Guide to best music festivals in Norfolk and beyond
09:19 01 June 2012
This summer will see this region hosting boutique festivals of obscure leftfield artists to corporate sponsored mega-fests featuring some of the biggest acts in the world. SIMON PARKIN highlights the pick of 2012’s music festivals.
From corporate one-day festivals with as many sponsors’ logos as band T-shirts to home-grown, leftfield boutique gatherings with mud, camping and loos you’d rather not think about. There has been an explosion of music festivals being staged in this region over the last few years.
Glastonbury, the most famous of the lot, has spawned a huge array of imitators, with new dates cropping up on the musical calendar all the time.
There’ll be as many as 450 festivals and dozens more outdoor music events this year — with this region hosting a more diverse range than ever before. Summer has become music festival season and demand has seen a massive diversification in what’s on offer despite the economic downturn.
Most smaller festivals avoid the something-for-all-tastes philosophy of the big boys in favour of catering on more specialist musical tastes — whether it be folk, dance, world music or 1950s rock‘n’roll.
Last summer saw Norfolk stage two exciting new festivals — Play Fest and the Norfolk Spectacular — both of which brought some big names and exciting young talent — largely indie and rock in the case of the former and urban and charts sounds at the later.
Both proved to be a big success and both return again this year — Norfolk Spectacular having been re-christened Sundown Festival. But while they are both aimed at younger crowds, the festival generally has noticeably grown up. Many of the best outdoor shindigs — from stately home concerts to huge corporate-sponsored festivals of big star names — now take place in areas of outstanding natural beauty, with good toilets and more than passable food.
With Radio 4 and Bafta as sponsors, Latitude, set in beautiful Henham Park on the outskirts of Southwold, has rapidly growing into the festival de rigeur for middle class families with theatre, literary types and children’s entertainment given as much prominence as the music.
Whereever you head, tune in and enjoy...
June 1-3, Eccles Hall, Quidenham
Tickets: £80 (weekend camping), £35 (day tickets)
Headliners: Ash, Feeder, The Pigeon Detectives, Roots Manuva, Reverend and the Makers, Natty, Delilah, Toddla T, The Correspondants, Shy FX
What to expect: This local festival proved to be a really exciting addition to the Norfolk music calendar last year so it’s great to see it back. The two-day festival is again being in the grounds of Eccles Hall School has this year has an even better line-up of names that wouldn’t look out of place on any festival bill this summer, including headliners Ash (Sat) and Feeder (Sun). That’s only half the story though as together with the names there are literally dozens of local artists, including Norwich artists Killamonjambo, Lee Vann, Deers, Rory McVicar and many, many more. The dance arena this year is being organised by Norwich promoters POW and includes sets by Shy FX, Toddla T, Zinc and the always reliable Norwich reggae posse Rebel Lion.
June 14/15/16, July 12/13/14, High Lodge, Thetford Forest
Info/booking: 01842 814612, www.forestry.gov.uk/music
Headliners: Razorlight, Plan B, Ed Sheeran, Will Young, Alfie Boe, The Darkness
What to expect: The chance to see big names in front of a smallish crowd in a tree-lined setting. Now an annual money-spinner for the Forestry Commission, this series of concerts are held in a clearing in Thetford Forest. This year the line-up avoids the vintage big names in favour of more up to date artists including Razorlight and Plan B (already sold-out), though there is also the ever popular Will Young (also sold out) and something different with opera and musical superstar Alfie Boe. It’s great to see local talent topping a big stage too with Ed Sheeran (sold out) and a reformed The Darkness.
June 29-July 1, Easton Farm, Woodbridge, Suffolk
Tickets: £69 (weekend/camping), £45 (no camping), £30 day ticket (Sat only), £8 (10-15 years, weekend), under-10s free.
Info/booking: 01603 660352, www.maverickfestival.co.uk
Headliners: Gretchen Peters, Otis Gibbs, Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo, The Toy Hearts, The Rockingbirds, Sean taylor, Jason Ringenberg
What to expect: An American alt-country hoedown on four stages scattered across a picturesque Suffolk farm. Maverick was created four years ago as a festival for country, Americana and American folk music and has built up a good reputation, even spreading its wings with spin-off nights in Norwich. The line-up won’t mean much unless you’re into country or roots, but it has won plaudits and increasing numbers of Stetson-wearing fans. Yee-ha!
