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Photograph: Luke Dyson
Photograph: Luke Dyson

The best UK festivals of 2021

Find out which UK music festivals have announced they’re returning in summer 2021

Written by
Oliver Keens
Nick Levine

Running around fields with your mates, racing from stage to stage, band to band, might seem like a distant memory after the last 18 months, but finally – festivals are back. While this summer won’t treat us to the usual packed calendar we’re used to, there are still a strong bunch of festies taking place across the UK in the coming months. 

Among them, there’s a diverse mix to choose from, whether you’re looking for a smorgasbord of culture or to relive pop’s cheesy greats, to go all-in on camping or be back in your own bed when the music’s over.

Before we get too overwhelmed by the fun bug, don’t forget to check each event’s requirements for testing, masks and social distancing before you go. After that, all that’s left to do is celebrate. 

The UK’s best festivals in 2021

  • 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? Jamie xx, Loyle Carner, Rudimental, Georgia, Mahalia and more.  

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. 

Reading and Leeds Festival

When is it? Aug 27-30.

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? There are six – SIX! – headliners: Stormzy, Post Malone, Liam Gallagher, Catfish And The Bottlemen, Disclosure and Queens Of The Stone Age.

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.

Richfield Avenue, Reading/Bramham Park, Leeds. 

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  • Music

When is it? Aug 28. 

What is it? Yam Carnival is a brand new festival from the team behind Afro Nation featuring acts from London, America and Nigeria. It was meant to take place for the first time in 2020, but will now debut in Clapham Common on the August Bank Holiday weekend. 

Who’s playing? The headliners are Davido, Kehlani, Femi Kuti and DJ Honey Dijon. The wonderful Princess Nokia is also on the bill. 

Why go? If you’ve never experienced the ecstasy of Princess Nokia’s 2017 banger ‘Tomboy’ bursting your eardrums on an outrageously hot summer afternoon, you have not lived.

Clapham Common, London. 


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? Hot Chip, King Krule, Sleaford Mods, Jonny Greenwood, Little Simz, Stereolab 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. 


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? Cheryl, Atomic Kitten, En Vogue, Gabrielle, Raye, Becky Hill, Artful Dodger and more. 

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. 

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. You'll also be able to catch Lianne La Havas, Jordan Rakei, Sons Of Kemet and tons more. 

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

Brockwell Park. 

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  • Music

When is it? Sep 16-19

What is it? A family-friendly, four-day festival on one of the UK’s favourite off-mainland destinations. 

Who's playing? 2021’s line up is full of big noughties acts like Razorlight, All Saints, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Kaiser Chiefs, plus headline sets from Liam Gallagher and Duran Duran. 

Why go? Four whole days of escapism and you get there BY BOAT. Sounds ideal. 

Newport, Isle of Wight. 

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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