Travel Guide | United Kingdom

UK FESTIVALS: The Unofficial Guide

Lessons, tips and fashion advice for festivals across the UK.

By Lizi Woolgar, University of Bristol UK

Hi there folks. I’m here to talk to you today about festivals across the UK.

When I was interrailling last summer, I noticed a few comments here and there from fellow travellers about how great the UK festival scene is. It really seems to be our ‘thing’. I definitely wouldn’t argue that we have the best, but we certainly do have a hell of a lot. From early June – Late September, we gots festivals pretty much all through the summer. Although I’ve never sampled the ‘Big Dog’ of UK festivals – GLASTONBURY- I have sampled a few others over the years.

I am by no means a music-maestro, in fact I generally don’t care all that much about the music, so if you’re a musi-holic look away NOW. I can give my guidance on A. Essential tips I’ve learned over the years, B. The general feel of the fest and C. What do wear (to fit in oh-so effortlessly). Read on if you want to learn how to survive festivals through my many, many mistakes…

 UK music festivals image

1.       V FESTIVAL (Chelmsford, Essex)

In my (almost) hometown, this was the first festival I braved, aged 16. Being in the heart of good old Es-six, you can work out what to expect. Blindingly-orange girls in denim hotpants and mainstream music pretty much covers it (nuffin wrong with a bitta Beyonce though right?). V is a bit of a rip-off in my opinion. There aren’t many ‘extra-curricular’ activities on offer, the quality of music greatly varies both between years and festival stages and it will always be full of essex #LADSLADSLADS.

That being said, V is a decent choice for first-time-festivalling. It’s easily accessible from London, isn’t overhwleming in size and day tickets are available if camping isn’t your thang.

What to wear? For the ultimate V-camouflage, pull on those faux hunter wellies, grab your Hollister hotpants and purchase Topshop’s latest chiffon crop (oh how unique of you to mix daywear and eveningwear). Don’t forget to smother yourself in fake tan.

Lesson 1: No matter how adamant you are that your parents are wrong, don’t take your ‘good’ phone. You will lose it. Take ‘bad phone’.

UK music festivals

2.       READING FESTIVAL (in er, Reading)

I learnt my most important lesson here. After baggsying our camping spot and dumping our bags, we flounced off to explore and have a few drinks. Upon our return, I was not only irritated, but moreso confused as to how someone had stolen my huge duffel bag! Yes, that meant my clothes, make-up and, most importantly, sleeping bag, were gone. Vamoosh!

So, although sleeping under a scrap of my friend’s sleeping bag on the cold hard floor SLIGHTLY tainted the festival for me, I still had a merry ole time. Again, not that much on offer apart from the music, but Reading town being totally accessible meant you could find some fun daytime activities (plus a Subway to numb the bag-less pain).

What to wear? Here you’ll find cider-swigging rockers. Purchase suitable attire such as: Oversized checked shirt, cutoff black levis and a studded bumbag IF you can handle being profusely judged. Read how to make your own here:

Lesson 2: As soon as you arrive, pitch your tent. Then put bag in tent.

UK music festivals image

3.       LATITUDE FESTIVAL  ( Southwold, Suffolk)

A quirky fest for the youngest of generations. PG-quirkeen, you might say. Lat doesn’t tend to tie down the biggest of acts (Krartwork are a headliner this year – nothing on Queen Bey), but just find other ways to make up for it.

It is an incredibly friendly festival – welcoming families – with a real community feel. The festival is home to some real tree-huggers; they put more of an emphasis on ‘being green’ than a lot of other festivals. Check out the ‘Tour de Latitude’ initiative set up this year, uniting festival goers in hope of minimising the carbon footprint to the maximum.

What to wear? Tie-dye, slouchy jersey and battered Dr. Martens. Be prepared to fork out some serious $$$ for the pretty floral headband you will just NEED once the sun pops its little head out.

Lesson 3: Here, Lesson 1 was tried & tested (whoops). My ‘bad’ phone was so ugly someone actually bothered to give it back to Lost&Found. My camera, however, was less fortunate.

uk music festivals image


4.       BESTIVAL (Isle of Wight)

Armed with multiple disposable cameras, my ‘bad’ phone and a sensible backpack (#ComfortIsKey) I caught the ferry – bright and early – across to the Isle of Wight. Only to find that I had left my ticket at home. Of course.

Ticket-less uk music festivals image






But still, it’s all in the name; it really is the BESTival. The festival has tonnes on offer: a roller disco, a HelterSkelter, countless vintage boutiques and woods with secluded chill-out hammocks. Bestival felt like Latitude’s big sis, with the same quirkiness but the hipster dress a little more refined in established journalists and a plethora of fashionistas.

BUT I’ve got to say, the ferry is horrific. A series of unfortunate events led to the worst day of my life EVER (first world problems anyone?) consisting of a whole day long queue for a ferry, in the freezing cold, with a sore head. All I would say is plan REALLY well or expect a long, lonely wait.

What to wear? Fancy dress! Bestival has a different costume theme each year; our year was animals, so my friend, of course, painted herself entirely blue (?!)

UK Music festivals image

Lesson 4: Ticket really should be first on the checklist.


5.       BEACH BREAK (formerly in Wales)

Don’t do it. I absolutely do not recommend this festival. The main stage was the size of one of the smallest Reading stages, the staff refused to provide tap water for the first 2 days (around £3/bottle) and the journey from the campsite to the arena turned into a quickmarsh.

In hindsight, it’s astonishing my friend and I thought it would be a good idea going to a festival in the most miserable part of the UK. But still, we were surprised when it STORMED for 4 DAYS STRAIGHT!

That being said, the festival is relocating to Newquay this year and you get the chance to stay in caravans, which I reckon will totally change the feel of it. The water sports and other extreme sporting events put on throughout the weekend make this a festival to try with a decent-sized group of Uni friends.

What to wear? Go for relaxed, sporty vibes. Nike/Adidas trainers, a Stussy tee and an acid wash backpack.

Lesson 5: Actually think about the geographical location of the festival and just take a guess how likely it is to rain.

UK music festivals image

I hope I haven’t put you off UK festivals through my moaning – you should bear in mind that I am an eternal pessimist. The truth is, I probably wouldn’t change a thing, as these festivals experiences formed some of my fondest memories. So, now you can all learn the easy way after I struggled through 5 festivals before deciding: festivals probably just aren’t for me.









Lizi Woolgar

University of Bristol | 40 stories

Graduate of University of Bristol. Having spent my first two years of University writing for the student newspaper, epigram and Brighton-based Spindle Magazine, I then went on to edit the Style section of Epigram 2012-2013. Now keen to pursue a career in journalism/editorial work, I look forward to writing my weekly column for The College Tourist, all the while seeing where my writing and travel will take me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Might Also Like