25 Festivals in the Midlands & beyond
Here's our pick of the best summer fests, in Warwickshire and further afield. See you down the front!
Who fancies getting their rocks off in a field this summer? ‘Course you do! Our neck of the woods punches above its weight when it comes to music festivals, and many of them are brilliantly family-friendly (so maybe not so much getting off of one’s rocks in that case, ahem.) So, in chronological order, here’s where you’ll find Muddy decked out in daisy chains, denim hot pants and wellies this summer.
B-SIDE Hip Hop Festival, Birmingham Hippodrome; Fri May 3 – Sun May 12
Dance battles, break-dancing, live music, performances, DJ-sets, parkour, basketball and some of the best graffiti artists around all feature in this free 4th annual celebration of all things hip-hop.
Stratford Literary Festival; April 27 – May 5
This year’s lit fest celebrates feminism in a big way with a top line-up of talented women – best-selling children’s writers, illustrators, academics, a former ballerina, journalists and authors. They include feminist geographer Joni Seagar, psychotherapist Philippa Perry, columnists The Midults, Bake-Off judge Pru Leith, Darcey Bussell, Jacqueline Wilson and Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis. Aspiring writers can book onto creative workshops and there are lots of lovely storytelling, arty workshops and meet-the-author events for little bookworms.
Contemporary Arts Festival, Stratford Town Hall, Stratford upon Avon, June 1 & 2
More than 40 award-winning artists and craftspeople will be showcasing a selection of high-quality paintings, prints, jewellery, textiles, photography, sculpture, ceramics, and designer furniture at this popular and free festival, now in its 6th year. It’s an unmissable fixture in the craft, art and design calendar within Warwickshire’s artistic community. Escape Arts will be hosting workshops for children and adults over the weekend at the Old Slaughter House, Stratford-upon-Avon. Recreate your pet in the style of Lichtenstein or Warhol on Sat and on Sun ceramic artist Ros Ingram will run a workshop creating terracotta garden hens. The Golden Cup Cafe will be selling tea, coffee and homemade cakes served on a collection of golden vintage china. The event is again raising money for Shakespeare’s Puppies Appeal Guide Dogs for the Blind.
- A private viewing is held on May 31 at 6pm & 8.30pm. The Festival is open to the public on Sat June, 10.30am – 5pm & Sun June 2, 10.30am – 4pm. There is no cost for the Saturday workshop, but donations are appreciated. The Ceramic Day Workshop is £65pp, eventbrite.co.uk
Also Festival; Park Farm, Compton Verney, July 5 – 6
This is Warwickshire’s 6th boutique festival of ideas and immersive feasts set in a restorative 50-acre scenic lakeside/forest idyll. Enjoy more than 200 experiences including Salon London style talks, new bands, artists, wine tastings, cocktail making, wild swimming, forest bathing and interesting workshops. The line-up includes psychotherapist Philippa Perry, award-winning Reith lecturer Margaret MacMillan, a Professor of International History at Oxford Uni; Aston University’s Prof of Cognitive Neuroimaging Gina Rippon and award-winning Social Entrepreneur Sam Conniff-Allende (‘Be More Pirate’). There’s also a Kids DJ takeover, Song writing for Teens, lip sync battles and you can stay in the Hippy Heights Hotel.
Pub in the Park Warwick, July 5 – 7
Tom Kerridge’s popular gourmet scran meets live music fandango arrives in Warwickshire for the first time with live music by Tom Odell, Scouting for Girls, Razorlight, Stereo MCs, Toploader, Will Young, The Christians and The Rifles. More artists are still to be announced. Expect pub pop-ups, Michelin-starred chefs and a shopping village.
Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Festival; Moseley Park, Birmingham, July 6 – 8
Three days of jazz, funk and soul, sister! The Jacksons, Burt Bacharach, The Brand New Heavies, Khruangbin, Jurassic 5’s Soup & The Fullee Love Collective, DJ Craig Charles will be topping the bill.
