Written by Veronica Stratford-Tuke
If there’s one thing I wish someone had told my 16-year old self, it’s that small-scale boutique festivals are where the magic’s at. As I trudged to my first festival at Reading - inadequately prepared as most first-timers are – I was blissfully unaware that there’s much more to the UK’s festival calendar than Creamfields, Bestival and Wireless. Here's our rundown of the UK's best festivals for 2014 under £100 in date order:
Gottwood – 19-22 June
Stepping back in time to before the commercialisation of music festivals, Gottwood is an electronic arts festival whose mantra is to get people raving again. If you feel at home with a hippy-ish, hard-partying crowd, this is your festival. Set in the enchanting Anglesey forest, Gottwood focuses as much on the electronica as on the kooky installations. Visually spellbinding: lights, murals and wacky costumes will transport you from Wales into a fairytale land. The 2014 team have pulled some corkers from the world of underground electronic music, including Maribou State, Calibre and Pedestrian. Price: from £75 weekend camping. Where: Anglesey.
Noisily Festival – 11-13 July
Another electronic music and visual arts festival, Noisily is an alternative event with attitude. Anyone remember Glade? Well this might as well be its younger sibling. If your spirits are dampened by most large festivals’ sound curfews, well guess what: at Noisily no sound curfew means you can dance through the sunrise until 6am. Installations include a ‘library’ with wallpaper books and armchairs, and twelve inch records float from trees - Leicestershire’s own Alice in Wonderland. At the top of the bill in 2014 are Greg Wilson almost in the 40th year of his DJ career and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (DJ set), who will close the weekend on the Tree House Stage on Sunday night. Price: from £65. Where: Leicestershire.
LeeFest – 11-14 July
If you like the sound of a festival with a warm community feel, look no further; LeeFest is an adorable non-profit event started just eight years ago by 16-yr old Lee Denny. When his parents went away leaving strict ‘no house party’ instructions, naturally Lee transformed his back garden into a mini-festival. Now Lee swaps the stage his teenage self borrowed from his school for something more professional and welcomes 2000 punters. What we love is that LeeFest’s capacity has been capped so it doesn’t lose its authenticity and character. In 2014 cheeky beats and rhymes duo Dan Le Sax vs Scroobius Pip headline alongside Scottish indie folk boys Frightened Rabbit – oh, and don’t miss Lee’s masterclass in how to grow your own festival. Price from £50. Where: Surrey.
Somersault – 17-21 July
Surfers and outdoorsy-types alert! Jack Johnson’s only UK performance in 2014 is at Somersault. A celebration of rural life and good old fresh air, this festival encourages punters to roam free into the idyllic Devon countryside in a 5-day adventure camping beneath the stars. Let’s not be ‘hemmed into one event site’, the organisers say. Music is accompanied by photography tutorials, circus shows and campfire feasts à la Bear Grills. Price: from £99.50 for the 5 days. Where: Devon.
Farr Festival – 18-20 July
Four years ago Farr was a 21st Birthday party. On realising that dancing in a deserted wood is a lot of fun, the organisers made Farr a three-day ticketed event. Still limited to 1,500 people – smaller than some club capacities – and with tent stages barely bigger than gazebos, Farr sticks to its boutique roots but brings a heavyweight line-up; Hercules & Love Affair, Mount Kimbie, Scuba, Bicep, Gentleman’s Dub Club and George Fitzgerald are on music duties in 2014 for starters. A particular highlight is the five minute walk from the campsite into the woods, which offers breathtaking views of the sun setting over golden hay bales and rolling fields. It’s mainly a uni crowd, so if that’s up your street, check it out. Price: from £55 weekender. Where: Hertfordshire.
Farm Festival – 1-2 August
Another one that began as a party between friends, Farm Festival is one of Somerset’s best kept secrets. ‘A lack of tw**s’ said Eddie Argos of Art Brut and Farm itself announced: “We want to dance the night away and wake up to a hearty breakfast, sip on a thirst quenching local cider and start all over again." A particular perk is the freedom to bring your own booze into the festival from the campsite, which saves on cider money – oh, and the crazy golf and the hat competition. This year’s line-up includes the esoteric Public Service Broadcasting and dub reggae head honchos Channel One Soundsystem. Price: from £53 weekender. Where: Somerset.
Beacons – 7-10 August
Only in its 3rd proper year, Beacons is already growing fast - go now, before everyone discovers the secret! One for house music heads and creatives alike, Beacons falls on the quieter end of the boutique festival scale with music ending at roughly 11pm every night. Nestled in the Yorkshire Dales, this charming event livens things up for local sheep for one delightful weekend a year. Highlights include The Space Between, an area of wonderment from film showings to whisky tasting and spoken word to a vintage clothes market, as well as an indoor bouncy castle and inflatable slide for the big kids amongst us. 2014’s line-up highlights are Darkside (Nicolas Jaar & Dave Harrington), Jon Hopkins, Daughter and British Sea Power. Price: from £99.50 4 nights camping. Where: Skipton, Yorkshire.
Shambala – 21-24 August
If you love colour and costumes, this is your party. Another one that’s grown fast in popularity, Shambala is a psychedelic utopia that fuses nature and music with kaleidoscopic brilliance and continues to win hoards of loyal fans. Described as an ‘open air art gallery’, Shambala hosts music hand-in-hand with theatre, cabaret, workshops and wellbeing – who’d have thought you could leave a festival feeling healthier than when you arrived! Dive into a yurt, have a bathe in the springs or bask in the sight of the closing fireworks against a backdrop of lakes and woodland. Think Secret Garden Party but a third of the size and three times as intimate! Price: from £99 weekender. Where: Northamptonshire.
In The Woods – 30 August
If Leeds Fest’s long-drops left you scarred, In The Woods may be your cup of tea; organisers promise a party far, far away from “warm pints of foamy Carling in a corporate mudbath". Now extended to a 2-day event, In The Woods is held in a secret – and enchanted? - woodland outside London whose location is only revealed to ticket holders. The line-up focuses on up-and-coming local talent is also kept on the down low until you arrive, although past acts include Alt J and Ghostpoet. Price: £95 weekender. Where: Secret location outside London.
Now, these last 2 may not undercut the £100 mark, but if you enjoy the boutique vibe they fully deserve to be on your radar:
Green Man – 14-18 August
The Brecon Beacons’ Black Mountains aren’t usually open to the public – except for at Green Man that is. Green by name, green by nature, this festival is not only awash with chlorophyllic colour but its environmentally conscious ethos is very eco-friendly indeed. In 2014 its capacity has hit 20,000, which makes it less small than our other little N’s, but the warm, friendly vibe remains. Primarily folkey, this year’s stars are Neutral Milk Hotel and Beirut, and there’s even a competition for unsigned bands to open the festival. Price: students £135. Where: Brecon Beacons.
Festival no.6 – 5-8 September
Described as ‘Mediterranean-style’ – too optimistic for Wales? – the sophisticated and independent Festival no.6 returns to the Welsh beach for the third time in 2014. One for escapists and suckers for a gorgeous view, this bespoke festival is a magical town that bubbles with poetry and the arts. Music-wise, the line-up strikes a balance between young-talent and accomplished acts; at the top of 2014’s bill are London Grammar, Pet Shop Boys, Bonobo and a very special appearance from Beck. Price: from £160 weekend camping. Where: Portmeirion, Wales.
There you have it, one for nearly every weekend of the summer. Gonna be in-tents!
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