Give it some welly: the 30 best UK music festivals still available to book

Best for big names

8 to 11 June, Leicestershire
For its 20th edition, the biggest name in metal fests is getting going a day early on the Thursday, giving Metallica the chance to headline twice (with completely different sets) over the same weekend. Friday night sees Bring Me the Horizon make the step they’ve been preparing for since getting a major-label deal, but the draw of Download has always been its total immersion in metal, not just the headliners. Michael Hann

7 to 9 July, Glasgow
Fellas from across the generations head up Glasgow’s TRNSMT, with Pulp taking up the elder statesmen position while the 1975 and Sam Fender will be doing their bit for the Gen Z crowd. Blokey headliners aside (Pulp’s Candida Doyle, we thank you for your service), there’s fun of all pop-adjacent varieties from Dream Wife, Ashnikko, the Big Moon and Becky Hill, while girl group of the moment Flo face their biggest test to date: seeing how their zingy sound translates to the festival stage. Leonie Cooper

7 to 9 July, London
Back to a singular weekend in north London’s Finsbury Park for 2023, Wireless is still the UK’s go-to destination for hip-hop and R&B. This year, it has pulled out four UK festival exclusives: headliners Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, D-Block Europe and 50 Cent won’t be performing anywhere else, offering solid bang for your TikTok-streaming buck. Another big draw is the improved presence of women on the lineup; Glorilla, Flo and Ice Spice are unlikely to be playing in such early festival slots for long. Jenessa Williams

20 to 23 July, Suffolk
Not only does Latitude feature ruddy-cheeked Radio 2 fave George Ezra, brooding Scottish troubadour Paolo Nutini and returning Britpop dandies Pulp as its musical headliners, it has also gathered together some top-notch comedy in the shape of Ed Gamble, Bridget Christie, Sara Pascoe and Romesh Ranganathan. If you’re feeling a bit squiffy on the Sunday there is also an afternoon orchestral performance to look forward to from Manchester greats James. Michael Cragg

Reading & Leeds
25 to 27 August, Reading and Leeds
With both sites now featuring two main stages – billed as east and west – this messy, summer bank holiday, pre-university blowout has even more space for music’s big guns. While – deep breath – the Killers, Lewis Capaldi, Billie Eilish, Imagine Dragons, Sam Fender and Foals sit at the top of the bill in the biggest fonts, they’re ably supported by a clutch of next-gen headliners such as Wet Leg and Rina Sawayama. MC


Best for family fun

Bearded Theory
25 to 28 May, Derbyshire
Proudly independent and with absolutely no sponsorship or branding anywhere on site – for one weekend you shall be free from the tyranny of Oatly/Red Bull/insert other overbearing marketing campaigns – Bearded Theory offers a true getaway from modern capitalism. Sure, preteens may shrug with indifference at headliners Interpol, Primal Scream and the Pretenders, but they’ll be endlessly entertained by the Children’s Village, which includes a “festival school” that’s previously hosted such delights as PE classes from Derby County FC. LC

Camp Bestival
27 to 30 July, Dorset; 17 to 20 August, Shropshire
Not so much a festival as a family entertainment bazaar for campers, Camp Bestival pioneered the concept of the festival at which Dick and Dom are as important to the lineup as this year’s Dorset headliner, Grace Jones. For the grownups, expect a bit of nostalgia, some cool current stuff, and – for Shropshire attenders only – the extreme grindcore stylings of Napalm Death. MH

Deer Shed
28 to 31 July, North Yorkshire
Nestled in the Yorkshire Dales, Deer Shed has quietly grown into one of the UK’s most smartly curated and best-value summer events. Headliners the Comet Is Coming, Public Service Broadcasting and the Delgados will entertain the hipster parents, but Deer Shed really comes into its own with its fancy dress themes, family-friendly workshops and sports activities, ranging from sock wrestling and kayaking to AI-themed album artwork creation. Kids under two go free, and an under-15s weekend ticket is a reasonable £77. JW

Stowaway festival
18 to 20 August, Buckinghamshire
Adults seem almost like an afterthought at Buckinghamshire’s relentlessly active Stowaway, which couldn’t be any more appealing to kids if it had an indoor soft play centre hosted by Peppa Pig. The majestic Kid’s Kingdom boasts a roller disco, tree climbing, a vintage funfair, paddleboarding, circus workshops and a host of hyperactive entertainers in glitter and faux fur who’ll take your children off your hands while you snooze away to funk and soul great Roy Ayers’ farewell tour set. LC

The Big Feastival
25 to 27 August, Oxfordshire
You want bucolic? The Big Feastival will throw bucolic at you (it lists its location as: “Alex James’s farm, the Cotswolds”). Here – as the name suggests – the chefs fight it out with the bands and the kids’ entertainers for top billing. Not one for the real ale enthusiast with a penchant for post-rock, but very much the event for those with the desire for music to be the setting rather than the purpose for their weekend. And maybe you’ll get to meet Jeremy Clarkson! MH


