The best UK creative festivals you can still book in 2021
Members of Shona the Musical Choir in the surroundings of the Old College Quad, the location of one of the Festival’s outdoor venues. Shona the Musical Choir features in the Edinburgh International Festival’s music line-up at Edinburgh Park on 16 August. More information at eif.co.uk. Photo: Jess Shurte
With things opening up again, it’s wonderful to see so many festivals going ahead across the UK over the next few months. We’ve picked out some of the best, from art and culture to design, music and photography – you can now book your place at these recommended, much-loved events.
Of course, with little chance to fully prepare for the real world, some of our choices have had to stick to a more virtual offering for 2021 while others have taken a more hybrid approach. For creative inspiration, art and culture, we’ll take what we can get.
But as everything has been so impacted by the pandemic, we’ve not been able to share a lot. Everything has been booked up or saved over from 2020 or postponed for the second year running. Rest assured, all of the following suggestions still have capacity, so there are lots to look forward to.
Edinburgh International Festival launches this weekend, pioneering the return of live performance to Scotland and marking the first live festival performances for almost two years. Expect a diverse programme of over 170 performances in Scotland’s capital city, spanning classical and contemporary music, theatre, opera, dance and spoken word.
Kicking off the festival is the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dalia Stasevska followed by artists Nicola Benedetti, Alan Cumming, Joyce DiDonato, Golda Schultz, Renée Fleming, Thomas Quasthoff, Isata Kanneh-Mason, Anna Meredith, The Snuts, Damon Albarn, Laura Mvula, Caribou, Thundercat, Saul Williams and conductors including Valery Gergiev, Marin Alsop, Elim Chan and Sir Simon Rattle.
Launched in 2018, Birmingham Design Festival return this year with its first-ever conference, promising to be a celebration of design, creativity and colour. Online, you can expect digital talks and live Q&As with some amazing speakers such as Chief Creative Officer of COLLINS, Brian Collins, British artist Liz West, designer and artist Daniel Eatock, illustrator MURUGIAH, Pentagram partner Eddie Opara, colour expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain and renowned designer Patrick Thomas.
What’s more, to kick off this year’s festival there’s ‘The Creative City’, an exhibition featuring over 100 of the region’s finest illustrators, designers, typographers, printmakers and artists who have each created a poster using the same colour palette. “We felt it was right to celebrate the local and homegrown talent in the West Midlands this summer and to remind each other of the many reasons why we love Birmingham,” says designer and festival co-founder, Luke Tonge.
The Creative City exhibition, as part of Birmingham Design Festival
Going ahead this month is Big Feastival, which takes place on Blur’s Alex James’ Cotswolds farm. This is a tasty mashup of music from some of the UK’s biggest artists along with Michelin star chefs, award-winning street food and loads of family activities. It’s the perfect festival for real foodies who also want to dance. The lineup this year includes Sigala, Nile Rodgers & Chic, plus Rag ‘N’ Bone Man for your ears, and for your stomach: Nathan Outlaw, Mark Hix and Giz N Green.
Jupiter Rising – 27-29 August 2021, near Wilkieston, West Lothian, Scotland
Scotland’s newest small art and music festival Jupiter Rising offers “truly memorable nights spent revelling in art, music and nature”. Described as a “powerful overview of cutting-edge music and performance”, it takes place within an iconic landscape of Jupiter Artland, the home of world-class sculpture just outside Edinburgh.
Book tickets and you can look forward to an eclectic programme of live music, sound and performance day and night, artist moving-image and film programmes, talks and discussion, artist-led workshops for all ages, culinary feasting and a whole lot of dancing.
It’s back for its 19th edition and this year, the London Design Festival is exploring the power of creativity and culture that helps reignite the capital and kickstart London’s economy. Expect a series of outdoor installations, exhibitions and special events that will bring Londoners together in the collective love of design.
Backed with a gorgeous new identity by Pentagram, highlights for 2021 include a collaboration between Tin Drum and acclaimed Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto who will premiere a new mixed reality installation at the V&A. Yinka Illori will be leading a major initiative that will transform London into an outdoor art gallery. There’ll be the usual 10 design districts to explore, opening up studios to the public with various displays. And making its debut for 2021 is Design London, showcasing the latest cutting-edge furniture, lighting and interiors. We can’t wait.
Identity by Pentagram for London Design Festival 2021
Ok, so tickets have sold out on this intimate treat of a festival but there is a waiting list for ticket returns, which is why we’ve added Camp Good Life to our list. Quite the upmarket event, Camp Good Life offers a mix of “bonfires, harvest, mellow mist, apples, lingering wood smoke, foraging, strong booze and giant feasts”, bringing you music, food, talks craft and nature. Perhaps a little more highbrow than most, the event is sure to inspire and help you discover something new.
The Royal Horticultural Society and Saatchi Gallery have partnered to present the return of the RHS Botanical Art and Photography Show in 2021. Running parallel to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in September, it will feature more than 200 of the best botanical artwork and garden photography by 34 global artists.
Image courtesy of RHS Botanical Art & Photography Show 2021
The latest edition of the biennial Dundee Design Festival will be held this year from 23 September to 3 October at locations around the city and online, and all are free to attend. The theme for 2021 is Every Where Design, exploring how design is an essential but often invisible part of people’s lives.
Ryan McLeod and Lyall Bruce, producers of this year’s event, said: “We are continuing to develop our vision of a design festival as a series of playful experiments that opens up design to new audiences by encouraging people to participate in lots of hands-on design activities.
“Through DDF21, we are aiming to help develop a healthier approach to design, one that broadens its understanding, breaks down barriers to entry and shows how it can be used to transform our communities and urban environments.”
Hilltown Dundee Design Festival 2021. Photo credit: Kathryn Rattray
Something to look forward to this October is Sound City, which returns to the streets of Liverpool with a full lineup of live music. Known as the “essential home of new music discovery”, this year’s three-day event will feature artists Jessica Winter, The Dunts, Bad Nerves, Eyesore & The Jinx, Lily Denning, Jekyll, Pacific, Jaws The Shark, Mollie Coddled and many more.