Summer Festival Guide: Herts, Beds & beyond
Are you ready to make some noise?! From 80s throwbacks to thumping chart-toppers and the best of the boutique fests, here are 40 festivals you need to know about this summer.
After more than a year of nothing but home comforts, we’re more than ready for a weekend of wet wipes, dry shampoo and partying with the masses.
Still need persuading? OK. Whatever your festival vibe – be it a classy picnic or a damn good boogie with your besties, we’ve got a jam-packed festival season ahead of us, and there really is something for everyone…
Chilfest, Tring, 24 July [NEW DATE]
Chilfest is coming back big after 2020’s fallow year. It’s set to be quite a glossy affair: posh loos, sushi, and good wine to knock back as you boogie to tribute acts and 80s hits. Friday will be the tribute night: The Bootleg Beatles, Queen One Vision, Noasis and Tania Alboni’s Tribute to Amy Winehouse, among others. Then Saturday is a funky throwback to the 80s: Tony Hadley, Roland Gift of the Fine Young Cannibals, Leee John of Imagination, and Boney M’s Maizie Williams are just some of the familiar faces ready to light up the stage. Fluff those shoulder pads and get grooving. Tickets from £26.50.
Standon Calling, Standon, 22-25 July
Music and arts festival, Standon Calling, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. It started life as an extravagant birthday garden party, only the party just kept getting bigger and bigger. This year’s line-up includes Bastille, Craig David, Hot Chip and Primal Scream. Day tickets are £65, or weekend ones £179.
Bedford Park Concerts, 9 – 12 September [NEW DATES]
This ordinarily annual collection of gigs, Bedford Park Concerts, are always hotly anticipated and feature big names in a stunning venue (the clue’s in the name!), giving it that day festival vibe. This year’s line-up features Olly Murs, Café Mambo and Ocean Colour Scene, plus on 1 August is the grand finale – The Bedford Park Proms which is celebrating its 25th birthday, so expect fireworks and lasers aplenty.
The Legends Festival, Herts County Showground, St Albans, 31 Jul – 1 August
The UK’s biggest tribute act festival, The Legends Festival has a massive line-up with thirteen of the world’s biggest and best pop and rock tribute bands and artists. There’s Killer Queen, Madness Badness, Coldplay Cloneplay and Dan Budd as Robbie Williams on Saturday, followed by Abba Mania, Absolute Bowie, The Upbeat Beatles and more on Sunday. It’s super family friendly, in fact if you’re in time to snap up an Early Bird ticket, you can bring your little ones for just a tenner!
Stone Valley Festival South, Great Amwell, 13-15 August
The Stone Valley South festival has a distinct Mods and Rockers theme going on, with some major headliners over the three day weekend including The Boomtown Rats, The Undertones and The Happy Mondays. You might also spot a Vespa or two, thanks to the organised scooter ride-out and the annual Show and Shine awards with trophies for best paint job, best mod and more!
Herts Fest, Herts County Showground, St Albans, 15 August
Newbie alert! Herts Fest is a brand new one-day festival that’s earned its place in our ‘big players’ list thanks to its stellar line-up of legendary bands and artists from the 70s through to the 90s, which we reckon will pull festival goers from near and far. There’s UB40, Aswad, Soul II Soul and Ray Lewis from The Drifters. Plus Pat Sharp will be on the DJ decks for good measure.
Classic Ibiza, Hatfield Park, 21 August
Transport yourself to clubbers’ nirvana for for Classic Ibiza – a homage to heady Ibiza nights. It might not be on a sun-drenched island or involve partying into the small hours (doors close at 10.15pm), but you can bring a picnic and enjoy the lovely setting of Hatfield park. World-class dance acts, including Groove Armada, will take to the stage after former Pacha Ibiza DJ, Jose Luis, opens the evening. The Urban Soul Orchestra and Goldierocks will up the tempo with a Sundowner Set and for the finale, expect an al fresco nightclub vibe with a laser show. Glowsticks at the ready.
At Home Farm Live, Elstree, 26 May – 3 September
We’ve missed out on a year of festival fun, so how about a festival season to make up for it? At Home Farm Live is happening at a gorgeous countryside site in Elstree with on-site glamping and the programme has been curated by Wilderness Festival’s founding programmer, Tessa Clarfelt. There’ll be music from Jack Garratt on 26-27 May and performances from The Handlebards, Rogue Theatre and Slapstick Picnic, plus circus workshops, AND al fresco dining experiences with top chefs.
The Estate Festival, Turvey House, 3 – 27 June [CLOSING WEEKEND DATE TO BE RESCHEDULED SOON]
This new four-weeker in the grounds of the grand Turvey House, looks like a proper classy affair in a socially distanced setting. Expect some the world’s biggest DJs and live acts including Pete Tong and The Shapeshifters, which you can dance along to with five mates in your private hexagon-shaped dance pods, plus there’ll be a luxury pop-up glamping site (complete with swimming pool and spa), food from the Boathouse restaurant, pre-party brunches and after parties, as well as a weekly family show on Saturdays.
