- Claire Sawers
- 28 May 2009
This article is from 2009.
Summer Festivals Special
The promise of sunshine, good vibes and quality entertainment is too much for most of us to resist, which is why festivals are just so damn popular nowadays. That’s why we’ve dug out the details of the most delectable from across the globe and Claire Sawers explores the history of the festival from druids to Download
Our love of a good festival is by no means new. The desire to recharge – or more often, decharge our batteries – goes back to prehistoric times when people felt confused and scared by the forces of nature, so tried to keep on their good side by placating them with celebrations and rituals.
From the ancient druids, Greeks and Romans, right up to hippies, ravers, Full Mooners or Burning Man ‘burners’, people have always felt a need to break the monotony of daily life and get a little buckwild. Be it a religious, political or musical event, a festival is a time for getting together with like-minded sorts and letting off steam – whether that means calling for global change, celebrating the seasons, giving thanks to the gods, or just letting people unleash the beast and get out of their nuts on drugs.
The ancient Egyptians enjoyed a good knees-up, and filled their calendar with feast days and processions revolving around tides and harvests, or the gods they worshipped. The Romans were also legendary party-lovers; putting on elaborate feasts to remember the dead, praise the goddess of flowers, or honour their god of wine, Bacchus. Bacchanalia began as secret cult meetings with a strictly women-only door policy, but soon spread in popularity and men joined in the action too. Wine, rich food and sex were all on the menu at the orgy nights, and things generally descended into a drunken, debauched free-for-all.
Life in the Middle Ages seems like a picnic compared to the modern day, and medieval peoples got almost eight weeks per year off work to celebrate holidays and festivals. After a hard day ploughing the fields, Middle Agers let their hair down at giant banquets. Other fans of a good old-fashioned binge blow-out were the Tudors. When they weren’t indulging in extravagant, multi-course feasts, the Tudors liked a bit of festive dancing. May Day had long been celebrated as the beginning of summer by Celts and Romans, but in modern times, villagers adopted the festival as a day for ensuring fertility in the crops. The modern equivalent is a local festival like Leith or Pittenweem festivals, where all the facets of the local culture are drawn together in one unifiying celebration. Similarly, events like the Festival of History in Lanark seeks to recreate the craft and culture of everyone from the Vikings to Napoleon, happily without and bloodshed.
In turn of the century America, Mardi Gras had become a regular fixture in New Orleans. What began as a religious carnival marking the run-up to Lent has now morphed into a gay-friendly parade that attracts tourists by the thousand. It was the inspiration in part celebrations for like Gay Pride and our own queer culture celebration, Pride Scotia.
The peak (in scale and influence terms at least in the last century has to be Woodstock, the landmark 1969 folk music and art festival that epitomised the climax of the hippie movement, and attracted almost 400,000 people. With Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, The Who and The Grateful Dead on the bill – it was an era-defining moment where free love, skinny-dipping, mind-expanding drugs and bohemian ideals came together over three days.
The Altamont Festival in California, headlined by the Rolling Stones’ some four months after Woodstock, signalled a sea change for festivals when the event descended into chaos with a crowd member murdered by the Hell’s Angels operating as crowd security. The hippy ethos of getting down (and out) together has always been in conflict with the need for safe, secure and ultimately lawful behaviour. Nowhere has this been more apparent than at Glastonbury – which, after kicking off in a dairy farm with Marc Bolan playing and a £1 entry fee, has morphed into a monster-sized music and performing arts festival. Organiser Michael Eavis has continually strived to balance ethics with staying on the right side of the law – such as when the 100,000 capacity event swelled to quarter of a million thanks to fence jumpers.
Today, Glasto and T in the Park arguably stand as the two biggest events of their kind in the UK, but the list of festivals runs into the hundreds. With more popping up every year, it seems our love of muddy fields knows no bounds.
Ultimately however, they are all about the same thing: a collective experience, a sharing, an indulgence, a celebration. So whether it’s modern day pagans and hippies stripping off and throwing down at the Burning Man Festival out in the Arizona desert or a meet and greet with your favourite author amid the quaint surrounds of Wigtown Book Festival, this summer, as with every summer, you’re in for a treat.
Piteeweem Arts Festival, 1-9 Aug, www.pittenweemartsfestival.co.uk; Festival of History, Lanark, 22-23 Aug. For details of all other festivals mentioned, see timeline below.
Hampton Court Palace Festival
2–13 Jun, Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, 0844 811 0050, www.hamptoncourtparty.com
A host of acts get the party started in this picturesque palace, including Russell Watson, Level 42, The Four Seasons, Beverley Knight and Lemar.
