Summer of music: guide to region’s best festivals

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

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

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 a more diverse range than ever before. Summer has become music festival season and demand has seen a massive diversification in what's on offer despite the economic downturn.

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, world music or 1950s rock'n'roll.

Norfolk this summer sees two exciting new festivals — Play Fest and the Norfolk Spectacular — both of which are bringing some big names and exciting young talent.

But while they are both aimed at younger crowds, the festival generally has noticeably grown up. 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.

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With Radio 4 and Bafta as sponsors, Latitude, set in beautiful Henham Park on the outskirts of Southwold, has rapidly growing into the festival de rigeur for middle class families with theatre, literary types and children's entertainment given as much prominence as the music.


June 9, 10, 11, July 14, 15, 16, High Lodge, Thetford Forest

Tickets: �28.50-�37.50

Info/booking: 01842 814612,

Headliners: Status Quo, Erasure, Simple Minds, The Script, Westlife, Bryan Ferry

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, a slot amply filled this year by Westlife, sure to be the biggest draw. Status Quo, Bryan Ferry and Simple Minds are no strangers to out-door gigs in Norfolk. The Script fill the slot occupied last year by Scouting For Girls. But, with a bag of hits and lashings of theatrical style, it could be Erasure that are the surprise hit.


June 18-19, Forest Farm, Ilford, Essex

Tickets: day ticket �40 (June 18)/�48 (June 19), weekend camping ticket �100


Headliners: Boy George, Scratch Perverts, The Voice of Basement Jaxx, Dave Pearce, Slipmatt, Jonathan Ulysses, Pam's House, Loose Cannons.

What to expect: Thousands of ravers. This new Kiss-backed dance music festival is catering for a vast genre of dance music to please everyone's tastes with trance, house, old skool, garage, drum n bass and dubstep. Organisers are expecting 15,000 people. There will be over 100 acts spread across three arenas over the two days. Among the DJs will be pop (and tabloid) institution Boy George with a set of glammed-up white boy soul.


July 1-3, Easton Farm, Woodbridge, Suffolk

Tickets: �60 (weekend/camping), �39 (no camping), �8 (10-15 years, weekend), under-10s free.

Info/booking: 01603 660352,

Headliners: The Ragged String Band, BJ Cole, Feral Mouth, The Travelling Band, The Vagabonds, Will Scott, Linda McRae, Dead Rock West.

What to expect: An American independence weekend alt-country hoedown on four stages scattered across a picturesque Suffolk farm. Maverick was created three years ago as a festival for country, Americana and American folk music. The line-up won't mean much unless you're into country or roots, but it has won plaudits and increas-ing numbers of Stetson-wearing fans. Yee-ha!


July 2, Woolsey Bridge Farm Fields, Burston, Diss

Tickets: �20, �10 under-16s, under-5s free

Info/booking: 01379 644888,

Headliners: Alabama 3 Unplugged, Jon Hart, Tattie Jam, Harper AKA, 3 Beards, Andy Kirkham, Twisted Routes and Dumbfoundus.

What to expect: WoW (World on Woolsey) is a very family friendly folk and world music festival that draws headliners from across the world but otherwise focuses on talent from this region. As well as the music it has a market of locally produced arts, crafts and food.


July 7-10, Bungay, Suffolk

Tickets: �160 weekend, �110 (Sat/Sun)


Headliners: Anna Mudeka Band, Human Beatbox, Guateque, Murphy's Lore, Boujemaa Bouboul, Pete Lockett, Seckou Keita and friends.

What to expect: Now in its 16th year this established education-based world music festival, on a site located between Bungay and Halesworth, is hugely well respected. It's more than just a music festival though, as with 36 drumming workshops as various types over the weekend, people come to beat out the rhythm as much as to listen to it.


July 8-10, Knebworth Park, Hertfordshire

Tickets: �170 (weekend/camping), �140 (weekend)


Headliners: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Biffy Clyro, Slipknot, Motorhead, Weezer, Bill Bailey.

