Many people would consider the UK the home of music festivals. With a long history of iconic annual events that have become the pinnacle of many artists’ careers.
What’s more is the British enthusiasm to fill their boots with music and camping, no matter how muddy those boots get! Coupled with being a nation of world-renowned bands and musicians, the UK has become the shining beacon of music festivals.
Of course, many people will know the stalwart British music festivals but the past decade has seen a rise in new events competing to attract revellers and big acts.
So which are the best British music festivals? We take a look at the top 15 UK music festivals, their most recent lineups and when they take place.
Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is well known as perhaps the greatest music festival in the world. With over 100 stages and 2,800 performances over the whole weekend, Glastonbury is an absolute wonderland of music, comedy and arts.
Attracting the biggest names in music to its main stage, the Pyramid Stage, as well as the best talent in every genre, there is something for every taste.
Several things are unique about Glastonbury which make it what it is. It is iconic that all profits are donated to their charity partners WaterAid, Oxfam, GreenPeace and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. This also hints at how liberal the festival is, a theme you will notice throughout the festival.
One of the most attractive qualities of Glastonbury is the lack of barriers between camping grounds and stages. This means that punters can set up camp in view of the stage and avoid pricey alcohol fees at bars.
- When: Final weekend of June
- Where: Pilton, Somerset
- Lineup 2020: Paul McCartney, Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, Diana Ross
Reading & Leeds Festivals
The Reading and Leeds festival is a right of passage for British teenagers. It takes place in both locations simultaneously, with acts performing the same set in both locations on different days.
With 3 days of alternative music and comedy, Reading and Leeds used to have bit of a rowdy image with campfires awash with huge fires and riots for the fun of it. Since 2010 both festivals have cleaned up their act, banned campfires and made the whole experience a lot safer.
Reading and Leeds takes place at the height of summer every year making it a popular event for students and recent graduates for a big blow out.
Reading Festival is the oldest running festival in the UK and has attracted some giant names in rock and alternative music. It’s well known as a stalwart of the music festivals calendar.
- When: Late August Bank Holiday Weekend
- Where: Reading and Leeds
- Lineup 2020: Stormzy, Liam Gallagher, Rage Against The Machine
Isle of Wight Festival
The Isle of Wight festival is one of the oldest music festivals in the UK, having first started in 1968 before being banned after record turnouts in 1970 and revived in 2002.
Since then it has gone on to attract some of the biggest names in music and is regularly one of the biggest festivals in the UK.
Its reputation, dating back to the infamous 70s event, is a hippy free love festival. Although it has of course modernised since then, it still retains that nostalgic hippy mysticism around it.
The Isle of Wight is an island off the south coast of England so punters need to catch a boat to get there. With an attendance of up to 70,000 people, it has now become a mainstay of the festival calendar.
- When: Second weekend of June
- Where: Isle of Wight
- Lineup 2020: Happy Mondays, Lionel Richie, Snow Patrol, Duran Duran
A relative newcomer to the festival scene, Boomtown has made quite a splash since its inception in 2009. Every year there is a new “chapter” which is essentially a theme for that year that feeds into a wider narrative. The story of the chapter is told through performances, actors and live sets, making it a very unique experience!
Every year there is a different costume theme that is compulsory for attendees. The 2020 costume theme (which was ironically cancelled due to coronavirus) was set to be post-apocalyptic!
The music at Boomtown is diverse but expect much smaller acts than the big British festivals.
- When: 2nd weekend of August
- Where: Winchester
- Lineup 2020: Wu Tang Clan, Underworld, Kano, Libertines
Boardmasters is a festival rooted in surfing and skating, only transforming into a full music festival from 2005. Set in the beautiful coast of Cornwall, skate, BMX and surf competitions take place throughout the day alongside music on the main stages.
Over the years Boardmasters has grown it’s reputation and now attracts some of the biggest acts in the world. The beach setting and skater theme make it unique from all other major British festivals. However it can get a little bit windy, it was even cancelled in 2014 and 2019 due to bad weather.
- When: 2nd weekend of August
- Where: Cornwall
- Lineup 2020: Skepta, Kings of Leon, the 1975
Creamfields is the UK’s major dance music festival, attracting virtually every one of the world’s biggest DJ’s for a weekend over the August bank holiday. Seriously, you would struggle to find a DJ who hasn’t played Creamfields!