Stratford River Festival; July 6 & 7
One of the regions liveliest free summer festivals set along the Avon riverside with decorated boats, live music, street food and ending with a fabulous fireworks display. Programme tba.
Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Fest; June 15 – June 23
An exciting line-up of readings, performances and workshops by talented and award-winning international artists is to be announced, plus special guest appearances. This year’s itinerary is set to include a Midsummer bonfire and a very romantic sounding international poetry picnic. Some of last summer’s guests were top actors Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack, so watch this space!
Warwick Folk Festival; Warwick School and town centre, Thur July 25 – Sun July 28
This year is the 40th anniversary of the family-friendly festival, bringing together folk, blues, country and funk artists from across the world in this historic town. Alternative singer-songwriter and leftwing activist Billy Bragg, who last year won an Outstanding Contribution to British Music award at the Ivor Novello’s, is headlining on the Thursday night. Skerryvore, Karan Casey, Calan, Will Pound & Eddy Jay, Breabach, O’Hooley & Tidow and Nancy Kerr join him on the 2019 festival line-up. For kids there’s an activity programme for 12-18-year-olds, street food and a wine & cocktail bar.
Camper Calling; Ragley Hall, Alcester, Aug 23-25
This three-day August Bank Holiday musical bonanza in the lakeside grounds of a stately home boasts Sleeper, The Fratelli’s, Ash, Skunk Anansie and The Feeling. Super family-friendly novelty acts include 90s fitness guru Mr Motivator, a non-animal circus and clown theatre and new for 2019 The Silent Woods – a woodland silent disco between 6pm – 11pm. Other outdoorsy fun includes tree climbing, a Zip Wire, Kate’s Story Tree, watersports on the lake and quirky camper van displays.
Moseley Folk & Arts Festival; Birmingham Aug 30 – Sept 1
The Sunday headliner is going to be Don McClean but the rest of the artists playing are tba. The park is unsuitable for camping, but alternative accommodation options are available across the city. (Ideas are on their website.)
Lechlade Music Festival, Cotswolds; May 24-26
This Cotswolds weekender is very family-friendly with kids’ yoga, woodland skills workshops and storytelling. Brit indie-pop crew The Feeling will be providing the tunes.
Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse, May 31 – June 2
The Stranglers are headlining this year’s festival which celebrates its 15th birthday alongside Scouting for Girls, Geno Washington, 80’s throwbacks T’Pau and Toyah, Craig Charles and Bez. Children aged 5+ can attempt to create their own Wallace & Gromit in a hands-on clay Aardman Model Making workshop run by the award-winning Bristol-based animation company.
Nocturne, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxon; June, 21-23
A festival for people who are too posh for festivals! This is more a series of chichi al fresco concerts in ridiculously elegant surroundings, with Lauryn Hill, supported by Gladys Knight, Laura Mvula and Mahalia (June 21), Tears For Fears (June 22) and Kylie (sadly sold out) on consecutive summer nights.
Barn on the Farm; Over Farm, nr Gloucester, July 4 – 7
Sam Fender, Maggie Rogers, Lewis Capaldi, Jade Bird, Grace Carter and Samm Henshaw are a few of the young, future stars appearing at this rustic indie festival which has seen the likes of Ed Sheeran, James Bay, Ben Howard, Hozier, George Ezra, Bastille, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man and Wolf Alice grace its stage.
Cornbury Music Festival, The Great Tew Park, Oxon; July 5 – 7
The Beach Boys and The Specials head the bill at this civilised festival that prides itself on being quintessentially English. Think country fair with a rock’n’roll twist. Jovial Geordies The Hairy Bikers provide the food.
MIF (Manchester International Festival) July 4 – 21
One of the world’s top festivals for new, cutting-edge art it’s garnered an international outlook and reputation, it also showcases Manchester stories and talent. This year you can see Yoko Ono’s mass-participatory artwork Bells for Peace and filmmaker David Lynch’s largest UK exhibition of visual art to date, alongside film screenings, Lynch inspired gigs and more. Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah collaborate for the first time on Tree, a journey into the soul and spirit of contemporary South Africa which blends music, drama and dance. The Nico Project is a theatrical immersion into the Velvet Underground singer’s sound and identity from Maxine Peake and Sarah Frankcom. Grime star Skepta present DYSTOPIA987, a futuristic take on the history of rave culture at a secret Manchester location. Janelle Monáe, Abida Parveen Chrysta Bell and an all-female line-up of electronic artists curated by Mary Anne Hobbs headline the music programme.
