Muddy’s 2021 Festival Guide: Oxon, Bucks & beyond
Are you ready to make some noise?! From opera weekends to 80s throwbacks to thumping chart-toppers, these are the festivals you need to know about this summer.
After more than a year of nothing but home comforts, we’re more than ready for a weekend of wet wipes, dry shampoo and partying with the masses.
Still need persuading? OK. Whatever your festival vibe – be it a classy picnic with wine tasting, or a damn good boogie with your besties, we’ve got a jam-packed festival season ahead of us, and there’s something for everyone…
ON OUR DOORSTEP
Chilfest, Tring, 23 – 24 July
Over the border into Herts, Chilfest is aiming to come back big after 2020’s fallow year. It’s all set to be quite a glossy affair: posh loos, sushi, and good wine to knock back as you boogie to tribute acts and 80s hits. Friday will be the tribute night: The Bootleg Beatles, Queen One Vision, Noasis and Tania Alboni’s Tribute to Amy Winehouse, among others. Then Saturday is a funky throwback to the 80s: Tony Hadley, Roland Gift of the Fine Young Cannibals, Leee John of Imagination, and Boney M’s Maizie Williams are just some of the familiar faces ready to light up the stage. Fluff those shoulder pads and get grooving. Tickets from £26.50.
English Wine and Food Festival, Wallingford, 10-11 July
Move over Bordeaux, it’s the Thames and Chilterns terroir that has tongues wagging and lips smacking in the wine world these days. Enter the English Wine and Food Festival, a two-day opportunity to taste, compare, and buy award-winning local wines, as well as tuck into perfectly-paired food from local producers. It’s safe to say we can think of worse ways to spend a weekend. Tickets from £8.
Standon Calling, Standon, 22-25 July
Over in Herts again, boutique music and arts festival, Standon Calling, is celebrating its 15th anniversary. It started life as an extravagant birthday garden party, only the party just kept getting bigger and bigger. This year’s line-up includes Bastille, Craig David, Hot Chip, and Primal Scream. Day ticket for £65, or weekend ones for £179.
Pennfest, Penn, 23-24 July
For a serene Bucks village, Penn really does manage to pull in an impressive line-up of rabel-rousers. Hello, Craig David, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, and Big Narstie! Other acts will include Razorlight, Ella Eyre, The Charlatans, and Ms Banks. Pitch up your tent in the scenic field next-door and get ready to party. Weekend tickets from £117.70.
Truck Festival, near Abingdon, 23-25 July
This veteran South Oxon festival in a farmer’s field, known to some as “The Godfather of the small festival scene”, hits all the right notes: family-friendly feel, good food, thumping indie tunes. Headlining this year are Bombay Bicycle Club, The Kooks, and Royal Blood among others. Tickets are sold out (sob) but you can sign up to the waiting list, or have a crack at making it big by applying as a band to play.
Wilderness Festival, Cornbury Park, 6-8 Aug
The most revered of the Oxfordshire festivals, Wilderness returns this summer for a four-day boutique experience. There will be music (line-up TBC, but names have been big in the past), long-table banquets, woodland parties, theatre, film, dance, and a pop up spa (well, we are in Oxfordshire). It’s generally a heady mix of right-on hippiness (yoga, skinny-dipping, hot hubs) and top-tier music. Tickets are now sold out, but you can still book camping arrangements if you’re lucky enough to have got your hands on one.
Henley Royal Regatta, 11-15 Aug
It’s a festival of sorts, and the best-known regatta in the world. Henley Regatta is back for five days of summer sporting frenzy and frightfully refined eating and drinking. Get yourself a fancy floppy hat, dig out the heels, and watch those boats go. Online ticket sale has now closed, but (insider tip!), if you hire out a boat, as long as you keep moving, you can watch the races from a prime spot on the river itself.
Waterperry Opera Festival, Near Wheatley, 12-21 Aug
Missed out on a bit of high culture over the past year of Netflix and tracky bums? You’ll want to get yourself tickets to an opera festival, darling. The 2021 line-up promises seven productions to enjoy over the ten days: The Elixir of Love (Donizetti), Hansel & Gretel (Humperdinck), Peter and the Wolf (Prokofiev), Ariel (Jonathan Dove), Clairières dans le ciel (Boulanger), On Wenlock Edge (Vaughan Williams), and The Quartet for the End of Time (Messiaen). There are also a series of young artist events and festival talks. Tickets for The Elixir of Love are £40 (or £25 for under-30s — think we could pass?), or from £8 for all other productions.
Retro Carfest, Bicester Heritage, 13-15 Aug
A whirlwind timewarp to the days when flares were wider, cocktails had umbrellas, and cars were cooler. Retro Carfest is a brand new family festival jam-packed with music, films, gadgets, cars and legends from the glory days. Hosted by Chris Evans and featuring other TV and radio favourites, the line-up includes Scouting for Girls and the Happy Mondays among others. Adult day tickets start at £74.
Blenheim Palace Food Festival, 20-22 Aug
A sizzling feast for all the senses: great food, great music, stunning location. Blenheim Palace Food Festival showcases the very best of produce from local and national stallholders, with something tempting for everyone. Festival entry is included with a Palace, Park and Gardens ticket.
The Big Feastival, near Kingham, 27-29 Aug
Another posh nosh extravaganza, and an unbeatable excuse to eat yourself silly. Hosted on the farm of cheese-obsessed Blur bassist Alex James, The Big Feastival promises top notch chefs, family fun and chart-topping artists: good food, and great music. The line-up this year includes DJ Sigala, Rag’n’Bone Man, Zara Larsson, and Tom Walker plus others. Adult day tickets from £82.
