There is nothing that the English love better than getting drunk in a muddy field while dancing to some good music, and nowhere in England is that more true than in the glorious South West. Devon and Cornwall are home to some of the country’s finest festivals, attracting big bands, famous faces and party goers from all over the world.
Some festivals lose their edge when they get a bit too big, but Beautiful Days Festival just outside of Exeter has kept its creativity and fun through its rise to stardom. Beautiful Days is a festival run by musicians, which means it’s all about having a good time, rather than sticking red tape all over the place – you won’t find any Fun Police here. There are fireworks and fairground rides and there is always a lineup to please every member of the family, from theatre lovers, to punks, to hippies. Be sure to check out the Bimble Inn, where disco balls and thick tapestries hang from the rafters, where there is shelter from the inevitable rain and where there is also a great band to shimmy too, any time of day or night.
The Masked Ball, which bookends the summer at the beginning of the season in May and again at Halloween, is a journey into the fantastical, with DJs playing out of giant gramophones, trapeze artists swinging from the rafters and punters donning their finest attire on one of the most beautiful clifftops in Cornwall. Groove Armada play The Masked Ball so much they are practically resident DJs, and Basement Jaxx, 2ManyDJs, B Traits and Horsemeat Disco are all regulars for this weekend party. Glitter is mandatory and so is stamina – watching the sunrise over the horizon at 6 o’clock in the morning, with beats keeping you buzzed when you should be going to bed is a rite of passage at this fest.
Set in beautiful woodland near Bude, Leopallooza is a small and mighty festival which goes big on acts and decor, but small on cost and crowds. Hide away in gin bars between the trees and under fairy lights, party hard at the Temple of Boom, lounge in the sun to beautiful acoustic guitars and sensual voices, and make best friends in the campsite.
On August Bank Holiday every year, Totnes is taken over by the Sea Change festival. This town festival sees every pub, bar, cafe, church and brewery overtaken by live music – from acoustic sets, to DJs, to spoken word, and to loud and heavy rock bands. Each venue is something special and only adds to the atmosphere of this unique event, which takes on the town’s atmosphere, all-inclusive ethos and fun.
Wonder Fields is only a few years old, but it’s a festival which has everything you could ever want when spending a weekend in a field. Its aim is to keep its grassroots vibe and although it’s small enough to keep bumping into the same people time and time again, it has taken all the good bits from all the good festivals around the country and consolidated them into one small wondrous space in the Devonshire countryside. Lineup brings big acts and local talent to the stage, giving the limelight to everyone – what’s not to like about that?
The Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival is truly one of a kind and not to be missed if ever in Cornwall in June. Each pub and bar in town has its own schedule of different groups of men singing sea songs and pints of ale are all served in tankards so that they can be taken with you as you bounce from pub to pub. Groups of seafaring singers travel from all over the country to sing and the atmosphere is akin to pirates on shore after 7 months at sea.
In the day time, the Port Eliot Festival is filled with book readings and poetry, disco yoga classes and flower headband workshops. You can hear literary legends speak in grand libraries, learn to tango barefoot under fairy lights in a secret woodland, or taste pungent ciders which have been paired perfectly with their complementing cheese. At night, however, this wellbeing estate turns into a hedonist’s wonderland; the clothes come off, glitter use is exceptionally liberal and the party gets seriously loose.