The UK’s eight best music festivals

From the Mighty Hoopla’s queer, pop-focused celebration to Download’s annual joyous metal onslaught, there’s an event this summer for everyone

All Points East

25 May–3 June, Victoria Park, E3

Who Björk, LCD Soundsystem, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Father John Misty, the xx, Lorde, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beck, the National, Patti Smith, the War on Drugs, Warpaint
What You need to come packing a pretty big lineup to turf Field Day, Lovebox, Citadel and Mighty Hoopla off east London’s Victoria Park, but the inaugural All Points East is your mum’s flashy new boyfriend who insists on you calling him “Uncle Steve”, has a vintage sports car and showers you with random gifts. A 10-day-long extravaganza – with free entry for its midweek community events – All Points East brings to the UK the combination of eclecticism and mega names that Barcelona’s brilliant Primavera Sound nails year upon year. Sure, it’s a bit 6Music: The Musical, but any festival that puts Nick Cave and Patti Smith on the same bill deserves to come back in 2019.
Does it pass the festival Bechdel test? It’s so frightfully middle class that of course it bloody well does; Alison Bechdel has probably curated one of its stages.
See also British Summer Time, Citadel, Meltdown

Field Day

1-2 June, Brockwell Park, SE24

Erykah Badu.
Erykah Badu. Photograph: PR Company Handout

Who Erykah Badu, Loyle Carner, Earl Sweatshirt, Madlib, Princess Nokia, Fever Ray, the Comet Is Coming, Thundercat
What More wilfully esoteric than ever before, Field Day is largely shunning big-hitting headliners in favour of a more chin-stroking, I-spend-all-my-spare-time-rifling-through-the-racks-at-Sounds-of-the-Universe-and-weeping-to-Madvillain aesthetic. If you love J Dilla more than your firstborn, this is the festival for you. As previously mentioned, for the first time since its inception in 2007, Field Day won’t be taking place in its spiritual home of Hackney/Tower Hamlets. Instead – like most hipsters these days – it’s gone south of the river, to Brockwell Park, Herne Hill.
Does it pass the festival Bechdel test? It does! One of the few fests out there to boast a female headliner – step forward the marvellous Ms Badu – there’s an impressive balance between male and female artists, none of which seems like tokenism, but instead about getting the best talent around. In fact, you could get through the whole weekend without watching a dude twiddle his knobs onstage once, thanks to a bill brimming with good shit from Charlotte Gainsbourg, IAMDDB, Helena Hauff, Nao, Yazmin Lacey, Sassy 009 and loads more.
See also Lovebox, Bestival, Parklife, Dot to Dot

Mighty Hoopla

3 June, Brockwell Park, SE24

Who TLC, Lily Allen, Belinda Carlisle, Melanie C, B*Witched, Vengaboys, Betty Who, Louise, DJ Luck and MC Neat.
What The most fabulous of all the fests, Mighty Hoopla is a queer, pop-focused celebration of trash, camp and drag. Kind of like those tours that take 1990s pop stars to play at Rochester Castle on a damp August evening, but not deeply awkward and embarrassing. The ever-entertaining Sink the Pink collective are hosting a stage, while the supergroup you never knew you wanted, Boyzlife – made up of Boyzone’s Keith Duffy and Westlife’s Brian McFadden – will also be in attendance.
Does it pass the festival Bechdel test? All the headliners are female and most attendees will be wearing a shit-ton of makeup and enough weave to power RuPaul’s Drag Race until 2068. It’s a solid pass from us.
See also Brighton and Hove Pride, BBC Music’s Biggest Weekend


8-10 June, Donington Park, nr Derby

Who Guns N’Roses, Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson, Corrosion of Conformity, Body Count, Avenged Sevenfold, Bad Religion, the Hives
What At some point in the early 2000s, the classic Monsters of Rock festival – known for its fondness for Hawkwind, Iron Maiden, AC/DC and flying projectiles heavy with real ale-augmented piss – decided to have a bash at the millennium and returned with a MySpace-worthy rebrand. Fifteen years later, and Download is stuck with its oh-so-2003 name, but it’s also one of the most joyous festivals in the UK, home to one of music’s last staunch tribes: the mighty metaller. Expect to see the casual wearing of triple denim, epic consumption of Snakebite and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull queuing up to watch the Wall of Death in the fairground field. Probably.
Does it pass the festival Bechdel test? There’s a lot of long, luscious hair being headbanged across Donington Park this June, but hardly any of it belongs to women. Metal isn’t generally known for its strong female presence and though the likes of Rolo Tomassi, Marmozets and the Pink Slips are fronted by women, the only all-female acts we can spot on the entire bill are Babymetal and L7. For the love of God, book Heart next year.
See also Bloodstock, Rebellion festival, 2000trees, ArcTanGent


