Field of dreams: the best music festivals still available to book
Big hitters such as Glastonbury may be sold out but – from an Afrobeats party in Portugal to Lil Wayne in a Cambridge orchard – there’s a huge variety of outdoor events out there to brighten your summer
Portable toilets and pop-up tents, the heady mix of mud and glitter … there is no form of entertainment we’ve missed more during the pandemic than the Great British music festival. It’s no surprise that we are champing at the bit for our first “normal” festival season since 2019, clamouring to catch up on two years’ worth of unmissable live acts. Many of the summer’s hottest tickets are already sold out – Glastonbury, Creamfields, Reading and Leeds, Green Man and more – but from picturesque three-day family adventures to vibrant inner-city delights, here are the festivals worth booking for 2022 …
Best for … massive names
Strawberries & Creem
Very few people had “Lil Wayne returning to the UK after 14 years for an exclusive festival performance in a Cambridge orchard” on their 2022 bingo card, but if that sentence excites you, start packing for Strawberries & Creem 2022. If you need more of a reason, the rest of the lineup is equally stacked, featuring heavyweights such as Tion Wayne, Ghetts, Mabel, Ms Banks, Tems, Katy B and High Contrast, plus a takeover by Notting Hill carnival.
17 to 19 June, Childerley Orchard, Cambridge
With a poster that looks like a mosher’s diary in 2002, the French festival Hellfest pulls out all the stops this year. Legacy acts across classic rock, punk, hardcore, doom metal, screamo and more rub shoulders on a lineup that spans the Offspring and Megadeth to Envy and L7, with enough new blood thrown in (Knocked Loose, Code Orange, Higher Power) to feel as vital as ever. No matter how you like your riffs in the morning, this lot have you covered.
17 to 19 & 23 to 26 June, Clisson, France
Wireless has also expanded this year, from three days at Finsbury Park to two weekends with three different lineups in three different locations: London’s Crystal Palace (A$AP Rocky, J Cole, Tyler, the Creator) and Finsbury Park (Cardi B, SZA, Nicki Minaj), and Birmingham (Dave, Cardi B, J Cole). With icons such as Little Simz, Popcaan, City Girls and D-Block Europe filling the days, each weekend has something slightly different but equally immense to offer. Good luck choosing between them.
1 to 3 July, Crystal Palace Park, London; 8-10 July, Finsbury Park, London; Outdoor at NEC, Birmingham
Rock the Park
This Wrexham weekender seemed to come out of absolutely nowhere with a lineup that has somehow flawlessly hit the niche but thriving intersection of ironic millennials and lager dads. What’s unique about this festival is that it features one day of commercial dance legends such as Scooter, Cascada, Darren Styles, Vengaboys and Ultrabeat followed by two days of predominantly heavy metal tribute acts. Highly unusual but extremely fun vibes; in many ways the perfect 2022 event.
5 to 7 August, Boras Hall Lane, Wrexham
All Points East
So you thought you’d “wait and see how things go with the pandemic” before committing to international travel and now you don’t have tickets to Barcelona’s brilliant but sold-out Primavera Sound. Not to worry! London’s All Points East may not have guaranteed 19+C weather and mojitos on tap, but it does have many of the same huge headliners: Gorillaz, Tame Impala, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the National, not to mention Saturday’s Field Day, with Chemical Brothers and Kraftwerk … throw on some flip-flops, say “por favor” while ordering your six pints of Red Stripe and you’ll more or less get the same experience.
19, 20, 25 to 28 August, Victoria Park, London
Best for … families
And they’re off! Wychwood is an early highlight of high summer music festival season, reconfiguring Cheltenham Racecourse into an all-ages, multifaceted event designed to allow anyone with offspring in tow to let their hair down (it helps, perhaps, that the whole site is so flat). Kitchen disco queen Sophie Ellis-Bextor heads up the 2022 runners and riders; coinciding with jubilee weekend will probably add to the celebratory vibe.
3 to 5 June, Cheltenham Racecourse
Doune the Rabbit Hole
This long-running independent Scottish festival is now well established at the Cardross Estate amid the sheep-filled hills of Stirlingshire. This year’s bill includes some rock veterans who have long inspired cult fandom – notably Patti Smith, Belle and Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub – but the event is welcoming to all ages, with a dedicated family field curated by the Kidding Around collective. Unlike many other festivals, under-12s get in free.
14 to 17 July, Cardross Estate, nr Stirling
The self-proclaimed “family festi-holiday” curated by wife-and-husband team Josie and Rob da Bank has long been a July fixture at Lulworth Castle in Dorset. This year it expands with an August offshoot taking place at Weston Park, Shropshire. The acts may vary across the two bills (burly crooner Rag’n’Bone Man plays both) but the focus on kid-friendly fun is consistent, particularly in the fun-filled Wild Tribe zone.
28 to 31 July, Lulworth Castle, Dorset; 18 to 21 August, Weston Park, Shropshire
Deer Shed festival
Situated in Baldersby Park in North Yorkshire, Deer Shed is a welcoming arts, music and science festival that aims for the cross-generational appeal of a Pixar movie. The quality of acts featured – including John Grant and Self Esteem – is impressive enough, but the wider programme is teeming with activities for all ages, including a Wilderwild area to learn about nature or just chill out.
