Port Eliot Festival, photo credit: Louise Roberts

This Summer’s Top Festivals

Pull out your diary and get booking with A Little Bird’s ultimate summer festival guide:

The Big Music Festivals 

Music festivals offer so much more than music. Pick one where you can escape the inevitable
crowds between sets and enjoy the location in one of the country’s most perfect settings. The number 1 moan at festivals a few years ago used to be dire washing facilities: you will feel so pleased with yourself if you have booked a private loo space and just think how transformed you’ll be to experience a hair washing and styling station. But you need to book ahead. Here’s the low down on what to book ahead at the big festivals:

LATITUDE  18–21 July, Suffolk

Latitude always attracts brilliant music acts (this year Lana del Ray, Snow Patrol and George Ezra) and is well-known for its ballet, drama, comedy, cabaret and circus. There is a also a big wellness section called Solas and it is well worth signing up and booking in advance for treatments such as Ayurvedic Massage and Crystal Therapy. Don’t forget to bring your swimming kit and towel for the most gratifying lake swimming. There are drop-in yoga sessions too. A good Co-Op market is on site as well as an excellent wine bar in the main thoroughfare.
Other bookables: Seat of Luxury and phone charger.

WILDERNESS 1–4 August, Oxfordshire

Wilderness is one of the smaller festivals and attracts foodies and music acts like Tom Odell and Bombay Bicycle Club (on this year’s billing).  Restaurants to book ahead include Angela Hartnett’s Murano and Neil Borthwick from The French House. As for wellbeing, the fitness club Frame has a presence as well as Hot Pod yoga and even axe-throwing – you heard it here first! Wild swimming available here too so bring your costume and towel. Also nearer the time you’ll be able to book Bathing Under the Stars hot tubs (2-hour slots).
Other bookables: Phone charger

PORT ELIOT 25–28 July, Cornwall

Eclectic mix of music, poetry, comedy and cooking demos and more. A highlight to book in advance is Book a Date. Yes, really, you can book a 2–3-hour journey made especially for the two of you, whether it’s for a couple siblings or just friends. From £50.
Other bookables: The nicest loos we have come across.

LARMER TREE 18–21 July, Wiltshire

Music highlights this year include The Cat Empire and KT Tunstall … you get the vibe. Chill out while watching a cinema classic or join in An Introduction to Breathwork workshop. Pre-order your programme so you don’t waste time or get FOMO fog when you get there.

GREEN MAN 15–18 August, Brecon Beacons

Mix of eclectic and some well-known faces like Caitlin Moran and Jarvis Cocker, set in the most wonderful countryside. Book yoga and massage sessions in advance as well as a hot tub for 6– 8 bathers. There’s no better setting to refresh body and mind.

ISLE OF WIGHT 13–16 June

You will have to get your skates on if you’re not booked into this festival already as it’s the one that kicks off the season. Highlights this year on the music stage include Anne-Marie, Lily Allen, George Ezra and Bastille. Again you can hire a hot tub here (same company as at the other festivals) with fresh mint and cucumber water served throughout – feels like summer already. Watch out for the sherpas (no need to book) to help you with setting up your tent.

Other bookables: Luxury toilets; hair styling station an option too.

London Festivals

A taster of festival fun but you can sleep in your own bed at the end of the day. Many of these are free:

Sound Unbound, 18-20 May 2019, Barbican and Culture Mile

Credit: Mark Allan/Barbican

SoundUnbound is a joint project between the Barbican, London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Academy of Ancient Music and Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Hear a variety of music in amazing settings in the Square Mile from choral music at the City of London’s oldest church, St Barts to experimental electro at Fabric to a New York-based electric guitar quartet at the Barbican Lakeside. Explore the grand Tudor interiors and atmospheric courtyards of The Charterhouse and hear authentic medieval sounds with Gregorian chant at twilight in the intimate Chapel and take a time out in the tranquil Norfolk Garden, where you can rest or stroll through Pleasure Garden, an interactive ‘listening garden’ installation. Free.

Mighty Hoopla, 8 June 2019, Brockwell Park

A one-day festival in Brockwell Park with pop music from Chaka Khan, All Saints, Artful Dodger, Bananarama, Jamelia, Kate Nash and more. Tickets from £50. 

The Great Get Together, 23 June 2019, Queen Elizabeth Park

Held in memory of MP Jo Cox, on what would have been Jo’s 45th birthday, the Great Get Together is a picnic in the park with lots of wonderful performances including dance from Sadler’s Wells. Free.

