June heralds the festival season, and if you’ve not already got your tickets for field-filling fun you may be wondering what kind of event you should head for. Here we examine a few of the country’s
favourite festivals – and the kinds of punters they attract…
The most venerable of all festivals – and not just because this year’s headliners include thoroughly dry-behind-the-ears types like The Rolling Stones, Chic, Elvis Costello, Public Enemy and Bobby Womack – is also the one which most divides the country into festival lovers and haters. Cramming 150,000 or so into a gorgeous Somerset vale, it offers an eclectic selection of stages and acts – for every coffin-dodging headliner there’s a small-stage breakthrough act and a dozen weirdos in distant fields – across dozens of discrete areas. If you manage to get a ticket, beware the ever-present threat of climatic catastrophe: rain turns the valley into a mudbath, while sunshine does the toilets no favours.
Isle of Wight
The legendary late-60s festival was revived in 2002 and now attracts more than 50,000 to the island. Gaining size through past heritage headliners like Paul McCartney, Neil Young, David Bowie and The Rolling Stones (them again), it has settled into a comfortable mass-market niche – if that’s not an oxymoron – of what used to be known as “FM radio rock”: this year’s line-up is topped by The Stone Roses, Paul Weller, The Killers and Bon Jovi. It therefore annoys the too-cool-for-school set, but for those who like the acts involved it’s a well-run event, and for many a good introduction to the festival lifestyle.
Many a festival majors on white guys with guitars, but if you prefer those guitars loud and distorted, then head for Reading or Leeds (the same acts play different nights at the two venues). Reading started in 1961 as a jazz festival but soon settled into steadfast rock; bar a disastrous late-80s wobble into commercial pop, it has stayed loud ever since, while adding a dash of hip-hop. This year’s headliners include Green Day, Biffy Clyro, Eminem and System of a Down, while unpopular acts have suffered barrages of wee-filled bottles. It’s not one to attend if you don’t like noisy teenagers, greasy hair and body odour – but then, if that’s a bugbear then maybe festivals aren’t your bag, baby.
Held since 2006 in Suffolk, Latitude doesn’t attract the enormonames of Glastonbury or IoW – and wouldn’t want to: as this year’s headliners Foals put it, “we’re bored of watching some bloke from the 90s headline”. A family-friendly affair aimed at self-confessed “knowing” music lovers, it attracts the BBC 6-listening, Guardian-reading, theatre-going types, who this year are as likely to enjoy Eddie Izzard on the comedy stage as they are to see Grizzly Bear on the main stage. With 35,000 attendees it’s sizeable without being overbearing, and a deserved favourite of the coffee-shop cognoscenti.
The “kid sister” of indie/dance staple Bestival has been offering furry family-friendly fun in Dorset since 2008. A comfortable 30,000-capacity event squarely aimed at the family, it offers more comedy, theatre and talks than most: it is surely the only event this year where you can watch Horrible Histories and Howard Marks, Dick & Dom and DJs, Alan Davies and Ash. As you would expect, amenities are at the respectable end of the scale, and if you’re a former festival-goer who might want to brave the fields with your offspring in tow, this could be just the ticket.
Started in 1980, the World Of Music, Arts & Dance festival now roams the planet bringing its ideals of multiculturality and awareness to enthusiastic converts. The main UK event now takes place in Wiltshire, but with a devoutly inclusive lineup – this year’s headliners come from Mali, Portugal and Jamaica, with dozens of other nationalities on the bill – it’s a global jukebox of world music. Definitely one for those who don’t think ethics is a county, and definitely not one for those who don’t like tofu or drum circles, it aims to make the world a better place – and for some, it does.
Guest Writer, Gary Parkinson is editor of FourFourTwo.com and the former production editor of the Q Glastonbury Daily.
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