Best festivals in Somerset
With its iconic Pyramid stage and the ability to attract legends to its bill, Glastonbury is the undisputed king of Somerset’s festival scene. A highlight in every British music-lover’s calendar, the festival began in 1970 and has steadily grown to become perhaps the world’s largest green-field music and performing arts festival. Guns n’ Roses, Arctic Monkeys and Elton John headline this year.
No ticket? Fear not. Glastonbury’s life-affirming spirit is infectious and the county’s green fields also play host to a multitude of other, just as exciting music festivals. They are an eclectic bunch. In perhaps the most picturesque setting of any British festival, Valleyfest (Aug 3-6) is located in the Mendips, on the side of a hill that offers far-reaching views across Chew Valley and its wide lake, which can appear sparkling blue on a sunny day. The festival’s other big draw is that it hosts Arcadia on one of its fields, a collective that builds fire-breathing, repurposed stages that are a favourite of late-night revellers at Glastonbury. This year at Valleyfest, the Arcadia stage returns with its roster of DJs, while the main stage invites The Kooks, Bananarama and Ishmael Ensemble to perform. Elsewhere around the site, there is lots to do for families, from a zip-line to a carpenter’s playground, as well as plenty of quality food and drink from local Somerset producers, including gin bars, yoghurt vans and cider tents.
Shindig Festival is a bohemian affair that kicks off festival season, taking place ahead of a bank holiday on May 25-28. There’s an exciting lineup this year, with Sister Sledge headlining plus Warmduscher, Erol Alkan, David Rodigan and Huey Morgan all appearing too. Expect art installations, a Mad Hatter fancy dress theme, circus acts, cabaret and lots of dancing. You don’t need to pack a tent to attend. Boutique camping options this year include everything from Airstream caravans to yurts, with even hotel rooms available in lovely, gold-stone Dillington House on the 16th-century Dillington Estate.
Attracting fans of both live music and great food, Pub in Park (June 16-18) is a touring weekender championed by Michelin-star chef Tom Kerridge. It settles in Victoria Park, in Bath, in June and festival-goers need not camp here either but can book overnight accommodation in the city. Chefs including Marco Pierre White and Matt Tebutt from BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, will perform cookery demos and there will be high-quality food and drink to sample from local artisan producers. Judge Jules plays on Friday night and Badly Drawn Boy appears Saturday daytime, followed by Bjorn Again, McFly and Jaguar Skills.
People who enjoy ramp sports, like skateboarding and BMX biking, will be pleased to hear that NASS festival is returning to Shepton Mallet over four days (July 6-9). This year sees a big, big lineup with American rappers Wu-Tang Clan headlining on Saturday, crowd pleasers Chase & Status playing live on Friday and award-winning British artist Little Simz closing on Sunday. The site will also be awash with colourful street art, in collaboration with Bristol street art festival Upfest. Flying down the ramps meanwhile will be BMX pros and some of the world’s best skaters. Festival-goers can also try Djing or MCing workshops.
Quaint, community gathering Priddy Folk Festival also returns for another year, (July 7-9), featuring top folk musicians from Ireland and Orkney this summer. Held in the charming Mendips village of Priddy, 15-minutes drive from Bath, the event includes a children’s festival, which focusing on drumming, singing and dancing, as well as a fringe festival. The festival’s campsite is located above Priddy Green, where the action happens, and is next to ancient barrows.
Just outside Bruton, Farmfest (Aug 3-5) is another Somerset favourite, attracting a friendly but relaxed party crowd. The camping field is spacious with rural views, while in the arena, you can see DJs playing on top of tractors and an all-day disco alongside the main stage. The festival was postponed last year but is hopefully returning for 2023. Elsewhere, Watchet Music Festival and WOWFest, which showcases classical music in Wells, are both having a year off. If you have no chance of getting Glastonbury tickets (and let’s face it, most of us don’t) you should definitely consider one of Somerset’s other music festivals this summer.