Bristol Walk Fest
May 1-31, www.bristolwalkfest.com
Regularly attracting more than 2,000 pairs of feet in various states of tiredness, the UK’s biggest programme of urban walking returns for a seventh year. Mostly free, and aimed at folk of all ages and fitness levels, events range from walking sports to street art explorations, nature rambles to historical tours.
Cheltenham Jazz Festival
May 1-6, Price: various, some free, www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/jazz, Bristol24/7 recommended
Live outings from Level 42 and James Morrison? DJ sets from Jo Whiley, Cerys Matthews and Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic? If you’re playing Name That Type of Festival and answered “jazz” you’re either immensely lucky, or thinking ‘Well, actually, Cheltenham did book Rick Astley last year…’. Such, one supposes, is the bums-on-seats/bottom line necessity to keep the festival in the black. And fair, enough, too, because among the better known, lightly jazzing appearees – Gregory Porter, Jamie Cullum, Curtis Stigers, Katie Melua, Georgie Fame – there’s plenty for the hardcore, too: avant Minneapolis trio, The Bad Plus; scratchy harp improv from Julie Campiche; Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, eight Chicago siblings whose horny take on hip hop owes much to being the sons of Phil Cohran, a virtuoso, radical trumpeter for both the Sun Ra Arkestra and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians; former collaborator with Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, Abdullah Ibrahim; etc. All that, and a dedicated family programme, plenty of free stuff for the jazz-curious in Montpellier Gardens, and so on.
Bristol Early Music Festival
May 3-5, Price: £25 w/e, www.bristolearlymusicfestival.uk, Bristol24/7 recommended
Stop the traffic, baroque ‘n’ roll! Brand new festival comprehensively celebrating music from a pre-Mozart age, mixing performance with talks, workshops for adults and children alike, and exhibitions/demonstrations of early instruments. Among many highlights, if you don’t know your Purcell from your Pachelbel, ‘A Musical Tour of Europe’ will guide you around the continent’s 16th and 17th century musical hot spots; ‘The Italian Connection’ looks at the influence of a tradition first introduced to the country by Henry VIII; and ‘The Kite and the Nightingale’ blends candlelit late night viol music with fables by La Fontaine. Hands-on highlights include a polychoral workshop, your chance to sing the music designed to fill towering cathedrals; recorder and viol workshops; and getting down to monky business with a session exploring medieval chanting.
Bristol Foodies Festival
May 10-12, Price: £20 w/e, www.foodiesfestival.com/Bristol
Not a lot of fat on the details bone at press time, but expect the usual stirring together of live music, workshops, masterclasses and kids’ stuff. As a pointer, last that meant songs from Dodgy, The Hoosiers and Toploader, and chefery from GBBO finalist Steven Carter-Bailey, MasterChef winner Ping Coombes, and local food aces Josh Eggleton, Robert Potter and John Watson.
Bristol Thai & Multicultural Festival
May 11-12, Price: £3.50, www.desythai.com
Brought forward from its regular July berth, this annual celebration of all things Thai boasts magnificent food, traditional dances, stalls, costume parade, live music, Thai boxing demonstrations, Thai beer garden, and – pleasingly juxtaposed in the programme – a fashion catwalk and Buddhist ceremony.
May 17-26, Price: £80 w/e, www.bathfestivals.org.uk/the-bath-festival
It wasn’t only health, housing and education that Attlee’s post-war government wanted distributed to the masses; there was culture, too. Thus, the impetus behind the debut of the Bath International Music Festival in 1948. A couple of years back it merged with the city’s lit fest, today offering a breadth of programme in its 120+ events you’d imagine Clem would approve of, including: music from Van Morrison and Clean Bandit; thoroughly modern poet, Hollie McNish; ballet ace turned Strictly score giver, Dame Darcey Bussell; wittertaining film critic, Mark Kermode; Michael Parkinson in conversation; Jo Brand on splendidly-titled tome, Born Lippy; and none-more-Bath improv troupe, Austentatious.
