Top 10 UK Festivals in 2015

Music’s writers rank the best of the bunch in the summer festival season ahead

1. Glastonbury Festival

Worthy Farm, Somerset

Capacity: 120,000
Headliners: Kanye West, The Who, Foo Fighters
Founded: 1970

Photo: Kris Williams

Photo: Kris Williams

After selling out in a record time of less than 30 minutes this year, the Eavis clan shocked the world when they announced Kanye West as their Saturday night headliner for the event. An online petition to have the rapper replaced with someone more ‘Glasto-friendly’ reached over 130,000 signatures before Emily Eavis succintly told everyone to grow up and deal with it in a brilliant piece for The Guardian.

However, with the newly-announced full line-up looking typically spectacular, West disapprovers can have a great time elsewhere, as the Foo Fighters headline the Friday night and The Who close the festival on Sunday. With an excess of 2,000 performances across 100+ stages, you can never get bored, whether you’re catching artists like George Ezra, Florence and the Machine and Frank Turner, watching an Amy Winehouse documentary on William’s Green or discovering the next Jake Bugg on the BBC Introducing stage.

Elsewhere, you’ll be able to catch Glastonbury favourites alt-J playing material from their latest album This Is All Yours. Festival veteran Billy Bragg and, unusually, Enter Shikari will be playing the Left Field, and Lionel Richie will be occupying the Sunday afternoon Main Stage legends slot that was masterfully filled by Dolly Parton in 2014. I’ll be making my first trip down to Glastonbury this year and am so excited to experience the world’s biggest music festival. Hatti Linnell

2. Latitude Festival

Henham Park, Suffolk

Capacity: 35,000
Headliners: alt-J, Portishead, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Founded: 2006

Photo: Latitude

Photo: Latitude

Hidden in a field in the middle of East Anglia for a few days a year is a place bursting with art, imagination and music. Latitude, now in its tenth year, crams something for everyone into its stunningly decorated arena. During the day, the young and old can enjoy poetry and theatre in between visiting the daisy-adorned main stage to sit on the grass and hear the best in indie, folk and alternative music. At night, the woodland stage comes alive with fairy lights and magical creatures as dressed-up festival goers dance through the trees and delve into the subversive range of music on offer.

Latitude prides itself on being family friendly, so teenagers enjoy the atmosphere in harmony with young families on picnic blankets. This year, the line-up is a carefully selected mish-mash of styles, genres and  appeal, with Portishead and Seasick Steve catering for older punters and SBTRKT, Young Fathers and Wolf Alice keeping the young, offbeat crowd happy. As you enter the arena you walk across the lake, where strange creatures and quaint boats float across the cool waters. Around the festival, the eclectic offerings of stalls ranges from veggie specialists to the Greenpeace canopy play area and the knitting tent. Latitude offers an enchanted realm of art forms and ideas.

It is a festival you simply must try once; that’ll be enough to get you hooked.  Ellie Langford

3. Isle of Wight Festival

Seaclose Park, Newport

Capacity: 58,000
Headliners: Fleetwood Mac, Blur, The Prodigy, The Black Keys
Founded: 1968, revived 2002

Photo: IoW Festival

Photo: IoW Festival

This year, Isle of Wight seems to have bagged the headliners that every festival was holding out for. Before The Who were announced as the third Glasto headliners, Fleetwood Mac looked like a shoo-in for the Sunday night slot, and The Black Keys, having last played R&L back in 2012 before the Foos’ headline performance, seemed destined to make a long-overdue appearance at Little John’s and Branham Park at the top of the bill.

As it is, the two will instead be joining Blur and The Prodigy in what is possibly the most well concieved and carefully measured set of headliners on offer anywhere this season. IoW attracts perhaps one of the most varied festival demographics to its shores, with many younger locals and older regulars from farther afield making the trip. As such, the headliners are a careful balance of old and new, hard and soft. With its cheeful, off-beat atmosphere and solid amenities, IoW is often unfairly overlooked.  Chris Owen

4. British Summer Time

Hyde Park, London

Capacity: 65,000
Headliners: The Strokes, Blur, Kylie, Taylor Swift, The Who
Founded: 2013

Photo: Darenote

Photo: Darenote

After last years ticketing fiasco, it’s a surprise to see summertime return once more to Hyde Park this year with an array of top quality headliners. Summertime plays out more like a selection of stadium gigs then an actual festival with the choice of five different headliners.

