Sounds like summer: the ten best niche music festivals

Festival Fomo? Fear not. The big ones are sold out, but here’s our pick of the smaller gatherings that still have tickets

Black Deer festival

Eridge Park, Kent, 21-23 June

The vibe Downhomey family fun weekender, y’all, bringing country and Americana to the leafy outskirts of Tunbridge Wells.

The crowd Men of a certain age wearing hats and facial furniture plus their floaty-frocked broods and well turned-out music fans who favour some homespun authenticity. Acoustic guitars round the yurts surely compulsory.

The main events Impressive headliners, including Band of Horses, Kris Kristofferson, Neko Case and Billy Bragg. Also party-time singalong favourites Hayseed Dixie, the Magic Numbers and the Mavericks.

Look out for… Brighton-based fingerpicking virtuoso Gwenifer Raymond, versatile British folkie John Smith and gorgeous blood harmonies from singing sisters the Staves – plus Laura Marling and Paul McCartney producer Ethan Johns solo.

What else? Smokehouse BBQ and southern-style street food, plus cowboy tales and rodeo bull rides for the kids.

Try this if you like… the idea of a US-themed Green Man, or Womad plus banjos. JR


Sparkford Hall, Somerset

19-21 July

Kallida festival.
Look out for DJ Bus Replacement Service at Kallida festival. Photograph: Justin Gardner

The vibe: Intimate. Limited to 400 punters, in the grounds of Sparkford Hall, a Grade II listed Georgian mansion in Somerset, this is a giant, curated house party melding global sound-system culture and left-field visual art.

The crowd: Likely to be populated by people who all sort of know each other – largely from an artsy, twentysomething demographic.

The main events: The headline slot comes from UK carnival legend Aba Shanti-I, but you also need to catch rising Ugandan selector Kampire and trendy, eccentric Parisian hip-hop DJ Teki Latex.

Look out for: DJ Bus Replacement Service, who is known for wearing a Kim Jong-un mask when she plays (obviously). Her sets have been called “unhinged”.

What else? There’s a boudoir-aesthetic space called the Love hotel – previously an art installation with film screenings; it’s now seemingly a whole area. Camping is free, with a limited number of hotel rooms for tent-phobes.

Try this if you like: Experimental festivals like Unsound in Poland, CTM in Berlin or Notting Hill carnival sound systems in London.

Llandudno jazz festival

Bodafom Farm Park, Llandudno, 26-28 July

Tony Kofi
Tony Kofi will perform in Llandudno. Photograph: Andy Sheppard/Redferns via Getty Images

The vibe A bucolic display of some of the UK jazz scene’s stalwarts and rising stars, set against the backdrop of the north Wales coastline. Expect daytime discoveries and late-night jam sessions.

The crowd A combination of day-tripping locals keen to try out the headline talent and veteran jazz aficionados keeping an eye on the fringe events.

The main events Mobo winner Zoe Rahman with her singular piano compositions, rising harpist Alina Bzhezhinska playing with saxophonist Tony Kofi (a London scene stalwart) and eclectic festival organiser Alan Barnes.

Look out for… Dean Masser’s tribute to bebop saxophone pioneer Dexter Gordon and an innovative sponsorship scheme: the public can pledge money towards booking new acts.

What else? There’s ample time to have an ice-cream on the beach at Llandudno, or explore the nearby Great Orme Country Park and Conwy Castle.

Try this if you like… Cheltenham jazz festival, North Sea Jazz in Rotterdam, or Jazzkaar in Tallinn. AK

Houghton festival

Houghton Hall, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, 8-11 Aug

Houghton Festival, Norfolk, publicity shot

The vibe A woodland hideaway featuring everything electronic from Detroit techno to Chicago house, footwork and drum’n’bass, curated by longtime Fabric resident Craig Richards.

The crowd LSD-microdosing 90s ravers meet university students on summer break. See the performers pop up in the crowd and expect glitter, faux fur and bucket hats.

The main events House pioneer Derrick Carter plays a rare disco set, while Four Tet’s luscious ambient sounds counter the industrial force of the likes of DJ Stingray.

Look out for… The man with perhaps the best name (and selection of rare electro) in the game, Intergalactic Gary; trumpeter Matthew Halsall; rising techno producer Bruce.

What else? At a festival with a 24-hour music licence, making time for some wellness is key. Houghton has a selection of yoga classes, a woodland sauna, and even a massage parlour on site.

Try this if you like… Fabric pre-2016 closure, Dimensions festival in Croatia, or London’s Field Day. AK

We Out Here

Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire, 15-18 Aug

Gilles Peterson
Gilles Peterson, curator of We Out Here. Photograph: Matthew Baker/Getty Images

The vibe New Gilles Peterson-curated festival where you can hobnob with the stars of the UK jazz scene and leftfield clubs, but in a field instead of south London.

The crowd Younger than you’d think, refreshingly diverse and better dressed than your average jazz fan: think African prints, berets and 90s sportswear.

The main events A multigenerational mix of big bands and club DJs, from US saxophonist Gary Bartz and Deptford collective Steam Down to house overlord Theo Parrish and Berlin beatsmith Objekt.

Look out for… Rising electro-popper Charlotte Adigéry, returning post-punkers Maximum Joy and party selectors from Worldwide FM – it’s not just improv jamming that’s catered for here.

What else? East London gem Brawn is one of the gourmet restaurants on site. They’ll be serving snacks and natural wine till late, which means you might end up not seeing much music after all.

