VF's Top Ten Boutique Festivals

The Battle of the Boutique Bashes

VF's Top Ten Boutique Festivals

Photographer:Trevor Eales

Francesca Perry - 25 June 2013

/boo - teek/


1) A small store selling fashionable clothes or accessories.

2) A business that serves a sophisticated or specialized clientele: "a small investment boutique"; "a boutique film".

For those desperate to escape the creeping onslaught of standardisation and profit, hope remains in the bright fields of boutique festivals. Here is Virtual Festivals’ guide to the top ten boutique festivals - for a more chic festival experience!

10: Bearded Theory – 17th-19th May – Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire 

Breaking the beard record, this festival is certainly unique. Former winner of the Best Independent Festival, it grew from a birthday gathering to a 5000 capacity sell out event. Small and charming, Bearded Theory is great for families but also for the hedonistic types. It is far from being all about the music, but about a whole hoard of other entertainment.

Top tip: practice your Bhangra dancing here.

More Bearded Theory information.

09: Standon Calling – 2nd-4th August – Standon, Hertfordshire

If you fancy a dip during festivities, Standon Calling is the place to be. An intimate gathering and also the only festival to have a swimming pool!  This event is renowned for spotting artists on the brink of mainstream success such as Florence and the Machine. This year sees performances from De La Soul, Band of Skulls and Bastille among its roster of 'next-big-things'. This carnival of freedom will house an actual circus on site, so whether its trapeze artists or juggling fire, there’s plenty of entertainment on offer. This year’s fancy dress theme is ‘running away from the circus’.

Top tip: bring your clowning shoes.

More Standon Calling information.

08: Truck Festival – 19th-20th July – Hill Farm, Oxford

Recently taken over by Y Not, this Oxford indie bash has been revitalised.  It prides itself on its family and community atmosphere. There is a depth of local connections at Truck, many acts have originated from Oxford’s lively music scene and the Oxford rotary club run stalls. With plans of a food festival, and performances from The Horrors, Ash and Dans Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip among others, Truck has been rescued from the dangerous depths, awakening its festival spirit.

Top tip: bring the whole family.

More Truck Festival information.

07: LeeFest – 12-13th July 2013 – Highams Hill Farm, Warlingham, Surrey

Garden gathering turns festival, Lee Fest is a home-grown affair, with an unpretentious party vibe. Focused hugely on a charitable ethos, all profits are spent on good causes.  Lee Fest celebrates the togetherness of life, creating a small and intimate community, featuring a diverse mix of music and arts. Noisettes and Man Like Me are set to headline, together with unique entertainment such as poetry and shisha tents. 

Top tip: get behind a good cause.

More Lee Fest information.

06: Y Not? Festival – 2nd-4th August 2013 – Pikehall, Derbyshire

Y Not? Festival prides itself in being ‘small, loud and fresh’.  Living up to its motto, Y Not won Best Small Festival and Best Toilets Award. The burgeoning indie fest includes headliners, Ash, The Horrors and The Enemy, so very loud indeed. If you’re fed up of beer with an uncanny resemblance to urine, this affair also offers quality beer and cider, being awarded the best beer and cider festival.  

Top tip: best festival to drink a little too much at.

More Y Not? Festival information.

05: Beat-Herder – 5th-7th July – Ribble Valley, Lancashire

From its humble beginnings in 2006, selling tickets from a three-legged table, Beat-Herder has grown organically. This handcrafted location of surreal surprises includes sloping hills, stone circles and secret, underground tunnels accessed via phone boxes. Its eclectic program consists of acts from Jimmy Cliff to Jaguar Skills, magicians, comedians and drag queens. Creating a pure, alternate reality, this midsummer party encompasses an old Victorian street complete with a tattoo parlour and a sweet shop. A Sunday service takes place at the chapel, transforming doctrine into disco and debauchery. The Clitheroe ladies circle provide jam and cakes for sale at the event adding to the boutique, home-grown vibe.

Top tip: immerse yourself in this alternate reality.

More Beat-Herder information.

04: In The Woods – 31st August 2013 – Private woodland in Kent

An inspirational dog walk for alt-pop rockers, Laurel Collective, led to the creation of a special festival in an enchanted secret woodland location. A watershed for new talent, this DIY festival offers festival goers the chance to mingle with nature and music in an idyllic, remote setting. Boasting a history of entertainment from acts such as Man Like Me, Alt J and Lianne La Havas, an interactive dinner party, silent disco and giant Bonfire, this bohemian occasion is a sell out. This magical haven of indie music and arts provides locally sourced ale and food as well as family friendly activities. This hidden gem is the pure essence of what a festival should entail. So go down to the woods today, you’ll be sure to get a big surprise.

Top tip: go with an ear open for new music.

More In The Woods information here.

03: Festival No. 6 – 13th-15th September 2013 – Portmeirion, North Wales 

A bespoke event in an Italianate setting, suited to those that enjoy the finer things in life. Pop up oyster and champagne bars are inspired by the Welsh and Italian coasts. The Piazza Stage boasts acoustic, comedy and poetry acts alongside superb headliners, Manic Street Preachers and Chic. The real star however, is the infamous and iconic setting, home to the TV series, The Prisoner. Re-enactments appear in every corner, from human chess games to Edwardian characters wearing lampshades on their heads. Far from the archetypal festival, this unique affair mixes music, arts and culture, offering boutique accommodation in the gatehouses or luxury Yurts. This festival certainly affirms itself as more than just a number.

Top tip: don't trust number two.

More Festival No 6 information.

02: Wilderness – 8th-11th August 2013 – Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire

The little sister to the Secret Garden Party, Wilderness offers a back to nature, idiosyncratic experience. Feral parties are thrown in the depths of the forest, illuminated by burning pits and lanterns. Incorporating the new concept of a festival as a vacation, it is a place of inspiration and rejuvenation. Ranging from gastronomic delights such as the ottenlenghi banquet, to a swimming lake complete with a waterfall, Wilderness is a haven for free spirited festival goers. An eclectic array of music adds to the festivities, from Empire of the Sun to Tom Odell. Experience boutique 'glamping' in tipis complete with butler service and get lost in the Wilderness.

Top tip: let yourself be pampered.

More Wilderness information.

01. Secret Garden Party – 25th-28th July 2013 – Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire 

A four day garden party like no other, SGP overflows with extravagance, enchantment and eccentricity. Immerse yourself in a carnivalesque world, explore your wildest fantasies and escape the humdrum of reality. From sock wrestling in the mud pit to the infamous paint fight, the secret to the affair is all about creative and imaginative participation. The line up boasts popular artists such as Bastille and Goldie. Set to rival Bestival’s best dressed, this year 'superstition' is the fancy dress theme.

Top tip: give in, go along with the role playing and fantasy of this amazing festival.

More Secret Garden Party information.


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