Scottish festivals 2013 - An A-Z of the best summer festivals

Scottish music festivals 2013 - An A-Z of the best summer festivals on offer

The best festivals of music, film, food, cycling and more taking place in Scotland 2013

A is for Autobahn

‘We are the robots, NAH NAH NAH NAAAH!’ Kraftwerk probably aren’t sure what they’re getting themselves into by appearing before a, shall we say, wired crowd at T in the Park. But the electronic music-pioneering Germans will hopefully enjoy their Balado reception, as a sizeable portion of 85,000 people dance mechanic to probably the most impressive and ambitious booking Scotland’s biggest music festival has made since Bowie in 2004 (who later cancelled due to ill health).

It’s T’s 20th anniversary this year, and the standard (line-up wise) is arguably higher than ever, much as the headliners remain predictably run-of-the-mill: Mumford & Sons on Friday, Rihanna on Saturday and The Killers on Sunday. Further down the bill, there’s something for music fans of nearly every persuasion, from herb-worshipping hip hop (Snoop Dogg) to sensitive and esoteric R&B (Frank Ocean), trashy indie-punk (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and sonic warfare-waging shoegazing (My Bloody Valentine).

But is anything likely to exceed the proto-krautrock thrill of seeing Ralf Hütter and co strike eerily-motionless poses behind neon-lit workstations during ‘The Model’, or embark on a leisurely motorik ‘Autobahn’ cruise as they revisit music from the past that shaped the sound of the future? Nein. (MJ)

T in the Park
Balado, Kinross-shire
Dates: Fri 12–Sun 14 Jul
+ One of the best line-ups in years.
- Crowd isn’t always the most discerning.
Tickets: Fri £75, Sat/Sun £82.50; Weekend (no camping) £184, Weekend camping £194.

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B is for Bookworms

Wigtown is Scotland’s book town, with over a quarter of a million second-hand books on sale, and it’s also host to one of the country’s quirkiest festivals. Although many bookish topics are covered – politics, travel, science – the focus is kept strongly literary, with plenty of poetry, short stories and literary fiction on offer. If you can tear yourself away from the stories, there’s a selection of theatre, music, visual art, and foodie events on offer, as well as workshops and networking events for aspiring writers. (KL)

Wigtown Book Festival
Wigtown, Dumfries & Galloway
Dates: Fri 27 Sep–Sun 6 Oct
+ Beautiful setting is the ideal location to get lost in books.
- Difficult to access on public transport, particularly for very early or late events.
Tickets: Events individually priced.

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C is for Country Pile

Founded in 2006, Music at Paxton provides top class chamber music in the most elegant of surroundings in the Borders. Among those appearing are Romania’s Arcadia String Quartet, the wild Renaissance vocal music of Les Canards Chantants, French pianist Pascal Rogé and prize-winning German ensemble EXtraCHORd. (BD)

Music at Paxton
Paxton House, Berwick-upon-Tweed
Dates: Fri 19­–Sun 28 Jul
+ You know you’re in the midst of a different class of festival when it provides afternoon tea and buffet suppers.
- If you forget your rug, you’ll kick yourself.
Events individually priced.

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D is for Dancing

Disconcerted at the disco? Mortified by your own moves? Too ashamed to shimmy? Then Kelburn Garden Party probably isn’t the festival for you. Headlined by two acts expert in getting people’s feet moving – Ninja Tune’s cartoonish cut’n’paste instrumental hip hop mix-master Mr Scruff, and heavy, heavy reggae selectors Trojan Soundsystem – this staunchly anti-corporate boutique weekender held in the grounds of Kelburn Castle is a dancer’s delight. An eclectic cross-section of top new Scottish talent – Conquering Animal Sound, Second Hand Marching Band and Hector Bizerk – add to the festival’s very inclusive, cosmopolitan feel. (MJ)

Kelburn Garden Party
Kelburn, near Largs
Dates: Sat 6 & Sun 7 Jul
+ Grown out of the Graffiti Project – which saw Kelburn Castle’s exterior walls decorated by Brazilian spray-paint artists – it’s a visual as well as aural delight, full of hand-made décor, art and lighting.
- Big-name headliners are in short supply.
Advance weekend tickets £69.

