Festival tickets: a Guide to the Best UK Music Festivals


British music fans are nothing if not tough. Despite our notoriously unpredictable weather thousands and thousands of live music fans stand in muddy fields for hours on end and camp in conditions they would never contemplate anywhere else, all to see some of the world’s most popular singers and musicians perform on stage.

The music festival is part of British culture. Whether it’s Glastonbury, Reading, Bestival, Latitude, the V Festival or any of the other large or small scale outdoor music events, people flock to buy tickets and return every year, even when the weather forecast is terrible. Scenes of wellie-clad festival goers squelching between the damp tents feature on the TV news every year, usually around the time of the Glastonbury Festival.

So if you’re a festival virgin but fancy discovering what you’re missing out on, here’s a guide to some of the best live music festivals in the UK:

Biggest and best
Glastonbury is arguably the most famous music festival in the UK. It tends to get world class acts – Kanye West was one of the top 2015 acts - and has several acts performing simultaneously so there’s always someone worth watching. The downside is that tickets are hard to get and expensive. Tickets go on sale in the autumn for the following year’s festival so you need to be on the ball. If you’re planning to go with a few friends it’s worth co-ordinating your efforts so that whichever one of you gets through to the online booking page first can buy tickets for all of you. One person can buy up to six tickets.

Best for pop music fans
The V Festival is held over a weekend in August at two different sites, one in Chelmsford and the other in Staffordshire. The headline acts perform at both sites over the weekend. It attracts big chart-topping acts – the 2015 V Festival line-up included Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith, Jess Glynn, George Ezra, Kasabian, Olly Murs, Calvin Harris, Paloma Faith … the list goes on. V Festival tickets are the ones to target if you like chart music.

Best for families
Music festivals aren’t just for students and twenty somethings; parents enjoy them too and some festivals make sure the whole family can have a good time. One of the best family-friendly festivals is Latitude, held in Southwold, Suffolk over a weekend in July. Headline acts in 2015 included Alt-J, Portishead, Noel Gallagher and the Manic Street Preachers. But Latitude isn’t just about live music; there’s a host of other activities to keep festival goers busy such as comedy acts, storytelling, theatre, dance and multi-media performances as well as special areas for children and teens.

Best for oldies
If you’ve grown out of listening avidly to the Top 40 and want to listen to more grown-up acts there are plenty of festivals to suit you. Bestival is held on the Isle of Wight over a September weekend towards the end of the festival season and is renowned for its line-up of throwback acts. Performers at the 2015 festival included Duran Duran, Level 42 and the Jacksons but not the acts are from the dim and distant past – other performers included Mark Ronson, Rudimental, Lily Allen and Neneh Cherry.

Other festival tickets guaranteed to raise the excitement levels of older music fans are for the Isle of Wight Festival in June. The 2015 line-up featured Fleetwood Mac, Blur and the Prodigy as well as men of the moment Pharrell Williams and Paulo Nutini.

Best for rock and indie fans The Reading and Leeds festivals are the music Meccas for fans of rock and indie music. Both festivals are held the last weekend in August and feature a range of acts on several different stages. Headliners in 2015 included Metallica, Mumford & Sons and the Libertines. As with the V Festival, the acts all perform at both sites.

Download, held over a June weekend at the Donington racetrack, is a festival for rock and heavy metal fans. The line-up spans the range of the rock music genre – 2015 acts included Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Judas Priest and Billy Idol.

Best for dance and R&B fans Wireless is held in London’s Finsbury Park at the end of June and early July. It’s aimed at fans of R&B music and headline acts at the 2015 festival included Drake, Rita Ora, Avicii, Kendrick Lamar, David Guetta, Nicky Minaj and Jessie J.

The Creamfields Festival, at the Daresbury Estate in Cheshire, is held over the August Bank Holiday weekend and features two outdoor stages and several arenas. Dance music takes centre stage and the 2015 line-up included The Chemical Brothers, Avicii and Fatboy Slim.

Best for world music
The WOMAD festival, founded by Peter Gabriel, is the most famous world music festival. It’s held on the last week of July in Malmesbury, Wiltshire and features a host of acts showcasing music from all over the world. Rappers De La Soul, theatrical folk bank Bellowhead and former freedom fighters Tinariwen headed an eclectic line-up in 2015.

How to get festival tickets Many music festivals, particularly the larger ones, start selling tickets several months in advance. Most festival tickets go on sale in the autumn for the following year’s festival. If you’re interested in attending a particular festival you need to keep an eye on the website or sign up for ticket alerts.

Many of the larger festivals require you to register beforehand with photo ID. You will then receive a registration number which will need to be quoted at the time of booking your ticket. Festival organisers are imposing this extra level of security to prevent ticket touting and tickets being sold on the black market. It does mean that if you buy a ticket and then change your mind you can’t pass it on to anyone else.

Some of the biggest festivals sell out quickly so you will need to be applying for tickets as soon as they go on sale. Festival tickets are usually sold online either on the festival website or via an agency such as Ticketmaster so you’ll need to have reliable internet and to be prepared to sit at your computer or laptop for some time.

If you’re planning to attend a festival with a group of friends it’s worth agreeing that whoever gets through first will buy tickets for as many of the rest of you as possible. The number of tickets one individual can buy will be limited but often one person can buy as many as six tickets. If you make this arrangement with friends ensure that you all have each other’s registration details as you won’t be able to buy tickets without them.

Be prepared to pay a lot of money for your festival tickets. A weekend ticket at the larger festivals could set you back by £200 or more. The more expensive festivals will usually take a deposit at the time of booking and expect the balance to be paid nearer the time or they may offer an instalment plan.
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