Middlesbrough Music Live
4–7Jun, Centre Square, Middlesbrough, www.middlesbroughmusiclive.co.uk
Ash, The Fratellis, Estelle and Zutons rock it up.
Coastline Bluegrass Festival
5–7 Jun, Llanudno, Wales, www.coastlinebluegrass.co.uk
4 Wheel Drive, The Toy Hearts, Chill Until Blue, Jaywalkers, Feet First, and Wicked Soles bring their laidback sounds to proceedings.
Sellindge Music Festival
5–7 Jun, Hope Farm near Ashford, Kent. www.sellindgemusicfestival.co.uk
Supergrass, Thomas Tantrum, The Holloways, Ten Bears, The Ryes, Silvery, Young Knives, Lee Saunders, Ben’s Brother and Lucy and the Caterpillar showcase their wares.
6 Jun, Midsummer Common, Cambridge, www.strawberry-fair.org.uk
This annual funfest doesn’t announce their line-up until the day, so surprises all round.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
1–14 Jun, Manchester, Tennessee, www.bonnaroo.com
The mighty Bruce Springsteen joins the Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Paul Oakenfold and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
London International Music Show
11–14 Jun, ExCeL Exhibition Centre, London Docklands, Greater London, www.londoninternationalmusicshow.com
Jan Akkerman, The Swans featuring TM STevens & Marco Mendoza, Phil Hilborne & guests, plus Albert Lee & Hogans Heroes.
12–14 Jun, Donington Park, Castle Donington, Derby, www.download festival.co.uk
A roster of the good, bad and ugly of rock as Limpbizkit, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, Pendulum, Deaf Lepard, Whitesnake, ZZTop, The Prodigy and Motley Crüe.
12–14 Jun, Loch Ness, Highlands, www.rockness.co.uk
This one goes from strength to strength, mixing dance and indie in considerable style with Basement Jazz, Flaming Lips, Biffy Clyro and Orbital, on the bill.
Isle of Wight Festival
12–14 Jun, Isle of Wight, www.isleofwightfestival.com
Prodigy, Basement Jaxx, Stereophonics, Razorlight, Maximo Park, The Ting Tings, The View, Pigeon Detectives and Paolo Nutini are just some of the acts on this year’s line-up.
12–14 Jun, Lynton and Lynmouth, Devon, www.llama.org.uk
DJ Skitz, Dub FX, First Degree Burns, David Holmes and RSVP – Bhangra head to Devon for weekend dance music frolics.
Raglan Music Festival
12–14 Jun, Raglan, Monmouthshire, www.raglan-festival.org
Line-up includes Dave Swarbrick, Ashley Hutchings, Lark Rise Band, Three Other, Barbershop Quartet and Cambria String Quartet.
Wimborne Folk Festival
12–14 Jun, Wimborne, Dorset, www.wimbornefolkfestival.co.uk
Michael McGoldrick Band, Kris Drever, Boo Hewerdine and Heidi Talbot, Steve Knightley and The 2Duos are all Dorset bound.
Leamington Peace Festival
13–14 Jun, Pump Room Gardens, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, www.peacefestival.org.uk
Centre your chi at this annual peace fest.
West End Festival
13–28 Jun, Glasgow, West End, www.westendfestival.co.uk
Aw, the Weeg. Never one to hide their light under a bushel, the West End Festival makes a welcome return with a treasure trove of artforms.
Edinburgh International Film Festival
17–28 Jun, Various venues, Edinburgh, www.eiff.org.uk
Sam Mendes Away We Go kicks off this bumper programme. See The List next issue for festival previews and interviews.
Borders Book Festival
18–21 Jun, Harmony Garden, Melrose, www.bordersbook festival.org
Joan Bakewell, Michael Palin and James Robertson are just a clutch of the literary talents on display.
Kelburn Garden Party
20-21 Jun, Kelburn Castle, Ayrshire, www.kelburngardenparty.com
This great new addition to the Scottish festival calendar has The Bays and The Aliens topping off a tremendous weekend of good music and good vibes in spectacular setting. See next issue for more details.
Big Session Festival
19–21 Jun, De Montfort Hall, Leicester, www.bigsessionfestival.com
Levellers, Billy Bragg, Oysterband, Kathryn Tickell Band, Edward II, Eliza Carthy Band, Adrian Edmondson & The Bad Shepherds, Peatbog Faeries, Breabach, Blyth Power … the list just keeps on coming.
Glasgow International Jazz Festival
19-29 Jun, Various venues, Glasgow, www.jazzfest.co.uk.