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E is for Escape the Fringe

There are two types of people who love Fringe by the Sea. Those who live in and around North Berwick who want to enjoy a festival in August but don’t want to traipse all the way to Edinburgh for it, and those based in Edinburgh who want to enjoy a festival in August but don’t want the attendant jostling, mayhem and queuing. This year’s Fringe by the Sea is looking pretty hot with The New Rope String Band, Dougie McLean, The Boy with Tape on His Face and Larkin Poe among the names confirmed so far. (BD)

Fringe by the Sea
North Berwick
Dates: Mon 5–Sun 11 Aug
+ It’s not Edinburgh!
- It’s not Edinburgh.
Tickets: Events individually priced.

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F is for Frocks

A Scottish debut for this London-based celebration of all things old-timey and secondhand, set up by Red or Dead founder and one-time seller of vintage clothes at Camden Market, Wayne Hemingway. The Vintage Festival offers thrift shopping with stalls selling garments for him and her, plus naff homewares and design classics from the 1920s to 1980s. There are also ‘Make Do & Mend’ workshops, makeovers, 1930s dance classes, and clubs such as Soul Casino and The Torch Club by night. All of which can be accompanied by the drinking of themed cocktails. (CS)

Vintage Festival
Dates: Sat 27 & Sun 28 Jul
+ Pick your decade of choice – dressing up for the weekend is positively encouraged.
- The clothes on sale may not stretch past the 1980s: bad news for fans of ‘new’ vintage.
Tickets: Many activities free to attend, Soul Casino £15, The Torch Club £20.

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G is for Great Outdoors

In a prime example of community willpower and getting things done where blunt economics failed, The Insider was started by Aviemore locals when the popular but doomed Outsider cancelled its second instalment in 2008. Set in the grounds of Inshriach House, in the heart of the Cairngorms, sightseeing and an opportunity to appreciate the surroundings come as standard, while the line-up includes a decent bunch of alternative, electronic and folk artists including Sparrow & The Workshop, Matthew Herbert, Jonnie Common, Rachel Sermanni and Washington Irving. (DP)

The Insider Festival
Inshriach, near Aviemore
Dates: Fri 21–Sun 23 Jun
+ Great scenery and location.
- A good quality but limited live line-up.
Tickets: Fri £35, Sat sold out, Sun £45; Weekend camping £110; Under 13s free; Campervan pitch £15.

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H is for Hedonism

The Electric Frog has earned itself a reputation as one of the best small festivals of electronic music in the UK and the 2013 line-up is up their own high standards, featuring Matias Aguayo, David Morales, Dimitri from Paris, Erol Alkan and more.

Electric Frog
Dates: Sat 25 & Sun 26 May
+ Comes with a hangover-friendly Bank Holiday Monday after.
- Festival vibes limited to the great indoors.
Tickets: Day ticket £25; Weekend ticket £45 (£35).

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I is for In The City

In mid-August, a brand new set of hotshot gigs arrive in Glasgow as the city aims to start reclaiming its crown as the music festival capital of Scotland. Playing at Bellahouston Park are Eminem (20 Aug) and Kings of Leon (15 Aug) with another major headliner and a bunch of support acts still to be announced. Both acts have been lying low on the live scene so anticipation is heavy. (BD)

Glasgow Summer Sessions: Eminem
Glasgow Summer Sessions: Kings of Leon
Bellahouston Park
Dates: Thu 15–Tue 20 Aug
+ Proper headline acts.
- The 35,000 capacity means there may be a lot of disappointed rappers and rockers.
Tickets: £54.45 per day.

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J is for Jugular

With crime fiction, it’s hard to resist the puns, but Bloody Scotland really is a killer festival, with such luminaries of murder mystery as William McIlvanney, Ian Rankin, Chris Brookmyre and Denise Mina all appearing. True to Scotland’s tastes, there’s a heavy focus on forensics and gangland crime, but quirkier topics are addressed too: island crime, literary prizes, and young adult thrillers are all up for discussion. Stirling’s looming skies and grey buildings are a great backdrop and you’re sure to bump into a few authors in the pub of an evening. (KL)

Bloody Scotland
Dates: Fri 13–Sun 15 Sep
+ Good mix of authors, from newcomers to the big names of crime fiction.
- Such a tight focus means event themes can be too similar.
Tickets: TBA. Last year’s: £6–£9 per event; five tickets for £35, ten tickets for £70.