Todd in the Hole, Stevenage, 16-18 July [SADLY CANCELLED FOR 2021 DUE TO NEW COVID RESTRICTIONS]
The super family friendly fest was set up by two local chaps to celebrate the best of the Herts countryside, live music and good fun in the sun. They’ve got 80 bands and solo artists lined up, including tributes and local ones to watch, plus folk and rock acts. There’ll also be great food on offer, DJ after parties and a kids’ arena with loads of activities. Find out more here, and then enter our comp to try and bag a pair of VIP tickets!
Folk by the Oak, Hatfield House, 18 July [STILL GOING AHEAD]
Still going ahead, thanks to its limited numbers and social distancing measures, this easy breezy summer fest is all about chilling with a cold bevvy to the sountrack of some of the finest folk acts in the biz. On the main stage this year will be Seasick Steve and Kate Rusby, while folk-punk six-piece Skinny Lister and others will be rocking the Acorn Stage. There’ll also be craft and vintage stalls to explore and creative workshops for all ages. Don the floral headgear and away you go!
Stockwood Festival, St Albans, 7 August
It started life as a small private event in 2014 to promote live bands and DJs, before Stockwood Festival opened up to the local community in 2016. The lineup features an evening of blues, Cuban-pop fusion and classic rock tributes with DJs keeping the party going late into the night. All for just £12 a ticket
Warm Up Festival, Bygrave Woods, Herts 19-22 August
Hedonists listen up! How about four days of electronic dance music worthy of the best London clubs, brought to you in the middle of a pine forest? There’ll be one main stage with pillars and platforms to climb on for a more interesting perspective (easy on the booze then!), and a smaller stage for homegrown talent, plus contemporary art installations and immersive experiences. And to soothe those morning-after heads, make a beeline for the wellness zone where you can try sound journeys, meditation and yoga. Ommm!
Goatfest, Codicote, 27-29 August
Goatfest has grown from a small, free one-dayer in a pub beer garden to a three-day extravaganza with over 70 acts performing (Kim Wilde is headlining this year!) on four stages. It’s also a great chance to discover some new music from up-and-coming performers on the festival circuit, as well as some homegrown acts.
Amp Rocks, Ampthill, 3-5 September
Part of Ampthill Festival, this fab weekender and not-for-profit boutique fest will play host to none other than McFly and Ash on the Saturday this year. Not bad for a small local fest that’s led by community volunteers, eh?! Amplify Friday and re-vAmp Sunday (see what they did there?) will bookend the weekend – watch this space for more info on those.
Wilkestock, Hertford, 24-26 September
This charity music festival held on Frogmore Hill, Hertford is volunteer run and described as ‘the most intimate festival site ever’. There are tonnes of acts playing across 4 stages including local artists and those from further afield, plus live grafitti artists doing their thing, three bars, and a family friendly campsite with lockers, chargers and showers.
Great British Food Festival, Knebworth House, 17-18 July [DUE TO NEW COVID RESTRICTIONS ALL TICKETS MUST BE BOOKED IN ADVANCE]
This popular food-focused weekend returns to the glorious grounds of Knebworth and there’s something for everyone. Along with the Chef Demos, street food stalls, artisan market, Cake Off and Men v Food comps, Bake and BBQ stages, there’ll also be kids cookery, live music, foraging walks, a craft market and a mini zoo. Plus it’s dog friendly so bring pooch along for the fun.
Hertford Food and Drink Festival, 14-15 August
This free weekend includes loads of street food stalls, while local cafés, bars and restaurants open their doors to offer special promotions, cookery demos and samples (don’t mind if we do!), and it joins forces with the Hertford Castle Beer & World Food Festival, which takes place in the castle grounds.
Benington Lordship Chilli Festival, Stevenage, 28-30 August
Like things hot and spicy (naughty!)? Then you’ll love this three-day fest dedicated to the humble chilli. There’ll be over 60 stalls selling everything from chilli plants to fiery chutney and chocolate, international street food, local beers and cocktails with a kick, musical entertainment AND the famous chilli eating comp – it’s all too hot to handle!
Pub in the Park, St Albans, 10 – 12 Sept
Tom Kerridge’s popular gourmet-scran-meets-live-music fandango Pub in the Park returns to Verulamium Park. Tuck into top-level food and boogie along to the likes of All Saints, Basement Jaxx DJ Set, Gabrielle, Lightning Seeds and more.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Kids, dogs, comedy, classical music and vintage – you name it, it’s happening in Herts and Beds.
Hertfordshire Festival of Music, Hertford, 4-10 June
It’s not your typical welly-wearing, cider sloshing festival, but it is a major celebration of classical music which we would be remiss in leaving out of our summer festival round-up. Hertfordshire Festival of Music is held at various venues in and around Hertford and you can expect to hear international artists and ensembles, including violinist Chloë Hanslip, who made her BBC proms debut at just fourteen, as well as performances of music by Judith Weir, CBE, this year’s Featured Living Composer.
Battle Proms, Hatfield House, 17 July
Load the hampers and pop the Champers for this explosive celebration of pomp and ceremony. The grounds of Hatfield House will be filled with a rousing orchestral programme of toe-tapping tunes, accompanied by dramatic Spitfire displays, cavalry and canons and a spectacular fireworks finale.