Best for going hard

10 & 11 June, Manchester
For those who thrive off the buzz of a packed crowd, Parklife offers a rammed roster of dance, alt-pop and mainstream-adjacent curios. Hometown heroes the 1975 will headline on the Sunday, but huge crowds are also anticipated for Fred Again, Slowthai, Eliza Rose and Skrillex, topped off by a vibrant roster of DJs late into the night. Just remember to get that taxi booked in advance: it’s a long walk back into town on worn-out dancer’s feet if you can’t squeeze on the tram. JW

21 to 23 July, Sheffield
Although its origins as a free, community-focused event are in the past, Tramlines retains a strong northern identity (this year’s headliners are Richard Ashcroft, the Courteeners and Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott). It’s an expertly judged mix of the very familiar and the just-unusual-enough to mean both the daytime radio listeners and music snobs will find something to interest them. MH

3 to 6 August, Oxfordshire
Billed as “a weekend of escapism, high jinks and wholesome hedonism”, this dance-leaning festival nestled in a big park in Oxfordshire is ripe for forgetting all about real life. You can dance like no one’s watching to headliners the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, submit yourself to Christine and the Queens’ delicious art-pop, or party like it’s 2002 to the re-formed Sugababes. There’s even a wellbeing area for when you need to come back down to earth. MC

We Out Here
10 to 14 August, Dorset
DJ and broadcaster Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here festival has grown at a rapid pace. While its debut edition in 2019 played as a small-scale celebration of the UK jazz scene and its intersections with club culture, 2023’s event boasts an expanded new site in Dorset and international names across genres. It is a weekend for the jazz technicians and all-night ravers alike, featuring performances from spiritual jazz pioneers Sun Ra Arkestra and Paris-via-Chicago drummer Makaya McCraven, as well as fast-paced DJ sets from LTJ Bukem, Goldie and Roni Size. Ammar Kalia

All Points East
18, 19, 25 & 28 August, London
City day festivals always feel ripe for big blowouts: you’ve got more energy, you’re not preoccupied by the threat of your tent washing away, and smaller sites make it easier to link up with pals. All Points East, which is split over two weekends, features a typically exuberant crowd descending oneast London’s Victoria Park, and is this year headlined by indie-disco favourites the Strokes, the impeccably choreographed Haim, and fast-becoming-headline-veteran Stormzy. MC


Best boutique festivals

26 to 29 May, Hay-on-Wye
Described as a “philosophy and music festival”, HowTheLightGetsIn makes confident use of onstage debate, scientific lectures and breakfast roundtables to present an alternative take on festival collectivism, positioning intimate, open-minded conversation as a social good. At the end of a long day’s thinking, you can throw some shapes to the likes of Gruff Rhys and Anna Meredith, or embrace the luxury of a four-course sundown banquet alongside the River Wye. It certainly beats bickering with strangers over Twitter … JW

Kite festival
9 to 11 June, Oxfordshire
If Joan Collins, Candi Staton and David Baddiel sound like an imaginative answer to the eternal “ideal dinner party guest” question, look no further than Oxfordshire’s Kite. Equal parts music festival and literary event, this year’s lineup boasts interesting book-oriented conversation salons, as well as performances from young and innovative artists. From the art-pop drag subversion of Lynks to the hip-hop/jazz fusion of Ezra Collective, you are almost guaranteed to discover a new-to-you artist with something to say – and there are more familiar attractions in the shape of Suede, Hot Chip and the Pretenders. JW

Lost Village
24 to 27 August, Lincolnshire
One for the early birds, the ultra-immersive Lost Village is all about daytime fun. There’s no need to wait until sundown to become your most feral self in this atmospheric Lincolnshire woodland, with activities kicking off at 9am every day. The Blessed Madonna, Horse Meat Disco and Jayda G are on DJ duties, but it’s perfectly acceptable to eat and laugh your way around the intimate site too, with big-name comedians and fancy banquets as well as creative workshops and intriguing talks. LC

25 to 27 August, Cumbria
At the time of writing, the lineup for the third edition of Sea Power’s festival has not been announced, but expect it – like its curators – to be an agreeably eccentric mix of styles, made by beloved outliers. But you don’t go to Krankenhaus for who is playing so much as for where it is (at the edge of the Lake District, next to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway) and what it is (the only festival with daily heron feeding). MH

End of the Road
31 August to 3 September, Dorset
End of the Road consistently manages the delicate balancing act of keeping its audience capped at only 15,000 revellers to ensure that its idyllic site stays clean and spacious, while also booking fairly major names such as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Future Islands. The headliners skew towards the guitar-oriented, but early showings by upcoming acts (such as Jockstrap in 2019), to a range of comedy and literary talks. AK