Yolanda Brown, Kyle Eastwood Quintet, BBC Big Band, Ryan Quigley Big Band with Justin Currie bring a dose of chewing to the Glasgow festival circuit.
Lowdham Book Festival
22–30 Jun, Lowdham Village and Broadway Cinema, Nottingham, www.lowdhambookfestival.co.uk
Liam Browne, Patricia Duncker, Lesley Glaister, Tim Pears, John Lucas, Paul Jones and Dave Kelly ask: are you sitting comfortably?
Broadstairs Dickens Festival
20–24 Jun, Venues throughout Broadstairs, www.broadstairsdickens festival.co.uk
All things Dickens give cause for celebration.
24–28 Jun, Glastonbury, Somerset, www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk
Lily Alllen, Neil Young, Blur, Bruce Springsteen, Doves, Franz Ferdinand and The Ting Tings are just some of the names to rock up at one of the grandaddy’s of the festival circuit.
Dent Folk Festival
26–28 Jun, Buck Bank Farm, Under the Howgill Fells, near Sedbergh, Cumbria, www.dentfolkfestival.co.uk
Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Sheppards, Solas, Andy Irvine, Karine Polwart, Kila and Transglobal Underground showcase some top notch folksy musings.
The Big Pride Party
27 Jun, CC Blooms, Edinburgh, 0131 556 9331.
Lee Ryan, formerly of Blue dons the headphones and DJs the Heaven and Hell themed Pride Party as a side event to the main Pride Scotia shindig. Find more about that go to www.pride-scotia.org
The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival
Boat lovers and non will find little to disappoint – weather permitting – at this annual shindig.
Manchester International Festival
2–19 Jul, Venues around Manchester, www.mif.co.uk
Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Kraftwerk and De La Soul rock into town as part of this tip top line-up.
The Big Tent Festival
25-26 Jul, Falkland, Fife. www.bigtentfestival.co.uk
The perfect synergy of eco awareness, musical hedonism and family fun with holistic goodnes and culinary finery. An eco festival like no other.
Cheltenham Music Festival
3–18 Jul, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, www.cheltenhamfestivals.com
Archduke, Birtwistle, Copland, Different Trains, Esterhazy, Felix, Goa, Hoffnung, Isserlis, John Williams.
4 Jul, Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, www.monarchy-live.co.uk
Happy Mondays, Supergrass, Reverend And The Makers, Neville Staple, Kid British, My Tiger My Timing, Official Secrets Act.
4–5 Jul, Hyde Park, London, www.wirelessfestival.co.uk
Kanye West, Paul Oakenfold, The Streets, Basement Jaxx, N-Dubz, Tommy Sparks, Frankmusik, Flo Rida, Lady Sovereign, Daniel Merriwether and N-Dubz offer something for everyone.
Stonehaven Folk Festival
9–12 Jul, Stonehaven, North East Scotland, www.stonehavenfolkfestival.co.uk
Peatbog Faeries, Ralph McTell, Karine Polwart Trio, Martin Simpson, Cara Dillon and John McCusker showcase their rootsy wares.
9–18 Jul, Somerset House, London, www.somersethouse. org.uk
Lily Allen, The Enemy, Grace Jones, Pendulum, Super Furry Animals and Athlete are just some of the chart topping lovelies to grace the stage.
T in the Park
10–12 Jul, Balado Airfield, Kinross, www.tinthepark.com
Aw TiTP, we love you. The Killers, Blur, Kings of Leon, Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand. Lily Allen, The View, The Manic Street Preachers, Lady Gaga …the top class name dropping can and does go on. Don’t miss the List next month for previews and features of some of the main events.
10–12 Jul, Guildford, Surrey, www.guilfest.co.uk
Imelda May, The Stranglers, The Charlatans, Will Young, Motorhead and Pendulum afford a suitably eclectic mix.
Ely Folk Festival
10–12 Jul, Ely Football Club, Ely Outdoor Centre, Downham Road, Ely, Cambridgeshire, www.elyfolk.co.uk
Peatbog Faeries, Edward II, Eric Bogle & John Munro, Baka Beyond, Tanglefoot, Lockwood and Cuckoo Oak all feature.
10–12 Jul, Abersoch, Cardigan Bay www.wakestock.co.uk
Moby, Chicane, Zane Lowe, Goldierocks, Little Comets, The Zutons, Lazy Boys, Norman Jay, Walley Lopez, Mission District and Red Light Company are just some of
the names bringing their party piece.
10–12 Jul, Punchestown Racecourse, Punchestown, Co. Kildare, Republic of Ireland, www.oxegen.ie.
