Student Life: Planning for Fun in Fields

Feature by Euan Ferguson | 12 Sep 2008
  • The Verve @ T in The Park 08

As the weather grows warmer, gig-goers grow tired of dark, sweaty venues and begin to look further afield for their music fix. Forget camper vans, mystery-meat burgers and queuing for blocked up toilets, festivals these days are a more sophisticated affair and include something for everyone, no matter your taste or budget. As the choice grows by the year, The Skinny Student Handbook presents the picks of the summer festivals across Scotland, Britain and beyond.

The Big Ones:

T in the Park
Balado, Kinross
10th – 12th July 2009
Capacity: 80,000

Now in its fifteenth year, the daddy of all Scottish festivals brings music to the masses with its big-name line-up. The atmosphere is as you’d expect from an event on this scale – big, bold and in-your-face – and the up-for-it crowd all love the inevitable singalong anthems from festival staples like The Verve, Kaiser Chiefs and Kings of Leon, all washed down with plenty of the ubiquitous Tennent’s. Boutique it isn’t, but you’ll be guaranteed a classic festival experience. The more industrious can gain free access by working at the site, although this may be nothing more glamorous than picking up the detritus of a weekend’s excess.

Dores, Loch Ness
June 2009
Capacity: 35,000

Every June for the last three years, the shores of Loch Ness have thronged with a different type of visitor – festival-goers trying to catch sight of Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers or Manic Street Preachers at this indie / dance themed event. Despite the relatively large scale, the organisers manage to keep it informal, as a young and friendly crowd converge until the small hours at what sometimes feels like an indie student night stretched over three days. The comfort levels are also impressive given the capacity – wooden huts or pre-erected tents can be hired, there’s a barbeque site, and the local Black Isle Brewery offers a bit more than the usual weak lager in plastic glasses. To cap it all off, they’ll even help you save money on next year’s festival with their early-bird ticket offer, available now.

Somerset, South-East England
June 2009
Capacity: 177,000

This institution of an event really needs no introduction. Setting the standard which all festivals follow, long-time organiser Michael Eavis continues to break barriers with the broad range of acts on offer at last year’s Glasto, from Stackridge, the band who opened the first festival in 1970, to the controversial recent headline choice of Jay-Z. Despite the huge numbers of people the festival now attracts, it retains most of the ‘peace and love’ ethos it was founded on, with bearded folkies and blissed-out hippies still very much in attendance in the Sacred Space or Field of Avalon. Even with growing criticism in recent years of creeping commercialisation and rising crime levels, a pilgrimage to Glastonbury remains something everyone should experience at least once.

Castellon, Spain
July 2009
Capacity: 35,000

The Festival Internacional de Benicassim has been practically colonised by Brits in the last few years, and it’s not hard to see why. An impressive roster of well-known acts like Morrissey, The Cure, Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine play on stages next to the Mediterranean, where festival-goers can camp for up to nine days without worrying about their tent being washed away in a downpour (at least until global warming takes care of that). More like a Spanish holiday than a festival, the event grows every year as people grow tired of the annual Battle of the Somme recreations which British festivals can sometimes feel like.

Hasselt, Belgium
August 2009
Capacity: 150,000

If you fancy combining a summer festival with a foray into Europe, and you have a taste for strong beer and waffles, then a trip to the Low Countries and Belgium’s Pukkelpop could be the answer. Although a massive event, it remains friendly on a level unimaginable in Britain, and alongside an international line-up which has previously boasted the likes of Metallica, Massive Attack and Sigur Ros, a ticket to Pukkelpop will guarantee you free bus or train travel from anywhere within Belgium. With Eurostar cutting the travel time to Europe even further, it might even be easier than sitting in a Somerset traffic jam for four hours trying to get to Glastonbury.

Burning Man Festival
Black Rock City, Colorado Desert, Nevada
Labor Day (September 2009)
Capacity: It’s in a desert, so quite a few.

Not really a music festival as such, but worth mentioning due to the sheer craziness involved. Essentially an experiment in radical self-expression and self-reliance, Burning Man involves attendees bringing everything they will need to survive five nights in the Colorado Desert, and culminates in the torching of the eponymous 40ft Burning Man himself. Festival events are organised around annual themes such as ‘Fertility’ or ‘Nebulous Entity’, and can include any sort of self-expression you could loosely call ‘art’. Think Mad Max meets The Wicker Man, and you’re not even halfway there. If you find the likes of Glastonbury or T in the Park too gentle, and fancy the idea of spending time with people resembling extras from Road Warriors, then Burning Man could be for you.

The Boutique Ones:

Hydro Connect
Inverary Castle, Argyll
August 2009
Capacity: 20,000

Large enough to guarantee a real festival atmosphere, yet small enough to fit the ‘boutique’ tab, the Connect festival was launched in 2007 by the people behind T in the Park to offer a more intimate festival experience coupled with a truly innovative music offering. Although last year’s line-up pandered slightly more to the mainstream with acts such as Kasabian and Paolo Nutini, the organisers proved they still have their fingers on the pulse by showcasing up-and-coming Scottish bands like We Were Promised Jetpacks and Broken Records. You’ll struggle to find the usual chip vans and falafel stalls seen at other major festivals, as Connect is also notable for the fine array of locally sourced, organic foods on offer, including oysters from neighbouring Loch Fyne and Inverloch Cheese.

Outsider Festival
Aviemore, Speyside
2009 date TBC
Capacity: 4000

In an era when no self respecting festival goes ahead without proclaiming their green credentials, there are a few who take it that bit further, basing the whole event on ideas of recycling and sustainability. The Outsider festival, a bi-annual gathering in Rothiemurchus estate, Aviemore, is proud to declare itself carbon neutral and completely in tune with its natural surroundings. Visitors can take part in the 12K marathon, enjoy free mountain biking lessons or do their bit for the planet and their wallets by signing up to the festival’s car-sharing scheme. Throw in a line-up of music and comedy which has included KT Tunstall, King Creosote and Stephen K Amos, and it’s not just the eco-warriors looking forward to next year’s event.

Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival
Nr Beauly, Inverness-shire
August 2009
Capacity: 12,000

Eco-friendly, family-friendly and just plain friendly, Belladrum provides a real alternative to the mainstream festivals by keeping a distinctly Scottish flavour. Headliners like Idlewild and Sons & Daughters are backed up by folkier offerings from the Inverness Gaelic Choir and Rachel Unthank, and even more leftfield tastes are catered for by the Kazoo Funk Orchestra or Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir. Campers can hire teepees, there’s an organic fruit and veg market, and alternative therapy tents offer new ways to relax in the picturesque Highland countryside.