What to expect: The metal masses. Now in its third year, this new rival for Download returns to Knebworth, which in the past has hosted legendary shows by everyone from Led Zeppelin to Deep Purple, Oasis to Robbie Williams. After missing out to Sonisphere's European sister festivals last year, fans finally get to see the so-called Big Four — Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax — share a stage. After an experiment last year, the comedy tent re-turns too, featuring Bill Bailey which should be a joy to witness.


July 8-10, Outdoor Centre, Ely, Cambridgeshire

Tickets: Weekend tickets have already sold out, �28 (Sun day ticket), �19/�6 (Fri evening ticket), �18/�8 (Sun evening tickets).

Info/booking: 01353 669985,

Headliners: The Men They Couldn't Hang, Martin Simpson Band, Dervish, Rory McLeod, Heidi Talbot, Shooglenifty.

What to expect: Morris-dancing displays, a real ale bar and pastoral crooning galore. Having celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, Ely Folk continues to be 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 9/10, Hitchin Priory, Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Tickets: �14 weekend tickets, �7 (advance day tickets), �3 under-17s.


Headliners: Raghu Dixit, Oi Va Voi, The Selector, CW Stoneking, Skip 'Little Axe' McDonald, Moishe's Bagel.

What to expect: This year marks the 20th anniversary of this volunteer-run world music gathering that began life as an Oxfam fundraiser. The 16,000 capacity site is in lush, naturally sloping grounds, perfect to watch a strong bill that hails from as far afield as India, Congo, China and Singapore, plus a couple of old favourites like The Selector. There's also an BBC Introducing stage of bands from the region. And at just �7 a day, it won't break the bank to expand your music horizons.


July 14-17, Henham Park, Suffolk

Tickets: �170 (weekend), �70 (day tickets)

Info/booking: 0870 0603775,

Headliners: Suede, The National, Paolo Nutini, Seasick Steve, KT Tunstall, Foals, Anna Calvi, Bombay Bicycle Club, Eels, British Sea Power, My Morning Jacket, Glasvegas, Alan Carr, Omid Djalili, Sadler's Wells, English National Ballet, Adam Buxton, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Simon Armitage.

What to expect: Now in its seventh year, Latitude started as a mini-Glastonbury but is rapidly gaining ground as one of the UK's best festivals, though it notable that this year's event hasn't sold out in record quick time. That might be something to do with the main music headliners being slightly underwhelming. But even if Brooklyn indie-rockers The National (who headlined the second stage only last year), Paolo Nutini and a re-formed Suede are not to your taste there are as ever plenty of treasures to be found down the bill, including Seasick Steve, KT Tunstall and Glasvegas, while the Word stage includes sets from Bombay Bicycle Club, Foals and the heavily hyped The Vaccines. But that's only part of the story, of course. There's a huge array of big names from comedy, cabaret, theatre, poetry, film and literature. Where else can you see highbrow offerings from the National Theatre of Scotland and Sadler's Wells in a fairytale setting of forest, lakes and meadows. Other tips include a 'The Trip' Q&A with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, and The Winter's Ball in The Faraway Forest.


July 21-24, Norfolk Showground

Tickets: �65 (weekend), �20 (day ticket), �12 (evening ticket).

Info/booking: 01362 820947,

Headliners: John C King, Texas Tornados, Henry Smith Band, Overdrive, Texas Tornados, Leon Grass, Steve Travis, Pig Earth, Stubby.

What to expect: Cowboys from the wild east. This long-standing weekend country music gathering is an unheralded success story of the music festival calendar, drawing lovers of American country sounds from far and wide. A large indoor venue it hosts three dance floors to suit line, partner and freestyle dancing and non-stop music, including late night sessions with Jonny Rondo. There is also a saloon bar — probably no swinging doors though.


July 21-24, Mill Hill Field, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

Tickets: �155 (weekend), �115 (weekend teen tickets), under-12s free, family camping passes �20, early bird tick-ets have sold out.


Headliners: Leftfield, Blondie, Martha Reeve & The Vandellas, Mystery Jets, Guillemots, The Bees, Mylo, I Am Kloot, Alabama 3.

