The West County has always been imbued with a strong whiff of festival spirit. Back in the day there were the druids, obviously and then forty one years ago Michael Eavis changed the face of festivals forever when he invited Marc Bolan to play an open air gig at Worthy Farm in Somerset. Only fifteen hundred attended that first gig, sleeping in the open air and paying a jaw-dropping £1 for the pleasure and the rest is history. Here Country Calling presents its pick of the top ten festivals of the West.
GLASTONBURY 22-26 June www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk The biggest and still the best despite rebranding itself as a mainstream commercial event almost a decade ago. When Mean Fiddler were invited to join the party regulars mourned the wipeout of crusties for a year or so – no more dogs on string, no more barefoot convoy kids with their bus registration numbers felt-tipped across their chests - but the clean up resulted in a crime-free if slightly sanitised environment. Sure, you’re less likely to see an acid casualty strolling by in nothing but dayglo paint and Birkenstocks but pockets of the original Glasto spirit can still be found on the outer reaches of the site – Sin City, the Rabbit Hole, The Glade. And there is literally nothing else like it – best music, best theatre field nutballs, best mindblowing circus acts and now best after hours adult adventure playground in the shape of The Park (by day, by night secret gigs and secret parties). For the uninitiated Glastonbury is best described as a multi-sensory temporary town. LINE-UP As to be expected it was spectacular with U2 headlining on Friday, Coldplay on Saturday and an explosive show from Beyonce on Sunday. Crystal Castles, Friendly Fires, Mumford & Sons, Fleet Foxes, The Chemical Brothers, Primal Scream, BB King.
CAMP BESTIVAL 28-31 July Lulworth Castle Dorset www.campbestival.net If dressing up as a teacup while a megaphone-toting Butlins blue-coat barks orders is your thing, then you’ll love Camp Bestival. It is the home of manufactured madness, clown on stilts, men wearing dresses and whole families who decided to don a job lot of tutus for the weekend. That said, it’s pretty amazing as family friendly experiences go – live jousting against the stunning backdrop of Lulworth Castle, a dedicated artsy craftsy field where your little loved ones can stick and paste or dress up or watch clowns falling face first into custard. What’s more there are strategically placed sofas which mean you can lounge around drinking Margaritas and watching all these crazy dudes pass by. The atmosphere is brilliant, the music is always good and the food deserves a mention too – if you’re looking for fun for all the family, then this is the one. LINE UP It’s not going to get much better than Primal Scream performing their seminal hedonism soaked Screamadelica album followed by their greatest hits. There’s also Blondie, House of Pain, Laura Marling, The Wonder Stuff.
BESTIVAL 8-11 September Isle of Wight www.bestival.net Taking the ethos of his Sunday Best record label and Radio 1 show to Robbin Hill Country Park, Rob Da Bank’s original Isle of Wight Festival attracts a young, hard partying dressed up crowd – it’s where that whole teacup/pink tutu thang began. Lots of crazy stuff here – there’s a polka tent (think off-their-nut twentysomethings discovering the hilarity of an impromptu polka), the Bollywood Tent (think sloshing back cocktails on an Indian daybed). All night partying and West London cliques are order of the day. Is anyone else thinking that Rob’s Mum obviously didn’t let him go to fancy dress parties as a child? LINE UP Main attraction has to be The Cure who headline on Sunday night (???)Crystal Castles, Big Audio Dynamite, Primal Scream, Public Enemy. Pendulum, The Macabees.
ENDORSE IT IN DORSET 12-14 August, near Sixpenny Handley, Dorset www.bestival.net More madness but this time it’s of the genuine please-stop-you’re-scaring-me variety. Keeping the original free festival spirit alive Pronghorn’s Dorset based country punk festival Endorse-it-in-Dorset is not for the faint-hearted or bedwetting Coldplay fans at any rate. Or, put another way just cherry picking two of this year’s line up I give you Big Red Ass and Fat Drunk &Stupid. This festival is all about letting your hair down but it’s not just for convoy punks and hardcore ravers. Leave your middle class sensibilities behind and you are guaranteed a good time. For starters there’s a punk rock karaoke tent - last year a seven year old kid with a Mohican stole the show with his version of If the Kids are United – so this could be your chance to perform Teenage Kicks to a crowd of pogoing nutters. There are about five dub sound systems blasting out at any one time and the beer tent turns into an impromptu rave tent with the whole place going mental by about seven pm. For gentler times there’s camp fire and sofa action from Strummerville (Joe Strummer’s charity)
LINE UP New Model Army, UK Subs, Banco de Gaia, The Wurzels and a ton of bands you’ve probably never heard of.
