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Feature: Festivals


So much of our lives is lived through copies of what was once an experience worth having; that lovely song sounds dull on your media player, that ready-to-make meal probably tasted better with its original ingredients and the film adapted from a book is never quite as good. To bring colour back to things you once enjoyed so much why don't you take in a festival, where you know that the experience is fresh and still very crisp. Lovers of music can fall in love again at a music festival, bookworms can bite into some fresh literature with like minds at a literary festival and the microwave meal crowd can be reminded what a real meal tastes like at a food festival.

Music Festivals

The basics of a music festival haven't changed much since the late sixties and early seventies, but what has evolved and exploded is the range available. From hard rock to radio pop, indie, world music and reggae, there is a festival for every music preference, age group and sub culture out there. This month we decided to take a look at a few of the best ones to try in 2012.

For more UK festival ideas, check out our Top 10 UK Festivals.

Best Intimate Festival - OneFest, Wiltshire

Date: 14 April, 2012

OneFest Crowd

In 2011, a local committee in Wiltshire banded together to save the Barge Inn (their local) from closure. HoneyFest, a small festival with a big heart, was thrown to celebrate the pub’s salvation and to give everyone a chance to bask in the glory of this victory. Just over a thousand attendees gathered outside the pub to hear the likes of Damian Rice, Laura Marling, Dry The River and the Magic Numbers play in what can only be considered the most relaxed, friendly atmosphere on the UK festival scene. The festival returns in 2012 under a new name - OneFest - and with a new mystery location that will only be revealed to ticket buyers… The organisers have managed to execute another great balancing act by booking world class-acts at their small festival, making it our choice for Must See small festival this year. Blur’s Damon Albarn, Michele Stodart, Dry The River and more…

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Win Win Win - Four Tickets to OneFest!

Essential Travel has two pairs of tickets to OneFest in Wiltshire to give away to two lucky winners! To win, answer the simple question on our competition page (hint: the answer is above).

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Best Sports And Music Festival - Relentless Energy Drink NASS, Bath And West Show Ground, Somerset

Date: 6-8 July, 2012

NASS is the premier action sports and music festival in the UK, showcasing the world's best in skate, BMX, FMX and inline, all to the soundtrack of your favourite Drum & Bass and dubstep. It's a lifestyle event that celebrates the kind of sports and music that terrifies parents who don't understand. 2012 promises to be the biggest yet, with new stages, bigger acts and crazier action. Everyone needs to tie a double bow in their dancing shoes when the sun goes down, because the music is as fierce and electrifying as the day's sport.


"Nowhere else can you rub shoulders with the hero’s of your favourite action sports, whilst camping with friends and enjoying some of the best in live music, public access parks and the NASS shopping village." -

Best 'Big' Festival - T In The Park, Balado, Kinross-Shire

Date: 6-8 July, 2012

T In The Park

Every year T In The Park hosts the biggest bands in music, at a stunning venue that is extremely well kitted out to handle large crowds, and it always runs like a well-oiled machine (well, as close to orderly as any festival can get). It’s this kind of consistency and reliability that makes it our favourite BIG festival. T In The Park kicks off with Fancy Dress Friday, which is exactly the sort of fun shenanigans that sets the party mood for the weekend. 2012 sees grunge legends, The Stone Roses, headlining the festival, along with Snow Patrol, Kasabian, Florence + The Machine, David Guetta, Two Door Cinema Club, Noel Gallagher and other ‘Must See’ international acts. Bring your sturdiest partying wellies and lots of water.

For more on T In The Park visit

Best All Round For Families - Latitude Festival, Suffolk

Date: 12-15 July, 2012

Latitude FestivalCredit: Robert Whitworth

For want of a better description, Latitude is the family-friendly version of Glastonbury. The first thing that will blow you away is the venue. The festival takes place in Henham Park, a gorgeous country estate near the seaside village of Southwold. The clean air and glowing rapeseed fields provide a dream-like arena for the magic that takes place over the course of the weekend. Every year there is a line-up that offers something special for everyone. Acts like Sigur Ros, The National, Regina Spektor, the Pet Shop Boys, Phoenix and many others in their league have headlined the festival.

