Arts at festivals 2017: The best summer festivals for more than just music

Jessie Thompson
Sweet art: Wilderness Festival offers art, culture, food and debate in beautiful surroundings

It's time to buy a new pair of wellies: festival season is on its way.

If you love being in the great outdoors but want more than just music, we've rounded up the best festivals to head to for arts, culture, film, or just a bit of brain food.


Latitude is the go-to place if you want a festival offering a bit of everything. Many theatre companies and comedians test run their material there before heading up to Edinburgh Fringe so it’s the chance to see the big hits before anyone else. This year just a few of the treats on offer include BalletBoyz performing on the Waterfront stage and Simon Amstell and Katherine Ryan at the comedy stage, with tons more yet to be announced.

July 13-16, Henham Park, Suffolk;

Festival No. 6

This cultural feast in Portmeirion has a cracking music line-up, including Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. But there’s plenty more on offer, with Irvine Welsh one of the big literary names appearing, and Maxine Peake curating her own literary parlour.

September 7-10, Portmeirion;

Port Eliot

This picturesque estate on the Cornwall coast hosts a festival of music and arts every year in truly magical surroundings. There’s plenty to make your body and soul happy, with tents dedicated to your wellbeing, but the literary line-up is where it’s at. This year it includes previous Bailey’s Prize winner Eimear McBride, photographer Martin Parr and novelist Michele Roberts.

July 27-30, St Germans, Cornwall;


This sensory retreat in Oxfordshire offers genuinely delicious food as well as brain food. This year there will be long-table banquets from Yotam Ottolenghi as well as performances from Sadler’s Wells and Company Wayne McGregor. You can catch an NT Live screening of Amadeus, roundtable debates, and fringe theatre shows in a beautiful woodland setting.

August 3-6, Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire;

In the Woods

This festival takes place at a secret woodland location in Kent, and it’s a pretty intimate soiree with a capacity of just 1000. It hooks in great names on the music front (Laura Marling, Kate Tempest and Alt-J have previously played), but it is also full of art installations, pop up cinemas showing arthouse films, yoga retreats, and spoken word delivered through a silent disco.

September 1-2,

Also Festival

This weekend of ideas and music in Warwickshire is just what you need if you fancy a workout for your brain as well as a boogie. There will be talks on philosophy, scented yoga, wild swimming, book boutiques, glow in the dark croquet, and plenty of other fun shenanigans. It’s going to be the place to be if you want to escape for a few days and have some fun and relaxation.

30 June - July 2, Park Farm, Warwick;

Electric Picnic

Described by some as “the Glastonbury of Ireland”, Electric Picnic offers more than just music (although this year it counts The XX, Duran Duran and Chaka Khan amongst its storming line-up). There’s more than just great music though, with spoken word, comedy and other arts acts yet to be announced.

September 1-3, Stradbelly Hall, Ireland;

Green Man

It’s hard to imagine a more stunning spot for a festival than the Brecon Beacons, and Green Man has a great line-up for anyone looking to escape for a chilled weekend. The line-up so far includes Ryan Adams, Kate Tempest and The Shins, but there will also be comedy and literature, with most still to be announced, but Josie Long and Rob Deering are already signed up to perform.

August 17-20, Brecon Beacons, Wales;

End of the Road

Most of the line-up has yet to be announced, but this Dorset Festival’s woodland library will return, with a host of literary talent. There will also be films and comedy, and Father John Misty has already been announced as one of the acts heading the music stages.

August 31 - September 3, Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset;


Bestival is always a great excuse for anyone to get creative and come up with some amazing (preferably sparkly) outfits for the three days. There’s a new theme each year, with people encouraged to dress up, and everyone gets on board (this year’s theme is colour). As well as a line-up that includes The XX, Dizzee Rascal and Johnny Flynn, there’s the People’s Front Room. Styled as a psychedelic 19th century salon, it will feature creative performances in a relaxed environment.

September 7-10, Bestival;