Bath Fringe Festival, May 24-June 9, Price: various, many free, www.bathfringe.co.uk
It’s a reflective Fringe this year, with the securing of £42,000 from the Arts Council allowing a little exploration of the event’s roots: 50 years ago, the city’s Comtek festival heralded a series of ‘alternative’ arts and technology festivals, leading to such Bath mainstays as the Natural Theatre Company and the Fringe itself. Expect a programme featuring artists and film from those early years – including one leading a participatory immersive outdoor theatre project – plus all the usual favourites, including the beating heart of the Fringe, the street-based chaos that is Bedlam Fair (June 1-2).
Chippenham Folk Festival
May 24-27, Price: £120 w/e (+£26 camping), www.chippfolk.co.uk
In which the town that spawned Jeremy Corbyn builds on almost five decades of momentum to stage its 48th folk fest, comprising more than 200 individual events and workshops. Scarcely a pub in town where you won’t find finger-in-ear singers at some point, though the bigger stuff is held in beautiful, river-boundary’d Monkton Park.
May 24-26, Price: £79.95, www.lechladefestival.co.uk
Can’t help feeling the kids get rather a better deal out of this one. For, while they’re ensconced in all manner of fun stuff – storytelling circle, belly dancing, woodland learning, paper aeroplane competition, learning the recorder, etc – the grownups are nervously eyeing a musical bill putting ‘Tasha Leaper as Madonna’ in its top five. Number one? The Feeling.
Wells Comedy Festival
May 24-26, Price: various, www.wellscomfest.com
In which England’s smallest city stages one of Britain’s strongest folk fests. Lots of acts remain TBA at press time, but confirmed appearees include Nish Kumar, Josie Long, Lost Voice Guy, Nick Helm, Mark Watson, Shappi Khorsandi, John Robins, Phil Wang, Jan Ravens, and Ed Gamble.
Dot to Dot
May 25, Price: £14 early bird, www.dottodotfestival.co.uk
No word on line up for the 15th DTD as yet, but expect loads of local talent on the undercard. Expect headliners of an indie-ish hue; 2018 welcomed The Horrors, Dermot Kennedy, Pale Waves and Marika Hackman.
Love Saves The Day
May 25-26, Price: £85 w/e, www.lovesavestheday.org, Bristol24/7 recommended
We were very taken with a February press release from LSTD: ‘Here at Love Saves The Day we believe in some simple things – we felt they were obvious but in these trying times of division we thought we should make it 100% clear,’ they wrote, going on to welcome: ‘all sexual orientations, all religions, all genders, and a countries of origin’. It was back in 2012 that Love Saves The Day took its bow as a one-day gathering in Castle Park. Now, back in Eastville Park for a fifth time, it’s well established as one of the leading festivals of UK club and bass culture. This year’s live highlights include Lily Allen, Little Simz, Camelphat, Bonobo and Lady Leshurr, there’ll be soul-shaking vibrations from Channel One Soundsystem and David Rodigan, while drum & bass heads can look forward to the likes of Sub Focus, Goldie, Storm and DJ Hype.
Highlights include Lily Allen, Goldie celebrating 25 years of Metalheadz, Lady Leshurr, Congo Natty & the Resistance, David Rodigan, Maribou State, Camelphat; Sub Focus; Chase & Status, and Bonobo . For more, see our chat with LSTD co-founder, Dave Harvey, on page XX.
May 31-June 2, Price: £130 w/e, www.wychwoodfestival.com
15th birthday for the family fest, including dance workshops, pre-school yoga sessions, and all manner of sports, games and activities. The Stranglers are the main headliner, after which the bill falls away rather alarmingly: Scouting For Girls, T’Pau and perma-grating thtage thchool punk Toyah are next. Altogether more splendidly, Bris-based cyclists are invited to join a 60-mile guided ride to the event on May 31, kicking off from Temple Meads and including lunch, bag carrying, site storage, etc.
May 1-2, Fistral Beach, Cornwal, Price: £180, www.goodfestcornwall.com
Following August’s inaugural event, here comes the second outing ‘exploring how to create sustainable change through purposeful ideas and actions’. To that end, confirmed speakers include Eden Project co-founder Sir Tim Smit, Hugo Tagholm of Surfers Against Sewage, and Winter/Spring/Autumnwatch presenter, Gillian Burke.