June 29-30, Woolsey Bridge Farm Fields, Burston, Diss
Tickets: £45 (pre-book camping ticket), £30-£25 day tickets, £22.50 under-16s, under-5s free
Info/booking: 01379 644888, www.wow-arts.co.uk
Headliners: Jacqui McShee, Alan Thomson, The Jon Hart Band, Girth, Gypsy, Two Hats, Bazza Bizarre, Twisted Piglet, Soul Kitchen
What to expect: WOW is a very family friendly folk, roots, blues and country festival that draws headliners from across the world but otherwise focuses on talent from this region. Topping the bill this year are Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee with Alan Thomson. As well as the music it has a market of locally produced arts, crafts and food.
June 30, Forest Farm, Ilford, Essex
Tickets: £40, VIP tickets £75
Headliners: Pendulum, Sub Focus, Fedde Le Grand, Mark Knight, Maceo Plex, Tini Hector, Miguel Campbell
What to expect: Thousands of ravers. This Kiss-backed dance music festival returns in a more truncated one-day format but still catering for a vast genre of dance music to please everyone’s tastes with trance, house, old skool, garage, drum n bass and dubstep. Organisers are expecting 15,000 people. There will be over 100 acts spread across four arenas from 11am-11pm. Among the big draws is a DJ set from Australian-British drum n bass/rock outfit Pendulum.
DRUM CAMP FESTIVAL
July 5-8, Bungay, Suffolk
Tickets: £170 (full ticket), £135 (weekend only), £75 young people (11-15), £45 children (4-10)
Headliners: The Danza Libre Company, Modou Diouf, Nansady Keita, Guillermo Davis, Mehboob Nadeem
What to expect: Now in its 17th year this established education-based world music festival, on a site located between Bungay and Halesworth, is hugely well respected. It’s more than just a music festival though, as with 36 drumming workshops of various types over the weekend, people come to beat out the rhythm as much as to listen to it, but there is also some great artists from as far afield as Cuba and Senegal.
DUBS AT THE HALL
July 6-8, Holt Hall, Sheringham, Norfolk
Tickets: £25 weekend ticket, £10 children weekend ticket, £7 day tickets, £2.50 children day tickets
Headliners: P45, Rivers, The Barlights, The Foolish, Chasing Tigers, Dumbfoundus, Hello Bear, Dog Days of Summer
What to expect: Loads of VW enthusiasts who descend on Holt Hall for a couple of days of music, fun and sharing their four-wheeled passion. Taking place in the beautiful grounds of Holt Hall, 88 acres of ancient woodland, just eight miles from Sheringham, you don’t have to be a VW nut to join in. There is bags of non-car related events and activities and live bands from 11am-11.45pm. The line-up includes loads of local talent and covers a wide variety of genres — so something for all musical tastes. Indie rockers Rivers headline the Saturday and ska/Mod band P45 the Sunday.
July 12-15, Henham Park, Suffolk
Tickets: £175 (weekend camping standard), £75 (day tickets)
Info/booking: 0870 0603775, www.latitudefestival.co.uk
Headliners: Paul Weller, Elbow, Bon Iver, Metronomy, Laura Marling, Rufus Wainwright, Richard Hawley, Ben Howard, Bat For Lashes, Simple Minds, Alabama Shakes, White Lies, Wild Beasts, Lang Lang
What to expect: Now in its eighth year, Latitude started as a mini-Glastonbury but is rapidly gaining ground as one of the UK’s best festivals, though it notable that this year’s event hasn’t sold out in record quick time. That might be more to do with the economic climate rather than the quality of the main music headliners — Paul Weller, Elbow and Bon Iver seem tailor made. But even if they’re not to your taste, there are as ever plenty of treasures to be found down the bill, including Laura Marling, Richard Hawley, Janelle Monae, Amadou & Mariam, plus special performances from Rufus Wainwright and Chinese piano prodigy Lang Lang. The Word Stage includes sets from White Lies, The Horrors, Wild Beasts, masked dubstep wonder SBTRKT and the heavily hyped chart-topper Lana Del Ray. But that’s only part of the story, of course. There’s a huge array of big names from comedy, cabaret, theatre, poetry, film and literature.
