Travel - Festivals 2008

Around Town
There’s a lot going on in Liverpool this year; unsurprising, really, given that it’s the European Capital of Culture 2008. The celebrations begin with the last couple of weeks of 2007’s Turner Prize exhibition (Tate Liverpool, until Sun 13 Jan) and the Fresh music festival (until 6 Jan), while the year ahead is filled with a range of musical, theatrical and artistic highlights. Scouseophiles might like to keep an eye out for Paul McCartney headlining the Liverpool Sound concert at Anfield on 1 Jul, and Ken Dodd taking to the stage at St George’s Hall on 8 & 9 Mar. See for full details.

Of all 2008’s book festivals, perhaps Amsterdam’s (, May) deserves mention more than most, as this year the city will be UNESCO World Book Capital. Remaining in the Netherlands, The Hague’s Crossing Border (, November) is a wonderfully forward-thinking week of activities with a line-up of writers, performers and musicians. Last year, they ran a ‘Scottish Night’, with the likes of Louise Welsh and Malcolm Middleton taking to the stage. Slightly confusingly, ‘crossing borders’ is also the theme of this year’s Ordkalloten (, 26-30 Sep) in Tromso, Norway.

Across the Atlantic, the third instalment of the vibrant, hip Brooklyn Book Festival (, Sun 14 Sep) has already confirmed appearances from Gloria Naylor and Paul Auster. The Guardian is taking the travelling arm of its Hay Festival to Cartagena, Columbia (, 24-27 Jan), and will hopefully be returning to Segovia, Spain later in the year.

Wary of the wheel of meteorological fortune at homegrown dance music festivals like Creamfields and The Big Chill? There are similar, sunnier events all over the world. Venue-based city weekenders are becoming increasingly popular, and surely Sonar in Barcelona (, 19–21 Jun) is the most famous of all. Further eclectic electronic city sounds can be heard at Montreal’s very cool Mutek (, May/Jun), while Belgium’s more traditionally-staged Dour Festival (, 17-20 Jul) comes with a fantastic reputation, despite the name.

Those in search of old-school trance and techno kicks can elope to Germany’s Love Parade this summer (, which is being held in Dortmund as a result of official disagreements in its native Berlin, while clubbers with a few air miles to spend can head over to Australia for the wide-ranging but generally mainstream Future Music Festival (, touring nationally between 1-10 Mar). The Chemical Brothers, Chicks on Speed, Diplo and Sven Vath will all be in attendance.

Miami’s Winter Music Conference (, 25-29 Mar) is an essential stop for those with some connection to the industry, or simply a liking for legendary afterparties.

If attracting the biggest stars and premieres is the mark of a major film festival, Cannes (, 14-25 May) remains unbeatable. Yet, many festivals all over the world hold their own particular appeal, be it the nature of the films they show or the home city itself.

Still managing to retain a link with its independent roots while feeding off the goodwill of the American film industry, Utah’s Sundance (, 17-27 Jan) is well known and respected the world over, while Venice (, Aug/Sep), Berlin (, 7-17 Feb) and Spain’s San Sebastian (, Sep) all mix glamour with more esoteric European fare. Meanwhile, if sci-fi’s your thing, Oporto’s long-running Fantasporto (, 29 Feb-8 Mar) is a well-regarded celebration of grown-up fantasy works.

It’s possible to organise a holiday to most major countries in the world around a decent music festival, but some are more essential than others. America, for example, boasts the monstrous and superbly-programmed likes of California’s Coachella (, 25-27 Apr) and Tennessee’s Bonnaroo (, 12-15 Jun), although Austin, Texas’ South By South West (sxsw. com, 7-16 Mar) is now firmly established as the best place in the world to hear new talent. Cheekily co-opting the name, Toronto’s North By North East (, 12-15 June) is also gaining in credibility.

Further afield, Australia’s ‘winter’ weekender Splendour in the Grass (, 4-5 Aug) and Japan’s Fuji Rock (, July) feature a wide range of familiar European and American acts, with a bunch of local talents further down the bill. Spain’s Festival Internacional de Benicassim (, 17-20 Jul) can’t go unmentioned, with a reputation for friendly hedonism on a par with Glastonbury, and acts like Babyshambles, My Bloody Valentine and The Rumble Strips already confirmed, while Snowbombing (, 31 Mar-6 Apr, Mayrhofen, Austria) is bringing Calvin Harris, Annies Mac and Nightingale and Soma’s Ewan Pearson to a winter sports-loving crowd.

Visual Art
Specifically placed to launch the art world calendar in the UK every year, the London Art Fair (, 16-20 Jan) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, while Frieze (, 16-19 Oct) opens just in time to showcase a selection of the country’s most talented new graduates and their work.

The Venice Biennale might be having an ‘off’ year in 2008, but there are many similar events happening around the world, including the Sao Paulo Art Biennial (, the brand new Singapore Biennale (, 11 Sep-16 Nov) and the Biennale of Sydney (, 18 Jun-7 Sep), the theme of which is ‘Revolutions: Forms That Turn’. Also of note is Berlin’s Transmediale (, Jan/Feb), which mixes exhibitions with talks and film presentations. This year, the theme is ‘conspire’.

For those Scots who can’t escape the feeling that August should be about theatre even as they jet away for a summer holiday, there are plenty of live theatre festivals abroad to get them through the month. The New York International Fringe Festival (, 8-24 Aug) is still the largest in North America, although the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe (, 29 Aug-13 Sep) is starting to steal its thunder somewhat, particularly as the New York-based Riot Group chose to stage the first performance of their new play Hearts of Man there last year

The Adelaide Fringe (, 22 Feb-16 Mar) is the second-largest event of its kind in the world, although fortunately its dates don’t clash with Edinburgh, the one event which beats it for size and the variety of performances. For an international flavour, the Festival d’Avignon (, Jul) and the new but expanding Prague Fringe (, 25 May-1 Jun) are fine continental events, while the Brighton Fringe Festival (, 3-26 May) is an up-and-coming contender on the UK scene.

So, all that remains is to book that plane, train, bus or boat ticket and get out there and enjoy the best the cultural world has to offer.

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