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The best UK festivals

We’ve cherry-picked this year’s best UK festivals – find your favourite and get out there this summer

Don’t believe the naysayers: it’s boom time for UK festivals. Every summer brings a new crop of innovative summer music festivals to join the long-established big beasts of festival season. So no matter what you’re looking for – rock ’n’ roll headliners, folk festivals, boutique festival frolics, house and techno bangers – there’s something for you happening in a field this summer. Here’s our round-up of the very biggest and best UK music festivals taking place in 2016. See you down the front!


The UK's best festivals



The temporary town pops back up for another carnival weekend

This annual shindig is a pop-­up cathedral short of being a full­-blown city. Every year the Matterley Bowl estate becomes a magical town full of hypnotic basslines and mind­bending installations. Music ranges from the underground to outer space, and the roster of activities (which has matured in recent years) includes banqueting, craft and healing areas as well as Boomtown’s traditional mutated ‘art vehicles’. By day it’s fairly family­-friendly, but after dark the caners come out to soak up enough beats, dub, ska and reggae to see them through until daybreak.

Line­-up includes: Cypress Hill, MIA, Sugar Hill Gang, Dawn Penn, The Specials, Loyle Carner, Soweto Kinch, Toddla T, Booka Shade, Amy Becker, AJ Tracey.

August 10-13. £202 (weekend), £177 (discounted for coach travellers).


Big names make a habit of leading the charge of Rob da Bank’s band of misfits

The big news for this year is that the annual trips on the Isle of Wight ferry are no more – say goodbye to the island, say hello to Dorset! Bestival is moving to the mainland this year (to the very beautiful site of Camp Bestival, in fact). Tacked onto the tail end of the festival season, Bestival will still offer four days of live music and premier­ league DJs, plus lots of fancy dress thanks to their yearly changing theme. Punters can also enjoy some anarchic fun at the carnival of small stages, or visit the inflatable church for a quickie festival marriage (not legally binding, gladly).

Line­-up includes: The xx, A Tribe Called Quest, Dizzee Rascal, Pet Shop Boys, Jamie T, DJ Shadow, Rag'n'Bone Man, Soul II Soul, Annie Mac, Ray BLK, Toddla T, Nadia Rose, Andy C.  

Lulworth Cove, Dorset. September 7-10.



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Festival No 6

Festival No 6

A cultured party in the eccentric village of Portmeirion

Now in its fourth year, Festival No 6 invites weekend warriors to get absorbed in the surreal Mediterranean-style seaside resort of Portmeirion, made famous by the TV show ‘The Prisoner’. The festival lives up to its unusual setting with an equal focus on music, arts, poetry, spoken word, and other cultural tidbits. It’s decidedly family-friendly, and flower garlands and dress-up fun are strongly encouraged.

Line-up includes: Flaming Lips, Mogwai, Bloc Party, Rag’n’Bone Man, The Cinematic Orchestra, Wild Beasts, Laura Mvula.

Portmeirion, Wales. September 7-10.


Reading Festival

A rocking festival stalwart for hardcore music fans

The August Bank Holiday weekend may be a breath of fresh air for many, but for Reading festival­goers it's overshadowed by the sound of exam results being ripped from their packets. No sooner than the tears of joy/sadness have dried up, flocks of teenagers are swilling warm cider in celebration, soundtracked by some indie and rock veterans and their new-­blood heirs. Though it doesn’t look like they’ve done much for the gender imbalance that got some bad press last year.

Line­-up includes: Muse, Major Lazer, At The Drive In, Bastille, Andy C, Danny Brown.

Richfield Avenue, Reading. August 26–28. £205 (weekend).

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Kendal Calling

Kendal Calling

A music-focused festival nestled in the Lake 

Kendal Calling has quickly grown from humble beginnings into a destination fest for big pop, rock and indie outfits. Music is the mainstay, but if you’re after some boutique touches there are dance classes, real ale and a late-night cinema.

Line-up includes: Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Brian Wilson, Tinie Tempah, Jake Bugg, Mike Skinner, Loyle Carner.

Lowther Deer Park, Lake District. July 27-30.


Escapist hedonism for grown­-ups – kids also welcome

It would be easy to write off Wilderness as a posh playground, but the reality is much more magical. The thoughtfully programmed roster of acts from around the world has grown in calibre and breadth year on year, with Björk headlining in 2015. But it’s the awe-­inspiring performance art, debates, and mouth­watering feasts that have firmly positioned Wilderness as a carnival for the senses, and much more than just a music festival. Just be aware that few of the luxurious activities are included in the base ticket price, and add­-ons can quickly add up.

Line-­up TBA

Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire. August 3-6. £168.50 (weekend).


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By: James Manning

V Festival

Thanks to its seemingly bottomless booking budget, V Festival always snags a staggering line­-up of chart­-chasing big names from the rock and pop worlds. After 22 years in the game they know their audience and focus on building a party atmosphere (and praying for sunshine). V Festival might not be sprinkled with fairy dust or set in enchanted mountain woodlands, but if you want to scream along to chart anthems then it's hard to beat.

Line-­up includes: Jay Z, Pink, Rudimental, Pete Tong, Craig David, Ellie Goulding, Jess Glynne, Stormzy, Dizzee Rascal, James Arthur, Krept and Konan. 

Weston Park, South Staffordshire and Hylands Park, Chelmsford. August 18-19.

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Green Man

Green Man

Lush indie sounds in the verdant Brecon Beacons

Green Man wins our unofficial prize for best festival setting: nestled in the Brecon Beacons, the Black Mountains are not usually open to the public, but for one weekend of the year they play host to bands and (civilised) bad behaviour. This stunning location accentuates the always­-eclectic-­never-­dull line­up and eco­-friendly ethos. This year's line-­up follows the Green Man tradition of left-­leaning plugged-­in bands and electronic DJs peppered with folk crooners.

Line-­up includes: PJ Harvey, Ryan Adams, Michael Kiwanuka, Lambchop, Angel Olsen, Conor Oberst, Badbadnotgood, Shame, Deep Throat Choir.

Brecon Beacons, Wales. August 17-20. £180 (weekend), £60 (day).

Leeds Festival

The Northern sister in the rock festival family

Not for the faint-hearted, Reading’s Yorkshire counterpart has a hard-earned reputation for torrential downpours and mud fights. But rain never dampens the spirits of the scores of tipsy teenagers gracing Bramham Park. Leeds and Reading put music first and provide a totally twee-free festival experience – no immersive theatre or gourmet cuisine in sight – much to the joy of the screaming crowds. Pro tip: leave the white skinny jeans at home.

Line­-up includes: Muse, Major Lazer, At The Drive In, Bastille, Andy C, Danny Brown.

Bramham Park, Leeds. August 25-27. £205 (weekend).

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Birmingham's best live venues

Birmingham's best live music venues

From the very biggest names touring at the big venues and clubs to those up and coming artists on the cusp of greatness honing their craft at awesome little independent venues and bars, Birmingham has some seriously good live music on offer. We've picked what we think are Birmingham's best places for doing just that, so take a look and cock an ear. 

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