2019 Festivals Guide: UK & Ireland Music Festivals

From the big hitters like Glastonbury and All Points East to city fests like Meltdown and The Great Escape, our guide to the UK & Ireland's best music festivals

Preview by Tallah Brash | 12 Apr 2019

Ah, the music festival. For some, the very thought of a music festival can fill even the most hardened of people with absolute fear, dread and anxiety; for others, it’s a chance to use up some of that well-earned annual leave while doing the thing you love most, watching your favourite bands play your favourite songs – sometimes in a waterlogged field full of wallopers, sometimes in nicer surroundings. And in the case of many non-campsite-based festivals, it’s a great way to incorporate a city break. Who doesn’t love exploring somewhere new during the day while catching your favourite bands at night? That’s right, nobody.

For a relatively small lump of rock, the UK fair packs a punch when it comes to the number of music festivals on offer and according to the latest stats found in UK Music’s Music Tourism Wish You Were Here 2017 research, in 2016 alone 3.9 million people attended music festivals in the UK. That’s five per cent of the UK population as it currently stands and one heck of a lot of Glastonburys, which is considered to be the biggest greenfield festival in the world with 135,000 tickets sold on average per year with up to 175,000 people (that’s a population greater than Dundee) attending the five-day festival of contemporary performing arts.

After a year off to give the land, local population and organisers a break, the much-loved Glastonbury (26-30 Jun) festival returns this year with early line-up announcements including Stormzy headlining the Friday, Kylie playing the Sunday teatime slot and Janelle Monáe headlining the West Holts stage. Janet Jackson, The Killers and Miley Cyrus have all since been announced. All the other usual shenanigans will be going on as normal, like Arcadia, Shangri-La and Beat Hotel, the latter of which branched out on its own this year with The Beat Hotel festival in Marrakech, Morocco at the end of March, and we’re told is to return next year.

London's Music Festivals: All Points East, Field Day, Lovebox

But Glastonbury isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to UK festivals. In fact, despite its gargantuan capacity it’s pretty difficult to get tickets for and by this point has already been sold out for yonks. In London alone there are an insane number of festivals taking place, but we’ll just tell you about six of them and you can figure the rest out for yourself if that's cool? Cool.

If you’re up for some top bants, Mighty Hoopla (Brockwell Park, 8 Jun) could be the one for you. With Chaka Khan headlining and All Saints, Kate Nash, Samantha Mumba (!!!) and C.O.O.L. Aussie Party-starters Confidence Man, who described it on Instagram as “the party line-up of dreams”, all set to play, we’re 100% on board.

Field Day (Meridian Water, 7-8 Jun) are back this year in a brand new, never-before-used location, featuring four massive warehouses and a ten-acre expansive outdoor space. Lovebox (Gunnersby Park, 12-13 Jul) have banked the mighty Solange along with some pretty big UK exclusives with Cali boy band Brockhampton, H.E.R. and Cypress Hill performing Black Sunday. After launching last year, All Points East (Victoria Park, 24-26 May; 31 May-2 Jun) is set to return for its sophomore outing with The Strokes, Christine and the Queens and Bon Iver.

Meanwhile, the newly-launched Naked City (Beckenham Place Park, 27 Jul) welcomes Neneh Cherry for their inaugural festival which they've described as “a celebration of how London makes us feel,” and following on from Robert Smith’s Meltdown last year, it’s time for Nile Rodgers to have a Meltdown as he takes on curation duties at the Southbank Centre’s festival this year (3-11 Aug).

The South: The Great Escape, End of the Road, WOMAD

Just under an hour south on the train from central London, The Great Escape (9-11 May) takes over every nook and cranny of Brighton for its extensive music industry conference series as well as once again welcoming up-and-coming talent from all over the world to the seaside town. In the nearby(ish) Winchester, Boomtown returns to the Matterley Estate (7-11 Aug) with a host of excellent artists set to play, including a strong turn from those beginning with the letter S. Salt-N-Pepa, Stella Donnelly, Slowthai, She Drew the Gun and Shanti Celeste, we're looking at you.

A little further west to Larmer Tree Gardens and you'll find Larmer Tree Festival (18-21 Jul) and End of the Road (29 Aug-1 Sep), the latter offering one of the last big outdoor festival hoorahs of the UK summer season, with Beirut, Courtney Barnett and Mitski all playing. And just under an hour down the road from there you’ll hit the site of family friendly Camp Bestival (Lulworth Castle, Dorset, 25-28 Jul), curated by Josie and Rob da Bank, with this year’s bill featuring The Human League, Napalm Death and Vengaboys. Fun for all the family.

In Bristol, alternative festival ArcTanGent returns to Fernhill Farm (15-17 Aug), with a line-up featuring Meshuggah, Battles and 65daysofstatic, while later in the month Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones and Loyle Carner play The Downs (The Downs, 31 Aug). WOMAD, ‘The World’s Festival’ returns to Malmesbury, Wiltshire from 25-28 July and Wilderness Festival (Cornbury Park, 1-4 Aug) in Oxfordshire is where it’s at if you’re planning on catching Robyn at a UK festival this summer (it's her only UK festival date). Birmingham’s forward-thinking Supersonic Festival also returns to Digbeth (19-21 Jul) with Neurosis, Moor Mother and Godflesh all set to play.

The North: MIF, Parklife, Africa Oye

Wakefield’s largest music and culture festival Long Division returns from 29 May-2 June with 100 performers set to descend upon the market town on the Saturday, including a whole host of Scottish artists: Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Cloth, Broken Chanter and Meursault will all be there. In Macclesfield, Bluedot returns to the Jodrell Bank Observatory (home to the Lovell Telescope) from 18-21 July, helping celebrate 50 years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Hot Chip, Kraftwerk 3-D and New Order all headline.

Manchester’s festival season begins with Parklife (Heaton Park, 8-9 Jun), featuring Cardi B, NAO, Pusha T and Kaytranada among its stacked line-up, while the Manchester International Festival rolls into town from 4-21 July with Janelle Monáe playing the opening night.

In Liverpool, Sound City and Sound City + kick things off from 3-5 May in the city’s industrial Baltic Triangle area, with packed live and conference programmes respectively. Africa Oyé, the UK’s largest free celebration of African music and culture, is back in Sefton Park from 22-23 June and in the same location, from 20-21 July, Liverpool International Music Festival, aka LIMF, returns with De La Soul.

Music Festivals in Wales and Ireland

FOCUS Wales 2019 gets things going in, well, Wales with over 200 bands playing across 20 stages, plus industry panels and discussions (Wrexham, 16-18 May). The world’s largest philosophy and music festival HowTheLightGetsIn takes place the following weekend in Hay-on-Wye (24-27 May), with Anna Calvi, British Sea Power and a DJ set from Zero 7. From 15-18 August Green Man Festival welcome Four Tet (Live), Sharon Van Etten and Aldous Harding to the beautiful Brecon Beacons.

Across the water in the Republic of Ireland, festival season starts in the Trabolgan Holiday Village, East Cork with It Takes a Village (10-12 May) and a line-up that includes Snapped Ankles, Awesome Tapes from Africa and the excellent Le Boom. Body and Soul follows at Ballinlough Castle, Co. Westmeath to celebrate its 10th birthday on the weekend of the summer solstice (21-23 Jun), with help from Santigold and Princess Nokia. Electric Picnic rounds things out at Stradbally Hall, Co. Laois (30 Aug-1 Sep) with The 1975, The Strokes and Róisín Murphy.