Liverpool Sound City
May 3-5, Liverpool, Price: £70 (including conference, drinks receptions, etc), £55 w/e, www.soundcity.uk.com
The Merseyside cousin of Brighton’s Great Escape, almost 20 venues combines to host an industry-heavy bash comprising expert, panels, workshops, talks, etc. While the majority of the vast bill are “hotly tipped” (aka “largely unknown”), those who prefer to know who they’re letting themselves in for are pointed towards headliners Loyle Carner, Shame, and Blaenavon.
Machynlleth Comedy Festival
May 3-5, Machynlleth, Powys, Price: £7.50-£15, www.machcomedyfest.co.uk
In the lovely mid-Wales market time sees its population swelled by chuckle-seekers drawn by Mach fest’s burgeoning reputation. All shows are staged within 10 minutes of each other, a big top on the Plas lawn caters for late night revelry, and among those confirmed to appear we find the quite splendid Bridget Christie, Josh Widdicombe, Josie Long, Desiree Burch, and Mark Watson.
The Masked Ball
May 3-5, Porthleven, Cornwall, Price: £85 w/e, www.maskedball.net
Once upon a time, the Masked Ball was but an all-nighter for people who like to bath in glitter and flowers, pull on silly costumes, and self-identify as “hedonistic” and “debauched”. Or, in old money, pissed. These days, it’s much the same, only bigger and longer: an “immersive multi-level party kingdom populated by a kaleidoscope of cool and crazy characters, all dressed to excess”. Expect a maze of venues, secret parties, hot tub disco, and a welter of dance and electronic music pliers, including Jockey Powder, Admin, Dicky Trisco, tons more.
May 4-26, Brighton, Price: various, many free, www.brightonfestival.org, Bristol24/7 recommended
No festival hires cooler guest directors than Brighton. Not even Meltdown. Following the curatorships of Laurie Anderson, Kate Tempest and David Shrigley, programme selection for 2019 falls to marvellous Malian musician, Rokia Traoré. “Understanding other cultures is so important to the world that we live in and it brings me great joy to shed light on some unexpected voices through this opportunity,” she says. Thus, 130+ events across music, art, words, dance and performance, as plied by people from more than 20 countries. Highlights include Chineke – Europe’s first BME orchestra – reprising the roaring 20s, Kneehigh Theatre’s twistedly funny Dead Dog in a Suitcase, Neneh Cherry sharing her Four Tet-produced album, Broken Politics, an inspired swimming pool-based installation – Wet Sounds, wherein swimmers’ movements direct the music above and below the water – and three performances from Traoré herself.
May 5-6, Leicester, Price: £35 w/e, www.handmadefestival.co.uk
Music, comedy, art, film and photography are at your beck and, in all likelihood, call, in 10 venues across the city. Tunes-wise, you’re looking the likes of Metronomy, The Futureheads, Ibibio Sound Machine, and C Duncan.
Wigflex City Festival
May 5, Nottingham, Price: £25, tinyurl.com/y3zmx7xf
New event splicing dance music and good mental health, with local promoter, Wigflex, aiming “to make a lasting difference within the community”. Thus, a free, daytime programme – panels, workshops, art installations, local projects – focused on well-being. Musically speaking, you’ll find the likes of Honey Dijon, Gilles Peterson, and Midland.
The Great Escape
May 9-11, Brighton, Price: £70 w/e, www.greatescapefestival.com
In which hundreds of wannabes play in or on more than 30 venues – including the beach – to the empty pocketed ‘industry’ – if the word still applies in 2019 – delegates who, by day, can pretend to still hold relevance by attending conference talks with titles like Music Marketing – Making Sure People Give A Shit. Among the line up, some of the most appallingly named acts you could ever wish to avoid; we’re talking These New South Whales, Any Other, and, good grief, Life. On the other hand, Bitch Falcon, Walt Disco, and Tropical Fuck Storm, so it all balances out.
Dart Music Festival
May 10-12, Dartmouth, Devon, Price: free, www.dartmusicfestival.co.uk
Founded in 1998, this freebie is as much about what surrounds the stage backdrop as plays atop it, with venues including two churches, market square, Tudor fort, and 20+ pubs. The Undercover Hippy is the biggest name in the lengthy line up serving all styles from rock to classical, bhangra to shanties, big band to choral.
