Best music festivals 2016

secret garden party

We’ve compiled the definitive list of music festivals for summer 2016 and there’s something for everyone from foodies to thinkers to ravers…

Field Day 11-12 June

Now in its tenth year, this Vicky Park gathering books the best alternative acts from around the world, from indie to underground electronica. This year’s line-up features PJ Harvey, James Blake, Skepta, Air and John Grant.

However it is not just bands, the Village Green is back again transporting the spirit of school sports day and a fete to East London: expect lo-fi games, eating contests, real ale tents and brass bands.

Field Day, Victoria Park, London – day tickets from £49.50

Also 17-19 June

This is the festival for the mind –  a weekend of art, science, philosophy, food and music – is curated in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside set in a landscape sculpted by Capability Brown.

Fancy a scented book club which creates olfactory experiences from fiction, wine and philosophy with leading intellectuals  and oenophiles, or discussions on transhumanism? Then this Sunday Times Best Festival of 2016 is certainly for you.

Elaborating on the festival theme of happenstance, try your hand and test your palette at a magic banquet with a menu curated by James Knight, previously of St John and La Copita fame, served with a game of chance, illusion and psychology.

There’s even music too, provided by the likes of James Catto and Mercury Prize-nominated singer Lou Rhodes, with after-dark sounds provided by Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam.

Park Farm, Compton Verney, Warwick – weekend camping from £90

Farr  14- 16 July

From humble beginnings in 2009 Farr Festival has evolved from a small gathering of likeminded friends into one of UK’s leading electronic music festivals set in a forest in Hertfordshire.

This year sees the show go deeper into the woods to host new areas and stages, with eclectic selection of producers, selectors and performers including John Talabot, Jungle and Gilles Peterson.

Craft beers, rum shack, and quality food carts such as Claw, Cereal Killers and Burger and Beyond will be on hand to feed hungry dancers, who can recover in a purpose-built sanctuary for candlelit yoga, meditation, alternative therapies and nutrition workshops.

Newnham, Baldock, Hertfordshire – weekend camping from £90

Blissfields 1-2 July

blissfields festival 2016

Blissfields has always celebrated the intimate party spirit and this year it’s going all out with its biggest art installation ever, making a festival site like they’ve never done before.

Slumber parties, garage raves, retro living room discos will create one big house party across a trippy tree-lined site at Vicarage Farm in Hampshire.

The award-winning party stage at the Hidden Hedge is back too along with five other stages showcasing the sounds of Dizzee Rascal, Roni Size & Dynamite MC and Beans On Toast. It’s gonna be bonkers!

Vicarage Farm, Woodmancott, Winchester – weekend camping tickets from £80

The Secret Garden Party 21-24 July

Is the hedonistic four-day rave-up in Cambridgeshire growing up? Chris Gillard, former head chef at St John, is bringing top-notch Italian food and even waiter service to the party. An 80-cover restaurant will be running a full lunch and dinner service with real cutlery, glassware and wine list.

Regulars need not fear though – all the SGP shenanigans will still be going on: 15 live music venues and secret parties in pagodas and forests mean you can still party all day and all night long.

Recharge in a boutique tent and freshen up in hot tubs before enjoying the sounds of Primal Scream, Caribou, and Air live and dancing into the night (and morning).

The Secret Garden Party, Mill Hill Field, Abbots Ripton – weekend tickets from £180

Standon Calling  29-31   July

This year, the dress code is ‘Legend of the Lost Seas’ for the independent orbital festival set in the private residence of Standon Lordship, Hertfordshire.

Now in its 11th year, the line-up at this boutique festival is making waves too: featuring newbies including Honne, Tiggs Da Author and Loyle Carner, before the bigger acts Suede, Kelis and Jess Glynne come on board.

Levantine food crew CERU will be providing a seated restaurant and bar to refuel partygoers to dance to the likes of Goldie. Expect contemporary mezze: squid, shawarma, lamb shoulder, colourful dips and crisp salads.

Standon House, Standon, Herts – weekend tickets from £107

Wilderness Festival 4-7 August 

wilderness festival

Get ready for four days of feasting and revelry in the rolling Oxfordshire hills.

Wilderness may not be the musical tick list that you find at other festivals, but the laid back, private party vibes, sumptuous outdoor spa, riveting talks, theatre and stella food line up make it well worth it. 

Famous for their eccentric shows, three time Grammy Award winners, The Flaming Lips, take to the stage along with Crystal Fighters, Tourist and Elias. 

Choose your dinner from Raymond Blanc, Skye Gyngell, Hix, Petersham Nurseries, Shotgun, Duck and Waffle or Raw Duck and then head to the beautifully decorated woods to party in The Valley until the early hours. 

Cornbury Park Oxfordshire – weekend tickets from £177

In the Woods 2-3 September

The Laurel Collective gathering celebrates its tenth year of showcasing the best up-and-coming talent. Situated just an hour outside London, this festival is the most beautiful of happenings.

Bands play on intimate stages  in a natural amphitheatre under an illuminated forest canopy dotted with art installations. Locally-sourced food and ale, a silent disco and giant midnight bonfire keep things going until sunrise.

Alt-J, Lianne La Havas, Micachu, Young Fathers have all graced the stage when relative unknowns in previous years.

Secret venue, nr Staplehurst, Kent – weekend camping tickets, £125

OnBlackheath 10-11 September

Blackheath is also hosting a standout city festival celebrating good food and great music in South London’s finest field.

Primal Scream headline the main stage on Saturday alongside Grammy Award-winning electronic maestros Hot Chip. Indie pop icons Belle & Sebastian close the Festival on Sunday.

Neil Rankin, of Smokehouse, and DJ BBQ will be turning up the heat with live food demos.

Hare & Billet Road, Blackheath, London  – day tickets from £57.50

Foreign fields…

Primavera Sound 1-5 June

Want to ditch the wellies for a beach-side festival in warmer climes? Forget the Club 18-30 crowd at Benacissim. Aficianados head to Primavera in Barcelona – so no tent necessary either – to see an eclectic line-up including Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, PJ Harvey, Brian Wilson and Moderat.

This year, Bowers & Wilkins are running a new stage alongide the more established venues at the festival in Parc Del Forum.

The Beach Club Sound System showcases intelligent electronic music 18 hours through the day and night to 6am for three full days.

Chill out at the Casa Bacardi Beach Bar with a cocktail or two under palm trees by the sea.

The Beach Club offers changing rooms and towels so you swim to cool off between acts such as Simian Mobile Disco and Todd Terje.

Food on offer will be supplied by a traditional chinguito beach bar complemented by several food trucks.

Parc Del Forum, Rambla Prim, 2-4; 08019, Barcelona – full festival tickets from €125

Words Paul Dunn 

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