Although music is the main attraction at Latitude, the festival pays tribute to a host of other art forms, with its literary tent, theatre stage and the comedy stage – which is almost as popular as the music. The line-up for 2012 has yet to be announced, but with the festival's ever increasing popularity and fanfare, you can bet on it being well worth the ticket price.

For more on the Latitude Festival visit

SW4 Fest

Best Urban Dance Festival - SW4, Clapham Common, London

Date: 25–26 August, 2012

Widely considered to be London’s biggest and best dance festival, SW4 has carved itself a solid reputation over the years by consistently bringing the biggest dance acts to Clapham Common for a great party that lasts all weekend. This year Chase & Status have been confirmed as headliners, along with Carl Cox and John Digweed. For natives of London Town, one of the great advantages to a local festival is being able to catch the last tube home, rather than spending the night in a wet tent and a pair of stinky wellies. Come morning time, you can hop back on the tube or bus and come back for day 2 with fresh clothing to get muddy.

For more on SW4 visit

Best Festival Experience - The Secret Garden Party, Mill Hill Field, Cambridgeshire

Date: 19-22 July, 2012

The Secret Garden party is 4 days of enjoyable weirdness. Every year is different, but there are a few things you can expect: crazy costumes (some are strangely genius), incredible art displays, amazing food and a host of happy people - and we haven't even covered the music yet. This creative pow-wow takes place at Mill Hill Field, in one of the loveliest settings for a weekend away. The less commercial line-up attracts an edgier crowd than mainstream festivals, but you can bet on people getting rowdy and jolly as the nights go on. It is still family friendly affair, with games and activities for the little ones during the day - while moms and dads enjoy the music and good company. The nearby river and lake round out the experience, making it feel like you're on a secluded property, somewhere inside the Mad Hatter's imagination. 2012 sees hippy sensation Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros headlining the festival, alongside KT Tunstall and the French beauty SoKo.

For more on the Secret Garden Party visit

Best Urban Festival - The Great Escape, Brighton

Great Escape Festival

Date: 10–12 May, 2012

As if Brighton wasn't already a tad strange, The Great Escape floods the city and takes over just about every venue and street corner, turning it into a city wide festival. With over 30 venues and more than 300 emerging acts, you can bet your boots that a considerable portion of the bands you'll see will end up on your mp3 player sooner or later, too. For three days everyone in Brighton will be part of the festival in one way or another. It's three days of music, fun and parties. The best advice we can give for the weekend is to take one of two approaches:

1. Visit the website and earmark the bands and venues you'd like to see, and then stick to that schedule, otherwise you'll get lost in everything that is on offer.

2. Go with an open mind and no agenda whatsoever, and let the vibe of the festival lead you to the the best gigs.

For more on the Great Escape visit

Best Electronic Festival - Glade, Houghton Hall, Norfolk

Date: 14-17 June, 2012

Glade Festival is something of a Cinderella story. It first started out as a single stage at Glastonbury, before moving to its own location in Wasing, Berkshire and picking up the pace. Nearly ten years down the track, multiple awards later and with a new venue in Norfolk, Glade is a massive festival in its own right - showcasing the best in electronic dance music. Not only is their venue absolutely perfect for a three-day outdoor dance party, it's also one of the "driest parts of the UK", the organisers joke on the event's website. You can expect the best music acts, light displays that look like Christmas on Mars, an amazing vibe and top notch organisation. If electronic dance, trance or festivals with an edge are your thing, Glade is up there with the best in the world.

For more on the Glade Festival visit

Art Festivals

What is art? Is it merely form and content or are its boundaries limitless to fit every subjective definition of it - to the point where the word has no meaning. Before we break off into a deep philosophical discourse we've decided to rather show you some of what art is - in four of its distinctive forms: the paintbrush art, the moving images art, the performance art and the art of words. Attend any of these festivals and you'll be closer to that elusive definition of Art.

