It's that time of year. The distant sound of music thumping in the distance, you've just pitched your tent (or padded out your pod) and the sounds of fun and entertainment are drawing you to the inner sanctum of the festival - like moths to a light bulb.
Summer in the west country we think, was invented for festival gatherings - it seems to fit our ability to shake off the shackles of work and home life and to really loosen up those shoulders for a few days and ease into a new life, in a field, with like minded people, great world food and infectious grooves.
Fortunately we have so much to choose from in this part of the country. So here's a selection of the very best on offer and in no particular order:
WOMAD Festival - Charlton Park Estate
WOMAD also known as World of Music, Arts & Dance has become a particular favourite festival stop in the summer calendar. Started by prog-maestro Peter Gabriel the festival has been running for over 30 years, it's roots now firmly planted in the Wiltshire countryside on the beautiful Charlton Park Estate.
This four day event is a beacon of light in a sea of festivals due to it's celebration of a vast and eclectic range of world music artists and performers (from 103 countries!) - no other festival comes close to the diversity that WOMAD offers. As such, it makes for a thrilling time as you never quite know what to expect! You can walk from one stage to another crossing many genres of music and entertainment, most steeped in a rich culture and mythology and utterly captivating. It's a 'suck it and see' experience.
“The best music you've never heard”
But, it's not just the music on offer at WOMAD - taste buds will perform somersaults at the incredible range of world food available - there's enough here to satisfy without every eating the same thing twice, for breakfast through to supper! Coupled with an impressive range of passionately brewed ales and ciders the well-placed bars complete the line up of all the greatest things you need from a festival.
It's a family-friendly event and as such the mood across the festival is upbeat and buzzes with excitement. A particularly good time can be found in the arboretum where a diverse range of holistic therapies are on offer coupled with children's activities (World of Kids) and literature tents (World of Words), be sure also to pop into the Physics Pavilion to have your mind blown!
And if that's enough, spa treatments, dance sessions, food demonstrations and wine tasting add even more to the experience - There is real value in this festival.
26 - 29th July 2018.
Highlight perfomances from: Django Django, The Original Gypsies of Camargue, Leftfield
Glastonbury Festival - Worthy Farm, Somerset
It's world famous and a staple in the diet of many festival goers and really couldn't be left off any 'Best of' lists. What more could be said about this Somerset based festival that hasn't already been written? Well, only the fact that every year, it seems to be getting bigger and actually runs very smoothly - gone are the heady days in the early 1990's when it was a free-for-all at times, though some of my favourite memories came from that period!
There's a mystical calling to Glastonbury, with everyone converging on this beautiful part of the countryside, along ancient ley lines and once inside a strange feeling of unity. Everyone is primed to have the best time of their lives and even a splash of mud won't dampen their spirits. The size of a small city, and probably seen from space Glastonbury is a feat to set up and an incredible achievement each year.
“ The Festival takes place in a beautiful location – 900 acres in the Vale of Avalon, an area steeped in symbolism, mythology and religious traditions dating back many hundreds of years. It’s where King Arthur may be buried.”
The festival now caters for a wider taste in music, better range in food and drink and each area which takes on it's own distinctive theme creates a fantastic, manic eclectic mash-up of audio and visual delights. The choice of music on offer is outstanding, with well over 60 venues for live music. In the space of just a few hours I can recall seeing an art house movie in the cinema tent, stumbling through a folk act on the bandstand to ending up at the Williams Green stage to watch a raw performance from Courtney Barnett, which gave me tinnitus - that I still have today!
Recent Highlights : The Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, Radiohead
Tickets: No festival this summer but more information regarding tickets for 2019 are HERE
The Larmer Tree Festival, Tollard Royal, Wiltshire
The beautiful landscaped surroundings of the Larmer Tree gardens plays host to this 5 day festival of music, comedy and arts.
The festival hit a high in 2015 with an incredible line-up featuring greats such as Rodrigo y Gabriela, The Magic Numbers and Jimmy Cliff. The event took a brief hiatus in 2017 but returns this year with bags of enthusiasm.
“ Larmer Tree is the quintessential summer party. Intimate and eccentric, and remaining small by choice, we offer a unique party experience, encouraging a genuine festival community.”
One thing that this festival does well is fancy dress - it seems everyone is involved - especially when the carnival procession snakes through the festival site sucking in bystanders as it goes.
The charm of this festival is it's size - it has never outgrown the location and is perfectly contained making it ideal for you to stay in touch and not get too lost! But, don't be fooled by the small size, it is absolutely packed with fascinating areas and themed stages. The main stage and garden stage are the shining gems in the entire festival site, at night they come alive with brilliant decorations and performances and in the morning it's a den of tranquility with meditation and yoga classes beneath the swaying tree canopy.
One particular aspect of the Larmer Tree festival that is outstanding is the street theatre performances that are cleverly secreted throughout the festival site - they're quirky, here to catch you unawares and most peculiar - things happen that you didn't quite expect. Characters straight out of a Lewis Carol novel mingle amongst the crowd and did I just see that tent get up and walk away?! As Willy Wonka once said, "Lot's of little surprises around each corner, But nothing dangerous"!
19 - 22nd July 2018.
Highlight perfomances from: First Aid Kit, Jake Bugg & Public Service Broadcasting
Valley Fest - Chew Valley Lake, Somerset
Not many festivals can boast a setting as beautiful as this. Set on the banks of Chew Valley lake in Somerset this family friendly festival is a hidden gem in the busy summer schedule.
“ ...walk across the lush green fields and be greeted with a stunning view of the lake and the valley surrounding it.”
The attraction of this small, but perfectly planned event is it's ability to create a calm and jubilant spirit over the three day weekend which welcomes everyone into a safe and fun environment. Entertainment is pitched at all ages and interests - with plenty of children's activities and performances to entertain (and distract!)
Live music is spread across a range of different stages, with a highlight being a magnificent lakeside tent with a glorious carpeted interior bar area, perfect for a glass of local cider and shading from the summer sunshine.
The festivals roots began in 2014 by organiser, Luke Hassell to celebrate the memory of his parents and also sits side by side with The Community Farm and as such all food at the event is organic, locally sourced and reasonably priced.
3 - 5th August 2018.
Highlight perfomances from: St Paul and the Broken Bones, Rae Morris and Dizraeli
Tickets: A range of options, particularly aimed at families with children: HERE
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