There is no denying that we’ve been starved of our usual festival fix this summer. Although many have managed to go ahead, we’ve missed out on some usual favourites, such as Glastonbury, Boomtown, WOMAD, Cropredy and more.
It seems fitting, therefore, to look ahead to this autumn, when many festivals that have previously looked unlikely have been rescheduled to, or when other festivals will manage to go ahead without many of the restrictive social distancing rules that we’ve become so used to. There will be slight changes to many festivals this year – many event organisers have limited ticket numbers and ensured that small tents are spaced further apart, for example, but otherwise we’re in for as close to normal an experience as possible. There will, of course, be hand sanitiser stations and other hygiene changes too, but the overall message from the industry is that festivals and parties are back.
In celebration of supporting our wonderful homegrown festival industry, here are some of the highlights of the autumn.
Henley Festival, 15th – 18th September
If dressing up along the banks of the Thames sounds like your thing, then Henley Festival is worth looking at. There are fireworks every night and a family-friendly day on the Sunday – headliners include Sophie Ellis-Bextor, James Blunt, Madness, Yolanda Brown, Al Murray, Shappi Khorsandi and Sister Sledge, and excellent food will be provided by Jimmy Garcia and Angela Hartnett MBE.
This is Tomorrow Festival, 17th – 19th September
Exhibition Park in Newcastle plays host to This Is Tomorrow – it is the north-east’s largest festival, and happily it’s going ahead this autumn towards the back end of the year’s festival season. Headline acts come from the top-drawer, and include Dermot Kennedy, Sam Fender, The Kooks, Blossoms and Circa Waves.
Parklife, 11th – 12th September
A huge line-up greets those attending the Parklife festival in Heaton Park, Manchester this year, including Disclosure, Dave, Camelphat, Kaytranada, Koffee and Bicep. The festival has been postponed from earlier in the year in order to go ahead without the need for social distancing.
Cornwall Film Festival, 15th – 21st November
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Cornwall Film Festival takes place between 15th – 21st November at Falmouth’s Princess Pavilions. Looking specifically at new filmmaking voices that bring new approaches and originality to the screen, there are a number of awards across a variety of categories – the festival as a whole is designed to equip young people and create digital citizens of the future with an emphasis on health, wellbeing and creativity.
BFI London Film Festival, 6th – 17th October 2021
The famous BFI London Film Festival is back again for its 65th year. As we’ve become accustomed to with the film festival, there will be premieres of UK-produced films and a packed schedule of screenings around London. This year, for the first time, BFI have announced dual London cultural hubs on the Southbank and in the West End, as well as UK-wide screenings with venue partners across the country. There will be ‘virtual premieres’ on the BFI Player, too.
Birmingham Comedy Festival, 1st – 10th October 2021
Ten days of top comedy from the likes Russel Brand, podcast The Tailenders, Jenny Éclair, Mark Steel and Max Fosh amongst many others. Storytelling and theatre performances are also available across the city in what is this year the festival’s 20th anniversary. This year they also have an excellent pay what you want/free/by donation schedule on Sunday 10 October for half a day, which a lovely touch.
Cheltenham Literature Festival, 4th – 13th October 2021
More than 600 of the world’s finest writers, actors and poets descend on Cheltenham in the second week of October, filling the town with debates, storytelling, interviews and workshops. More than 500 separate events are planned, with speakers including Louis Theroux, JoJo Moyes, Mary Beard and Bob Mortimer.
Cross the Tracks Festival, 5th September
This unique event at the heart of the Brixton community looks set to provide a fantastic line-up of street traders, food sellers, craft beer producers and of course excellent music from the likes of The Cinematic Orchestra, Jordan Rakei, Gilles Peterson, Greentea Peng and special guest headliner Lianne La Havas. One not to be missed if you’re in the area.
Wireless Festival , 10th – 12th September
There are only limited VIP tickets still available to Wireless Festival, but this event in Crystal Palace Park looks set to be better than ever, with a homegrown ethos and atmosphere and one of the biggest celebrations of hip-hop, urban and grime music anywhere in the world. They postponed the original date in July to this September event, and also changed the venue from Finsbury to Crystal Palace Park to make it work within COVID guidelines.
York Food & Drink Festival, 17th – 26th September 2021
As the summer harvests are collected around the turn of the seasons into autumn, it’s a great time to see a wide range of food & drink around the country being showcased at food festivals. The York Food & Drink Festival runs for around 10 days in September, is fully independent and promotes local food producers, independent restaurants in the area and more widely retailers in York itself. They also run a fantastic schools programme that invites local school children to attend workshops and food events.