As I write this today, the press is full of images from Glastonbury. They reminded me that music festivals have traditionally been about music and mud in the UK. The sight of young people ploughing their way in wellington boots towards Worthy Farm prompted a memory of me happily walking barefoot through a muddy Suffolk field for the same reason; to listen to live music and share a few days in the open air with friends, old and newfound. I did end up having a tetanus injection after standing on a nail, but at that age this was a badge of festival honour and only a minor inconvenience. Still, lesson learned!
But the UK festival scene is not the reserve of the young, top-knotted hipster brigade as over 50s are among the most avid and dedicated festival goers. For those of you who fancy something a little more sophisticated, of if you want to try the festival scene again, or for the first time, I’ve put together a list of some of the UK’s best during July and August. It’s an eclectic mix and I hope there’s something for everyone.
Henley Festival, July 8-12
Where: Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Headliners: Lionel Richie and Who Got Rhythm?! A Gershwin Spectacular
This is a black tie event that promises both glamour and fun and the stage floats on the Thames. Tickets are available at a range of prices and the programme includes comedy shows and jazz salons. It is Henley, so instead of a beer and burger tent, it’s Albert and Michel Roux Jr doing the catering. The mix of performers is perfect for those who prefer some easy listening – there won’t be any drum’n’bass here.
Cornbury, July 10-12
Where: Charlbury, Oxfordshire
Headliners: Tom Jones, Roger Hodgson (Supertramp), QI Festival of Words, Jack Savoretti
It seems that Oxfordshire is a pretty popular spot for festivals and if you’re already at Henley you might as well head over to Charlbury. A ticket for the entire weekend is £170, but day tickets are also available, and you can camp, or upgrade to glamping. The ethos of this festival is “traditional and eccentric Englishness” and it likes to be seen as a “country fair with a rock’n’roll twist.” That is indeed a fascinating fusion and you’ll find stands offering natural therapies and farmers market produce. There will be Morris dancing as well. I expect you guessed that!
Camp Bestival, July 30-August 2
Where: East Lulworth, Dorset
Headliners: Bob Geldof, Crazy World of Arthur Brown
Another beautiful spot in rural England is the location for this interesting festival that aims to welcome the entire family from grandparents to toddlers. An adult ticket is £195 for the weekend and there are both concessions and children’s tickets available. Amazingly, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown is still around for those of us who remember ‘Fire’, his big hit of 1968. He’s joined by Bob Geldof on the headliner list. Acts such as Underworld and Clean Bandit add slightly more contemporary music to the mix. Camping is available, but if you’re not a tent person, there is more comfortable, boutique-style accommodation available on site.
Cropredy, August 13-15
Where: Cropredy Oxfordshire
Headliners: Fairport Convention, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Level 42
Well, guess what, it’s back to Oxfordshire! A weekend ticket for this event is £115, but you can buy a day ticket. This is certainly a very promising line-up of acts for the over 50s that is hosted annually by the peerless English folk-rock group Fairport Convention (sadly without Dave Swarbrick who died 3 June 2016). With two of America’s modern country stars, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell on the bill this is a treat worth paying for, plus it’s an opportunity for Level 42 fans to see this popular 80s band once again. This is typically a laid back event that welcomes all ages and while camping is available, there is also rather more comfortable accommodation in nearby Banbury. About 20,000 people attend every year, so if you want accommodation it may be best to book now.
Twinwood, August 29-31
Where: Clapham, Bedfordshire
Headliners: Anita Harris, Benoit Viellefon & his Orchestra
This unusual festival that is all about 40s and 50s retro mixes, burlesque acts and an air show is definitely for anyone who loves the pre-rock’n’roll era. Expect to see fans dressed in Swing and Jitterbug styles and a Mr and Miss Vintage UK competition. It’s conveniently located near the Glenn Miller Museum. It’s £94 for a weekend ticket and camping is available.
I hope you won’t need wellies for any of these, but even if you do, I’m sure you won’t let the rain stop play!