There are 11 stages of pure dance music as well as a range of fairground rides throughout the arena. Having begun in 1998, Creamfields now has a capacity of 70,000 making it one of the biggest festivals in the UK.
- When: August Bank Holiday
- Where: Cheshire
- Lineup 2020: Chainsmokers, Eric Prydz, Calvin Harris, Tiesto
Latitude festival is only 15 years old but has quickly become a fixture of the festival calendar, owing to the caliber of alternative artists it has managed to attract.
Latitude is typically billed as somewhat of a more chilled out festival, with artists typically more indie, folk and acoustic. Spread out on just 6 stages including comedy and theatre.
- When: Mid July
- Where: Suffolk
- Lineup 2020: HAIM, Liam Gallagher, Chemical Brothers
Download Festival is known worldwide as one of the most important rock and metal festivals. Every year Download attracts the biggest names in rock, having hosted hundreds of legends over its 17 year history.
- When: 2nd weekend of June
- Where: Leicestershire
- Lineup 2020: KISS, Iron Maiden, System of a Down
TRNSMT Festival has taken more of a centre stage in the Scottish festival calendar as T in the Park closed its curtains for the final time in 2016. It has an alternative vibe but is mostly centred on popular music, attracting an incredible 120,000 revellers each year.
- When: Late June/early July
- Where: Glasgow
- Lineup 2020: The Courteeners, Liam Gallagher, Lewis Capaldi
WOMAD Festival (World of Music, Arts and Dance) is founded by legendary Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel, showcasing the very best in world music and performance. Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of many of the acts, that’s all part of the fun!
- When: End of July
- Where: Wiltshire
- Lineup 2020: Ziggy Marley, Macy Gray, Orbital
End of the road
Celebrated as England’s annual music festival, End of the Road centres around independent rock and folk music. The festival was first celebrated in 2006 and was started by two friends named Simon Taffe and Sofia Hagberg. The inclusion of various workshops, a games area, a healing field, a film tent, library in the forest, late-night DJ, silent disco, karaoke etc. makes the festival even more exciting.
- When: Last weekend of August or the first full weekend in September
- Where: Larmer Tree Gardens, near Blandford, in Dorset
- Lineup 2020: Pixies, Angel Olsen, King Krule and Big Thief and more
Started by DJs Groove Armada and first celebrated in 2002, Lovebox is London’s three-day music festival. The event embraces a diversity of musical genres including hip-hop, indie, rock, grime, world and pop, not to forget circus performers, cabaret and fringe acts. Over the years, the festival has successfully managed to win many awards including Virtual Festivals Party People Award for Dance Music and the UK Festival Award for Best Medium-Sized Festival.
- When: June 12–14
- Where: Gunnersbury Park, London, England
- Lineup 2020: Tyler, the Creator, Khalid, Disclosure and more
British Summer Time
Featuring a wide variety of musical genres, British Summer Time is London’s one of the most celebrated music festivals. The highlight of the festival is live concerts by renowned artists from all across the world. The festival runs for over two weekends attracting fans from far and wide.
- When: July 8-10
- Where: Hyde Park, London
- Lineup 2020: Post Malone, Little Mix, Kesha, Taylor Swift, Zara Larsson and more
Wales’s The Green Man Festival is an independent music, science, and arts festival. The event was first celebrated in 2003 and holds a capacity of25,000 people every year. The festival runs for a week and mainly features live music, especially alternative, indie, rock, folk, dance and Americana. The festival also hosts events related to literature, film, comedy, science, theatre, wellness, and family acts.
- When: Mid-August
- Where: Near Crickhowell, South Wales
- Lineup 2020: Caribou, Goldfrapp, Michael Kiwanuka, Mac DeMarco and Little Dragon.
England’s Shambala is a four-day music festival. Apart from featuring contemporary music, the festival is also known for hosting rock, pop, folk, world music, and other arts. In addition to music, the festival also includes a fresh organic market, a speaker’s corner, independent films, workshops, talks and debates, comedy, fair trade coffee, practical demonstrations, and so much more.
- When: Last week of July
- Where: Northamptonshire, England
- Lineup 2020: The festival was cancelled