Pint-Sized Towersey, 27-30 Aug
Veteran folk celebration Towersey Festival (which, confusingly, is now held at Claydon Estate, rather than Towersey village) returns in a pint-sized form this year, but with zero compromise on fun. A smaller, Covid-safe version, there will be plenty of space and lots of activities: yoga, a circus, community singing, Tai Chi, and more. The line-up includes Steeleye Span, This is the Kit, and She Shanties among others. Join the waiting list for tickets here.
Foodies Festival Oxford, 28-30 Aug
The UK’s biggest food festival returns to Oxford South Parks over the Bank Holiday weekend, featuring MasterChef Champion Tom Rhodes. Get ready to eat, enjoy good music, learn new skills, and then eat some more. Adult tickets from £17.
BunkFest, Wallingford, 3-5 Sept
Get your beard growing now for BunkFest, a family folk festival of music, dance, and plenty of beer. Best of all? It’s completely free. Line-up TBC.
The Vache Baroque Festival, Chalfont St Giles, 3 / 5 Sept
Based at the stunning 15th-century Vache estate, this year The Vache Baroque Festival will be championing Handel’s pastoral opera Acis & Galatea. The grounds open from 3:30pm for picnicking, exploring, and drinks (FYI there’s a bar), where you can expect a few sound installations and pre-show pop-up performances. With everything we’ve collectively been through, a leisurely evening listening to classic tunes is just what the doctor ordered. Tickets from £35.
Dogfest, Knebworth House, 11-12 Sept
Over the border in Herts, Dogfest is back for a barking good time. There’s a big dog walk, a puppy academy, doggy wellness, and the chance to prove — once and for all — who’s the best boy, in one of the dog shows. Tickets from £35.
Henley Festival 15-19 Sept
Don’t forget your black tie and Champagne for this genteel shebang. Henley Festival is back for five days of fabulous fun, promising knockout performances from Madness, James Blunt, Sophie Ellis Bextor, and a rock and symphonic spectacular of Queen, Abba and Bee Gee’s fever. Tickets from £55.
Pub in the Park, Marlow, 16 – 19 Sept
Tom Kerridge’s popular gourmet-scran-meets-live-music fandango Pub in the Park returns to Higginson Park. Brand new for 2021 is a whole extra day of fun: things kick off on the Thursday rather than Friday. Tuck into top-level food and boogie along to the likes of Craig David, Jack Savoretti, Heather Small, and more. Adult tickets from £45.
Let’s Rock the Moor, Cookham, 2 Oct
Just over in Berks, Let’s Rock the Moor is a family-friendly, ‘80s-tastic one-dayer boasting the likes of UB40, Tony Hadley, ABC and Howard Jones. Fluff up your hair, slap on the eyeshadow, and get ready to rock. Adult tickets from £48.
HAVE WELLIES, WILL TRAVEL
Wireless Festival, London Finsbury Park, 2-4 July. (Line-up: Future, Skepta, Migos)
BST Hyde Park, London, 9-11 July. (Line-up: Pearl Jam, Pixies, Duran Duran, Nile Rodgers & Chic plus Grace Jones)
Latitude Festival, Suffolk, 22-25 July. (Line-up: Lewis Capaldi, Bastille, First Aid Kit and Snow Patrol)
Kaleidoscope Festival, London Alexandra Palace, 24 July. (Line-up: Groove Armada, The Coral, Norman Jay MBE, Greg Wilson)
Camp Bestival, Dorset, 29 July – 1 Aug. (Line-up: Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada, Becky Hill, Kelis)
All Points East, London Victoria Park, 27-30 Aug. (Line-up: Jamie XX, Kano, Tom Misch, Slowthai, Arlo Parks)
Edinburgh Summer Sessions, 6-15 Aug. (Line-up: DMA’s, Tom Jones, Michael Kiwanuka, Lionel Richie, Travis and Simple Minds)
Boardmasters, Cornwall, 11-15 Aug. (Line-up: Gorillaz, Foals, Lianne La Havas, The Kooks, Becky Hill)
Isle of Wight Festival, 16-19 Sept. (Line-up: Lionel Richie, Lewis Capaldi, Jess Glynn, Becky Hill, You Me At Six, Primal Scream, Snow Patrol)
Gone but not forgotten
Frogfest Lite, High Wycombe, 29-31 May
High Wycombe‘s biggest annual music festival returns in a Covid-safe manner as Frogfest Lite for the May bank holiday weekend, taking over the town centre. Now in its eighth year, the festival will still be serving up the cracking entertainment, live shows, and family fun we’ve learnt to expect, only tweaked for a slightly more chill vibe. Expect over five hours of acoustic local music each day, as well as plenty of craft markets, food vendors, and entertainers. There will also be a giant LED Screen positioned in Frogmoor broadcasting the best live acts as they happen. Free to attend.
Great British Food Festival, Sudeley Castle, 19-20 June
The Great British Food Festival comes to Sudely Castle in Glos, harking an array of tempting treats for gobbling, chef wizardry for goggling, live music for boogie-ing, and a mini zoo because — well, why not? If you fancy yourself a bit of a kitchen whizz yourself, enter the Cake Off for a chance at baking glory — and automatic free entry to the festival, of course. Tickets are otherwise £10.