Bloc Party, The Script, Pet Shop Boys, Manic Street Preachers, Nine Inch Nails, Yeah Yeab Yeahs, Snow Patrol and Razorlight, amongst others, give ample reason to be cheerful.
Hebridean Celtic Festival
15–18 Jul, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, www.hebceltfest.com
This annual festival is not only beautifully located but always rich in talent.
Larmer Tree Festival
15–19 Jul, Salisbury, Nr London, www.larmertree festival.co.uk
Pianomeister Jools Holland sets his stall and gets down with nature.
16 –19 Jul, Henham Park, Halesworth, Suffolk, www.latitudefestival.co.uk
Pet Shop Boys, Grace Jones, Doves, Editors … need we say more?
16–19 Jul, Matterley Bowl near Winchester, Hants, www.gladefstival.com
Booka Shade, Squarepusher, Freeland (aka Adam Freeland), The Japanese Popstars, The Qemists all appearing.
17–18 Jul, Upcote Farm, Withington, Cheltenham, www.twothousand treesfestival.co.uk
Featuring Randall Stevens, Orphans & Vandals, Big Blue Sun, Che, Babel, Attack! Attack!, Fightstar, Red Light Company and Wild Beasts.
BBC Proms Literary Festival
17 Jul–12 Sep, Royal Albert Hall, London, www.bbc.co.uk/proms
Music and literature merge with a breath-taking programme.
Treefest and Wood Market
18–19 Jul, Edinburgh, Inverleith Park, www.edinburghtreefest.org.uk
Get down with nature and enjoy some fun with all the family.
18–19 Jul, Victoria Park, London, www.lovebox.net.
Dananananaykroyd, Duran Duran, Florence and the Machine, Groove Armada, Ladyhawke, Mr Hudson and N*E*R*D offer up plenty of reasons to smile.
Secret Garden Party
23–26 Jul, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, www.secretgardenparty.com
Bicycle Thieves, Little Comets, Caspa, Cocosuma, Daedelus, Decoder Heloise And The Savoir Faire and Envelopes enjoy some covert operations.
24–25 Jul, East Kirkcarswell Farm, Dundrennan, www.thewickerman festival.co.uk
One of the best loved festivals on the cultural calendar, this year’s entertainment comes courtesy of The Human League, The Zutons, Candi Staton and Billy Bragg.
24–26 Jul, Lulworth Castle in Dorset, www.campbestival.co.uk
Phoenix and PJ Harvey are among the entertainment at this proper dress up silly and party in a field shindig.
The Gathering 2009
Holyrood Park, Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle, www.thegathering2009.com
Scotland’s largest ever highland comes to the regal environs of Holyrood with live music, food and drink and the clan parade.
24–26 Jul, Charlton Park, Malmmesbury, Wilts, www.womad.org
Ethiopiques & Badume’s Band with Mahmoud Ahmed, Alèmayèhu Eshèté & Gétatchèw Mèkurya, Solomon Burke, Nneka, Oumou Sangare , Rokia Traoré and Charlie Winston are just some of the acts creating some global flavour.
The Big Green Gathering
29 Jul–2 Aug, Mendip Hills, near Cheddar, Somerset, www.big-green-gathering.com
Featuring Nik Turner, Dragonsfly, Seize the Day, Quodlings Delight, Emergence and Unity & Devision.
Cambridge Folk Festival
30 Jul–2 Aug, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, www.cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk
Lucinda Williams, The Zutons and Saw Doctors perform.
31 Jul–2 Aug, Lowther Deer Park, Grate Farm, Helsington, Kendal, Cumbria, www.kendalcalling.com
Cheese and Status, Skream, The King Blues, Beardy Man, Fight Like Apes, The Sunshine Underground, Laura James, The Yards and The Travelling Band dress to impress.
Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival
31 Jul–9 Aug, Various venues, Edinburgh. One on the many reasons to enjoy your August amidst Edinburgh festival fever, with an array of jazz, soul and blues talent on offer.
1 Aug, Victoria Park, London, www.fielddayfestivals.com
Excellent urban one-dayer features Mystery Jets, Mogwai, Eat Your Own Ears DJs, Errors, Fennesz, Final Fantasy, First Aid Kit and Santigold.
1–2 Aug, Knebworth, Hertfordshire, www.sonispherefestivals.com
This newbie sets its stage down in Knebworth with a finely line-up including Metallica, Linkin Park, Machine Head, Feeder, Thin Lizzy, Killing Joke, Taking Back Sunday, Corey Taylor, Bullet For My Valentine and Dirty Little Rabbits.
2 Aug, Victoria Park, London, www.underagefestivals.com
Santigold, The Chapman Family, Golden Silvers, Goodshoes, Marina And The Diamonds, Patrick Wolf, The Horrors and The Whip play their little hearts out.