Best specialist events

Cheltenham jazz festival
26 April to 1 May, Cheltenham
Smart, sophisticated and civilised, Cheltenham’s jazz festival is a far cry from the muddy fields of most British weekenders. With gigs taking place in small venues throughout the town, as well as in a tented campus in the city centre, Cheltenham is a playground for jazz veterans as well as newcomers, featuring performances this year from singer Gregory Porter and bassist Stanley Clarke. For a more unbuttoned feel, the jam at the Hotel du Vin carries on into the early hours. AK

Black Deer
16 to 18 June, Kent
If you think the garden of England is a strange place to enjoy the twanging sounds of Americana, you’d be right. But Black Deer isn’t going to let the cruelty of geography stop it from throwing one of the most fabulously curated hoedowns of the summer. Alongside the venerable Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams, you will find groundbreaking folk newcomers Allison Russell and Willi Carlisle. Don’t miss the Roadhouse area, a full-throttle tribute to leathered-up Easy Rider counterculture where your best Patrick Swayze impersonations are encouraged. LC

Love Supreme
30 June to 2 July, East Sussex
If Cheltenham occupies the concert hall end of the jazz festival spectrum, Love Supreme is its faster and looser opposite. Touted as Europe’s largest outdoor jazz festival, Love Supreme is the full fields-and-camping experience, replete with a lineup that combines improvising greats with crowd-drawing funk, soul and rap stars. The 2023 edition features Mercury prize winner Little Simz and Grace Jones alongside Ethio-jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke, drummer Yussef Dayes and the British saxophonist Courtney Pine. AK

27 to 30 July, Wiltshire
Whether you call it global music, “the world’s music”, or something else entirely, Womad has been championing music from non-western traditions since 1980. It has been home to formative performances from the likes of Sufi singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the Royal Drummers of Burundi and sitar player Ravi Shankar, while this year’s lineup features the son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, Femi, along with reggae singer Horace Andy. It’s the most diverse festival selection you’re likely to find. AK

Rebellion festival
3 to 6 August, Blackpool
Expect to see PUNX NOT DEAD spray-painted on the back of leather jackets at Blackpool’s annual indoor jamboree of all things spiky-haired. Much of the bill would be present and correct were it to be magically transported back 40 years (the Damned, the Exploited, UK Subs, Ruts DC). But there are newer stars (Bob Vylan, Chubby and the Gang, the Chisel) and US hardcore greats (Descendents, DRI, Gang Green) as well. MH


Best for epic scenery

Timber festival
7 to 9 July, Derbyshire
If you’re worried that Timber sounds a bit wooden, don’t be: that’s the whole point. Taking place in Feanedock – the UK’s first new forest in 1,000 years – this festival celebrates all things green. The bill is unsurprisingly folksy, with bat walks, falconry displays and a woodland hot sauna and ice plunge-pool on offer, not to mention readings from the poet laureate Simon Armitage and author-walker Raynor Winn, and a set from Bristol’s sublime singer-songwriter Lady Nade. LC

Doune the Rabbit Hole
21 to 23 July, Stirlingshire
Nestled among the ancient oak trees of the Cardross Estate, this intimate independent Scottish festival boasts consistently impressive lineups (this year’s is TBC) and demands you clear storage space on your phone for all the incoming photos. As well as those cosmically lit giant oaks, there are rolling hills, ancient buildings and mini circus tops featuring impromptu drum circles. The kids’ designated Play Zone even features a fairy garden. MC

Belladrum Tartan Heart
27 to 29 July, Inverness
Set in the Italian gardens of the Belladrum Estate near Inverness, the family-friendly Belladrum Tartan Heart festival is a boutique weekender with a taste for pop-leaning headliners and homegrown talent to accompany its rolling green scenery. Since 2004, Scottish stars such as Franz Ferdinand, Chvrches and Texas have all topped the bill, while this year’s edition sees 2012 headliners Travis return, along with Norwegian pop star Sigrid and Eurovision runner-up Sam Ryder. AK

Kendal Calling
27 to 30 July, Cumbria
Imagine an episode of Countryfile soundtracked by a jolting mix of Magic and XFM and you’ve got Kendal Calling. Housed in the beautiful, evergreen Lowther Deer Park in the Lake District, it’s a festival that mirrors its breathtaking surroundings in its stage design. So there’s the cascading foliage of Parklands, the neon psychedelia of Lowlands and the rustic feel of Woodlands, which ring to the sounds of everyone from Kasabian to Rick Astley via Natalia Imbruglia and Blossoms. MC

9 to 13 August, Cornwall
One of the few fests in the world that can claim a surfing competition as one of its biggest draws, Boardmasters makes excellent use of its Cornish coast location, complementing the scenery with an array of feelgood musical bookings. Friday headliner Lorde feels like an especially inspired fit given the beachy escapism of her most recent album Solar Power, but Liam Gallagher, Florence + the Machine, Little Simz and Ben Howard all feel like equally good gets for easing into the final few weeks of summer. JW