ELY FOLK FESTIVAL
July 13-15, Outdoor Centre, Ely, Cambridgeshire
Tickets: £68 (weekend), £49 (weekend cons), £23 children, £19/£6 (Fri evening), £27/£10 (Sat evening), £20/£7 (Sun evening)
Info/booking: 01353 669985, www.elyfolk.co.uk
Headliners: Show of Hands, Breabach, Jez Lowe & the Big Bad Pennies, Jess Morgan, Ewan McLennan, Lady Maisery, Richard Digance, Pilgrims’ Way, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan, Fendragon, Steamchicken, Anthony John Clarke
What to expect: Top quality folk playing, Morris-dancing displays, a real ale bar and pastoral crooning galore. Having celebrated its 25th anniversary a couple of years ago, Ely Folk continues to be an easy laid back charm and, being smaller than many, is on a delightfully informal scale, mixing the vibe of a village fete with a diverse mix of music.
RHYTHMS OF THE WORLD
July 14-15, Hitchin Priory, Hitchin, Hertfordshire
Tickets: £10 (day tickets), £5 under-17s, under-5s free
Headliners: Young Knives, Junior Murvin, Speech Debelle, The Damned, JuJu, Jassi Sidhu, The Boxettes, My Passion, Don Broco
What to expect: This year marks the 21st anniversary of this volunteer-run world music gathering that began life as an Oxfam fundraiser. The 16,000 capacity site is in lush, naturally sloping grounds, perfect to watch a strong bill that includes indie types The Young Knives, Mercury Prize winner Speech Debelle and reggae veteran Junior Murvin. There’s also a BBC Introducing stage of bands from the region plus acts hailing from as far afield as India, Congo, China and Singapore. And at just £7 a day, it won’t break the bank to expand your music horizons.
June 14-17, Houghton Hall, King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Tickets: £135 (weekend ticket), accompanied under-12s free, £50 campervan
Headliners: Sven Vath, Andy C, Rusko/Pretty Lights, Dillinja, Toddla T, Plantage 13, Twisted Sound System, The Correspondents, Foreign Beggars, Don Letts,
What to expect: With burning stages, 3D sound systems, woodland parties and a 24-hour venue license, Glade has rocketed from its roots as an electronic dance music stage at Glastonbury. Born as a festival in its own right in 2004, Glade won Best Dance Festival at the UK Festival Awards in 2008. This year the award-winning Secret Productions team will bring the four-day proceedings to Houghton Hall here in Norfolk.
The enchanted woodland and open parkland will accommodate impressive art installations, circus and cabaret, together with an absolutely huge roster of DJs, electronic live acts and emerging talent from around the world. Rave lunatics will find every kind of beat from acid house to psych-trance to dubstep. Minimal techno god Sven Vath will rub shoulders with urban beats from Rusko, Andy C and Toddla T. Not forgetting where it started, Glade will also host Glastonbury’s legendary institution, The Rabbit Hole as well as famous Secret Garden Party favourites including the Feast of Fools and the Artful Badger.
SECRET GARDEN PARTY
July 19-22, Mill Hill Field, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
Tickets: All early bird tickets have sold out, but some late-release £195 tickets still available
Headliners: Orbital, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, KT Tunstall, Little Roy, Little Dragon, Alabama Shakes, Tim Minchin, Lamb, Derrick Morgan & Dennis Alcapone, Holly Golightly, Charlene Soraia, Leddra Chapman, Adam F, Scroobius Pip, Jon Carter, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, The Jim Jones Revue, The Duke Spirit
What to expect: Despite the tranquil setting don’t expect this notoriously good-time gathering to be a relaxing weekend. This is a staunchly independent festival without sponsorship and offers an eclectic musical mix so don’t expect the usual main stage and burger vans. Set in 10 acre landscaped garden, it’s a garden party-gone-crazy and a hedonist’s delight. As well as music there’s loads of activities for kids and adults alike, and it is more of a party experience offering mud wrestling, skinny dipping, twilight maypole dancing, silent disco dancing, raft-building, body painting, counselling from the bad advice bears and reduced price tickets for those willing to “creatively participate”. Musically its eclectic bill ranges from electronic veterans Orbital to the blues punk of the Jim Jones Revue, with loads of treats in between.
NORFOLK COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL
July 26-29, Norfolk Showground
Tickets: £65 (weekend), £20 (day ticket), £12 (evening ticket).
Info/booking: 01362 820947, www.ncmf.co.uk
Headliners: Travis Collins Band, Steve Layne, Pig Earth, John C King, Kay D, Muddy Boots, C’est La Vie, Doggone Honkabilly Country Band, Cowboy Up Band, Henry Smith Band, Gary Perkins & The Breeze, John C King Family Band
What to expect: Cowboys from the wild east. This long-standing weekend country music gathering is an unheralded success story of the music festival calendar, drawing lovers of American country sounds from far and wide. Even bigger this year it’ll take over the newly expanded Norfolk Showground Arena for three dance floors to suit line, partner and freestyle dancing and non-stop music, including late night sessions with Jonny Rondo. There is also a saloon bar — probably no swinging doors though.