Citadel, 14 July 2019, Gunnersbury Park

Having de-camped from East London’s Victoria Park to West London’s Gunnersbury Park last year, Citadel festival (from the team behind Wilderness) returns to Chiswick this summer for another laid-back Sunday fest with music from Catfish and the Bottlemen, Bastille, Bear’s Den and Friendly Fires, plus pop-up food trucks from Patty + Bun, Buddha Bowls and more. Like a bigger out-of-town festival expect fitness classes and yoga sessions, workshops and talks too, plus kids entertainment from the Roald Dahl Story Centre and the Science Museum. Tickets from £39.50.

Alternative Festivals

Garden Museum Literary Festival, Houghton Hall, Norfolk 21-22 June 2019

A sunken fountain and Rosa ‘Cecile Brunner’ on an arch in the rose parterre at Houghton Hall in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, UK

A celebration of gardens, this Lit Fest travels about each year – previously hosted at Boughton House (2017), Hatfield House (2015) and Petworth House (2014). This year it’s up in Norfolk at Houghton Hall – explore the wonderful house and gardens with tours and hear talks from top names in gardening. Sam McKnight will be discussing his West London garden, Raffaella Barker will be talking about how gardening can inspire novel-writing, hear Hugh St Clair on life and love at Benton End with Cedric Morris and Lett Haines and much more. Weekend tickets £195, day ticket £110.

Curious Arts Festival, East Sussex 23-26 August 2019

A small festival with a wonderful mixture of literature (there’s psychotherapist Philippa Perry on her new book How to Stay Sane; Lemn Sissay on his enthralling memoir My Name is Why; Max Porter, celebrated author of Grief is a Thing with Feathers on his new novel Lanny; McMafia author Misha Glennyon crime networks, hacking and dark markets etc.), music and comedy plus immersive experiences like life drawing, insect walks, poetry and journalism workshops, pop-up theatre, fine dining and a choir. This year Curious Arts moves from its usual site in the New Forest to Pippingford Park in Ashdown Forest, under an hour from London. Adult weekend ticket £191.

ALSO, 5-7 July 2019, Warwickshire

Forest Bathing, sunrise swimming, eco therapy workshops, sketchbook walks…these are the kinds of activities on offer at ALSO, the Warwickshire festival dedicated to nature. Make the most of the outdoors at this slow-paced festival with hippie vibes. Adult weekend ticket £120.

Red Rooster, 30 May – 1 June, Suffolk

If you’re after some Rhythm and Blues, then this is the festival for you.  Offering some of the best R&B, Americana, Blues, Soul, Roots and Country musicians around, there are also delicious food stalls and family fun such as jousting and car rallies.  Do  book early as tickets have sold out in previous years. Adult weekend ticket £69.50 (children 12 and under go free).

Chalke Valley History Festival, 24-30 June, Wiltshire

A delight for all ages tucked into the pretty Broad Chalke valley in Wiltshire. Discover British history with an immersive WWII trench experience, talks from top historians and writers, a forties D-Day dress up dance and lots for children in the Creative History tent – make Roman swords and pots or Victorian découpage boxes. Tickets go on sale 30 April at 9am and top talks sell out fast so look at the program here now and get ready to book. Adult day tickets £15.50.

New Festivals

We waved goodbye to our favourite Festival No 6 last year – it had outgrown its spectacular Portmerion setting. But there’s an exciting new kid on the block:

Porthilly Spirit, 24-26 May 2019, Trefresa Farm Cornwall

Stand-up-paddleboarding lessons at Porthilly Spirit

A stone’s throw from Rock and Polzeath, this new festival on Porthilly dairy farm makes the most of its Cornish setting; there’s surfing and SUP, foraging and feasting, and wild spa treatments. Big names include music from Tom Odell, Villagers and The Staves, and food from Anna Jones, Prawn on the Lawn and Smoking Goat. Book ahead. Adult 3-day festival ticket £180.
London Curious, 19 May 2019, Theatre Royal Haymarket 

Curious Arts Festival launches its inaugural one-day London festival this summer at Theatre Royal, Haymarket. An immersive experience of walks and talks curated by writer and historian Travis Elborough – expect tales from London’s most famous mud-larker, costermonger songs from the Chaps Choir, theatre land walks with City Trails and more. Tickets from £20

— A Little Bird
24th April 2019