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Photograph: Luke Dyson
Photograph: Luke Dyson

The best UK festivals of 2021

We never thought this day would come, but we're so glad it's here. These are the best UK music festivals that have announced they're returning in summer 2021

By Nick Levine and Oliver Keens
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Here’s a sentence that – if you’d asked us two weeks ago – we really wouldn’t have expected to be writing. Festivals… They’re back! Since Boris Johnson’s roadmap to normality was announced on February 22, a number of UK festivals have revealed that they’re planning to go ahead this summer. There’s already a diverse mix to choose from – from artsy old timers to London newbies – and we’re sure that over the coming months they’ll be joined by more.

Of course, we imagine that these events will not be exactly back to normal. Many are running later in the year than usual, we suspect to allow some leeway on the June 21 ‘big events returning’ date. And there might be on-site testing, some social distancing measures in place and more. We’ll just have to wait and see how all that stuff turns out, but what we do know is that outdoor music and partying seems to be on its way back. And, for that, we’re very grateful. (In fact, you can even go to a party at the Cause as soon as April.)

The UK’s best festivals in 2021

Latitude Festival
© Rob Whitworth

Latitude

When is it? July 22-25.

What is it? An artsy bash in Suffolk’s Henman Park, as known for its theatre, literary talks and family fun as it is for its line up of musicians. Expect bunting.

Who's playing? Lewis Capaldi, First Aid Kit, Bastille and something called Snow Patrol… Reworked.

Why go? To inject a year’s worth of culture into your fun-starved veins in just one weekend.

https://www.latitudefestival.com/line-up/

Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk. 

Reading and Leeds Festival

When is it? Aug 26-29.

What is it? Zipping into the calendar just after GCSE results day, it's probably best known as a hotspot for teenagers letting off steam. (I mean… if you didn’t piss in a bottle watching a landfill indie bad at Leeds 2007 were you even 16 then?)

Who's playing? The headliners are Stormzy, Post Malone and Liam Gallagher.

Why go? Like a PG13 version of ‘Lord of the Flies’, only with more mud and blue vodka slushies, Leeds Festival continues to be a reliably no-nonsense affair: sod the artisan food stalls, here you get burgers and chips, one type of lager and an absolutely enormous amount of music. A festival with its priorities in the right place, albeit with a shedload of tipsy teenagers shoved in there too.

Bramham Park, Leeds. 

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End of the Road

When is it? Sept 2 - 5.

What is it? A super friendly party in Larmer Tree Gardens with loads of guitars on the line up and proper end-of-summer vibes. Also one of the first places to push for a gender-balanced line up.

Who’s playing? Pixies, King Krule, Big Thief, Bright Eyes, Little Simz, Perfume Genius and loads more.

Why go? Landing in the sacred crossover point between namedrop-friendly muso faves and bands that are actually, y’know, fun, Dorset season-closer End of the Road has been excelling itself on the line-up front for 15 years now.

Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset. 

Andrew Whitton

Wilderness

Music Music festivals

When is it? Aug 5-8. 

What is it? Wilderness isn’t just about spot-on sounds. It has a beautiful swimming lake. It plays host to Letters Live, the cult performance strand where unanounced actors like Olivia Colman and Benedict Cumberbatch read out epistles by distinguished cultural and political figures. It also holds famous long-table banquets from top chefs.

Who’s playing? The line up's TBC but last year they had Loyle Carner, Foals and Supergrass set to headline the mainstage, with Richard Corrigan, Skye Gyngell and Fergus Henderson topping the bill of chefs. 

Why go? Wilderness is consistently one of the UK’s best festivals, but even if you just went for the beautiful lake alone, you'd have a good time. 

Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire. 

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Photograph: Luke Dyson
Photograph: Luke Dyson

Mighty Hoopla

When is it? Sept 4.

What is it? A Brockwell Park one-dayer that brings together the biggest acts in pop and performances from the best names on London’s LGBTQ+ club scene.

Who’s playing? They’re currently keeping shtum about who is on the revised bill, but acts that were previously set to take to the stage in 2020 included power anthem royalty Anastacia.

Why go? The festival itself was established by the creative minds behind queer troupe Sink the Pink, no less. They call it ‘the UK’s best pop festival’ (and we’re not arguing!).

Brockwell Park. 

Photograph: Cross The Tracks
Photograph: Cross The Tracks

Cross The Tracks

When is it? Sept 5.

What is it? A feast of jazz, funk and soul featuring loads of dancing, London’s best street food, a craft market and fancy beer. And it’s all in Brockwell park for one day only.

Who's playing? 2021’s line up will contain all of the artists from 2020 that are available for the September date – and that line up included Sister bloody Sledge. Full details are due to be released soon.

Why go? Err… for Sister Sledge? Do we need to say it again?

Brockwell Park. 

Book some spring fun too

Find a music festival in London

The best music festivals in London

Music Music festivals

You lucky Londoner: you don’t need a tent or even a pair of wellies to get the full festival experience this summer. You’ve got some of the world’s biggest acts and a whole world of fun a tube ride away, thanks to these incredible festivals in London.

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