Edinburgh Art Festival
5 Aug –5 Sep, Various venues, Edinburgh
The great and the good of the art world set their stall in the capital.
The Big Chill
6–9 Aug, www.bigchill.net
Guest turns from Optimo and Sub Club DJs.
Moor Music Festival
6-9 Aug, Heslaker Farm, Skipton, North Yorkshire, www.moormusic festival.co.uk
Featuring Badly Dressed Boy, Jake Flowers, Pulled Apart By Horses, Bob LE Funk, Rare By Luck, Brothers Grime, Japanese Fighting Fish, Red Stars Parade.
7–9 Aug, www.edinburgh-mela. co.uk
This multi- arts festival just grows and grown year on year, with food, dance and so much more.
Belladrum Tartan Heart Music Festival
7–8 Aug, www.tartanheart festival.co.uk
Editors and Ocean Colour Scene offer their contribution to a hefty line-up of acts.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
7–31 Aug, Various venues, Edinburgh, www.fringe.co.uk
The greatest show on earth rolls into town.
10–16 Aug, Various venues, Glasgow, www.pipingfestival.co.uk
Put that in your pipe and smoke it! The pipemeisters take a deep breath and get ready for action.
Edinburgh International Festival
14 Aug–6 Sep, Various venues, Edinburgh, www.eif.co.uk
Classical, dance, theatre and visual arts in this international bonanza of talent.
Edinburgh International Book Festival
15–31 Aug, Various venues, Edinburgh
Literary giants from around the globe show up in Charlotte Square.
15 Aug, Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh
Big dance music festival packed with quality DJ action over nine arenas. Line-up includes Carl Cox, Above & Beyond, Adamski, Nightmares on Wax, Frankie Knuckles, Derrick May, Danny Rampling, Darren Emerson, Fergie, Herman Cattaneo, Roger Sanchez and many more.
Deep Fried Film Festival
17–22 Aug, Various venues, Lanarkshire. www.deepfriedfilm.org.uk
Film buffs shouldn’t miss this week-long underground movie love in.
Green Man Festival
Glanusk Park, Brecon Beacons, www.thegreenman festival.co.uk
Animal Collective, Wilco, Bon Iver, Roky Erickson, British Sea Power and Dirty Three feature.
22–23 Aug, Hylands Park Chelmsford. Weston Park Staffordshire. www.vfestival.com
Lemar, Ocean Coloured Scene, The Saturdays, Natalie Imbruglia. Biffy Clyro, James, Fatboy Slim, Taylor Swift, James, Alesha Dixon and James Morrison put the P into Pop.
28–30 Aug, Bramham Park, Near Wetherby, Leeds, www.leedsfestival.com
Chart topping line-up with Fall Out Boy, Kings of Leon, Radiohead, Artic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Lost Prophets, Jamie T, Glasgvegas, The Maccabees, AFI and Maximo Park.
28–30 Aug, Little John’s Farm, Richfield Avenue, Reading. www.readingfestival.com
Fall Out Boy, Kaiser Chiefs, Ian Brown, Artic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, Glasgvegas, The Maccabees, AFI and Maximo Park ensure the party never stops.
29–30 Aug, Daresbury, Halton, Cheshire, www.creamfields.com
Did someone say dance? Basement Jaxx, Mylo Live, David Guetta and Laurent Garnier add their kudos to the bill.
Orkney Beer Festival
21–23 Aug, The Stromness Hotel, Orkney The beautiful Orkney island proves a glass half full but a life half-filled.
Notting Hill Carnival
Notting Hill, London. www.nottinghillcarnival.biz
The legendary party in the street remains untouchable.
Burning Man Festival
31 Aug–7 Sep, Black Rock City, Nevada. www.burningman.com
Go express yourself at this free thinkers paradise.
Bristol Poetry Festival
3–13 Sep, Bristol Old Vic and other venues in the city, www.poetrycan.co.uk
A roster of literary lovelies.
Braemar, Nr Balmoral, www.braemargathering.org
An opportunity for you the noble pauper to get down with the Royals.
Jersey, Channel Islands, www.jerseylive.org.uk
Basement Jaxx and The Dirty Aces are just two of the names gracing this year’s stage.
11–13 Sep, Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight, www.bestival.net
Isle of Wight proves that it still has ample pulling power with Kraftwerk and My Bloody valentine just some of the names on the bill.
Galway International Oyster Festival
24–27 Sep, Galway, Republic of Ireland, www.galwayoysterfest.com
Galway celebrates one of the foods finest aphrodisiacs.