It’s not been the best start to the year in Great Britain with wild winter weather and a wild rental market (not to mention cucumber rationing). Fortunately, in the near distance, blue skies await, bringing with them a whirlwind of music, theatrics, bell tents and fairground rides at this year’s summer festivals.
Tickets to the headline events like Glastonbury may have been snapped up the moment they went on sale (although we give you the inside scoop on other ways to get there). But there’s more to summer than the Pyramid Stage at Worthy Farm – Great Britain knows how to put on a musical festival with something for every taste and budget.
Here are the very best festivals to book for a summer of camping, dancing and partying.
When: June 8–11, 2023 at Donington Park, Leicestershire
Download Festival, dubbed “the greatest rock and metal festival of all time” is back celebrating its epic 20 year anniversary by adding an extra day to the schedule. Iowa natives Slipknot will join Bring Me The Horizon and Metallica as the headliners in 2023. And in a UK first, Metallica will deliver two completely unique sets on the Thursday and Saturday night, with no repeat songs. The band told organizers: “We are next-level honored to once again come back and partake in the Download shenanigans on the hallowed grounds of Castle Donington, which has an unparalleled place in rock history”. The lineup also includes Evanescence, Parkway Drive, Disturbed, Pendulum, Architects, Ghost, The Distillers, Placebo and many more. Over 2 million rock fan have made the pilgrimage to Donington over the last two decades. Big Green Coaches run carbon neutral buses to the festival from 62 locations.
The essential packing guide for music festivals
KITE: festival of ideas and music
Dates: June 9–11, 2023 at Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire
KITE made its debut on the music festival scene in 2022 redefining the summer festival experience with a diverse program of debate and ideas along with spectacular musical performances from the likes of Grace Jones and Self Esteem. This is a smaller and more relaxed festival where around 10,000 festival goers frollick in the lush grounds of Kirtlington Park in Oxfordshire. The 2023 line-up is headlined by Pretenders, Hot Chip, Suede, Ezra Collective, Django Django, Baxter Dury and Candi Staton.
Thinkers taking center stage in one of the lounge-like big tents across the site include Dame Joan Collins; former doctor and writer of bestselling book This Is Going To Hurt, Adam Kay; American singer and founder of The Bangles Susanna Hoffs; plus the internationally renowned trans activist, model, writer and broadcaster Munroe Bergdorf. If you’re beyond glamping age, there are plenty of hotels and B&Bs in nearby Oxfordshire. Big Green Coach is operating a weekend and day-return coach service to London.
The Cambridge Club Festival
Dates: June 9–11, 2023 at Childerley Orchard, Cambridge
A family-friendly festival, The Cambridge Club returns to Childerley’s ancient apple orchard with another glorious feel-good weekend of soul, funk and disco dancing. The lineup in 2023 includes the indefatigable Grace Jones, the bestselling Black British male artist of all time Billy Ocean, American R&B royalty Alexander O’Neal, and UK dance floor hit-maker Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Global superstar and four-time Grammy winner Lionel Richie plus Kool & The Gang are also bringing their legendary funk and soul-infused classics to the Main Stage. DJs playing sets in the Discovery Den between the trees include ’80s club scene legend Fat Tony. And for the kids? There is the Imagination Station area where CBBC faves Dick & Dom will entertain them (and their parents), along with Magic Star’s “The Rainbow Collection” performing beautiful renditions of well-known lullabies, covers and original songs, plus there’s a calendar full of theater, games, arts and crafts, storytelling, and sing-a-longs to keep your kids busy.
Isle of Wight Festival
Dates: June 15–18, 2023 at Seaclose Park, Newport
Referred to as Europe’s answer to Woodstock when it began in 1968, the Isle of Wight Festival has an iconic lineup in 2023 with artists spanning 40 years of music. Britpop legends Pulp will play the festival for the first time in 12 years, headlining the Main Stage on Friday night. George Ezra, Robbie Williams, Blondie, The Chemical Brothers, Human League and Echo & The Bunnymen are among the long list of era-defining bands you’ll see on the island this summer.
There’s also plenty here to entertain families in the Kids’ Zone as well as a family-specific campsite. Another camping area called “Respect” offers free camping in exchange for agreeing to take all tents and belongings on departure. And as part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability, as well as greener suppliers and a deposit scheme to encourage recycling, the grass fields used for camping are now being harvested for biofuel production before and after the festival, bringing the land into productive use year round.
Dates: June 21–25, 2023 at Worthy Farm, Somerset
Tickets: Go into Oxfam’s raffle to win tickets while raising money for the DEC Turkey-Syria Earthquake appeal
It needs no introduction and scoring a ticket to Glastonbury feels like winning the life lottery these days. Glastonbury is the world’s largest green field performing arts festival in the world. Founded by farmer Michael Eavis in 1970, the festival is held on a 900-acre working dairy farm in Somerset, but it also reaches a worldwide audience in the millions with a live broadcast on the BBC and online. Guns n’ Roses and Arctic Monkeys are joining Sir Elton John (the first act to be announced) as headliners in 2023. The lack of diversity in this all-male, all-white headline lineup has raised a few eyebrows. Female talent on the full bill includes Lana Del Ray, Lizzo, Blondie, The Chicks and Flo, among others.
