Small and boutique festivals have exploded across the UK in recent years - here are five of the very best.
One of the quieter but most significant revolutions in the British music scene this decade has been the explosion of small, or ‘boutique’, festivals across the land.
No longer is the festival circuit the plain old Glastonbury / Reading & Leeds / T In The Park axis. The latter of those has bitten the dust and transformed into TRNSMT; Latitude and Wireless have established themselves over the last 15 years as rivals; while V has become an almost exclusively pop-oriented festival.
But on a smaller tier than those are the galaxy of boutique festivals that have sprouted up at increasing pace. Here’s the six best small festivals the UK has to offer.
Held at the Lulworth Estate in Dorset at the start of September, Bestival has been an enormous success story since it was established in 2004. Created by DJ and producer Rob Da Bank and his wife Josie, it has grown from 10,000 to a 55,000 capacity in 13 years, with a Toronto branch set up in 2015.
With a resolutely non-corporate atmosphere, it’s probably the closest vibe you can get to Glastonbury. Now a four-day event, the 2017 headliners were indie troubadour Jamie T, minimalist indie-dance titans The xx, the now-retired hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest and pop icons Pet Shop Boys. Saturdays are famously fancy-dress occasions - the festival holds the Guinness World Record for most people in fancy dress at any one event!
One of the more overtly family-friendly festivals on the circuit, Festival No.6 is one of the final events of the summer, held usually on the second weekend of September every year since 2012.
Located in the absurdly picturesque coastal village of Portmeirion in Wales – where the legendary TV series ‘The Prisoner’ was filmed, giving the festival its name – it is focussed on other arts and not just music. The likes of Manic Street Preachers, James Blake, Beck, My Bloody Valentine and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds have headlined in previous years.
With a capacity of just 10,000 – due to the obvious restrictions of its setting – Festival No.6 is usually one of the most in-demand festivals around.
End Of The Road
Running since 2006 and orientated around folk and rock music primarily, End of the Road is set in the rather stange environs of Larmer Tree Gardens (on the Dorset / Wiltshire border). As a result, it’s not uncommon to see peacocks strutting about as you walk around!
Now with a capacity of 14,000, End of the Road has been gradually building up in stature, and in 2011 won the Best Small Festival at the annual UK Festival Awards. This year’s line-up saw the celebrated Father John Misty perform his first ever British festival headline set, and previous editions have seen Animal Collective, The Shins, St. Vincent and Joanna Newsom perform.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2018 is the rather brilliant BoomTown Fair festival, set in the rolling hills of Hampshire and with an incredible amount of detail put into its set-up and vibe. Like Bestival, it feels like a small Glastonbury, with each major stage complimented by a town district with its own theme (Wild West, Old Town, steam-punk, etc.)
Although the 2017 edition was marred by poor organisation and enormous entry queues initially, acts ranging from The Specials and M.I.A. to Frank Turner made it a successful year.
Held in the Brecon Beacons in Wales every year since 2003 and going past its 15th anniversary this summer, the 20,000 capacity Green Man sprawls over four days and has previously hosted headliners from PJ Harvey and Fleet Foxes to Super Furry Animals and The National.
Just like similar events like Latitude, Green Man has additional events showcasing literature, film, comedy, theatre and poetry. The last three years have seen 1,500 multi-arts acts perform across 17 stages each year.