Everyone’s favourite pop princess Taylor Swift is arguably the biggest booking of the festival season, while early 00’s heroes The Strokes top an indie-rock treasure chest with Grammy award winner Beck and the increasingly popular Future Islands supporting. Elsewhere Australian songstress Kylie Minogue should have the crowd spinning around to her enviable back catalogue while Grace Jones and Chic get the party started earlier in the day. The kings of Britpop Blur make a triumphant return to Hyde Park with special guests doom-mongers The Horrors and the breezy indie-pop of Metronomy. Finally purveyors of classic British Rock, The Who will headline their own line-up with fellow mod idol Paul Weller and arguably the best British guitarist of the last 25 years Mr. Johnny Marr himself. All in all, summertime provides a strong line-up of acts that appeal to all ages and all genres. However the festival is not immune from certain pitfalls.

The queue for drinks can be a little manic and there isn’t much to do besides enjoy the live music on offer. Past concerts at Hyde Park have been riddled by noise complaints with the pressure from local residents contributing to the invariably diminished sound. However, Hyde Park’s central location makes it an ideal setting for those city dwellers wishing to enjoy some modicum of the festival experience without having to stray from our metropolitan capital. Ricky Jones

5. Wilderness Festival

Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire

Capacity: 10,000
Headliners: Bjork, Ben Howard
Founded: 2010

Photo: Wilderness

Photo: Wilderness

At six years old, Wilderness welcomes a sibling in the form of Citadel, a new city-based London festival organised by the same folk and to be graced by Bombay Bicyle Club in its inaugural year. This is a testament to how successful the little festival in a forest has become in the last two years. Balancing family friendly amusements with workshops, talks and theatre, Wilderness has substance to match its amble style; this year Ben Howard and Bjork top a bill that includes Mercury prize-nominated acoustic genius Nick Mulvey and the bluesy folk of CC Smugglers. For those who prefer a gourmet venison burger and a swim in a crystal clear lake to drinking warm cider and getting trampled in the mud, Wilderness is the answer to your wildest festival dreams. Chris Owen

6. Reading and Leeds Festival

Little John’s Farm and Branham Park

Capacity: 85,000
Headliners: Metallica, Mumford and Sons, The Libertines
Founded: 1961

Photo: R+L

Photo: R+L

Filling the void for school-leavers and Glasto rejects alike, Reading and Leeds earns its place as a festival must for its rough charm, rock-heavy line-up and surplus of energy and fun. Taking place simultaneously over the August Bank Holiday weekend and sharing the same, chock-a-block bill, Reading and Leeds has in recent years spent time re-focusing and diversifying its line-up as a whole.  It has experimented with both more commercial and less mainstream headliners, with  Eminem and Rage Against The Machine having made their mark on the slot in recent years, and has added more stages, with the Radio 1 Dance Stage and Radio 1 Extra Stage attracting a wider breadth of live music fans. The festival is celebrated as the last musical Mecca of the summer season, and is a rite of passage for those celebrating exam results.

With an exuberant showcase of music from up-and-coming artists to more distinguished acts, R+L musters a younger crowd with an insatiable energy. Highlights lower down the line-up this year include The Maccabees, Wolf Alice and Little Comets, and further up in the headline support slots are alt-J, Kendrick Lamar and Bring Me The Horizon. Whether Mumford and Sons headline slot proves to be a gamble paid off remains to be seen, but Metallica will likely be well recieved if their 2014 Glastonbury set is anything to go by. The Libertines too should prove a welcome booking to the R&L army.  Munisha Lall

7. Bestival

Robin Hill Country Park, Newport

Capacity: 30,000
Headliners: The Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Duran Duran
Founded: 2004

Photo: Bestival

Photo: Bestival

Big names grace the stages at Bestival this year, with nostalgic blasts from the past with Duran Duran, and psychedelic sounds from Tame Impala and Pond. It proves to be a mixed bag, but this festival still has its roots in dance and providing crowds with fantastic DJs. Mark Ronson, The Chemical Brothers, Duke Dumont, Jamie XX and Mercury Prize nominee FKA Twigs will be descending on the Isle of Wight with their  dynamic sets later this year. Be sure to get married to your best friend in the inflatable church, get comfy in the Caravanserai, and if you are someone who prides themselves on their cleanliness, consider investing in the ‘When Nature Calls’ wristband – it got me through my Bestival experience last year.