Try this if you like… Arguing over whether A Love Supreme is superior to The Shape of Jazz to Come and settling it via dance-off. KH

Beautiful Days

Escot Park, Devon, 16-18 Aug

Beautiful Days festival 2018 16 – 18 AUGUST 2019 | ESCOT PARK, DEVON |

The vibe A late 80s folk-punk Glastonbury, plus kids: this is the festival run by the Levellers, all grown up.

The crowd Right-on families in brightly coloured homemade knitwear revelling in the non-corporate fun (bell tents, yurts and tipis are available).

The main events Entertainingly varied lineup: Sleaford Mods and Skunk Anansie, Steeleye Span and Seth Lakeman, plus John Shuttleworth and CBeebies’ Mr Bloom.

Look out for… The powerful alt.pop of She Drew the Gun, stunning acoustic duo the Breath, great folk from Karine Polwart and Cara Dillon, plus a stomping northern soul disco from 6Music’s Craig Charles.

What else? Kids’ activities for under-fives to teenagers, folk and roots sessions in the Fiddlers’ Arms (run by Seth Lakeman’s dad), and a brand new wild spa.

Try this if you like… Sunday fancy dress days: this year’s theme is fairytales (gnomes, dragons and witches are encouraged). JR


Fernhill Farm, Bristol, 15-17 Aug

South Bristol, UK. 22nd Aug, 2015. The band Axes perform at ArcTangent. The UK’s only festival dedicated to the very best music from the worlds of math-rock, post-rock and noise rock. Credit: Wayne Farrell/Alamy Live NewsF0XC9B South Bristol, UK. 22nd Aug, 2015. The band Axes perform at ArcTangent. The UK’s only festival dedicated to the very best music from the worlds of math-rock, post-rock and noise rock. Credit: Wayne Farrell/Alamy Live News

The vibe Download festival may be the daddy of rock and metal, but this small Bristol weekender offers heavy beats across genres including experimental emo, druidy drone or searing post-rock.

The crowd Don’t let the men with black T-shirts, lumber jackets and stern looks fool you: this is a fest for feminist math-rockers, sensitive moshers, craft ale appreciators and anyone with a beard.

The main events Big-haired shredders Coheed and Cambria and “black metal bluesman” Zeal & Ardor will play on Friday; Battles, Russian Circles and 65DaysOfStatic provide expansive noise on Saturday.

Look out for… Cocaine Piss, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Colossal Squid and plenty more bands who sound like they picked their name from a Cards Against Humanity randomiser.

What else? ArcTanGent is more music-focused than most – the closest it gets to gentrified festival fare is local beer and glamping options – but it does offer a late-night silent disco till 3am.

Try this if you like… Whiplash and more time-signature changes than there are portable toilets. KH

The Delaware Road

New Zealand Farm Camp, Wiltshire, 17-18 Aug

Delaware Road festival press images

The vibe Occult folk horror atmospheres inspired by landscape and myth, with music, film and art to match, inside a secret military base on Salisbury Plain.

The crowd Radiophonic Workshop obsessives, experimental electronica fans, and Wicker Man extras.

The main events Musicians and DJs ( DJ Food, Warp’s Andrea Parker, snooker champ turned feted prog DJ Steve Davis) tell the story of Alan Gubby’s cult novel The Delaware Road, a fantastical alternative vision of late 20th-century Britain.

Look out for… Late-night sets in the site’s eerie “stone tents” – built by the army for military exercises – plus sets from Clay Pipe Music and psych-folkie Alison Cotton.

What else? Vintage Routemasters will be taking punters from Warminster railway station to the site stop by the Imber ghost village.

Try this if you like… the thought of Bluedot crossed with the early psychedelic years of the Green Man festival. JR

Lost Village

Swinderby, Lincolnshire, 22-25 Aug

Lost Village, Lincolnshire

The vibe A boutique event in a forest – think dance music with a side of rising talent across the genres, plus talks, theatre, banquets and a focus on wellbeing.

The crowd Former Secret Garden Party-goers and other ravers who want to dance under the stars, but also crave the comfort of a wood-fired hot tub.

The main events Electronic duo Maribou State, plus a set from deeply cool DJ Peggy Gou. For more primal energy, get in the moshpit for UK rapper Slowthai.

Look out for… Underground favourites such as Charlotte Adigéry and James Holden & the Animal Spirits; feasts provided by Indian restaurant chain Dishoom.

What else? With a focus on wellness, there’s lakeside yoga, creative workshops and an extensive vegan menu (we’ve heard great things about the vegan waffles).

Try this if you like… splitting your time at Glastonbury between the Healing Field and the south-east corner. TJ

Field Maneuvers

Secret outdoor location, 30 Aug-1 Sep

Field Manoeuvres Festival

The vibe Frenzied excitement: only 800 attendees and a selection of the world’s finest headline DJ talent. For fans of the music first and foremost.

The crowd A joyous mix of techno-heads, aspiring DJs scrutinising setlists and older ravers. Not for profit, so all involved just want to stage a great party.

The main events Cult house DJ the Black Madonna brings her ecstatic vinyl sets, while New York’s Umfang and Paris’s Teki Latex cover the heavier end of the spectrum.

Look out for… Bristol’s punk-cum-techno duo Giant Swan for shirtless electronics, rising techno turntablist Or:la, and what promises to be a mind-melting jungle set from Mark Archer and Hectick.

What else? In previous years, stages were decked with stunning visuals to accompany the aural assault. A tea tent provides round-the-clock ambient music to nurse the comedown.

Try this if you like… Illegal warehouse parties, Albania’s Kala festival, Manchester’s Warehouse Project. AK

This article was amended on 17 June 2019 to correct the location of Delaware Road festival.


Kate Hutchinson, Ammar Kalia, Tara Joshi, Jude Rogers

The GuardianTramp

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