Gray, Kaiser Chiefs, The Charlatans, Maverick Sabre, Little Barrie and more
Where? The Rabbit Warren, Guernsey
How much? Adult weekend ticket £85
Camping? Yes

WoW Music Festival
When? 29-30 June
Who/what? Folk, blues, roots and country. Pentangle’s Jacquie McShee headlines
Where? Woolsey Bridge Fields, near Diss, Norfolk
How much? Two-day ticket £30, Camping ticket £45
Camping? Yes, but there are only 150 spaces and you’ll need to book

Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul
When? 29 June-1 July
Who/what? A stellar line-up that includes George Clinton/Parliament/Funkadelic, Fred Wesley, Craig Charles, Odyssey, Speedometer, Mr Scruff, Ghostpoet, Gilles Peterson and Roots Manuva
Where? Moseley Park, Birmingham
How much? Adult weekend ticket £79
Camping? No


T In The Park
When? 6-8 July
Who/what? Stone Roses, Snow Patrol and Kasabian headline, but with eight different tents and stages, there’s a huge variety of music on offer – think a Scottish version of Glastonbury. For folk and Celtic fun head to the Ceilidh tent, while there’ll be host of unsigned and up-and-coming talent on the BBC Introducing… stage, as well as more pop, indie and dance chart-botherers than you could wave a caber at, from New Order to Jessie J to Chase & Status.
Where? Balado, Kingross, Scotland
How much? From £70 for a Friday day ticket, to £189 for a weekend ticket with Camping
Camping? Yes

Burton Agnes Jazz and Blues Festival
When? 6-8 July
Who/what? Octopus, Zena James, The Alligators, Ian Siegal & The Mississippi Mudbloods, Val Marshall, This Way Up, Sean Taylor and more British and international jazz and blues talent
Where? Burton Agnes Hall, East Yorkshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £50, day tickets from £30
Camping? Yes (£35 surcharge)

When? 12-15 July
Who/what? Bon Iver, Paul Weller and Elbow headline a mammoth bill brought to you by the people behind the Reading and Leeds festivals. There are nine main music stages plus a huge amount of comedy, theatre, poetry/spoken word and lots more besides, including Laura Marling, Richard Hawley, Dexys, Lloyd Cole and an acoustic set by The Levellers.
Where? Henham Park, Suffolk
How much? Adult weekend ticket with Camping £175
Camping? Yes

Manchester Jazz Festival
When? 13-21 July
Who/what? Now in its 17th year, this one takes place in different venues across the city and this year plays host to the likes of Mr Scruff, Junior Murvin and Gilles Peterson as well as lots of more traditional jazz artists
Where? Various venues, Manchester
How much? Price varies per event but many are free!
Camping? No

Ely Folk Festival
When? 13-15 July
Who/what? Family-friendly folk festival now in its 27th year. This year’s line-up includes Show Of Hands, The Blues Band, Lady Maisery, Ewan McLellan, Mrs Ackroyd, Jez Lowe, Steam Chicken and more. Look out for Bristol’s stunning acoustic Afro-folk duo Two Man Ting.
Where? Ely, Cambridgeshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £68
Camping? Yes

Abertillery Blues Rock Festival
When? 15-16 July
Who/what? Vintage Trouble, The Zombies, Dani Wilde, Jon Amor Blues Group and more
Where? Abertillery Park, Blaenau Gwent, Wales
How much? Adult weekend ticket £40
Camping? Yes (£5 per night)

Summer Breeze
When? 14-15 July
Who/what? KT Tunstall and Vintage Trouble headline a bill of over 50 acts including The Musgraves, The Destroyers, Marcus Bonfanti, Gaz Brookfield, Ed Tudor Pole, Jake Morley, The Running Club, The Blue Trees, Lazy Maybees, The Penny Red, Tom Staniford, Uncle Frank and more
Where? Warren Farm, nr Swindon, Wiltshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket inc camping £35
Camping? Yes

The Secret Garden Party
When? 19-22 July
Who/what? KT Tunstall, Lamb, Orbital, Little Roy, Alabama Shakes, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Utah Saints and many more
Where? Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £195
Camping? Yes

When? 20-21 July
Who/what? Scissor Sisters, Cast, The Levellers, Texas, Newton Faulkner, lots of reggae acts and dance DJs plus TWO acoustic stages featuring a welter of up-and-coming talent
Where? East Kirkcarswell Farm, Kirkcudbright, Scotland
How much? Adult weekend ticket £90
Camping? Yes

A Lost Weekend
When? 20-22 July
Who/what? Wilko Johnson, Toploader, The Blockheads, The Hoosiers, Hugh Cornwell, Nick Howard, Dodgy, The Selecter and many more
Where? Rutland Water, Rutland
How much? Adult weekend ticket £75
Camping? Yes

Splendour Festival
When? 21 July
Who/what? Family-friendly, one-day event with a wide variety of music on three stages. Dizzee Rascal, Razorlight, Katy B and The Levellers are headlining
Where? Wollaton Park, Nottingham
How much? Adults £37.50, with concessions for city/county residents
Camping? No