For those who are desperate to attend but missed out on tickets when they were snapped up back in November, there are still options (although these roles are equally as popular). Catering jobs are advertised on the festival site in February and March. Australian composting loos outfit the Natural Event also takes volunteer and paid crew members to Glastonbury, as well as a host of other European summer festivals.
A handy guide to Glastonbury 2023: survival tips from someone who’s done it
Secret Garden Party
Dates: July 20–23, 2023 at Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
After a five year hiatus, Secret Garden Party returned in 2022 with a whole lot of loving. This year this much-lauded boutique music festival returns to the lush landscaped lawns and gardens of Grange Farm in Cambridgeshire with a futuristic sci-fi theme dubbed “Episode XVII: A New Hope”. The 2023 lineup ranges from the Welsh electronic outfit Underworld to British indie legends The Libertines. Also on the bill is New Zealand’s Fat Freddy’s Drop, who always put on an energetic live performance with their unique mix of dub, reggae, soul, jazz, rhythm and blues, and techno. Other top draws for 2023’s Secret Garden Party include Róisín Murphy, 2MANYDJS, Leftfield, De La Soul, Peaches and Grandmaster Flash. Beyond the music, the creativity and costumes of attendees make this a beautiful event. The organizers of this year’s festival said: “We’re inviting you to dip bits of yourself into a romantic futurescape and shoot for the stars”. So put your creativity into overdrive and dive right in.
Dates: July 20–23, 2023 at Henham Park, Suffolk
So far the headliners announced for the 2023 Latitude festival include Pulp, Paolo Nutini and George Ezra. Best New Artist nomination at the 2023 Brits, pop-powerhouse Mimi Webb is also playing on the main stage along with much loved UK acts like Sophie Ellis-Bextor. British-Canadian actor and musician, Kiefer Sutherland is doing a set from his number 1 Americana album on the BBC Sounds stage. The comedy lineup this year includes Ed Gamble, Bridget Christie, Sara Pascoe and Romesh Ranganathan. As always, there will be poetry, podcasts and paddleboarding (don’t forget to pack your swimsuit, there’s wild swimming spots in this 4200 acre estate in the idyllic English countryside). And if you can’t afford a ticket or have no one to go with, there are volunteer positions through Hot Box Events to be part of the crew that help make this friendly, well-organized and hugely enjoyable summer festival happen.
Dates: July 27–30, 2023 at Malmesbury, Wiltshire
The brainchild of Peter Gabriel, the first WOMAD was held in the fields of England in 1982. Now staged annually in destinations as far-flung as Australia and Chile, this year’s UK festival lineup of world music features the Afrobeat dynamo Femi Kuti and his super sharp jazz-funk band the Positive Force. You’ll also hear one of the most recognizable voices in reggae, the lead vocalist with hip-hop collective Massive Attack, Horace Andy and the Dub Asante Band. Bombay Bicycle Club are performing a raft of their multi-dimensional tunes laced with folk and electronica, Kate Rusby will be singing English folk music, whilst the undisputed “queen of fado” Marisa dos Reis Nunes aka Mariza will leave no audience member unmoved with her powerful, soulful and emotive sound. Beyond the music, you can bask in the World of Wellbeing with wood-fired hot tubs, all-day yoga, and a bar serving alcohol-free cocktails and tonics, plus food from around the globe at Taste the World.
Dates: August 3–6, 2023 in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales
A non-profit low-impact festival, Green Gathering is “powered by sun, wind, people and passion for change”. Held over four days in Piercefield Park, Chepstow (about 30 minutes from Bristol or Cardiff), you’ll enjoy a musical lineup of around 100 local acts from solo singer-songwriters to radical punk bands, plus folk tunes, swing, dance, ska, reggae, cabaret and poetry.
But one of the best reasons to head to this award-winning festival is the information- and skills-sharing on everything to do with low-impact and off-grid living, including solar set-ups, traditional Greek windmills, health, healing, and permaculture. As well as music and workshops, there’s an abundance of activities for children including face painting, hula-hooping, upcycled crazy golf, and forest school experiments. Teens are often overlooked in the family-friendly festival space, but not here where there are workshops for 11–17 year olds plus music-making, trapeze, juggling, and grown-up crafts.
