As I look out of the office window here in Berkshire, all I see is the drizzling nasty rain that pre-empts the English Bank Holiday. Forget what they said at school, Keats got it wrong with all that misty mellowness nonsense. Nevertheless, let’s not bellyache as it is festival time with my town, Reading, smugly proclaiming itself “home of festivals” with both WOMAD and Carling.
Whatever the hype, WOMAD astounds with its international line-up and Carling, to its credit, pulls in the mighty monsters of “Rock”. The history of this 50,000 capacity event goes back many years, and has had some dire years in both line-up and audience.
Yet it is seen as typically the biggest and fattest collection of current bands on the indie and rock circuits. Included in this year’s Bank Holiday sell-out event are the shockingly successful Darkness, the leaderless Libertines, and relatively old stagers Supergrass and Super Furry Animals. It always tends to be this sort of heavy bill. However, the inclusion of Morrissey, late of The Smiths, may lighten the load somewhat.
Further afield in Essex and Staffordshire, there’s always V2004 with reliable headliners Badly Drawn Boy, The Pixies, The Strokes, and The Thrills. V, as in major brand Virgin, are upfront in stating “music-first” and delivering the goods even though it does stink of corporatism. Not necessarily a bad thing for those of us who can remember dreadful days of toilet-campsite hell.
If you don’t fancy any of the above, you can always get over to Greenbelt taking place on Gloucestershire’s Cheltenham Racecourse (27-29 August). Greenbelt is an annual Arts event that has been running for over thirty years and recently dubbed “Christian Glastonbury” by some wag (or was that Bragg?). Seriously promoting itself as a family friendly festival, it’s a mix of music, cabaret, comedy, film, poetry and exhibitions. Discussions and debates are also on tap with speakers Dame Anita Roddick (aka Bodyshop founder), “journo” Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Shadowmancer author G P Taylor amongst the many.
Moreover, they don’t skimp on that music either, promising a rather diverse and heady set of acts – Lambchop, Handsome Family, Denys Baptiste, Jamelia, Ron Sexsmith, Show Of Hands and Oi Va Voi. For my money, I would prefer this festival as it respects its punters, is a great location and wears its heart on its sleeve. A complete contrast to anything else on in August and not as grave as it sometimes may sound. For more details of other fun stuff on show, go to www.greenbelt.org.uk/lineup.
These are just the major festivals but a search will unearth tasty gems tucked away in the hidden corners of the UK – even out into September. If you are in England, worth noting is the excellent Bunkfest (3-5 September) in Oxfordshire that this year boasts Chumbawamba, Horace X, and Hank Wangford & The Lost Cowboys. See www.bunkfest.co.uk for a list of the weekend’s sets. Overall, a stately festival with not only music but also dance, a steam railway and beer. An assured bet for a September weekend with both indoor and outdoor stages/venues.