After the first wave of coronavirus totally upended our lives last spring, the promise of swanning through those festival gates, vodka Red Bull in hand, seemed like a distant fairytale. Even when the pubs re-opened and we took to restaurants like a flock of murmuring starlings hungry for that meaty Eat Out to Help Out discount, one by one, giant celebrations like Reading & Leeds and Glastonbury were bowing out to what would ordinarily be their most fruitful time of the year.
But alas, months have passed, seasons have changed, and the UK is bursting with anticipation for a return to the world of live music. We want bacon butties by the tent, sneaky festival-goers fleeing from disgruntled security, legendary performances by some of the music industry’s biggest talents, we’re even desperate to down a severely overpriced, lukewarm bottle of rosé on a hill as the sun sets and the speakers blare.
Basically, we’re ready for festival season, and bloody hell are we spoilt for choice. From techno to disco, jazz to jump up, there’s something for everyone in the coming months, as evidenced by this research-intensive guide to the most important summer we’ll ever have. Shall we get on with it?
When: 1-3 July Where: Algarve, Portimao, Portugal Why: If there is one thing that we will always regret is not heading down to the beaches of Portugal in 2019 for Afronation. Their first-ever festival was held in the summer of 19 and we haven’t stopped hearing about it since. The scorching Portuguese heat provides the best backdrop for the afrobeats-meets-dancehall festival set on the beach. With nothing but good music and vibes pouring out of the speakers day and night, why wouldn’t you want to go? Highlights: The abundance of scooters and mopeds are must for festival-goes on this holiday. Our must-see set(s): Megan Thee Stallion, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Beenie Man – there’s so many we just can’t choose!
When: 31 July & 1 August Where: Peckham Rye Park, London Why: What’s better than one day of hedonistic sun-drenched techno, jazz, dub & disco antics? Well, a weekender of the stuff! To celebrate its five-year anniversary (which should have fallen in the lost year of 2k20), the beloved independent day-fest will spread over two days for the first time. Highlights: Trekking the short distance to our duvets and showers when we’re finally ready to call it a night… instead of a mangy bass-shaking two-man tent. Our must-see set(s): Get ready to rumble with sets from Motor City Drum Ensemble and Move D, plus GALA regulars Horse Meat Disco and Job Jobse’s Strangelove are going to light it up.
When: 12-15 August Where: Kings Lynn, Norfolk Why: After missing out the past two years owing to extreme weather conditions and a worldwide pandemic, this hidden gem is back with three times the punch. Hosting an eclectic mix of dance-floor burning DJ talents, you’ll be dancing from dusk till dawn because the party – literally – never stops on this 24/4 line-up. Highlights: The delirious state you’ll be in trying to stay up for the first 24 hours, without admitting defeat. May we be a tad neek-y and suggest making a schedule, you wouldn’t want to miss any of your favourite DJs after all… Our must-see set: Everyone and anyone – we just want to party!
When: 27-29 August Where: Reading… & Leeds – it’s kind of in the name. Why: Reading & Leeds is an absolute must-do festival if you’ve never camped away before, so long as you don’t give yourself trench foot or anything. The total mix of acts means there is literally something for everyone, and you will always chance upon something new, maybe even your fave indie band doing a set on the secret stage… Highlights: Silent disco, the many many vintage markets, Radio 1’s dance stage Our must-see set(s): Ivorian Doll, Charli XCX & 100 Gecs, who all happen to be on the same day.
When: 27 – 30 August Where: Victoria Park, London Why: I mean, Jamie XX and Kano b2b. What more do we need to say? Well, also the fact that for the past couple of years (this year’s edition will mark its third ever), APE has been a shining beacon of how a festival should be run. A slick and well-executed operation, down to the sound, production, layout and bar operation. Plus the location: slap bang in the middle of Bethnal Green and Mile End is our all-time fave summer haunt, Viccy Park. Bring on the bevs! Highlights: It’s never been a more important time for the biz to platform the the fact that the UK is bursting at the seams with music talent, and the sheer amount which will be showcased by APE is seriously applaudable. Our must-see set(s): Jamie XX, Kano & Pa Salieu.
When: 29 August Where: Victoria Park, East London Why: Field Day is one of London’s most beloved festivals, always managing to nab a rotating cast of huge names and up-and-comers from across the globe. Our only gripe is that it’s now moved to August Bank Holiday Weekend – we’re just too spoiled for choice. Highlights: Going absolutely ham on the Tropical Rumbull cocktails – that’s tropical red ball with white rum – so delish! Our must-see set(s): Special Request, India Jordan, the Blessed Madonna
When: 10-12 September Where: Crystal Palace Park Why: Known for their huge line-ups, Wireless festival brings the best of the UK urban music scene and US together to create a three-day extravaganza that you’ll never be able to forget – Drake bringing out Giggs for his 2017 set was unforgettable. Highlights: With schools and colleges more than likely returning in early September, you can enjoy this festival kid-free! Our must-see set(s): The line-up is still pending for this year’s event, but if previous years are anything to go by, than expect the likes of Travis Scott, Drake and A$AP Rocky on your doorstep.
When: 17-19 September Where: Chepstow Race Course, Wales Why: From Punk, Garage, DnB & Hardcore, Balter is a high-octane, high-energy festival for those who, quite simply, love a good skank. We’re talking gun fingers, bass-faces, the lot. No boring House bros or snobby Tech-lovers allowed! Highlights: That viral Twitter video of a festival-goer dressed as a cow that was actually squirting milk! Our must-see set: The line-up is currently under-wraps – but if the cow lady is on, we’ll definitely see her.
When: 25 September Where: Gunnersbury Park, London Why: Waterworks is an up-and-coming festival that aims to blend emerging artists with more established acts from the UK’s diverse electronic music scene. You can expect any and all genres of dance in the UK to be spinning on this single day event, which, at the end of the day, just wants to celebrate top quality dance music with a focus on talent, not notoriety. Highlights: Rescuing yourself from the droll, back-to-work vibes of September by making the 25th a Saturday to remember. Our must-see set(s): Peach! Pangaea! Ben UFO!