As Bestival takes place in September, the weather can definitely make or break this extravagant party-island weekend; good wellies are a must. It’s also important to consider planning and actually making your journey – getting to Bestival is a trek, so consider travelling before the Thursday of the festival to get a decent camping spot. Although you may want to be in the hubbub of the festival itself with drunk party folk falling onto your tent at 5am, it is better to have the choice of where to pitch, so make sure to book your ferry and bus tickets early.

Try and discover all you can because every inch of the festival is oozing with creativity and a magical atmosphere; walk through the Ambient Forest, dance with strangers, and be sure to go to the Port at 2am when Annie Mac blasts out incredible tunes accompanied by mind-boggling strobe lighting and fire-eaters. Stock up on body glitter, take as many ridiculous items of fancy dress as possible (this year’s theme is ‘Summer of Love’), enjoy the incredible food, listen to unknown bands and explore all Bestival has to offer – there’s a lot to love about this vibrant, energetic place. Emily McDonnell

8. Somersault Festival

The Castle Hill Estate, Devon

Capacity: 3,000
Headliners: Bombay Bicycle Club, Laura Marling, Passenger, Crystal Fighters
Founded: 2014

Photo: kdamo

Photo: kdamo

Pink Ray-Bans and Jack Wills T-shirts, gourmet pulled-beef burritos and boutique tipis: we’ll just have to accept that this is what UK festivals look like now. Nowhere more abundant are the symptoms of gentrification than in Somersault, the new North Devon festival which arrived at the county’s picturesque hills last year.

Yes, it may frustrate the purists, but, then again, there’s much to be said for Somersault’s relaxed atmosphere, cultivated by a range of summery stage acts. The highlights of last year included Ben Howard, Half Moon Run and Dry the River, while 2015’s event repeats the acoustic formula with Laura Marling, Bombay Bicycle Club and Passenger. The big names are impressive for a relatively small event, but it’s always worth straying from the main stage. Watch out for Bear’s Den, for instance, who return after their appearance on the intimate Communion stage, a rousing performance which proved to be one of the most memorable of the weekend in 2014.

Elsewhere on this year’s line-up are Crystal Fighters, whose 2013 album Rave Cave set many indie hearts a-flutter, accoustic favourite Benjamin Clementine, Irish songwriting legend Imelda May and increasingly prolific Glastonbury favourite Lucy Rose. Also on offer are non-musical activities and excursions to the nearby wilderness for an extra fee. Festival goers can trek, climb, paddle or swim around the coastline during the day and make their way back to the festival site for nights of sublime live music. Somersault comes highly recommended for acoustic fans, surfers and, um, Abercrombie & Fitch consumers. Alfie Packham

9. Download Festival

Donington Park, East Midlands

Capacity: 120,000
Headliners: Muse, Kiss, Slipknot
Founded: 2003

Photo: Download

Photo: Download

With Sonisphere taking a breather this year, Britain’s metal heads will descend upon Donington Park for Download Festival to distract them. The lineup is mostly as expected, with familiar faces Slipknot, Judas Priest and Five Finger Death Punch headlining on Friday while Kiss, Mötley Crüe and Slash close on Sunday. The inclusion of Muse on the Saturday will likely raise a few heavily pierced eyebrows, but we can hope that they’ll read the crowd and stick to their more metallic work rather than the electro-heavy songs of their later albums.

Upcoming album release Drones is promising to add further heavy sounds to the band’s repertoire, so expect plenty of new material during the band’s Saturday headline slot. Marilyn Manson will be taking to the Encore stage to alleviate any angst about the Saturday headliner, but the variation in the acts mean that the seminal rock festival should be one to remember this summer.  Jack Richardson

10. T in the Park

Strathallan Castle, Perth

Capacity: 85,000
Headliners: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Kasabian, The Libertines
Founded: 2003

Photo: T in the Park

Photo: T in the Park

The biggest Scottish festival is upping sticks this year to a new location, Strathallan Castle. Taking place from 10th-12th July, the festival promises a wide range of acts, covering all the bases through indie rock through to dance and electronic artists including Gorgon City and David Guetta. The big headliners are Kasabian, Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds and the Libertines; potentially the best all-round lineup the festival circuit will see this summer. There are good bands further down the bill as well, and you can catch Everything Everything, Charli XCX, Lonely the Brave and Marina & the Diamonds all at TITP this year. Hatti Linnell

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