Best 'Art' Festival - The Affordable Art Fair, London

Date: 15-18 March (Battersea) and 1-4 November (Hampstead)

Art and affordable seem like estranged words, so much so that the defintion of art could very well be 'something that is inexplicably expensive.' What better way to define what good art is to you than to buy it. The Affordable Art Fair strives to put art within reach of Joe Public. Founder of the event, Will Ramsay, aimed to make contemporary art accesible to everyone and not just the snooty experts and millionaires. The price ceiling for all artworks on display is set at £4000, with many pieces going for much less than that. Like any sort of purchase, go with your mind made up on what you're willing to spend and the quality of art you're looking for. Don't be afraid to ask the gallery owners for their opinions and for information - you're spending your own money after all!

Below are some examples of the art that will be on display at the Fair. The artwork on the left is titled Alone On The Beach, by Richard Lannowe Hall, and will be retailing at £1500; the one on the right is titled Birdland, by Noma Bar, and will be retailing for £350.

Alone On The Beach by Richard HallBirdland by Noma Bar

For more on the Affordable Art Fair visit

Best Film Festival - London Independent Film Festival, London

Date: 12-23 April, 2012

In the shadow of the more illustrious BFI London Film Festival is this little festival that could. The films you see here are less about the fluff of moviemaking - big budgets, red carpets and regurgitated scripts - and more about the art of film-making, where money is stripped from the process and the director can rightly be called an auteur. Indie filmmakers get to show micro and no-budget films that you won't see anywhere else. Categories include Best Feature over 100k, Best Feature under 100k, Best No-Budget Feature under 10k, Best Short Short and Best Experimental Short amongst many others.

For more on the London Independent Film Festival visit

Best Drama Festival - 24:7 Theatre Festival, Manchester

Date: 20-27 July, 2012

The stage is performance art in its most unadultarated form; the immediacy of the experience is superior to the mediated experience that is television. 24:7 theatre festival provides a stage for aspiring writers, thespians and directors to show off their skills in an intimate setting. The event markets itself as the premier fringe festival of the North and looking at the trailer from the 2010 edition, below, we are certain it's set to become a must-see event on the cultural calendar.

For more on the 24:7 Theatre Festival visit

Best Literary Festival - Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival

Date: 22-28 April, 2012

Sue TownsendAuthor Sue Townsend will also be making an appearance.

The birthplace of the most famous wordsmith, William Shakespeare, is a fitting location for a literary festival - which runs during the week of his birthday. The festival is an opportunity to mingle with lovers of the written word, whether you're a frustrated writer battling writer's block (and looking for tips on getting published) or a bookworm battling reader's block and looking to discover some good literature - there's something for all types. Writers will be keen to take in the Creative Writing Workshops with Julia Crouch, author of Cuckoo, and Mavis Cheek; the workshops will help you get those annoyingly difficult first few words onto the page and to get over the mental blocks in your writing process. If prose is not your thing you'll be pleased to hear that Simon Armitage will be doing poetry readings and workshops. Events usually cost no more than £15 each for entry and by the end of the week you'll be in love with the charming town of Stratford-upon-Avon.

For more on the Stratford-upon-Avon Festival visit

Food Festivals

The food and beverage industry has grown into something of a pop culture phenomenon, with books, television shows and even whole channels dedicated to the art of turning household ingredients into world-class meals. With new cooking heroes emerging and a greater awareness of what's out there in general, food festivals have started growing in popularity across the world. This month we decided to take a look at a few of the best festivals on local shores, just in time for summer.

Queenie Festival - The Isle Of Man

Date: 29 June–1 July, 2012

The Queenie festival is a three-day extravaganza, honouring the star of the island: the Manx Scallop (or 'Queenie' as it is known to local fishermen). The weekend line-up is jammed with entertainment, ranging from cooking demonstrations to tastings, to beach barbeques, competitions, games, more demos and more tastings (for good measure), plus a bit of live music to tie it all up. It's a fantastic event for families to enjoy together and a great opportunity for any amateur chef to learn more about preparing, cooking and eating one of Britain's finest natural food items. The festival coincides with Marine Day too, one the largest local festivals that celebrate the marine life of the Isle of Man - which is quite fitting for the occasion. If you haven't been to the Isle Of Man yet and ever needed a good reason to experience this jewel along our coastline, you've just found it.

