Glastonbury is the biggest, brightest and most creative music festival in England. For three days in mid-summer, an idyllic farm in a Somerset valley becomes a 150,000-strong city devoted to music, dance, comedy and drinking cider in the sunshine…except for this year, when only the mooing of lonely cows will echo through its lush fields.
Organizer Michael Eavis called off the 2012 festival for the "crappiest" reason ever — the high cost of renting portable toilets in an Olympic year.
But don't despair. Britain's musicians have stepped up to provide a glittering array of alternative festivals offering everything from the biggest names rocking thousands to specialist bands entertaining intimate audiences. Whether you're seeking a peaceful escape to enjoy music in the countryside or a massive open-air rave, there's a summer festival for you. And if (like us) you're still a bit sad about Glasto, you'll be pleased to hear that registration for a better-than-ever 2013 festival is already open. http://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/
1. T in the Park
Where? Perth and Kinross, Scotland
When? July 6-8
Who's it for? Manchester transplants and anyone not afraid to party
This festival might take place in the heart of Scotland, but the blood pumping through its veins comes straight from Manchester. Cult bands New Order, The Happy Mondays, Noel Gallagher and the recently reformed Stone Roses are playing sets, along with dreamy Northern Ireland indie rockers Snow Patrol. It's a great place to hear the best of British music — and there's a fairground and fancy dress day to keep that smile plastered all over your face. http://www.tinthepark.com/
Where? Southwold, Suffolk
When? July 12-15
Who's it for? Neo-hippies and art lovers
Paul Weller, Bon Iver and Elbow headline this ever-so-civilized festival, but it's the diverse selection of poetry tents, outdoor theaters, literary salons and cabaret arenas that promise to blow your mind. The setting is lovely and there's plenty going on for kids and hard-to-please teenagers. Sporty music lovers can even arrive on a Tour de Latitude bike ride to raise funds for Kenyan orphans. The festival will transport your luggage and secure your bike. All you have to do is pedal in from as far afield as London, a rolling 113 miles away. http://www.latitudefestival.co.uk/
3. The Secret Garden Party
When? July 19-22
Who's it for? Families and laid-back fun-seekers
Pssst, have you heard about this hush-hush festival at a gorgeous lake in rural Cambridgeshire? There's a barefoot disco, twilight fire circle storytelling, boat rides and even bands playing in trees. The headliners (this year, dance legends Orbital and low-key rocker KT Tunstall) have proper stages, of course, and don't think that just because it's secret, it's unorganized — the festival even offers (free) tickets for dogs. This year's theme is "Standing On Ceremony," so expect a panoply of made-up rituals, initiations and carnivals. No telling anyone else, mind you.
Where? Malmesbury, Wiltshire
When? July 27-29
Who's it for? The whole darn world
You probably haven't heard of half the artists at this annual festival of world music and dance — and that's just the way they like it. England's friendliest festival feels like a three-day global mixtape, ranging from African hip-hop to American bluegrass to Russian gypsy-punk. If you're not quite ready for such a magnificent multicultural immersion, check out WOMAD at Bristol Zoo, a one-day event on June 30 to support conservation work worldwide. Need more convincing? The tagline for this mini-festival should do the trick: "It's all about the penguins."
When? August 24-26
Who's it for? Mosh-pit rockers
Think of Reading as the anti-Glastonbury — but in a good way. Forget communing with nature; people come here to commune with beer, pogoing and loud, loud music. The lineup is unbeatable, from stadium rock stars Foo Fighters, Kasabian and The Cure to cool up-and-comers The Vaccines, Justice and Florence and the Machine. Got some energy left over? Get sweaty in the dance tent or check out the freshest acts at the BBC Introducing stage. And if you love a band more than life itself, you can even see it the next day: the entire festival shuffles up to Leeds to play all over again. Whew!
by Mark Harris