While the majors squabble and ink massive cheques for the biggest headliners around, a flourish of non-corporate, more intimate events are cropping up and stealing their fans. Here are the top ten best boutique bashes out there...
As they grow in popularity, boutique festivals seem to be attracting bigger names, having built up their reputations by focusing on atmosphere, handpicked artists and a trend of quirky alternative entertainment.
Radio 1 DJ Rob Da Bank, founder of not one, but two events in our top ten, shares the secret to hosting a top soiree. He said: "There's never been a better time for medium and small festivals. But I think festivals now need to constantly evolve. You have to book shit-hot acts no one else has, get a lot of varied acts, or have a unique selling point, like Glastonbury has with its heritage."
So for those hoping to escape the scramble for tickets to a major festival in favour of a chicer boutique affair, look no further. Here is Virtual Festivals' guide to the quirkiest, eclectic and somewhat eccentric boutique festivals out there.
10. Hydro Connect – 29-31 August 2008 – Inveraray Castle, Western Scotland
Forget the burgers, bacon butties and warm beer because Hydro Connect is steered towards the more mature and affluent festival-goer. Scotland's newest boutique event boasts posh nosh and tipple ranging from oysters and salmon to champagne and local whiskies. The variety of international troupes and home-grown acts are as diverse as the bespoke camping on offer, with tipis, yurts and Podpads available to book. The Enchanted Forest and Cabaret of the Unknown Pleasures tent add to the boutique vibe.
Click HERE for more information on Hydro Connect.
9. Camp Bestival – 18-20 July 2008 – Lulworth Castle, Dorset
After the success of the original Bestival, Radio 1 DJ has decided to stick a new festival under our noses for 2008. Described as "Bestival’s little brother or sister without the raves and 24 hour party people," this take on 50's British holiday camps is to be lead by Miguel from The Cuban Brothers with his Bestival Blue Coats and a host of more family orientated acts: step up Chuck Berry, The Flaming Lips, Kate Nash and late night campfire sessions. There will also be comedy and spoken word, dance off, a silly sports day and some knitting too – all the random idiosyncratic gems you're likely to find being flaunted by its older sibling.
Click HERE for more information on Camp Bestival.
8. Croissant Neuf Summer Party – 15-17 August 2008 – Usk, Monmouthsire, Wales
After 21 years of combining croissants, coffee and cabaret at various festivals up and down the country, the organisers have dunked into throwing a whole festival for themselves. Eccentricity ranging from lantern processions and a burlesque ball to skittle alleys, sports day and workshops give this solar powered soiree its unique flavour. The Summer Party also has a choice selection of acts including 3 Daft Monkeys and Martha Tilson and Yurts available to hire.
Click HERE for more information On Croissant Neuf Summer Party.
7. Bloom – 8-10 August 2008 – Seven Springs, Gloucestershire
Picking up and moving to a new home in Cheltenham this summer Bloom festival will bring together another 5,000 revellers for three more days of live music, acts, cabaret and VJ's. Catering for the more eclectic palate the soiree will have everything from jazz and electro to hip-hop and drum n bass – basically the perfect soundtrack for the Bloomers to "explore and play to their hearts content." There will also be cocktails, comedy, acrobats, live beatboxing and lots of dressed up folk. Bloomin' brilliant!
Click HERE for more information on Bloom.
6. Beautiful Days – 15-17 August 2008 – Escot Park, Devon
Despite the name, the festival doesn't guarantee good weather – as it's 10,000 revellers found out last year – but it is synonymous when it comes to boutique bashes. The event was one of the first events to carry the 'boutique' label, not only because of the selection of acts handpicked by The Levellers that can range from disco dwellers Boney M to punk rockers The Damned, but thanks to it's street theatre, cabaret, huge children's area and local real ale bar as well.
Click HERE for more information on Beautiful Days.
5. End Of The Road – 12-14 September 2008 – Larmer Tree Gardens
Winner of the Best New Festival at 2006's UK Festival Awards, it was less end of the road, more start of something brilliant. This three-day soiree focuses on the music: instead of over-hyped headliners, acts are given longer sets and complete creative freedom as well as taking slots as DJs or lending a hand at workshops. The Swedish organisers embellish their origins with a Scandinavian showcase, Nordic nibbles and Viking games, among the wandering parrots and peacocks of the breathtaking Larmer Tree Gardens.
Click HERE for more information on End Of The Road.
4. Secret Garden Party – 24-27 July 2008 – Secret Location in Cambridgeshire
The Secret Garden Party completely personifies tomfoolery and eccentricity in one compact weekend package. From space-hopper grand prix to human curling, the bash is all about thoughtful anarchy and creative expression through participation and the regular Gardeners are more than to oblige. The music ranges from classic artists like Grace Jones and Morcheeba as well as a host of emerging act that if you will probably never have heard of before you go, but bands you won’t be able to stop talking about by the time you leave. This year’s theme is "Revolutions of Past, Present and Future, from the physical through to the conceptual," – beats the hell out of another superhero-themed party!
Click HERE for more information on Secret Garden Party.
3. The Big Chill –1-3 August 2008 – Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire
Since its humble beginnings as a Sunday all-dayer at Islington's Union Chapel in 1994, The Big Chill has gone from strength to strength, wooing incredible 35,000 festival-goers to Herefordshire's tranquil Eastnor Castle without ever losing it’s intimacy or integrity. Alternative entertainment is as prevalent as the musical aspects of the festival with The Mighty Boosh and Bill Bailey supplying the laughs this summer while the Victorian funfair complete with carousel, helter skelter, and costumed fairground crew is set to take you back 100 years. As with the festival's bars, there will be a delicious eclectic selection of music from tunes that chill to tunes that thrill.
Click HERE for more information on The Big Chill.
2. Latitude – 17-20 July – Henham Park, Suffolk
Latitude maybe famous for its multi-coloured sheep, but organisers are moving further and further away from the herd. The multi-arts festival is readying itself for it's third event with another myriad of unusual, varied and quirky acts as well as the more established troupes. With literature, act and comedy there is a lot on offer including some surprises in the woods. So those with dickey hearts be pre-warned you'll find hidden gigs and late night parties in the woods and probably a man playing piano. In an inflatable ball. On the lake. And finally if grappling with a tent isn't your style, Latitude offers luxurious alternatives in its Tangerine Fields, including ready-pitched tipis, PodPads and Yurts.
Click HERE for more information on Latitude.
1. Bestival – 5-7 September 2008 – Robin Hill Country Park, Isle Of Wight
After completing a hat trick of Best Medium Festival at the UK Festival Awards, these guys must be doing something right. Bestival is only event that fuses traditional British afternoon tea with the decadent world of burlesque cabaret and with a line-up curated by Radio 1 tastemaker Rob Da Bank, it's hard to ignore the varied line-up that merges everything from folk, skiffle and pop with dance, reggae and jazz. Acts perform in the woods, the hidden disco and on a traditional bandstand while fans can grab themselves a BestivAle at the onsite pub or a cuppa and a cake from the WI tent. Saturday night is traditionally the fancy dress parade, which this year will stomp up to the main satge to see Amy Winehouse – but will she prove to be the best-of-all over the weekend?
Click HERE for more information on Bestival.