Folk By The Oak
When? 22 July
Who/what? “A festival of folk’s finest acts gathered in beautiful leafy parkland for one uplifting summer day of music,” with Show of Hands, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Cara Dillon, Breabach, Chris Wood and many more
Where? Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
How much? Adults £34
Camping? No

Grassroots Eco Music Festival
When? 23 July
Who/what? Seasick Steve, Fun Lovin Criminals, Newton Faulkner, Arrested Development, Jose Gonzalez, Pepper, Ben Howard, Pete Murray, The Nextmen and more
Where? Val De La Mere, Jersey
How much? Adults £46
Camping? No – everything finishes at 11pm

Cambridge Folk Festival
When? 26-29 July
Who/what? A well-established event that’s been running since the 60s. Billy Bragg, Clannad, Roy Harper, Angelique Kidjo and Dry The River are among the bigger names appearing this year. Look out for Songwriting fave Liz Green, too!
Where? Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge
How much? Adult weekend ticket £120, day tickets available
Camping? Yes

Camp Bestival
When? 26-29 July
Who/what? The family-loving little sister to Bestival that mixes the likes of jousting, face-painting and clowning (see CBeebies favourite Mr Tumble) with respected bands such as Happy Mondays, Hot Chip, Chic feat Nile Rodgers, Kool & The Gang, Jimmy Cliff, Rolf Harris, Rizzle Kicks, Adam Ant and plenty more.
Where? Lulworth Castle
How much? Adult 4-day weekend ticket £185, U10s free, day tickets available
Camping? Yes

Kendal Calling
When? 27-29 July
Who/what? James, Shed Seven, Inspiral Carpets, Feeder, Little Roy, Ghostpoet and more
Where? Lowther Deer Park, East Cumbria
How much? Adult weekend ticket £105, U10s free
Camping? Yes

When? 27-29 July
Who/what? The big daddy of world and acoustic music festivals! Billy Bragg, Robert Plant, Bim Sherman, Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff, Hugh Masekela and Buckwheat Zydeco are among the bigger attractions, but there are literally hundreds of names on the bill from all over the world.
Where? Charlton Park, Wiltshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £135, U13s free
Camping? Yes


When? 3-5 August
Who/what? Now in its sixth year, Hollifair is a family-friendly event with four main stages “for all kinds of musical enjoyment – which at Holifair ranges from folk, gypsy, punk, blues and reggae all the way to dance”. Expect local talent and up-and-comers rather than any big names (or anyone you’ve actually heard of). The festival is a fundraiser for the special needs learning and daycare centre in whose grounds it takes place.
Where? Hollifield Farm, Gweek, Cornwall
How much? Adult weekend ticket £45, U14s free
Camping? Yes

Cropready Convention
When? 9-11 August
Who/what? Fairport Convention’s own long-running folk fest. With Fairport themselves, obviously, plus Bellowhead, Squeeze, Saw Doctors, Joan Armatrading, Richard Thompson and more
Where? Cropredy, Oxfordshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £110 (£105 before 31 July)
Camping? Yes

Boomtown 2012
When? 9-12 August
Who/what? Lots of ska, reggae, hip-hop and breakbeat, with Zion Train, Channel One Sound System, Dub Pistols, Blak Twang, Asian Dub Foundation, The Slackers, Jah Shaka, Macka B and many more
Where? Matterley Estate, near Winchester, Hampshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £129
Camping? Yes

Farmer Phil’s Festival
When? 10-12 August
Who/what? Dreadzone, The Groundhogs and The Rhythmites headline a very varied bill that’s still largely TBC, but it’s worth noting that the Acoustic Stage plays a major role at this one
Where? Gatten Farm, Ratlinghope, Shrewsbury
How much? Adult weekend ticket £80
Camping? Yes

One Love Festival
When? 10-12 August
Who/what? Lost of big names in reggae, dub and bass music, including Tapper Zukie, Cornell Campbell, Dawn Penn, Dennis Alcapone, Don Letts, Iration Steppas, Hatcha, Dub Syndicate, plus the Aba Shanti, Jah Tubby, Channel One and King Tubby soundsystems, with more still TBC
Where? Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent
How much? Adult weekend ticket £110
Camping? Yes

Beautiful Days
When? 17-19 August
Who/what? The Levellers plus guests Show Of Hands, New Model Army, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Public Image Ltd, Toots & The Maytals, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Liz Green, Little Barrie and many more
Where? Escot Park, Devon
How much? SOLD OUT
Camping? Yes

Strummer Of Love
When? 17-19 August
Who/what? A one-off tribute to the late, great Joe Strummer, with The Pogues, Billy Bragg, KT Tunstall, Badly Drawn Boy, Alabama 3, Dreadzone and more
Where? Secret location, Somerset
How much? Adult weekend ticket £175
Camping? Yes

