'Tis the season for drinking too much cider and getting sunburnt in a field under the guise of being a live music fan. Here's our pick of the best local music festivals. See you down the front!
Who fancies getting their rocks off at a music festival? ‘Course you do! Our neck of the woods punches above its weight on that front, and many of them are brilliantly family-friendly (so maybe not so much getting off of one’s rocks in that case, ahem.) What’s more, unlike the biggies such as Glastonbury which sell out in seven seconds, these local mega-gigs all still have some tickets available, at time of writing at least. So, in chronological order, here’s where you’ll find Muddy decked out in daisy chains, denim hot pants and wellies this summer…
Chilfest, Tring, Herts, Fri 6 – Sat 7 July
Do you <heart> the ’80s? Get yourself down to Chilfest, now in its fifth year rolling out retro hits across the Chiltern Hills. This year local chap and all-round good bloke Tony Hadley headlines on the Friday, complete with a 35-piece orchestra and soulful guest vocals from Gabrielle (eyepatches at the ready!), Alison Limerick and Mica Paris. Don’t get too excited down the front and break Through The Barricades though, will you? (Young people, that’s a joke for Spandau Ballet fans.) Then on Saturday, Marc Almond, Kim Wilde, Nick Heyward and Go West will be squeezing back into their leather trousers. Tickets are from £39 for an adult day ticket up to £219 for a weekend family job. Step away from the tent pegs though – there’s no camping on site (which is a blessing in disguise sometimes, no?)
Into The Wild Festival, Hounslow Hall Estate, Bucks, Fri 6 – Sun 8 July
No kids allowed at this intimate and upmarket offering where the vibe is a weekend long party with great food, drinks and music on a secluded estate with a lake and forest. Weekend tickets including camping are £60 or you ramp it up to £275 for a glamorous bell tent that sleeps 6. There are booking and parking fees too so check the small print. You’re unlikely to have heard of any of the bands (we certainly hadn’t) but it looks like a varied lot with The Electric Swing Circus (electro swing?), Beans on Toast (folk singing) and Uncle Frank (one third of The Fun Lovin’ Criminals) providing some of the music on offer.
Irregular Folks , TOAD Distillery, South Park, Oxford, Sat 7 – Sun 8 July
As the name suggests, this a quirky, boundary-breaking music and arts mini-fest with a music tent and the ‘odditorium’ with speakers and short films, a bit of comedy and drunken drawing. It all takes place at The Oxford Artisan Distillery (distillers of handmade spirits, including gin, vodka and whiskey). Sounds perfect to us! Live in the music tent are Bas Jan, Bellatrix (solo), Alabaster de Plume, Jon Ouin, A L I C E, Despicable Zee, Sephine Llo and Tony Njoku. Tickets are £20 in advance, £30 on the door. Over 16s only.
Henley Festival, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, Wed 11 – Sun 15 July
Put your Daisy Dukes away, this is a strictly black tie affair. Well, it is Henley, darlings. This massive five day bash is chocka with live music, contemporary arts, comedy (Paul Merton, Mark Watson, Rob Brydon, Lucy Watson), street theatre and food glorious food, with 12 restaurants and nine bars. Rita Ora, Grace Jones, Nile Rodgers and The English National Opera are among the headliners, plus there’s the massively popular Family Sunday. Renowned local chef Paul Clerehugh and his team from London Street Brasserie, Reading are running a pop-up in the Spiegeltent – and even more spiffing, mention Muddy Stilettos for a free flute of champagne. Never say we don’t look after you, dear readers! Family tickets start at a reasonable £35 but this only allows you to wander around the event and hear the concerts. To see the floating concert stage you need to buy lawn (from £55 to £110) or grandstand (undercover) tickets from £70 to £130.
Truck Festival, Hill Farm, Didcot Junction, Fri 20 – Sun 22 July
If you’re after something less fancy schmancy, Truck Festival is one of the UK’s longest running and most popular boutique festivals, and nothing to do with HGVs. There are big indie names aplenty, with Friendly Fires, George Ezra, Courteeners, Editors, Jake Bugg, Everything Everything headlinging, alongside local luminaries, The Oxford Symphony Orchestra. There are six music tents and stages but I’ll be heading off to the Palm City dance venue with its big name DJs (still tba) and surreal art installations. Weekend tickets start from £110 (children go free with any paying adult) and you can add on glamping from £99.
Penn Fest, The Big Park, Penn, Bucks, Sat 20 – Sun 21 July
For a diddy Bucks village, Penn punches above its weight when it comes to its headliners, and it’s another stonking line-up this year. Roots Manuva and Mel C (but not performing together, shame) are booked, alongside rapper Example and Gabrielle Aplin. Penn Fest’s always strong on indie rock (often with a strong ’90s vibe) – voilà Manic Street Preachers, Feeder and Badly Drawn Boy. And I predict a riot with the appearance of Kaiser Chiefs. There’s lots for children too, including creative workshops, street entertainers, performers and a circus workshop. Tickets from £45 but going fast.
