Cast your mind back to 1970 to Worthy Farm in Pilton where a man called Michael Eavis, inspired by seeing an open air Led Zeppelin concert, set up the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival. This was the first ever “Glastonbury”; tickets were the princely sum of £1 and included free milk from the Glastonbury farm!
Fast forward 44 years and Glastonbury is now the largest festival in the world, with over 175,000 attending annually and tickets selling out within two hours. In 2014, Arcade Fire, Kasabian and Dolly Parton are headlining but, the last chance to get a ticket was on April 27, on the Glastonbury ticket resale website, so here are five of the best alternatives to England’s iconic party in a field:
SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS, Byron Bay, Australia
You certainly won’t regret a trip to Byron Bay in Australia for the spectacular “Splendour in the Grass” festival, held annually July 25-27. Your ears will thank you for exposing them to a sound system to rival any in the world as 2014 sees the main stage move to the site’s majestic natural amphitheatre. Gloomy rockers Interpol, dance masters Metronomy and R&B star Kelis makes for an intriguing line up but, as always, it’s not just about watching bands. There’s also the global village with three full days of performances, workshops, market stalls, yoga, dance and fusion food. Alternatively, if you fancy being a singing star yourself then head to Miss Saigon karaoke to join hundreds of people belting out the lyrics to a never-ending stream of classic sing-along tracks.
BILBAO BBK, Bilbao, Spain
The one thing you can’t guarantee at Glastonbury is the weather; you’re just as likely to be watching your tent slide away in a torrent of mud as you are sunning yourself in a field with an ice cold drink. Bilbao on the northern tip of Spain has no such problems with an average temperature during the July festival of 25°C. Held from July 10-12, Bilbao BBK takes place in its entirety on a special complex built specifically for the event on the slopes of Mount Cobetas, southwest of the city. This year you could be sunning yourself in Spain whilst watching headliners Franz Ferdinand, The Prodigy and The Black Keys for an incredibly reasonable £92 for a 3 day ticket which includes camping.
OYAFESTIVALEN, Oslo, Norway
Oslo probably doesn’t strike you as the ideal place for a music festival but this smallish Norwegian boutique gathering, Oyafestivalen, generally has a superb line-up traversing electronica, arty rock, hip-hop and metal if you want to avoid the more mainstream acts and see something a bit different. Held from August 6-10, it’s set in a beautiful spot just a ten minute walk from Oslo’s main train station on the historic site where Oslo was founded a thousand years ago. This year, headliners are The National and Royksopp supplemented by intriguing sounding artists such as Spidergawd, Yoguttene and Deafheaven. Tickets are a very reasonable £85.
SZIGET, Obudai-sziget (Old Buda Island), Budapest, Hungary
Sziget festival, otherwise known as the ‘island of freedom’ takes place every August on Obudai-sziget (Old Buda Island), a leafy 266-acre island on the Danube in northern Budapest. Prepare for more than just a weekend in a field watching bands as Sziget is actually a week-long extravaganza of a festival once described as an ‘electronically amplified, warped amusement park that has nothing to do with reality’. Also, similar to Glastonbury, the festival incorporates music from many genres with a blues stage, a jazz tent and a world music stage alongside the main stage with the more popular rock and pop acts which, this year, include Outkast, Manic Street Preachers, Calvin Harris and Lily Allen. Sound good? Advance tickets are available for €209 for a weekly pass which includes camping
ELECTRIC PICNIC, Stradbally Estate in County Laois, Ireland
If you fancy something a little later in the summer then Ireland’s Electric Picnic could be the answer. From August 29-31, the Stradbally Estate in County Laois hosts a plethora of music, comedy, theatre and circus performances. This year Portishead and Beck are already confirmed although there’s plenty else on offer for more ‘eclectic’ tastes such as the area called Trenchtown, based in the Jamaican Village (which represents the strong links between the two islands of Jamaica and Ireland apparently!) Each year it houses the hottest home-grown and international Reggae, Dub, Ska and Dancehall artists so get ready to feel the beat and follow your feet!
Although you can, of course, book tickets directly through festival websites and arrange your own flights and transport it’s worth looking at the packages provided by travel specialists like Contiki who offer specialist tours for festivals like Sziget combining festival tickets and accommodation with stops in Berlin, Prague and Vienna ahead of the festival itself.