Best Fests: region's top music festivals

Simon Parkin This summer will see this region host more music festivals than ever. From home-grown gatherings of obscure artists to corporate sponsored mega-festivals featuring some of the biggest acts in the world. SIMON PARKIN highlights the pick of outdoor shindigs.

Simon Parkin

This summer will see this region host more music festivals than ever. From home-grown gatherings of obscure leftfield artists to corporate sponsored mega-festivals featuring some of the biggest acts in the world. SIMON PARKIN highlights the pick of outdoor shindigs.

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From corporate one-day festivals with as many sponsors' logos as band T-shirts to home-grown, leftfield gatherings with mud, camping and loos you'd rather not think about. There has been an explosion of music festivals over the last few years and demand is still growing.

Glastonbury, the most famous of the lot, has spawned a huge array of imitators, with new dates cropping up on the musical calendar all the time.

There'll be as many as 450 festivals and dozens more outdoor music events this year - with this region hosting more than ever before.

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Tickets for the V Festival in Chelmsford and the well respected Cambridge Folk Festival are already rarer than hen's teeth. Other events are less well known but no less popular.

Most smaller festivals avoid the something-for-all-tastes philosophy of the big boys in favour of catering on more specialist musical tastes - whether it be folk, dance music or 50s rock n roll.

“There is no doubt about it, festivals are still incredibly fashionable,” says Neil Greenway, founder of, an independent festival listing website.

The demand has seen a massive diversification in what's on offer. Many of the best outdoor shindigs - from stately home concerts to huge corporate sponsored festivals of big star names - now take place in areas of outstanding natural beauty, with good toilets and more than passable food.

Latitude, set in beautiful Henham Park on the outskirts of Southwold, is rapidly growing into the festival de rigour for middle class families with theatre, literary types and kids entertainment given as much prominence as the music.

But of course there are still, hardy home-grown down and dirty fests where the only things that matter are the music and getting so wasted you can't remember any of it...


June 5, 6, 7, July 10, 11, 12, High Lodge, Thetford Forest

Tickets: £26-£30


or call 01842 814612

Headliners: The Zutons, KT Tunstall, Status Quo, McFly, Katherine Jenkins, Crowded House

t What to expect: The chance to see big names in front of a smallish crowd in a tree-lined setting. Now an annual money-spinner for the Forestry Commission, this series of concerts are held in a clearing in Thetford Forest. As ever the line-up includes vintage big names, and largely middle-of-the-road chart-toppers. The presence of McFly also sees them branching out into a young crowd this year.


June 27-28, Bentwaters Airbase, near Woodbridge, Suffolk

Tickets: £10 Saturday (under-27s half price); £10 Sunday advance or £15 on door; £20 for all three events.


Headliners: The Hush House, Plaid, Vladislav Delay, Mira Calix + Quayloa, Johann Johannsson, Tim Exile, Hauschka, Stefan Schneider, Oblique House, Larry Groves, Emily Hall.

t What to expect: The unexpected. Billed as 'a sound experiment joining the dots between musical genres and digital art forms', this event, first held in 2006, now takes place at Bentwaters Airbase in Rendlesham Forest, Aldeburgh Cinema and the Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Artists are from worlds of electronic music, contemporary classical and interactive visual arts.


July 1-3, Brightlingsea, Essex

Tickets: Free


Headliners: Salt Dog, Newton Kings, The Brew, The Lightyears.

t What to expect: Seafront free festival now in its eighth year and expanded to three days. Features performances from both nationally known and local artists.


July 5, Ely, Cambridgeshire

Tickets: £40 (over-18 only)


Headliners: Audio Bullys, Dave Pearce, Kutski, Slipmatt, Angnelli & Nelson, Andy Farley.

t What to expect: Thousands of ravers. This new dance festival is being billed as the region's biggest electronic music event of the year with organisers expecting over 10,000 people to pack into five arenas, plus an outdoor stage, with house, hard dance, trance, hardcore and old skool DJs.


July 5, Knebworth Park, Hertfordshire

Tickets: £47.50 (day ticket)

Info/booking: or 0115 910 1111

Headliners: Bjork, Soulwax, Foals, Battles, Hercules & The Love Affair, Sasha, Danny Tenaglia

t What to expect: Techno types swapping the clubs of oh-so trendy Hoxton to get their Bathing Ape trainers dirty in the countryside. Bjork gave a barnstorming set that last year's Glastonbury so much is expected. Over the years, Knebworth has hosted legendary shows by everyone from Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd to Oasis. Wild In The Country - organised by dance label Renaissance- adds electronic sounds to the rock riffing.


July 11-13, Outdoor Centre, Ely, Cambridgeshire

Tickets: £48 (weekend adult), £40 (weekend concession), £16 (weekend child), £27 (day ticket), £20 (Saturday evening ticket), £18 (Friday/Sunday evening tickets)

Info/booking: or 01353 614 164

Headliners: Show of Hands, Mawkin:Causley, Martin Simpson, Spiers & Boden, Saor Patrol, Zambula.

t What to expect: Morris-dancing displays, a real-ale bar and pastoral crooning galore. Now in it's 23rd year, Ely Folk has an easy laid back charm and, being smaller than many is on a delightfully informal scale, mixing the vibe of a village fete with a diverse mix of music.


