Pictured above people at the Shambala Music Festival
So you consider yourself an experienced festival goer and if your mate was to ask you of a critique and comparison of the UK’s top festivals, you’d have no problem plucking some of the cool niche events from your vast experience. You’ve been to Reading and/or Leeds festival countless times for the full experience, you’ve hit Global Gathering once or twice in your time, and Glastonbury is definitely on your agenda in the next few years as well. While these festivals have a huge amount to offer to the broadest range of people, there are some whose tastes are little narrower and are of a more specific niche than what your average festival can provide. You’ve got Download festival for metal, Reading and Leeds for an eclectic yet fairly commercial mix of artists, and Global Gather (among others) for the ravers, but what about those that want nothing but what is described as “alternative” styling from beginning to end? Because of the very nature of alternative festivals in general, they aren’t necessarily well-known by many, but as a result are smaller, more exclusive, and have an altogether different experience to offer compared to the larger festivals, many of which have lost their unique atmosphere over the years as they increase in size and popularity. You’ll find a few of these lesser known festival choices below, allowing you to branch out and expand your festival horizons.
Whether your a festival addict or not it can be hard to keep up with some of the alternative festivals, they can be here today and gone tomorrow with support sometimes growing too large they loose their “alternative” appeal or some even going to the opposite way and dwindling in numbers so small they are not sustainable. While some review comparison sites do a good job at monitoring the main stream ones like fest ticket’s comparison picking an alternative one to attend can be a tricky task. That’s why below we have chosen a select few for you to consider for your next big mud rolling, beer swelling and music bopping binge.
Not to be confused with the festival of a similar name held in British Columbia, Shambala Festival takes place in Northamptonshire and typical runs in August time each year. This festival is so alternative that its exact location is a secret and only revealed to the festival goers each year. Because it is situated in the picturesque Northamptonshire countryside, this is truly one of the more idyllic events to go to. Acts range from music to cabaret and all forms of incredible performance. Because this festival is relatively small, the atmosphere is very different to that of the 120,000-strong Glastonbury, and it has a more family-friendly feel to it. Fancy dress is standard on certain days, and the crowd is usually around 7000 in number. Visit the Shambala website for further details about this relatively undiscovered and unspoiled gem of a festival.
Wales has vast expanses of beautiful countryside to offer, yet there aren’t that many festivals of note taking place there aside from the now-absent Beach Break Live which no longer takes place there. Green Man festival is about as far from the mainstream as you can get, with comedy, theatrical performance, and music forming the backbone of the entertainment in Glanusk, Wales from the 15th to the 18th of August. Though many of the musical performances you will see here are heavily folk-influenced and highly underground in nature, previous line-ups have included Band of Horses, Ben Howard, Nathan Fake, and Huw Stephens. The Green Man Festival website will furnish you with further details of a festival that is small yet packs a serious qualitative punch.
Gottwood is another festival that takes full advantage of its lush Welsh surroundings, this time in Anglesey where it delivers a unique, rural location and as much experimental dance and electronic music as you can get your ears on. The festival takes place on the 19th-22nd of June and will feature a variety of electronic music artists from the underground scene which is the only place you can find any real talent these days anyhow. Calibre, Eton Messy, and Crazy P Soundsystem will be playing this year, though more artists are being added to the line-up in February. The Gottwood Festival website has more information and even a countdown timer to remind you how close the festival is getting .
Parklife’s ticket registration system has all the exclusivity of Glastonbury but with a fraction of the numbers. Parklife is Based in Heaton Park, Manchester where thousands gather to enjoy acts both mainstream and underground. Bands like Plan B, Disclosure, and The Maccabees have played in the past, so expect some large and small acts to grace the various stages each year.
The Secret Garden Party
Abbots Ripton is where this festival took place, close to the market town of Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. The festival was situated partially on the grounds of a Georgian farm house and the surroundings couldn’t have been more stunning: scenic countryside with a lake and greenery that surrounds it makes it one of the most beautiful locations. This festival was on the cusp of becoming too large to be known as “alternative”, but its ideology remained unchanged in spite of it growing to 10,000’s by 2017. The Secret Garden Party website was reflective of the artistic and creative nature of the festival and contained all the information you’ll need about its particulars. We will be keeping an eye on this festival for a possible return, who knows, perhaps returning to their former smaller numbers when the festival really was a secret.