Wilderness, Cornbury Park, Oxon, Thurs 2 – Sun 5 Aug
Possibly the coolest local festival of them all, here there’s a heady mix of right-on hippiness (think yoga, skinny-dipping and hot tubs) combined with great music from the likes of Bastille, Nile Rodgers and Chic and Groove Armada. Plus The Flying Seagulls, Mortimer Nannies and The Artful Badgers Breakfast Boogie to keep the kids happy. A few years back, my daughter ended up in tears after clocking a ‘real’ mermaid flicking her tail on a rowing boat – she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to ditch the family and go live with her magical new friend. That’s Wilderness for you! Pricing: Child 0 – 5 years £5, Junior 6 – 12 years £35, Teen 13 – 17 years £115, Adults from £179 upwards, with all sorts of camping options to be had.
Cornbury Music Festival, Great New Park, Oxon, Fri 13 – Sun 15 August
There’s eclectic music across four stages, including Amy MacDonald, Squeeze, UB40, Alanis Morissette , plus top notch comedians like Katy Brand and Phil Wang at this civilised festival that prides itself on being quintessentially English. Think country fair with a rock’n’roll twist. Children’s workshops, a fairground, therapy zone and disco shed are the tip of the iceberg with roaming entertainers and a huge range of great food and drinks, including this year The Hairy Bikers’ Pop Up Wood Fired Restaurant Adventure. Pricing: from £180 (adults) to £30 (small children). Scenic campsites are dotted among the estate’s rolling hills.
The Big Feastival, Alex James’ Farm near Kingham, Oxon, Fri 24 – Sun 26 August
This posh nosh extravaganza from cheese-obsessed Blur bassist Alex James hosts top chefs including Marco Pierre White, Raymond Blanc, Pierre Koffmann, Ashley Palmer Watts, and music from Professor Green, Clean Bandit, Paloma Faith, Basement Jaxx, James Arthur and Tom Odell. Prices: Day tickets from £69.90 (adult), £45.25 (teens), with under 12s going free. Weekend tickets are from £159.50 for adults. There’s various camping options with glamping bolt-ons and lots of fun for the kiddos too including appearances by Paddington, Peppa Pig & George and Justin Fletcher (of Mr Tumble fame) plus a creche for under 5s provided by Nipperbout.
Towersey Festival, Thame, Oxon, Fri 24 – Mon 27 August
Start cultivating your beard now and dig out your ukulele for this increasingly popular long-running folk fest in the second year of its new, bigger home at Thame Showground. The Shires, The Proclaimers, Beth Orton, Big Country, and The Sharon Shannon Band headline, while you pick your way amongst the alternative handicraft and crystal stalls and the kids learn circus skills, yoga, and rock climbing. Adult weekend passes are from £129, day passes £40 adults, 12 -17 years £28, 5-11 years £18.
Swanbourne Music Festival, Swanbourne, Bucks, Sun 26 August
It’s only the second year for this August Bank Holiday village knees-up but they’ve managed to nab big-name perky pop act, Scouting For Girls, as their headliner. Bravo! Organized by the Betsey Wynne pub, the one-dayer takes place in a pretty field near Milton Keynes and is a great alternative mini-festival if you’re not up for crowds and camping. Tickets are £24 for adults, £14.50 for under 16s, and free for under 10s.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
The Gap Festival, Streatley & Goring, Oxon, Fri 14 – Sun 16 June
Before we transcend into the festival mosh pit, let’s take a peek at this 4 days of fabulousness combining live music, comedy, art workshops, talks and family activities. Check out well-know celebs like Joe Swift on how to make a Chelsea Gold garden on Fri 14 (tickets £20) and soul queen Mica Paris on Sat 15 (tickets £33) both in the Festival Marquee. Or you could trot along to see talented 2016 Funny Women Award winner Harriet Braine giving her comic history of art lesson in song, amble round the open gardens or try a drumming workshop. If you can’t wait till then, check out the fringe festival from Sat Jun 9 to Wed Jun 13 – think live music in local pubs, art workshops, kids’ drama club and a Wind in the Willows day at Withymead Nature Reserve. Lots of these are free or a snip at £5.
Beacon Festival, near Watlington, Oxon, Sat 15 – Sun 16 June
A tribute band bonanza, Watlington Hill Farm offers great views over the Oxon countryside at this family-friendly festival, with under 16s going free and adult weekend passes a steal at £39.50. Four stages and over 60 acts means there’s great choice but you’re not overwhelmed. A kids’ zone and well-being area (bring on the massage) plus the usual food and drink stalls (real ale is king here) complement covers galore from Paramore (or less), Sultans on Swings and the Killeaz (gotta love tribute acts’ cheesy band names). Camping is available on site at £20 for a family group or £10 per person.