29 to 31 July, Baldersby Park, Topcliffe
The Big Feastival
For those about to roquefort: the music and foodie blowout staged at Alex James’s Cotswolds cheese farm is high-profile enough to secure the really big names. Which is why, along with headliners such as Anne-Marie, there will also be a personal appearance by beloved kids TV pup star Bluey. It’s just part of a wide-ranging, family-friendly menu that includes cookery workshops for little chefs and celebrity-read bedtime stories.
26 to 28 August, Kingham, nr Chipping Norton
Best for … new music
Liverpool’s Sound City celebrates its 15th anniversary with headline slots from Self Esteem and the Lathums, and plenty more acts besides across emerging indie, pop and alt-folk. It’s real selling point is its conference events, introducing you to new artists while also giving you the inspirational pointers to think about becoming one yourself. Go all out and make a long weekend of it – it’s a bank holiday after all.
30 April to 1 May, various venues, Liverpool
The Great Escape
For those who like to boast about early adoption, it doesn’t come much better than Brighton’s Great Escape. A new-music trainspotter’s paradise, it showcases more than 400 artists from around the globe, and has earned a reputation as a serious industry networking event, with acts being signed and spotlighted on the strength of their live buzz. Current must-sees include Denise Chaila, Sipho and Yard Act, but you’ll need to get down early; those hot-ticket rooms fill up fast.
11 to 14 May, various venues, Brighton
A two-dig shindig in Brockwell Park, south London, Wide Awake has the scale of a traditional field festival, but the intimacy of a closely curated lineup. Primal Scream will provide the familiar headline hits, but otherwise it’s a veritable feast of newbie names who make music that sits a little adjacent to the mainstream: Floating Points, Chubby and the Gang, Faye Webster, Fatoumata Diawara. A strong focus on environmental sustainability marks it out as promisingly conscious event, in keeping with its innovative ethos.
27 & 28 May, Brockwell Park, London
Live at Leeds
Having rejigged its post-pandemic approach, Live at Leeds is now an umbrella brand for two events: a traditional park-based festival (taking place on 4 June, with Bombay Bicycle Club headlining), and the multivenue approach we all know and love. The inner-city version takes place in October, allowing you to pound the Yorkshire pavement without the risk of sunburn or inadvertent exposure to a lukewarm overpriced pint. Start at the Brudenell Social Club, and work backwards into the city centre; acts are TBC, but venue curation is always on pointe.
4 June, Temple Newsam; 15 October, various venues, Leeds
Taking place at Margate’s Dreamland after a successful trial run in 2019, Leisure festival returns for 2022 with its new and improved boutique focus. Seeking to champion new artists and inclusive gender parity, it’s already making good with a selection of indie’s best and brightest: Mitski, Soccer Mommy, Nilüfer Yanya, Sorry, HighSchool and L’Rain. Check out some new names, and then hit the Roller Disco – it’s a contemporary twist on quintessential British seaside holiday.
24 June, Dreamland, Margate
Best for … lively atmospheres
A festival that actively embraces the life-changing magic of getting dressed up, Mighty Hoopla is a rare event that treats pop music with the reverence it deserves, creating a haven for the LGBTQIA+ community. Cascada, Booty Luv, Anastacia and Sugababes will be bringing the nostalgia, while Jessie Ware, Big Freedia and Confidence Man stake their claim as future-forward entertainers. Catch us down the front for Romeo & Lisa Maffia, the stuff of true millennial dreams.
3 & 4 June, Brockwell Park, London
It is a truth universally known that metalheads are among the friendliest of music fans, which makes Download a real treat for those looking to foster a bit of campsite camaraderie. The headliners are perhaps a little uninspired at this point (Kiss, Iron Maiden, Biffy Clyro), but further down the list there are some great new names to be found: Static Dress, Yonaka, Loathe and Drag Race’s very own Bimini will all bring a fresh take on alt-rock.
10 to 12 June, Donington Park, Castle Donington
Taking place in sunny Madrid, Mad Cool 2022 more than makes up for its pandemic fallow year with a veritable feast of heavy-hitters and breakout stars: Metallica, Stormzy, Florence + the Machine, Phoebe Bridgers, Sam Fender. There’s a reason many UK acts cite it as one of their favourites to play: the diverse lineup and warm weather come together to create a vibe that feels a little like an overseas Glastonbury, with a site that is much more conveniently compact.
6 to 10 July, Madrid, Spain
The Beat-Herder festival
A fan favourite in the strongest sense, Beat-Herder is a festival that draws back the same down-to-earth crowds year on year, irrespective of that year’s chosen musical roster. If you’re into your dance music and don’t mind pulling some serious all-nighters, get your ticket booked; those famed 4am karaoke sessions at the onsite Working Men’s Club need to be seen to be believed.