Wilderness, Cornbury Park, Oxford; Aug 1 – 4
A heady mix of right-on hippiness (think yoga, skinny-dipping and hot tubs) combined with impressive big-name music bookings. The line-up has just been released with Groove Armada returning to the Wilderness Main Stage along with Robyn, Bombay Bicycle Club and Tom Odell.
The Big Feastival, Kingham, Oxon; Aug 23-25
This posh nosh extravaganza on the farm of cheese-obsessed Blur bassist Alex James hosts top chefs alongside music acts. Line-up details are tba but this is definitely one to bookmark if you’re a foodie. The only downside is you might bump into Cotswolds locals David Cameron and Jeremy Clarkson.
Latitude, Suffolk; July 18 – 21
This is the Radio 4 of festivals – refined, civilised and cultured, with its line-up of literary readings, theatre, comedy and Sadlers Wells ballet performances. They don’t skimp on the live music easier – this year Lana Del Rey, Underworld and Primal Scream are on the bill.
Camp Bestival, Lulworth Castle, Dorset; July 25 -28
The kiddy-friendly alternative to Bestival, this one has loads to keep little people happy while you tuck into that box of wine. Human League, Chic, Jess Glynne are playing, with Sara Cox, Annie Mac and Spice Girl Mel C on DJ duties.
Shambala, Northants; Aug 22 – 25
Muddy’s Nancy is a big fan of this lo-fi indie festival on a country estate in neighbouring Northants. It’s not big on household name music bookings for its 12 (yep, twelve!) stages but there’s more cabaret, inspiring talks, yoga, circus acts and comedy than you can shake a stick at. Plus it’s very family friendly.
Green Man Festival; Breacon Beacons, Aug 15 – 18
Dramatic scenery with Brecon Beacons as your backdrop, mountains and waterfalls to explore, and lots of great bands to watch. An excellent, eclectic 2019 line-up mixes Americana with Welsh artists and cool urban jazz with the snake-hipped Father John Misty, Eels, Stereolab, Yo La Tengo, Idles, the Ezra Collective, Sons of Kemet, Gwenno and Australian Julia Jacklin. It’s totally family-friendly too – there’s the Little Folk area for 12’s and under, and Somewhere, for teens with filmmaking, DJ workshops and a children’s parade, plus the Nature Nurture field for hot tubs, massages and sunrise yoga.
End of the Road Festival; Larmer Tree Gardens, near Blandford, Dorset, Aug 29-Sept 1
This small alternative music festival is perfect for anyone who balks at massive crowds and loves a bit of folk, Americana and alt country. They get some interesting headliners here Beirut, Michael Kiwanuka, Spiritualised, Courtney Barnett, Jarvis Cocker, Nubya Garcia and Sleaford Mods among them.
All Points East, Victoria Park, London; May 24 – June 2
A brilliant array of top musicians will be playing at the second year of this 10-day festival with six headliners – The Chemical Brothers, The Strokes, Christine and the Queens, Bring Me the Horizon, Mumford & Sons and Bon Iver. Other artists include Primal Scream, Spiritualised, Little Simz, Johnny Marr, Jarvis Cocker, Courtney Barnett, Anna Calvi and Kamasi Washington. In The Neighbourhood is a free weekday programme of cinema, music, arts, street food & bars in-between the two weekends.
Like your indie rock? This is the festival for you. The 1975, Royal Blood, Twenty One Pilots, Foo Fighters and Post Malone are all playing. Sunday day tickets have already sold out. There’s an onsite feature about the top 11 female artists to check out at this year’s festival. If you have a teenager, this is the festival where they’ll want to let loose with their mates after GCSE/A level exam results.