The Secret Garden Party
One of the fastest growing festivals around, The Secret Garden Party was started in 2004 as an alternative to the highly commercial (and often expensive) festivals of the time. The first gathering hosted just a thousand people, while last year`s had around twenty-six thousand. The festival has stuck to its roots though, so food is cheaper than most festivals, the bands tend to be well-known, but not usually of the “Superstar” variety and the general feel and vibe of the place is one that still feels independent and non-commercial. Do not expect any X-Factor winners to be seen there!
The End of the Road Festival
The End of the Road is an independent festival that was started some years ago by two friends and is held annually in North Dorset. The focus is on folk, alternative country music and Americana, so expect lots of real bands playing real music. The festival is set around four main stages, the Woods Stage, the Garden Stage, the Big Top Stage and the Tipi Tent, though the woodland setting means there are often smaller, unadvertised “secret” sets held in the woods, often simply around a piano or a camp-fire. A gentle, laid-back, easy living festival for people after a break from the norm.
The Glade Festival
Glade was one of the dance stages at Glastonbury many years ago and it has since broken off to become a festival all of its own. The premier festival for dance and electronic music, Glade is home to the best of UK and international break-beats, house, techno, garage and frankly any other types of music that gets people pumping and dancing all night long. The festival also brings in circus acts, live dance performances and incredible light/laser displays at night. This is one for the old school ravers out there and has won countless “Best Festival” awards since its inception. The festival has been held in various locations, but generally is held in the south of the UK.
The Y-Not Festival
The Y-Not Festival in Derbyshire is a real back to basics affair. If you are after the height of non-commercial festival-going, then this is the one for you. The bands often camp with the revellers, all the food and alcohol served is locally produced (and often cheap) and the whole concept is build on real music and real music fans. This is not one for the posers. Expect to make friends, discover new bands you have never heard of and probably have a cheaper long weekend at a festival than you thought possible. Y-Not has all kinds of music, from folk, indie and rock to electronic and dance. The festival has grown over the last few years, so there will certainly be some bigger bands there, but much like The Secret Garden Party you won`t find any one-hit-wonders or reality TV winners on the stage.
The Wickerman Festival
Held annually in Dumfries Scotland, The Wickerman Festival is a celebration of alternative music in Scotland. Regarded by some as being like a “mini Glastonbury” the festival prides itself on having something for everyone. Set in the beautiful countryside (and nearby to many of the locations used for the famous “Wicker Man” film), the festival has gone from strength to strength and has now been running for over a decade. The focus is more on indie/rock and alternative music, but there are still some big bands that play. The festival highlight is the burning of a giant Wicker Man on the last day. Well.. of course!
Frankly, this list could go on and on, as there are loads of great, smaller festivals out there that need to be experienced. Not that there is anything wrong with the bigger festivals, but there is a certain charm to the smaller ones and you will definitely find that the smaller crowds, shorter walks between stages, less intrusive security and often friendlier patrons make these smaller festivals far more enjoyable. One of the main problems is that, by their very nature, you might not always get to hear about these smaller affairs. They don`t bombard the country with adverts like the more established festivals do, so you need to keep your eyes and ears open. Making friends in your local independent music shop is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse, as is keeping up to date with sites like Boxoffice.co.uk so you don`t miss those all important on-sale dates. Get out there and find your new favourite band!