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K is for Kino-Ceilidh

That’s what the organisers of the inaugural Dunoon Film Festival are calling this weekend of movie magic, which takes place in the coastal town’s beautiful Victorian Burgh Hall.
We like the look of the closing night event: a screening of documentary-master John Grierson’s Drifters with a live soundtrack from folktronica favourite Wounded Knee. John Byrne’s rarely-seen television drama Your Cheatin’ Heart will also get an outing and there’s a focus on Greenock-born screenwriter Alan Sharp, whose Rob Roy and Night Moves are showing over the weekend. (GT)

Dunoon Film Festival
Dates: Fri 14–Sun 16 Jun
+ Unique line-up of films in a charming location.
- A bit of a trek from the central belt.
Tickets: Events individually priced.

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L is for Langoustine

Langoustine is the posh word for what local fishermen call prawns. But those you’ll find served in a marquee in a field behind the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar are no different to the ones whisked off to Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris. Only fresher. Taste ‘em alongside oysters, mussels, smoked salmon, venison salami, Fyne Ales and lots more from Argyll, with tasting tables, live music, a bouncy castle and local crafts. (DR)

Loch Fyne Food Fair
Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Cairndow
Dates: Sat 18 & Sun 19 May
+ Rugged hills, sea air, scent of garlic butter.
- Moody Argyll weather.
Tickets: Free admission; car park £3. Celtic Dinner £30.

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M is for Monster Spotting

Highlights of the Rockness 2013 festival line-up include Camera Obscura, Dylan Moran and The Vaccines

N is for Neighbourly

For the best part of two decades, Glasgow’s West End has rocked to the sights and sounds of diverse types of performers. In 1996, the festival was just one week long, this year an entire month is taken up with over 400 events of such eclecticism that ensures no one is left out. As well as the spectacular sights of the Gibson Street Gala, a Torchlight Procession and the Glasgow Mela, individual names come thick and fast: KT Tunstall, ex-Bauhaus leader Peter Murphy, Salsa Celtica, eagleowl and Julia Fordham are all here to entertain the troops. (BD)

West End Festival
Dates: Fri 31 May–Sun 30 Jun
+ The Mardi Gras Parade is back!
- Don’t forget your earplugs for those intense Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers.
Tickets: Events individually priced.

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O is for Orcadian Adventure

The Orkney Folk Festival yet again promises to be a raucous affair for musicians and fans alike as the islands’ finest team up with some of the UK and Ireland’s top talent. For four days, Stromness will play host to a treasure chest of events including concerts, workshops and no doubt countless impromptu sessions as an army of folkies invade the north armed to the teeth with instruments aplenty. Events to keep an eye out for are toe tap-inducing The Chair, Martin Donohoe & the Irish Gang, and the Home v Rest of the World Football Match on Sunday afternoon, where fancy dress is optional. (PF)

Orkney Folk Festival
Stromness, Orkney
Dates: Thu 23–Sun 26 May
+ The extreme likelihood of stumbling upon an unforgettable traditional session.
- The lack of a festival campsite makes accommodation a tad competitive.
Tickets: Events individually priced.

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P is for Pyromania

Now in its 12th year, Dumfries & Galloway’s Wickerman has a unique selling point which very few festivals in Scotland can match: the iconic and edgy burning wicker man which lights up the horizon on Saturday night, a reference to the pagan tower of sacrifice in which Edward Woodward gets frazzled on film. Expect things to get almost as debauched this year, because rowdy old-timers Primal Scream and shouty Coventry mob The Enemy are among the featured artists, as well as the more delicate likes of KT Tunstall and Amy Macdonald. Plus, there’s the revived Dexys and an eclectic bunch of DJs and local acts. (DP)

Wickerman Festival
East Kirkcarswell, near Dundrennan
Dates: Fri 26 & Sat 27 Jul
+ Who doesn’t like a pagan ritual at their music festival?
- Why no Sunday?
Tickets: Weekend £95–£100; Children age 13–15: Weekend £47.50; Children under 13 free all weekend. All inclusive of camping, various prices for caravan / campervan pitches.