14 to 17 July, Dockber Farm, Sawley, nr Clitheroe
Fancy surrendering yourself to four days of decadence in a long-forgotten Lincolnshire forest? Putting the capital E in Experience, Lost Village caters to those who like their festivals to have a strong conceptual focus, blending music, food, comedy and wellbeing workshops in an immersive setting. It’s well established but still small enough to feel special, and you’ll leave with a much stronger sense of self … or at very least, a particularly impressive hangover.
25 to 28 August, nr Newark
Best for … genre-hoppers
Billed as a festival of “adventurous” music and interdisciplinary performance, the Dutch Rewire has a broad programme steered more by a state of mind than anything else. On the bill you’ll find acts such as Grouper, Jenny Hval and the Bug alongside lesser-known and emerging names, plus a range of club nights, installations, talks, screenings and more unfolding in concert halls, theatres, churches, night clubs, galleries and public spaces across The Hague.
7 to 10 April, The Hague, Netherlands
It’s a big year for Afrobeats in Portugal, with both Rolling Loud and Afro Nation bringing their festivals to the Algarve for 2022. With previous events in Ghana and Puerto Rico, Afro Nation has the accolade of being the world’s biggest festival focused on Afrobeats, dancehall, bashment, R&B and hip-hop. With Burna Boy, Wizkid, Beenie Man and Pa Salieu in the lineup and a site on the Praia da Rocha beach that looks like a Tui brochure come to life, it’s clear why.
1 to 3 July, Portimão, Portugal
2000 Trees is to punk-leaning rock what Green Man is to folk-leaning rock and indie: a perfect mid-sized festival serving a blend of household and underground names and community vibes. Held in the Cotswold Hills, this year’s lineup boasts Jimmy Eat World, Thrice, Laura Jane Grace and Turnstile plus a stack of UK darlings such as Idles, Chubby and the Gang and Mclusky. A great time for those of us still dedicated to skinny jeans.
7 to 9 July, Upcote Farm, Withington, nr Cheltenham
As far as music, art and dance festivals go, Glastonbury might have the monopoly on the extremes of wholesomeness and hedonism, but Womad is the king of eclecticism. More than 150 artists from 50 countries will make their way to Charlton Park, including the Flaming Lips, Fatoumata Diawara and Greentea Peng, while this year’s free workshop programme offers everything from Brazilian folkloric dance to Palestinian singing to Iyengar yoga. The phrase “something for everyone” was never more apt.
28 to 31 July, Charlton Park, nr Malmesbury
We Out Here
If you’re looking for somewhere to listen to Brazilian jazz-funk but also partake in wild swimming and a roller disco, We Out Here has all of that and then some. Curated and organised by Gilles Peterson, the Cambridgeshire festival is a lifesize celebration of all the underground club music pies the legendary DJ has had his fingers in over the years, bringing together young and pioneering artists across soul, hip-hop, house, afro, electronica and beyond. And before you ask, yes, there will be “crisp sound and production”.
25 to 28 August, Abbots Ripton, nr Huntingdon
Best for … epic scenery
Staged among the copses of Feanedock – a 70-acre woodland on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border – Timber is an eco-shindig of music, art and ideas where the national forest setting is the star. While the diverse three-day programme is all about raising natural awareness with storytelling, hands-on workshops and environmental art, there is also the primal attraction of raving it up in a secluded magical dell.
1 to 3 July, Feanedock, nr Ashby de la Zouch
Belladrum Tartan Heart festival
Dramatic Highland hills, towering trees and endless Scottish skies are just part of the appeal of Tartan Heart, hosted at the Belladrum Estate west of Inverness. The 2022 theme of “myths and legends” should make this much-loved and fiercely independent fest feel even more transportive, helped by an eclectic musical guest list that includes Nile Rodgers, Emeli Sandé and Passenger alongside some of the best traditional folk musicians in the country.
28 to 30 July, Belladrum, nr Inverness
Mounting your event in the Lake District feels like a cheat code for accessing natural beauty, but the bucolic Kendal Calling has always done things a little differently (such as offering Tim Burgess the use of a log cabin to make his Tim Peaks Diner concept a reality). Pandemic interference meant that the festival missed its official 15th anniversary in 2020 but the 2022 edition seems determined to make up for it.
28 to 31 July, Lowther Deer Park, nr Penrith
Taking place on the banks of Chew Valley Lake nine miles south of Bristol, this boutique-sized celebration of music and local food – hosted by a friendly farmer who likes to joke “get on my land” – offers an easygoing vibe and wondrous views of the limestone Mendip Hills, officially an area of outstanding natural beauty. Highlights on the Lake Stage include Clean Bandit, Travis and the Dolly Show, the UK’s best Dolly Parton impersonator.
4 to 7 August, Chew Magna, nr Bristol
Surf culture is at the heart of Newquay’s bodacious Boardmasters festival, a five-day hybrid event that boasts its own beach. While hanging out at the laid-back surf and skate village that sprouts up on Fistral Beach is appealing, the main Watergate Bay site also provides a striking backdrop for musical guests. Kings of Leon, Disclosure and Damian Marley are among the artists hoping to make waves this year.
10 to 14 August, Watergate Bay & Fistral Beach, Newquay