CAMBRIDGE FOLK FESTIVAL
July 26-29, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge
Tickets: £120 (weekend), £35 children (weekend), under-5s free, £52-£41 (day tickets)
Info/booking: 01223 357851, www.cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk
Headliners: Clannad, Joan Armatrading, The Proclaimers, The Unthanks, Nanci Griffiths, Juen Tabor & The Oysterband, Angelique Kidjo, Keb Mo Band, Roy Harper, Seth Lakeman, Billy Bragg, Dry The River, Benjamin Francis Leftwich
What to expect: Cambridge Folk Festival has grown into one of Europe’s biggest and longest running folk fests. The first was in 1964 when a then largely unknown Paul Simon was a late addition to the bill. It has enlarged to include high profile American country artists, gospel, blues and world music, though in recent years the bill had arguably become too diverse to its detriment. This year’s bill looks like something of a return to its more folky heritage, helped by old favourites Clannad, Oysterband as wells new old folk darlings The Unthanks. As ever, there are many treasures lower down the bill.
CAMBRIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL
August 2-5, Haggis Farm Polo Club, Cambridge
Tickets: £89 (weekend), £25 under-16s (weekend), £40-£30 (day tickets)
Headliners: Focus, Caravan, It Bites, Tygers of Pan Tang, Smokecharmer, Kyrbgrinder, Nitroville, Winter In Eden, Mick Ralph’s Blues Band
What to expect: Lots of fans of classic rock, particularly of the more obscure kind. This relatively new festival is something of a rock alternative to the esteemed folk festival, albeit on a much smaller scale. However, there will be three main stages (plus a new acoustic stage), 70 bands and, probably just as importantly, 70 real ales on sale.
BRIGHTLINGSEA MUSIC FESTIVAL
August 3-5, Brightlingsea, Essex
Headliners: Jaimie Williams, The Tenners, Hokie Joint, The Skagills, The Hooks, Bright Voices
What to expect: Seafront free festival now into its second decade and expanded to three-days. Features performances from both nationally known and local roots, blues and world artists across a variety of venues. Friday is classical day, Saturday roots and blues and Sunday jazz and world.
August 3-5, Stanton, Ware, Hertfordshire
Tickets: £99 (weekend/camping), £78 (two day ticket), £39-£25 day tickets, under-13s free
Headliners: Death in Vegas, Fat Freddys Drop, Beardyman, !!! (chk chk chk), Crazy P, Willy Mason, Field Music, Dub Pistols, The Time & Space Machine
What to expect: Essentially a big 3,000 capacity party in back garden of organiser Alex Trnchard. This is more charming than you might think when that garden is the grounds of a 16th century manor house. This boutique festival is the chance to see some of the most hotly tipped underground bands and some cracking DJs in an intimate setting. This year they’ve expanded the literary lounge too. The festival donates its proceeds to charity and has a different theme every year — this time it is Journey To The Ends of the Earth, so get your Phileas Fogg costumes ready.
GIG IN THE PARK
August 10-12, Town Park, Halesworth, Suffolk
Tickets: TBC (one sale from July)
Headliners: Fun Lovin Criminals, Nine Below Zero, Katrina (of the Waves fame), Buster James, Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers, Belter, Lee Vasey
What to expect: Now in its 15th year, this is a real community gathering, made possible by local people who give their time for free. The three-day event has built up a good reputation. It doesn’t attract the big names — though everyone’s heard of Fun Lovin Criminals and Nine Below Zero have a strong following — but the line-up also includes plenty of local talent.
August 11-12, Rookery Meadow, Reepham
Tickets: £30 (weekend camping ticket), £18 day ticket, under-15s free.
Info/booking: 01603 508050, www.reephamfestival.co.uk
Headliners: Ex Simple Minds, Limehouse Lizzy, Buster James, Mick Thomas, Maglia Rose, Groovapolitan, Nina Baker, James Bisgood
What to expect: An intimate laidback musical experience in the beautiful Norfolk countryside. Now in its fifth year, this community festival has been expanded to two days. It stages a mix of established names — Ex Simple Minds, featuring ex-members Derek Forbes and Brian McGee — and upcoming young performers. The diverse music programme on two stages ranges wildly and wonderfully from acoustic to alternative, blues, classical, Celtic, folk, jazz, pop and rock.