Dates: July 27–30, 2023 at Lulworth Castle in Dorset; and again 17–20 August 2023 in Weston Park, Shropshire
Fans of this super family-friendly multi award-winning festival have two chances to get away to Camp Bestival. At two locations, Dorset on the coast and Shropshire in the English countryside, both festivals have a similar offering: bell tents, fancy-dress parades, Cosmic Kids yoga, sound meditation and ice baths. Along with top musical acts (Grace Jones, The Kooks and Craig David among them), there is also plenty of comedy, theater, spoken word, talks and activities, plus a specially curated lineup of kids entertainment including The World’s Biggest Bouncy Castle, a pirate sandpit, junkyard-robot making, and a spectacular fireworks display. Curated by UK DJ, Rob da Bank, Camp Bestival is more like a “festi-holiday” for the whole family.
Dates: August 9–13, 2023 in Matterley Estate, Hampshire
Boomtown was started by a small team of young partygoers who wanted to put on a festival that brought to life underground music, art and theater culture. In 2023 the theme “Chapter II: the Twin Trail” is part of “an ongoing narrative with hundreds of characters roaming the streets, guiding the citizens through the labyrinth of adventures waiting to be discovered”. A truly creative festival, Boomtown doesn’t announce its headline acts until just before the five-day extravaganza kicks off. This is an immersive festival experience, building a makeshift city from scratch with roving performers from contortionists to mime artists and buskers, plus dance floors and pop-up sound systems playing every musical genre from reggae, roots, folk and world music to ska, metal, punk and gabber.
Boomtown also has a strong sustainability commitment with discounted tickets for public transport users, and a pledge to become completely circular by 2025, eliminating waste and reusing everything they can year-on-year including staging. Dan Graham, Creative Design Manager for Boomtown says: “A really exciting conversation has just started up this year about how we can build a solar farm around the outside of the festival. That’s going to be a massive step for us in moving from diesel energy into solar energy and powering the festival off the sun.”
All Points East & Field Day
Dates: August 18, 19 and 25, 26, 2023 at Victoria Park, London
All Points East (APE) has been a summer highlight since its inception four years ago. The quality of artists runs deep with established names, and those on the cusp of stardom, playing across multiple stages in this iconic London park. All Points East will be held over two weekends this August with uniquely curated lineups. This is a music festival for those who love to sleep in a proper bed – with no on-site camping options you’ll be walking, cycling or catching public transport home at night.
On Friday August 18 event headliner, and Britain’s most accomplished rapper, Stormzy curates a day of artists under the banner “This Is What We Mean”. On Saturday August 19, APE’s sister event, Field Day brings together some of electronic music’s most revered artists including Aphex Twin, Bonobo and Fever Ray at the same Victoria Park location. The following Friday August 25 APE’s headliner The Strokes will be joined by fellow iconic New Yorkers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, plus the electrifying Aussie punk outfit, Amyl and The Sniffers to name just a few of the acts confirmed so far. And on the Bank Holiday Monday, August 26, HAIM take over the main stage, along with the likes of Confidence Man, and Norwegian indie pop artist Girl in Red.
But wait, there’s more…
- British Summer Time (BST) in London’s Hyde Park is held over multiple dates in June and July with Guns N’ Roses, Pink, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band among the headliners in 2023.
- Black Deer brings Americana royalty to Eridge Park in Kent this June 2023, with headliners Pretenders joining Bonnie Raitt and Nathaniel Rateliff on a bill that includes Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and Calexico among others. Camping, smokehouse cooking, vintage motorcycles and activities just for “young folk” are all part of this unique festival experience.
- Love Supreme Jazz Festival is turning 10 in 2023. This acclaimed three-day event at Glynde Place, East Sussex is on June 30 to July 2. The lineup included Brit Award winner, Little Simz, plus Grace Jones leading a bill of global soul, jazz and R&B talent.
- Blue Dot takes over the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire for a weekend of science, music and ideas from July 20 to 23. Pavement are playing an exclusive show, plus you’ll catch Grace Jones, Roisin Murphy, Leftfield and Young Fathers.
- Wilderness always delivers a weekend of pure hedonism at Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire. Running from August 3 to 6 in 2023, The Chemical Brothers, Christine & The Queens, Sugababes and Fatboy Slim are among the big names playing, along with rising stars like Arlo Parks and Confidence Man.
- Connect returns after its debut at Edinburgh‘s Royal Highland Showgrounds, Scotland last year. The August 25 to 27 weekend lineup includes Primal Scream presenting Screamadelica, plus boygenius, Young Fathers, Franz Ferdinand, Public Service Broadcasting and Aussie outfit Confidence Man. Inexpensive children’s tickets and more camping options are on offer to make this an even more family-friendly affair this year.
- End of the Road at Larmer Tree Gardens near Blandford, Dorset on August 31 to September 3 has the Aussie indie rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Future Islands, Wilco, and American singer-songwriter Angel Olsen rounding off the summer. Tickets for this one are almost sold-out.
- Strawberries & Creem is taking a year off and returning in 2024 with its unique offering of hip-hop, grime, R&B, soul, reggae, house, drum & bass, dancehall and soca. Sign up online for information on the lineup and tickets as they’re announced.