Althorp Food and Drink Festival
May 11-12, near Northampton, Price: £15 w/e, www.spencerofalthorp.com/althorp-festivals
Spencer family aside, this grand old stately pile boasts two main categories of visitor in the average year: Daily Express readers looking across to her island resting place to mourn/confirm the death of Princess Di, and food-fixated festival folk. This year’s attendees can expect to walk/waddle around more than 100 food and drink stands, learn culinary tips from chefs including Jean-Christophe
Novelli and Ken Hom, find such extracurricular delights as falconry displays and kids’ corner, and enjoy – or, at the very least, witness – live music.
May 17-20, Butlins, Minehead, Somerset, Price: £85 w/e, www.bigweekends.com
Headline events – Soul II Soul and a Trevor Nelson DJ set – rank as audaciously contemporary when set against the rest of the bill, mostly tribbers setting themselves the doughty task of conjuring the work of Marvin Gaye, Barry White and Earth, Wind and Fire, etc.
Alfresco Family Festival
May 23-27, Paddock Wood, Kent, Price: £99 w/e plus various camping options, www.alfrescofestival.co.uk
Hop Farm hosts a plethora of stages and dance tents, wherein you’ll be find the likes of 2ManyDJs, Erol Alkan, Joey Negro, Maurice Fulton, Marc Rebillet, James Lavelle, and Prins Thomas.
May 23-26, Catton Hall, Derbyshire, Price: £122.50 w/e, www.beardedtheory.co.uk
English, history and maths (‘how to budget a music festival’, apparently), are all on the syllabus at the festival’s Bearded School, with a promise that ‘subjects will complement the national curriculum’. Happy holidays, kids! Wild activities in the woods sound rather more fun, as does a musical line up including Suede, The Cult, Steel Pulse, Doves, The Skatalites, and Stiff Little Fingers.
May 23-June 2, Hay-on-Wye, Wales, Price: various, www.hayfestival.com, Bristol24/7 recommended
One of the first contemporary festivals to unashamedly celebrate the cerebral, and still the best. Not a lot of the 2019 programme confirmed as we assembled this guide, so we put in a call to festival founder, Peter Florence. “A few earlybirds are online now,” he told us. “There’s Pulitzer Prize-winning author and geographer Jared Diamond; Nobel Prize-winning biologist Venki Ramakrishnan; and travel writers Robert Macfarlane and Horatio Clare. In fiction, we’ve Man Booker Prize 2018 winner Anna Burns, novelists Leila Slimani and Markus Zusak. We’ll celebrate the anniversaries of two of the best-loved children’s books of our times as Julia Donaldson presents her Gruffalo live show in the book’s 20th year, while Michael Rosen talks We’re Going on a Bear Hunt at 30. And a trio of performances round us out, with comedian and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig offering her latest show; and there are all-star performances of Diaries Live and Speeches Live. How’s that for a starting 11? The full programme of 800 or so events will be launched on 29th March, with some fanfare.”
Knockengorroch World Ceilidh
May 23-26, Carsphairn, Dumfries & Galloway, Price: £115 w/e, www.knockengorroch.org.uk
As the name suggests, this one is very big on communal dancing, albeit with a broader live line up than you might assume. Our Don’t Miss tip comes from the Syrian village of Tell Tamer: Omar Souleyman is an outspoken embracer of cultural diversity and, more pertinently here, a coolly deadpan fiftysomething purveyor of seriously singular hard bass music. Bill peers include Elephant Sessions, Talisk, Dizraeli, and Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers.
May 23-26, Bruton, Somerset, Price: £130 w/e, www.shindig-events.co.uk
Eschewing main stages in favour of stretch marquees, this is a dance-centric fest aimed at clubbers of a certain vintage. That means plenty for kids – climbing nets, storytelling, Aardman model-making workshops, circus show, etc – and music from the likes of Estelle, Benjamin Zephaniah & The Revolutionary Minds, Ozomatli ft. Chali 2na, Dub Pistols, Crazy P, The Herbaliser, Mad Professor, etc.