July 12, 13, 19, 20, Blickling Hall, Norfolk

Tickets: £37.50

Info/booking: or 0844 800 4308

Headliners: Katie Melua, Meatloaf, Boyzone, 11th Birthday feat. Kim Wilde, Paul Young, Nik Kershaw and more.

t What to expect: The type of genteel affair that sees picnicking gig-goers where you'd normally have the mosh pit. The annual series of family-friendly concerts, now in its 11th year, is held jointly at Blickling and Petworth House in West Sussex. This year's big names include the Radio 2-friendly strains of Katie Melua, Meat Loaf, who once upon a time headlined proper metal mud-baths like Reading, and an 80s nostalgia night.


July 17-20, Henham Park, Suffolk

Tickets: £130 (weekend), £55 (day ticket).

Info/booking: or 0870 060 3775.

Headliners: Franz Ferdinand, Sigur Ros, Interpol, Elbow, The Mars Volta, Bill Bailey, Ross Noble, Royal Court Theatre, RSC, Iain Banks, Irvine Welsh, Sadler's Wells.

t What to expect: Now in its third year, Latitude started as a mini-Glastonbury but is rapidly gaining ground as one of the UK's best festivals. Musically its the ideal weekend for Q and Mojo readers, with the return of Franz Ferdinand the pick. But that's only part of the story. There's a huge array of big names from comedy, cabaret, theatre, poetry, film and literature. Plus separate kids art and theatre tents make it one of the most family friendly.


July 24-27, secret location, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

Tickets: £115 (four days), £60 (participation required), children 14-18 £100, under-12s free.


Headliners: Grace Jones, Glasvegas, Morcheeba, Envy & Other Sins, The Elephant, Infadels.

t What to expect: A staunchly independent four-day bean-feast. Don't expect the usual main stage and burger vans. As well as many leftfield and independent bands, they'll be tree houses, a collective festival dressing-up box, mobile stone circle, floating dance-floor and reduced price tickets for those willing to “creatively participate”. This year's theme is Revolutions of the Past, Present and Future.


July 31-August 3, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge

Tickets: If you haven't already bought yours, you're too late as they've all gone.

Info: or 01223 457245.

Headliners: KD Lang, Joan Armatrading, Levellers, Billy Bragg, John Hiatt, Seth Lakeman, Martha Wainwright, Eliza Carthy.

t What to expect: Sponsored by Radio 2, the Cambridge Folk Festival has grown into one of Europe's best, and most long running folk fests. The first festival was in 1964, when a then largely unknown Paul Simon was a late addition to the bill. This year KD Lang puts in her only UK festival appearance, while the Levellers celebrate their 20th anniversary.


August 1-3, Stanton, Hertfordshire

Tickets: £69 (early-bird weekend camping), £89 (weekend camping).


Headliners: Super Furry Animals, Dan Le Sac, Dave Haslam, Radioactive Man.

ttWhat to expect: Independent festival held on the grounds of a 16th century manor house that's a chance to see some of the most hotly tipped underground acts - and the ever excellent Super Furries - in an intimate setting. Has a different theme every year - this time its all things Japanese, so expect samurai and geisha fancy dress, crazy game shows, harajuku girls, yakuza gangsters and manga characters.


August 1-3, Town Park, Halesworth, Suffolk

Tickets: Prices TBC


Headliners: The Blockheads, Hugh Cornwell, Geno Washington, Pauline Black, Son of Dave, many more to be announced.

t What to expect: A real community gathering, made possible by local people who give their time for free. This three-day event has built up a good reputation. It doesn't attract the big names - though the Blockheads and soul superstar Geno Washington will offer plenty of well known hits - but the line-up also includes plenty of local talent.


August 16-17, Hylands Park, Chelmsford, Essex

Tickets: £149 (weekend with camping), £125 (without camping), £70 (day)


Headliners: Muse, Stereophonics, The Kooks, Maximo Park, The Prodigy, Ian Brown, Kings of Leon, Amy Winehouse, Kaiser Chiefs, Girls Aloud, Chemical Brothers

t What to expect: The best organised of the major festivals - too much so for some, who feel it's a soulless exercise in over commercialisation. However, if you're looking for a relatively stress-free weekend with the minimum of mud, fuss and crusty-types, this is the place for you. This year's line-up continues a policy of varied music styles, rather than straight rock that categorised earlier years.


August 29-31, Twinwood Arena, Clapham, near Bedford

Tickets: £85.50 (adult weekend), £36 (day ticket), children under-11 free.

Info/booking: or call 01234 350 413.

Headliners: Big Star, Jefferson Starship, The Saw Doctors, Steve Cropper, Richie Havens, Michelle Shocked, Dave & Ansell Collins, The Zombies.

t What to expect: Plenty of middle-aged rockers struggling to get their tight jeans over the seat of shiny new motorbikes. Smaller festival (capacity 5,000) that aims to be family friendlier, though the diverse musical line-up seems to have been compiled by randomly sticking a pin into a copy of Mojo.


October 10-13, Seacroft, Hemsby, Norfolk

Tickets: From £93pp (based on three people sharing a standard chalet).

Info/booking: or call 01522 752 453

Headliners: Sid & Billy King, Alton Lott, Dave Phillips & The Hot Rod Gang, Mike Sanchez, The Barnstompers.

t What to expect: The annual gathering of rockabilly types who model themselves on Elvis and James Dean and women dressed as 50s pin-ups. Now held in the suitably authentic 50s surroundings of the Seacroft holiday camp, it attracts rock n rollers from across the country. As well as the music, there will also be jive dancing, classic cars and record and clothing markets. Grease up that quiff, and pull on those classic turned-up Levis.