For more on the Queenie Festival visit

The Edible Garden Show - Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire

Date: 16-18 March, 2012

Kids at the Edible Garden Show

The Edible Garden Show is a three day must-see for anyone interested in growing their own veggies, cooking or just eating a better way. Voted the Best Garden Event in 2011, you can expect the best minds offering you the best advice. With award winning experts like BBC's garden genius, James Wong, as well as TV chef John Burton-Race giving demonstrations and offering pearls of wisdom, you're guaranteed to have the time of your life. The festival takes place in Stoneleigh Park – a beautiful site in the West Midlands, where the magic of gardening is around you. In three days you'll learn not only about transforming your veggies into showpieces, but how to make your garden come alive. Beekeepers and livestock experts will share their knowledge with you on how to maintain a healthy animal kingdom in your care.

For more on the Edible Garden Show visit

Edinburgh Foodie Fest - Holyrood Park

Street Festival

Date: 10-12 August, 2012

The Foodie Fest franchise is a popular celebration of food and drink, and the Edinburgh stop is nothing short of spectacular. The event takes place in Holyrood Park, overlooking the magnificent city. You'll be hard pressed to take in the view, though, as the festival is completely jammed with activities and displays that will keep you and the whole family foaming at the mouth. Headlined by Mark Robertson and Neil Forbes, the celebrity chef exhibitions at the Chef's Theatre are well worth a visit. The World Food Pagodas and Street Food Avenue is a wonderful tasting sensation, which offers you samples of dishes from around the world. There's also a cook school (for grown-ups and littles ones who want to learn the basics), a wine village, a Food and Drink Theatre Tent that offers Master-class samples and lessons, live entertainment and much more.

For more on the Edinburgh Foodie Fest visit

The Bolton Food And Drink Festival - Bolton

Date: 26–29 August, 2012

The city of Bolton gets a hefty population injection when the annual Food and Drink Festival comes to town, and for lots of very good reasons. Last year saw demonstrations by some of world's most respected and revered cooking celebrities, including Gino D'Acampo, the highly entertaining Hairy Bikers and Michael Caines. Once you've filled your head with all their amazing ideas and suggestions, take a stroll to the Town Center (which is worth a visit any day of the year) and peruse the stalls, offering the finest local and national produce. It's a food AND drink festival, so expect to balance out your serving of fresh seafood and veggies with a good pint of something awesome. Over 90 000 people attended last year's festival, so you can bet on the vendors doing their utmost to catch your attention in 2012.

For more on the Bolton Food and Drink Festival visit

The Isle Of Wight Garlic Festival - Isle Of Wight

Garlic Festival

Date: 18–19 August, 2012

Garlic is one of those extras that everybody loves. There is something completely mesmerising about its taste and smell that drives us wild. The Garlic Festival on the Isle of Wight pays homage to this underground bulb that makes our food taste better. Now in its 26th year, the festival is visited by more than 25 000 people and has racked up numerous awards. There is far more to it than the main garlic marquee – although the powerful smell will definitely draw you in. You'll find the best in local produce, arts and entertainment to be enjoyed, alongside the usual attractions on the isle.

For more on the Garlic Festival visit

Bonus Novelty Food Festival - World Pea Shooting Championships, Cambridgeshire

Date: 14 July, 2012

It's been called the Sport Of Kings and Rulers and The Best Game Ever Played by nine year old boys for centuries. The art of pea-shooting has come leaps and bounds over the last few decades, and every year on the second Saturday of July the best of the best gather at the Witcham Village Green to celebrate their passion. It's by no means a traditional food festival, but the World Pea Shooting Championships is definitely a spectacle worth seeing. Watch the world's most accurate pea-shots battle for glory in this highly prestigious tournament.

For more on the Bonus Novelty Food Festival visit

Last Updated: March 2012

Gugulethu Hlekwayo

Gugulethu Hlekwayo

A timid traveller, but a traveller none the less; Gugulethu is in his element lost and without a map - preferably with a companion willing to listen to his tall tales. He's our resident expert on the best muffins in town.