6–8 July, Finsbury Park, N7

Who J Cole, Stormzy, DJ Khaled, Wiley, Migos, J Hus, Giggs, Rae Sremmurd, Lil Uzi Vert
What Starting life in 2005 as much more of a general indie bash in the Reading & Leeds mould – its first headliners were Kasabian, Keane, Basement Jaxx and New Order – Wireless has since become hip-hop’s big weekend out after ditching the guitars and bad haircuts in 2012 and exchanging them for R&B superstars Rihanna and Drake. Now grime rules the roost, with Stormzy’s only UK festival set happening here this summer. Wireless also boasts one of the youngest crowds on the festival circuit, and as such the energy levels will likely put to shame anyone over the age of 25.
Does it pass the festival Bechdel test? Ah, lol – no it does not. For a massive three-day festival, Wireless only has a pitiful four women on its entire bill: Mabel, Lisa Mercedez, Raye and Ms Banks. We like you a lot, Wireless, but you’re going to have to do much better next year.
See also Parklife, Notting Hill Carnival, NASS festival, Lovebox


12-15 July, Henham Park, nr Southwold

Two of Latitude’s pink sheep.
Two of Latitude’s pink sheep. Photograph: Jen O'Neill

Who The Killers, Solange, Alt-J, the Vaccines, Mogwai, Wolf Alice, the Breeders, Benjamin Clementine, Alvvays
What Otherwise known as the one with the ethically painted rainbow sheep. Latitude is where Reading and Leeds attendees go when they’re too old to go to Reading and Leeds – ie 19 years old – and where Alt-J seem to headline literally every single year. There’s a low-key Britpop theme to this year’s event with Sleeper, James and the Charlatans smuggled straight out of 1995 and on to the lineup. But the real winner here is the comedy. Bridget Christie, Mo Gilligan, Aisling Bea and QI Live head up a bill of extreme lolz, and even Ed Miliband will be bringing his Reasons to be Cheerful podcast to the site. Laugh along while you feast on vegan tacos from Club Mexicana and pretend the world isn’t doomed.
Does it pass the festival Bechdel test? It’s certainly not a half-and-half split between male and female artists, but there is a strong showing of lady-led talent across the board, with a powerful collection of sisters doing it for themselves in the comedy, theatre and dance areas.
See also Truck Festival, Kendal Calling, Bluedot

Reading & Leeds

24–26 August, Little John’s Farm and Bramham Park

Skepta. Photograph: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Who Kendrick Lamar, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Kings of Leon, Skepta
What This year has been branded by some exasperated grumps on Twitter as “the worst lineup ever”, but we beg to differ. You can keep your Kooks, Wombats and Courteeners: booking the likes of Kendrick, J Hus, Skepta and Brockhampton shows a festival that is willing to break out of its tired rock and indie pigeonhole. Well, mostly …
Does it pass the festival Bechdel test? It was the overwhelmingly male lineup of Reading & Leeds a few years back that sparked debate about gender diversity on festival bills, as a depressingly sparse mocked-up poster featuring only the female names on the bill was circulated. So, have things changed? Have they fuck. Pop genius Dua Lipa is the only female solo act to grace the main stage and even though the likes of Sigrid, Nadia Rose, Kate Nash, Hinds and Dream Wife are featured lower down the bill – and the quarter-female Wolf Alice headline the BBC Radio 1 stage – there is still a blind spot when it comes to women being invited to play bigger slots.
See also TRMSMT, Isle of Wight, RIZE festival

End of the Road

30 August-2 September, Larmer Tree Gardens, nr Salisbury

Who Vampire Weekend, St Vincent, Feist, Josh T Pearson, Oh Sees, Ezra Furman, Omar Souleyman, Julia Holter, Mulatu Astatke, Lucy Dacus
What Small but perfectly formed, End of the Road has its roots in alt-country, but also welcomes indie big-hitters and experimental folkies. The site is dreamy, with hidden stages in the woods and nonchalant peacocks roaming about the place.
Does it pass the festival Bechdel test? Liverpool guitar-pop trio Stealing Sheep will be bringing a suffragette-inspired marching band procession performance piece to the weekender. Does that answer the question?
See also Green Man, Black Deer, Cambridge folk festival, Woodland Gathering


Leonie Cooper

The GuardianTramp

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