Cursus Cider & Music Festival
May 24-26, Cranborne Chase, Dorset, Price: £65 w/e, www.cursusfestival.com
Does exactly what it says on the poster. Sounds-wise you’re looking at the likes of the Dreadnoughts, Ferocious Dog, the Skimmity Hitchers, Gaz Brookfield, The Eskies, lots more.
May 24-26, Wymeswold, Price: £89 w/e, www.glastonbudget.org
Purists may call “fake dues!” at tribute acts making a buck out of someone else’s back catalogue, but you can’t argue with public demand for the stuff. Thus, six stages given over to hosting 100+ acts comprising the likes of Antarctic Monkeys, Blink-2, Ded Hot Chili Peppers, Fleetwood Bac, Oasish, etc.
May 24-27, Hay-on-Wye, Wales, Price: various, hay.htlgi.iai.tv
If Hay Fest is predominantly clever people telling you what they think, its younger sibling is more about POV-challenging debate. Names from the world of politics include the zero fucks-given Tory remainer, Anna Soubry; , Momentum founder, Jon Lansman; shadow Women & Equalities Secretary, Dawn Butler; and the famously disgusted by cheese Chief Secretary to the Treasury ,Liz Truss. Other brains lent to the event include those belonging to David Aaronovitch, Ritulah Shah, Helen Lewis and Mary Ann Sieghart, and there are strong musical showings from the likes of Anna Calvi, British Sea Power, and Savage Disco.
Raw Power Weekender
May 24-27, London, Price: £64.50 w/e, www.babayagashut.com
Not one of those disingenuously titled, Let’s Rock Swanage! kind of affairs, wherein organisers are perfectly comfortable with the notion that a good rocking entails appearances from Howard Jones, Owen Paul and Lorraine Pearson’s Five Star. Instead, Raw Power is as uncompromising as the name suggests, this year including the likes of Gnod, JK Flesh, Big Brave, My Disco, Mai Mai Mai, Mésange, USA Nails, Teleplasmiste, Dead Otter, Swedish Death Candy, and so on.
May 24-26, Totnes, Decon, Price: £89, www.seachangefestival.co.uk
Shifting up the year from August and giving itself an extra day, Drift Record Shop’s smartly constructed fest is back, thanks in small part to such creative partners as the Quietus, Rough Trade Books, Heavenly Recordings, Mute, Bella Union, and Moshi Moshi. Expect lots of thinkers, speakers and players, including Gazelle Twin, Metronomy, The Comet is Coming, Gruff Rhys, Lubomyr Melnyk, Bill Ryder-Jones, Maps, Black Midi, Du Blonde, Szun Waves, and Rozi Plain.
May 25-26, Melford Hall, Suffolk, Price: £42 w/e, www.leestock.org
Festival boasting its most enticing set of headliners in years: Pixie Lott, Starsailor, and B*Witched. Yep, music has – turning the understatement up to 11 – never been the strongpoint of this fest. Instead, it majors on price, location – hosted in the grounds of a sumptuous 16th century pile – and, especially, a seriously worthy origin story: established by friends in memory of Lee Dunford (who died from Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2006) and raising money for the Willow Foundation, providing special days for terminally ill young adults aged between 16-40.
Lost and Found
May 2-5, Malta, Price: £129, www.lostandfoundfestival.com
Fifth outing for Annie Mac’s electronic music-centred gathering in the Med, where the first wave of announcements include Chase & Status, Shy FX, the Black Madonna, and the venerable host herself.
May 30-June 1, Barcelona, Spain, Price: 195€ w/e, www.primaverasound.es
Not a vintage line up, albeit we’re talking about a festival that bows to no one – Glastonbury included – when it comes to musical line up. And, gosh, you’re really not doing it right if you can’t see strong good times potential in bill including Cardi B, Erykah Badu, Tame Impala, Solange, Primal Scream, Suede, Rosalia, Future, Interpol, Janelle Monáe, FKA Twigs, Stereolab, Robyn, Christine and the Queens, James Blake, and Mac DeMarco.
Main image of Love Saves The Day courtesy of Alastair Brookes / KōLAB Studios