V Festival
When? 18-19 August
Who/what? One of the UK’s big corporate festivals, with artists appearing in Chelmsford on the Saturday then playing Staffordshire on the Sunday and vice versa. The star-studded bill includes High Flying Birds, Stone Roses, The Killers, Inspiral Carpets, Dodgy, The Stranglers, The Proclaimers, Professor Green, Happy Mondays, Madness, Tom Jones, Noah & The Whale, Ed Sheeran, Friendly Fires, The Human League and many more.
Where? Hylands Park, Chelmsford and Weston Park, South Staffordshire.
How much? Adult weekend ticket £180
Camping? Yes

When? 23-27 August
Who/what? The UK’s best-kept festival secret and regarded by many as “the new Big Chill”, with a friendly, intimate atmosphere. The full line-up is never announced in advance, but those names that have been revealed include Billy Bragg, The Selecter, The Nextmen, Vieux Farka Toure, The Apples and Haggis Horns.
Where? Market Harborough, Northamptonshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £119
Camping? Yes

Towersey Festival
When? 23-27 August
Who/what? Now in its 48th year, Towersey is one of the UK’s leading festivals for folk, roots and acoustic music. Artists include Bellowhead, The South, Donul Lunny, Katherine Tickell, Edward II, Martin Simpson, Roddy Woomble and Abigail Washburn
Where? Towersey, Oxfordshire
How much? Adult four-day ticket £139, day tickets available, U5s free
Camping? Yes

Rhythm Festival
When? 24-26 August
Who/what? Three festivals in one! Rhythm Festival features Hawkwind, The Beat, Booker T, The Damned, Ken Boothe, John Cooper Clark, The Groundhogs, The Men They Couldn’t Hang and many more. Rhythm Folk is headlined by The Strawbs, Jim Moray, Peatbog Faeries and Show Of Hands, while Rhythm & Blues features Wilko Johnson, Geno Washington, The Blues Band and Big Boy Bloater, among others
Where? Old Warden Park, Bedfordshire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £119 for all three. Or you can attend just Rhythm Folk for £80, or just Rhythm & Blues for £80. Though for the sake of £40, and with all that talent on offer – why would you?
Camping? Yes (£36 surcharge)

Reading Festival
When? 24-26 August
Who/what? Another big, established player on the UK festival scene, this year with Kasabian, Foo Fighters, The Cure, Kaiser Chiefs, Florence & The Machine, The Vaccines, Bombay Bicycle Club, Eagles Of Death Metal, Mystery Jets, Less Than Jake and many more.
Where? Little Johns Farm, Reading
How much? Adult weekend ticket £197.50
Camping? Yes

When? 24-26 August
Who/what? “A non-commercial music and arts festival with a warm atmosphere,” is how they describe it. Highlights include The Waterboys, KT Tunstall, Big Country, Adam Ant, Transglobal Underground, System 7, Billy Bragg and many more
Where? Tarnside Farm, Silloth, Cumbria
How much? Adult weekend ticket £95
Camping? Yes

Leeds Festival
When? 24-26 August
Who/what? Sister festival to Reading, with much the same line-up, only on different days and further north!
Where? Bramham Park, Leeds
How much? Adult weekend ticket £197.50
Camping? Yes

Purbeck Folk Festival
When? 24-26 August
Who/what? KT Tunstall, Larkin Poe, Shooglenifty, The Destroyer, Rory McLeod, Moulettes and more
Where? Wilkswood Farm, Langton Matravers, Dorset
How much? Adult weekend ticket £80 (£85 after 30 June)
Camping? Yes

Fylde Folk Festival
When? 29 August-2 September
Who/what? Show Of Hands, Vin Garbutt, John Tams & Barry Coope, Roy Bailey, The Young’uns, Bob Fox, Grace Notes, The Wilsons, Alistair Anderson, Marie Little and many more,
Where? Various venues, Fleetwood and Fylde, Lancashire
How much? Adult weekend ticket £70, day tickets available
Camping? Yes (£10 surcharge)

End Of The Road
When? 31 August-2 September
Who/what? Indie and folk festival, with Grizzly Bear, Tindersticks, The Low Anthem, Robyn Hitchcock and many more
Where? Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset
How much? Adult weekend ticket £150
Camping? Yes


When? 6-9 September
Who/what? Curated by Rob Da Bank, Bestival is now firmly established as a major player on the UK festival scene. This year’s highlights include New Order, The XX, Sigur Ros, Friendly Fires, Two Door Cinema Club, Inner City, Sister Sledge, Gary Numan, Emeli Sandé, Bat For Lashes, De La Soul, Roots Manuva, The Horrors, Death In Vegas, Buraka Son Sistema, Spiritualized, Adam Ant and many more
Where? Robin Hill Country Park, Isle Of Wight
How much? Adult weekend ticket £180
Camping? Yes

Herts Jazz Festival
When? 14-16 September
Who/what? The organisers promise “a line-up of the very best in British and European contemporary jazz”. Artists include Martin Taylor, Troyka, Zoe Rahman, the European Jazz Ensemble, Stan Tracey, Alan Barnes, Bobby Wellins and more
Where? Campus West, Welwyn Garden City
How much? Adult weekend ticket £90
Camping? No

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