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Q is for Quagmire

While the TweedLove Bike Festival is ostensibly a celebration of everything on two wheels, its setting in the rugged terrain of the Tweed Valley (incorporating the hair-raising Glentress Mountain Biking Trails) underlines an undeniably muddy aspect of some events. Used by many pros as a warm-up gig for the Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William the following weekend, TweedLove’s exhilarating downhill races are not for the white-clothed or faint-hearted. The remainder of the programme features a plethora of on and off-road events targeted at all ages and abilities, with some dynamic film and photography exhibits for those who prefer to stay out of the saddle. (NB)

TweedLove Bike Festival
Tweed Valley
Dates: Fri 24 May–Sun 2 Jun
+ Something to attract all bike lovers, from the still-in-stabilizers to the saddle-sore.
- With this country’s track record for weather, take some wellies: it could get swampy.
Tickets: Events individually priced.

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R is for Roots

Launched in 2008, this celebration of all things Americana has been given the thumbs-up from the diverse likes of Eddi Reader and Seasick Steve. Spread across four venues in Perth (from the lavish Concert Hall to the legendary Twa Tams pub), acts include established figures such as Shelby Lynne, The Mavericks, Roddy Hart and Patty Griffin as well as rising Scottish stars Findlay Napier & The Bar Room Mountaineers, and The Holy Ghosts, while there’s a Southern Fried Open Mic for any rootin’ tootin’ daredevils amongst ye. Soul food is available. (BD)

Southern Fried Festival
Dates: Fri 19–Sun 21 Jul
+ Perth is a compact city, and you’ll rarely be a few minutes away from a Southern Fried venue. If you find that not to be the case, chances are you’re in Dundee.
- You might be too busy tucking into your peach cobbler and lemon chess pie to realise there’s music going on.
Tickets: Events individually priced.

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S is for Stiltwalkers

Coming from Conflux, Glasgow’s project dedicated for furthering the cause of physical theatre, SURGE is a week-long treat for fans of circus, street theatre and anything outside of the traditional script. A mixture of local artists and international stars, SURGE is a lively reminder that the experimental need not be inaccessible. Past highlights include the irrepressible Red Bastard and cabaret evenings that have conjured a genuine sense of the uncanny: the emphasis on supporting local artists has ensured that SURGE never loses its Scottish focus while bringing in the performers who have defined and inspired physical theatre’s restless evolution. (GKV)

SURGE Festival
Dates: Mon 22–Sun 28 Jul
+ A dynamic introduction to performance that goes beyond the stage.
- The diversity of events and locations makes it a challenge to catch everything.
Tickets: Events individually priced.

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T is for Ta-Da!

One of the more recent events to appear on the Festival City radar, the Edinburgh International Magic Festival has asserted itself as a showcase for illusionists and conjurors of all stripes. This year is no exception, with guests including deadpan prop trickster Piff the Magic Dragon, The Real Hustle star R Paul Wilson, talented mentalist Luke Jermay, up-close cardsharps Tony Roberts and Fritz with a Z, and family entertainers Tricky Ricky and Morgan & West. There’s also street magic, a swanky black-tie Magic Dinner and workshop sessions for any budding Harrys or Hermiones you have lurking around the house. (NB)

Edinburgh International Magic Festival
Dates: Fri 28 Jun–Fri 5 Jul
+ A wide variety of magical performance, from mind-reading to card tricks.
- Some degree of repetition: there are only so many orifices from which to pull a coin.
Tickets: Events individually priced.

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U is for Undiscovered

We can’t tell you yet who’s booked to play this year’s Cry Parrot-run festival of all that is under-sung, over-weird, or inherently danceable – they’re keeping schtum for another few months yet – but we can assure you an early swatch at the line-up reveals a rock solid selection of local electronic, noise, house, ambient, dream-pop, psych, free jazz, choir and experimental heroes. Like last year, there will be generator gigs between venues, and three days of performances spread across some of the city’s most interesting music venues such as The Glue Factory, SWG3 and Kinning Park Complex. (CS)

Music Language
Dates: Fri 6–Sun 8 Sep
+ Choice venues and an exciting mixture of local music, that you don’t yet know you love.
- Risk of sensory overload from a schizo tour of the city’s aural delights, with genres pinballing gloriously between sound art, hip hop and house.
Tickets: £6 per day, £14 weekend. £10 early bird weekend tickets will be available when the line-up is announced.