Bedford Festival Fringe, 22 July – 1 August
Bedford’s answer to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the concept behind the Bedford Festival Fringe is to come and see not one but loads of live shows, from performances of new work by household names to brand new faces making a name for themselves on the circuit. There’s everything from music and dance to comedy, theatre and spoken work coming to various venues in and around Bedford.
St Albans Comedy Garden, Verulamium Park, 28 July – 1 August
I think we’re all in need of a good laugh after the year we’ve had, aren’t we? Luckily some of the best stand-ups of our time are heading to Herts for this brand new funny fest running over five nights. The line-up is immense: Sara Pascoe, Josh Widdicombe, Alan Davies, Milton Jones, Shappi Khorsandi, Reginald D Hunter, Nina Conti, Tom Allen and Rob Beckett to name a few! It’s all live and open air with street food, summer cocktails and craft beer on offer too.
Totfest, Redbourn, 7 August
A veritable kids’ heaven – this is like all your little one’s wildest dreams rolled into one epic day. Expect baby raves, theatre shows, tonnes of art and craft activities, a fairground, race tracks, toy villages, a giant soft play, character meet-and-greets, sports sessions, music making and LOADS more.
Twinwood Festival, Clapham, Bedfordshire, 27-30 August
Don the floral headscarfs, up-dos and swing skirts, and slather on the red lippy for this celebration of vintage music, dance and fashion. There’ll be a fab line-up of bands and artists to get you bopping, dance classes where you can perfect your lindy hop, and fashion stalls to up your vintage game.
Dogfest, Knebworth House, 11-12 Sept
Dogfest is back for a barking good time. There’s a big dog walk, a puppy academy, doggy wellness, and the chance to prove — once and for all — who’s the best boy, in one of the dog shows.
OVER THE BORDER
These are the ones not to miss over in Bucks…
Henley Festival 15-19 Sept
Don’t forget your black tie and Champagne for this genteel shebang. Henley Festival is back for five days of fabulous fun, promising knockout performances from Madness, James Blunt, Sophie Ellis Bextor, and a rock and symphonic spectacular of Queen, Abba and Bee Gee’s fever. Tickets from £55.
Pennfest, Penn, 23-24 July
For a serene Bucks village, Penn really does manage to pull in an impressive line-up of rebel-rousers. Hello, Craig David, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, and Big Narstie! Other acts will include Razorlight, Ella Eyre, The Charlatans, and Ms Banks. Pitch up your tent in the scenic field next-door and get ready to party. Weekend tickets from £117.70.
Retro Carfest, Bicester Heritage, 13-15 Aug [CANCELLED DUE TO NEW COVID RESTRICTIONS]
A whirlwind timewarp to the days when flares were wider, cocktails had umbrellas, and cars were cooler. Retro Carfest is a brand new family festival jam-packed with music, films, gadgets, cars and legends from the glory days. Hosted by Chris Evans and featuring other TV and radio favourites, the line-up includes Scouting for Girls and the Happy Mondays among others. Adult day tickets start at £74.
The Vache Baroque Festival, Chalfont St Giles, 3 / 5 Sept
Based at the stunning 15th-century Vache estate in southeast Bucks, this year The Vache Baroque Festival will be championing Handel’s pastoral opera Acis & Galatea. The grounds open from 3:30pm for picnicking, exploring, and drinks (FYI there’s a bar), where you can expect a few sound installations and pre-show pop-up performances. With everything we’ve collectively been through, a leisurely evening listening to classic tunes is just what the doctor ordered. Tickets from £35.
HAVE WELLIES, WILL TRAVEL
And if you feel like venturing further afield…
Wireless Festival, London Finsbury Park, 10-12 September [NEW DATES]. (Line-up: Future, Skepta, Migos)
BST Hyde Park, London, 9-11 July. (Line-up: Pearl Jam, Pixies, Duran Duran, Nile Rodgers & Chic plus Grace Jones) [CANCELLED DUE TO NEW COVID RESTRICTIONS]
Latitude Festival, Suffolk, 22-25 July. (Line-up: Lewis Capaldi, Bastille, First Aid Kit and Snow Patrol)
Kaleidoscope Festival, London Alexandra Palace, 24 July. (Line-up: Groove Armada, The Coral, Norman Jay MBE, Greg Wilson)
Camp Bestival, Dorset, 29 July – 1 Aug. (Line-up: Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada, Becky Hill, Kelis)
All Points East, London Victoria Park, 27-30 Aug. (Line-up: Jamie XX, Kano, Tom Misch, Slowthai, Arlo Parks)
Edinburgh Summer Sessions, 6-15 Aug. (Line-up: DMA’s, Tom Jones, Michael Kiwanuka, Lionel Richie, Travis and Simple Minds)
Boardmasters, Cornwall, 11-15 Aug. (Line-up: Gorillaz, Foals, Lianne La Havas, The Kooks, Becky Hill)
Isle of Wight Festival, 16-19 Sept. (Line-up: Lionel Richie, Lewis Capaldi, Jess Glynn, Becky Hill, You Me At Six, Primal Scream, Snow Patrol)