Beautiful Days 19-21 August Escott Park, Devon www.beautifuldays.org Originally set up by The Levellers as a reaction against the commercialisation of festivals. `Here you’ll find another family friendly, dreadlock heavy, hippy-drenched scene in the beautiful west country setting of Escott Park near Honiton. Beautiful Days has built up a loyal and obsessive fan base that has made it into one of the most successful and enduring festivals in Britain. Howard Marks is a regular A small, safe well run event that has managed to stay true to the original festival spirit. LINE UP The Levellers, Gogoi Bordello, Big Audio Dynamite, Dreadzone, Stereo MCs
Port Eliot Festival 21-24 July St Germans Cornwall www.porteliotfestival.com We should probably start with the toff count which is pretty much 98 per cent of the festival – Arabellas, Serenas, Claudias, Barneys and Sebastians all snuggling up in their Bell tents come nightfall. Perhaps that is only to be expected with a festival set up by Earl of St Germans’s wife Catherine on their beautiful estate near Plymouth. It’s a total cracker, though, relying not on big name bands to draw the crowds but rather literary heavyweights who are encouraged to go out of their comfort zone. You won’t find authors reading from their latest novels here – rather Louis de Beniere playing a mandolin and Moro chefs cooking over a camp fire. Port Eliot is a truly original festival in a heartstopping setting and as such it draws a cultural crowd with a fair few celebs thrown in for good measure.This year Martin Scorsese is even on the bill with his Paradiso outdoor cinema. All this artistocratic privilege does not come cheap – adult tickets are £140 and children over seven must pay £70 – but it’s worth it, particularly if you take the view that three days spent here is a bit like having a holiday Cornwall. A very worthy replacement to the original Elephant Fayre of the 1980s. LINE UP Writers include Tom Shone Hari Kunzru, Hanif Kureishi, James Attlee Jon Ronson Caitlin Moran; music from British Seapower food from Rose Prince and Thomasina Miers.
The End of the Road (2-4 September Larmer Tree Gardens North Dorset www.endoftheroadfestival.com) Crammed full of geeky, folky beard scratching students but don’t let that put you off. This festival is all about the music and the line up is always fantastic. The setting of the Larmer Tree Gardens is pretty spectacular too – expect a woodland grotto decked out in fairy lights and peacocks strolling by. A good opportunity to grow your facial hair, dig out grandpa’s cardigan and plaster the arm back onto your national health specs. LINE UP Beirut Mogwai Laura Marling The Fall Joanna Newsome Willy Mason
Eden Sessions www.edenproject.com/sessions between 23 June and 12 July A boutique series of gigs in a spectacular setting, this could be billed as a festival for people who don’t like camping. Everything is there, big name bands, on tap cider, quirky theatrical weirdness off stage but you get to go home at the end of the night. It’s true you don’t get that ‘I’m in the middle of a field, I can do whatever I want,’ level of madness but for music lovers this one is a must. The home of some pretty memorable gigs from Jarvis Cocker singing ‘Common People’ to a small but wildly appreciative crowd in 2001 to Muse’s incredible light show, all lit up against those space age biomes. Be warned, seeing huge acts in a comparatively tiny 6000 capacity, spoils you for everything else. LINE UP Pendulum, Flaming Lips, Fleet Foxes Primal Scream, Brandon Flowers
The Relentless Boardmasters Festival Newquay Cornwall (10-14 August, Watergate Bay, Cornwall www.efestivals.co.uk
In the days it’s surfing competitions; by night impossibly fit long haired dudes drink cider and take their tunes with the soothing backwash of the surf. This one’s for the kidz; a red hot ticket for the under 25s. LINE UP Klaxons Fatboy Slim Eliza Doolittle Bombay Bicycle Club Stereo MCs
Gone but not Forgotten RIP Stonehenge Festival The Elephant Fayre Trewargy Tree Fair Big Green Gathering The Glade The Lizard Festival Ashton Court