What to expect: After winning a Best Small Festival Award, The Secret Garden Party is back for another year, with more unusual and inspirational delights. It's a staunchly independent four-day offering so don't expect the usual main stage and burger vans. Set in 10 acre landscaped garden, bordering a bubbling brook and lake, it's a garden party-gone-crazy and a hedonist's delight. As well as music there's loads of activities for kids and adults alike, and it is more of a party experience offering mud wrestling, skinny dipping, twilight maypole dancing, silent disco dancing, raft-building, body painting, counselling from the bad advice bears and reduced price tickets for those willing to 'creatively participate'. Musically it ranges from the head-caving volume of Leftfield to the Mo-town of Martha Reeve & The Vandellas.


July 22-24/30, Blickling Hall

Tickets: �35-�20

Info/booking: 0844 8004308,

Headliners: Roger Daltrey (July 22), Katherine Jenkins (July 24), Madness (July 30).

What to expect: A diverse crowd of all ages, many picnicking. There were no shows at Blickling last summer, but the popular concerts return this year. The weekend gigs — which are worth tens of thousands of pounds to the National Trust site near Aylsham — have been running for 13 years and have previously seen acts like Van Morrison, Simply Red and Boyzone appear on stage. This year Roger Daltrey will be perform Tommy and The Who's greatest hits, minus his old mucker Pete Townsend. A Last Night of the Proms concert is headlined by mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins. And the nutty boys from Madness, last seen in this region at the Norfolk Showground, return to Blickling.


July 28-31, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge

Tickets: �114 (weekend), �35 (camping ticket), �50-�39 (day ticket), under-5s free.

Info/booking: 01223 357851,

Headliners: Richard Thompson, Newton Faulkner, Laura Marling, Chris Wood, Kate Rusby, Rumer, Villagers, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bellowhead.

What to expect: Sponsored by the Co-op and Radio 2, the Cambridge Folk Festival has grown into one of Europe's biggest and longest running folk fests. The first was in 1964 when a then largely unknown Paul Simon was a late addition to the bill. It has enlarged to include high profile American country artists, gospel, blues and world music, though in recent years the bill has arguably become too diverse to its detriment, some argue. This year's bill looks like something of a return to its more folky heritage, helped by nu-folk artists like Laura Marling and Villagers. As ever, there are many treasures lower down the bill.


August 4-7, Haggis Farm Polo Club, Cambridge

Tickets: �69 (weekend), �25 under-16s (weekend), �35-�25 (day tickets)


Headliners: Caravan, Eddie & The Hotrods, John Otway Big Band, The Quireboys, The Hamsters, Ebony Tower, Jebo, John Young Band, Crimes Of Passion.

What to expect: Lots of Classic Rock magazine readers. This relatively new festival is something of a rock alternative to the esteemed folk festival, albeit on a much smaller scale. However there will be three stages, 70 bands and, probably just as importantly, 70 real ales on sale.


August 5-7, Brightlingsea, Essex

Tickets: Free


Headliners: Claire Ogden, Tracey Hunter Band, Marner Brown, Sweeting Swing Band.

What to expect: Seafront free festival now into its second decade and expanded to three-days. Features perform-ances from both nationally known and local roots, blues and world artists across a variety of venues. August 5 is classical day, August 6 roots and blues and August 7 jazz and world.


August 5-7, Town Park, Halesworth, Suffolk

Tickets: TBC


Headliners: The Beat, The Groundhogs, Solko, Robert Brown, The Dhol Foundation, Pink Floyd Dimension.

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 everyone's heard of Two Tone ska survivors The Beat and The Groundhogs have a strong following — but the line-up also includes plenty of local talent.


August 12-14, Stanton, Ware Hertfordshire

Tickets: �120 (weekend/camping), �100 (12-17 years weekend/camping), under-12s free.


Headliners: Spiritualized, Battles, Hercules and Love Affair, Penguin Caf�, John Grant, John Cooper Clarke, Howard Marks.

What to expect: Essentially a big 3,000 capacity party in back garden of organiser Alex Trnchard. This is more charming than you might think when that garden is the grounds of a 16th century manor house. This boutique festival is the chance to see some of the most hotly tipped underground bands and some cracking DJs in an intimate setting. This year they've expanded the literary lounge too. The festival donates its proceeds to charity and has a different theme every year — this time its Gods & Monsters, so plenty ideas to play with.