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V is for Vibrant

Fun, noisy, colourful and outgoing, the Leith Festival brings to mind its portside namesake at its very best. As well as the popular Gala Day Pageant and Leith Tattoo (which open and close the festival respectively), there’s live music, community theatre productions, art exhibitions and dances. Plus there’s a host of events paying tribute to Leith’s cosmopolitan heritage, including the Egyptian-influenced Hafla, a Ghanian-Scots cultural exchange and a Balkan Beats & Swing Grooves night-time shindig. Best of all, the lion’s share of the programme is either free or cheap to take part in. (NB)

Leith Festival
Leith, Edinburgh
Dates: Sat 8–Sun 16 Jun
+ Community events with an all-encompassing global flavour.
- If the sun’s out, the taps are undoubtedly aff.
Tickets: Events individually priced.

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W is for Weans

Doune the Rabbit Hole moves to a brand new site this year, Cardross Estate near Lake of Menteith, but the charitable event’s raison d’être remains the same: spreading happiness by helping kids to get involved with art from a young age. The annual culmination of year-round activities is all geared towards assisting less privileged weans to experience creativity from a young age, the festival – free for under 12s – mixes theatre, comedy and spoken word performance with a broad church of musical acts. Top names this year include shadowy psychedelic Liverpudlians Clinic, reformed 60s psych-rockers July and Scottish indie godheads The Pastels. (MJ)

Doune the Rabbit Hole
Cardross Estate
Dates: Thu 22–Sun 25 Aug
+ A cross-generational crème-de-la-crème of Scottish bands.
- The fuzzy, family-orientated feel might not be to the hard-partying reveller’s taste.
Tickets: Fri £35, Sat £40, Sun £30; Advance Weekend (with camping) £78, Full Price Weekend (with camping), £88.

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X is for XXX

From male burlesque that challenges simplistic gender identity through to an exhibition of sex-positive visual art, Edinburgh’s Festival of the Erotic Arts celebrates its second year with an expanded programme. We have the return of legendary nightclub Torture Garden, which has done so much to unite Edinburgh’s burlesque and fetish scenes, and a revival of The Mating Ritual, Chris JS Wilson and Gypsy Charms’ comic study of love and lust through the ages. Currently the only festival dedicated to sexual expression across many disciplines, it insists on non-exploitative, daring, sensual and challenging performance and art. (GV)

Festival of the Erotic Arts
Dates: Mon 10–Sun 16 Jun
+ A vibrant celebration of an often marginalised subject.
- Requires an open and mature mind.
Tickets: Events individually priced.

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Y is for Yum

Let’s be honest, there are a few places promising to serve ‘only the finest local, seasonal food’ that are being a little economical with the actualité. But come September, when the fields and the fruit trees are full of food, if you’re not tucking into Scotland’s local larder, you’re missing out. This is the month when many villages, towns and regions run food festivals, while all sorts of markets, special menus, talks and tasting sessions take place under the umbrella of the Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, a specially designated time frame to promote all that’s good and healthy about the terrific food right under our noses. (DR)

Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight
Dates: Sat 7–Sun 22 Sep
+ Hey world, we’ve got decent food here.
- Nationwide promotion has a whiff of propaganda.
Tickets: Events individually priced.


Z is for Zero Cost

It’s hard to believe the Meadows Festival has been running for almost 40 years. The event’s longevity is mainly down to a simple, winning formula: you get the whole neighbourhood involved, with stalls for local food sellers, shops, businesses and community groups; make sure there’s a massive variety of vintage clothing, records, books and furniture on sale; then throw in two live music stages, a kids’ football match and a funfair. Oh, and make sure the whole thing costs absolutely bupkis, so that even if you aren’t buying anything, you’re still welcome to soak up the friendly atmosphere. (NB)

Meadows Festival
Dates: Sat 1 & Sun 2 Jun
+ Friendly ambience, family-friendly attractions, wide variety of decent stuff to browse.
- Works best as a relaxed, outdoorsy afternoon but can be a bit of a washout in the rain.
Tickets: Free.

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