August 18-19, Hylands Park, Chelmsford, Essex
Tickets: £180 (weekend/camping), £155 (weekend tickets), £89 (day tickets)
Headliners: The Stone Roses, The Killers, Snow Patrol, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, David Guetta, Keane, Tinie Tempah, Happy Mondays, Madness, Ed Sheeran, Friendly Fires
What to expect: The original duosite festival is the best organised — too much so for some, who feel it’s a soulless exercise in over commercialisation. However, if you’re looking for a relatively stress-free weekend with the minimum of mud, fuss and crusty types, this is the place for you. There’s even a ‘luxury camp site’. This year’s line-up features a hefty dose of Manc talent in the shape of the reformed Stone Roses and Happy Mondays and Noel Gallagher. Loads of other big names, upcoming talent and old favourites like Madness and Tom Jones. Interesting though, for the first time in years, it hasn’t already sold out.
August 24-26, Somerleyton Estate, Suffolk
Tickets: £111 (weekend camping ticket), £99 (weekend ticket), £35 (day tickets), £38 (youth ticket)
Headliners: Bellowhead, The Imagined Village, Seth Lakeman, Eliza Carthy Band, The Leisure Society, Jackie Oates, Lau, Mike Heron & Tumbling Bells
What to expect: An intimate three day festival at Somerleyton Hall with a true mix of traditional, contemporary, world and new folk music encompassing both mainstream and local acts with lots of opportunity for participation. This August Bank Holiday festival is a folky spin-off from the well respected Gig In The Park and has already announced an impressive roster of performers with many more to be announced soon. An exciting addition to the local music calendar.
August 24-26, Old Warden Park, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire
Tickets: £99 (weekend tickets until may 31, then £119), £90-£70 (limited tickets), £30 camping, discounted rates for children.
Info/booking: 020 77348932, www.rhythmfestival.net
Headliners: Hawkwind, The Slackers, The Beat, Booker T, The Damned, Ken Boothe, John Copper Clarke, Jim Moray, Wilko Johnson, Geno Washington, Show of Hands, Oli Brown Band
What to expect: Now in its seventh year this festival, organised by the same team behind Glastonbury, is definitely aimed at the more mature crowd. It’s a smaller festival (capacity 5,000) that has no corporate branding, no sponsorship and a rather random bill of rootsy bands, old punks and 70s and 80s radio-pop outfits who are mostly well past their heyday. Difficult to see how they all appeal to one crowd, though the excellent on-site real ale festival probably helps; plus this year you can buy separate tickets for the three stages.
September 1-2, Norfolk Showground
Tickets: £90 (weekend camping ticket) £55 (weekend), £29.50 (day tickets)
Info/booking: 0871 2241112, www.norfolkspectacular.co.uk
Headliners: Dizzee Rascal, Chase & Status, Olly Murs, Labrinth, Katy B, Pixie Lott, Sub Focus, Delilah, Feed Me, Mistajam, Dot Rotten, Zane Lowe, Jaguar Skills
What to expect: Hordes of teenagers. Norfolk Spectacular, alongside Play Fest, were big news locally last summer and after a hugely successful inaugural event it is back again, rechristened as Sundown. The organisers have again managed to attract an impressive line-up of chart talent for the two-day event at the Showground, including headline sets from Dizzee Rascal and Chase & Status. The bill is almost a who’s who of young UK urban artists — pity there is no Ed Sheeran as he’d have been the perfect fit — but with many more names to be added as we get closer, it’s no wonder excitement is building (at least if you’re aged under-25, that is).
October 5-8, Seacroft, Hemsby, Norfolk
Tickets: From £109pp (based on three people sharing an economy chalet).
Info/booking: 01522 752453, www.hemsbyrocknroll.co.uk
Headliners: Al Ferrier, Narvel ‘The Marvel’ Felts, Lee Dresser, Tommy Hunt, Charlie Grace, Si Cranston, Arsen Roulette, The Velvet Candles, Mischeif, Sun of Cash
What to expect: The annual gathering — now in its 48th incarnation — of rockabilly types who model themselves on Elvis and James Dean and women dressed as 1950s pin-ups. Now held in the suitably authentic 50s surroundings of the Seacroft holiday camp, it attracts rock’n’rollers from across the world. As well as the music, there will also be jive dancing, classic cars and record and clothing markets. Grease up that quiff, and pull on those classic turned-up Levis.