August 13-14, Rookery Meadow, Reepham

Tickets: �15 (weekend ticket), under-15s free.

Info/booking: 01603 508050,

Headliners: From The Jam, Sun of Cash, Buster James, Attention To Detail, Hoodlums, Strangeworld.

What to expect: An intimate laidback musical experience in the beautiful Norfolk countryside. Now in its fourth year, this community festival has this year been expanded to two days. It stages a mix of established names — From The Jam, featuring bassist, vocalist and songwriter Bruce Foxton — and upcoming young performers. The diverse music programme on two stages ranges wildly and wonderfully from acoustic to alterna-tive, blues, classical, Celtic, folk, jazz, pop and punk.


August 20-21, Hylands Park, Chelmsford, Essex

Tickets: If you've not already got them you're too late, it's sold out.


Headliners: Eminem, Arctic Monkeys, Rihanna, Plan B, Dizzee Rascal, Duran Duran, Primal Scream, Pendulum, Manic Streets Preachers.

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. There's even a 'luxury camp site'. This year's line-up contin-ues a policy of varied music styles, rather than straight rock that categorised earlier years. Loads of big names, though the presence of Eminem is perhaps the most intriguing.


August 26-28, The Mansion House, Warden Park, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire

Tickets: �110 (weekend/camping), �49-�45 (day tickets), �30 camping, discounted rates for children.

Info/booking: 020 77348932,

Headliners: Buzzcocks, Toots and the Maytals, Nick Lowe, Imelda May, Dodgy, Jack Bruce, Oysterband, Steve Cropper, The Blockheads.

What to expect: Now in its sixth year this festival, organised by the same team behind Glastonbury, is definitely aimed at the more mature crowd. It's a smaller festival (capacity 5,000) that has no corporate branding, no sponsorship and a rather random bill of rootsy bands, old punks and 70s and 80s radio-pop outfits. Difficult to see how they all appeal to one crowd, though the excellent on-site real ale festival probably helps.


August 26-28, Hinwick House, Bedfordshire

Tickets: �90 (weekend/camping), �60 (weekend), under-16s �45 (weekend/camping), �30 (Sunday ticket).


Headliners: AGT Rave Cru, Babyhead | Bam Bam Sound, The Cuban Brothers Mani�re des Boh�miens, Marthas And Arthurs, The Memory Band, Origamibiro, Rodrigo Lampreia.

What to expect: This nomadic festival that offers Latin carnival spirit remains in the same Bedfordshire location this summer. The website asks if we like great music, Brazilian vibes, lazing in hammocks and proper caipirinhas — what's not to like? Festinho as a charity fundraiser started in Oxfordshire in 2005. The 1,500 capacity event is a Brazilian themed fiesta — with additional leftfield electronica, nu-folk and lo-fi pop — that raises cash for Brazilian street kids.


September 3/4, Norfolk Showground

Tickets: �70 (weekend), �38.50 (day tickets), �36 camping

Info/booking: 0871 224 1113,

Headliners: N-Dubz, Tinie Tempah, Taio Cruz, Tynchy Stryder, Chase & Status, Eliza Doolittle, Laberinth.

What to expect: Hordes of teenagers. This is the other exciting music event this summer. Like Play Fest, the organisers have managed to attract an impressive line-up for the two-day event at the Showground. The bill is almost a who's who of young UK urban artists and with many more names to be added as we get closer, it's no wonder excitement is building (at least if you're aged under-25, that is).


October 7-10, Seacroft, Hemsby, Norfolk

Tickets: From �101pp (based on two people sharing a standard chalet).

Info/booking: 01522 752453,

Headliners: Jack Earls, Johnny Powers, Bobby Brooks Hamilton, Truly Lover Trio, Sweet Jeena & The Roomates, Chris Casello.

What to expect: The annual gathering — now in its 47th incarnation — of rockabilly types who model themselves on Elvis and James Dean and women dressed as 1950s pin-ups. Now held in the suitably authentic 50s surroundings of the Seacroft holiday camp, it attracts rock'n'rollers from across the world. 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.