Every year festival goers are spoilt for choice, with thousands of festivals across Europe to choose from. However, many of them might seem very much alike, offering the same music for the same costly ticket prices. Here though, we have three festivals that are exceptionally different, and striving to stand apart from their rivals, with great value, tantalising locations, daring performances and new ideas.
Sziget – Hungary
Settled cosily on the Danube, in the northern part of the Hungarian capital, lies Hajógyári Island. In August, this two and a half kilometre long Island is transformed into one of Europe’s most exciting festivals, Sziget. This romantic setting, amongst the brazen lights of the city, combines with the artistic appeal of this festival, as the ultimate route toward freedom. This year the outstanding Florence + The Machine will arrive with her punching new album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, on the second day. On the third, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino will light up the World Stage again, incorporating a stunning mixture of southern Italian tradition and modernity, reinventing The Pizzica. The final day of the festival takes on new forms with the intellectual rock-rap crossover of Kraftklub, and the electronic and ever poetic Milky Chance taking hold of the microphone. At around £160, this seven day festival is achingly good value, as it hosts more than 1000 thrilling cultural performances, taking the European rock festival experience back into the hands of the bold and daring.
Woodstock – Poland
Just inside of the German-Polish border, in Gorzów County in Poland is the small town of Kostrzyn on the river Oder, home only to around 20,000 inhabitants. The turbulent history of the town, including the battles between the Germanic and the Slavic people, and the constant changing of its control, established it as a strategic and powerful fortress in Europe, resulting in the construction of its castle and fortifications. However, its instability culminated in its almost complete destruction during the Second World War, whereby after life there began again. Today, the ruins of the past lay bear, but the town is growing and is now known worldwide for its huge contribution to the European festival scene. This year marks the 21st Woodstock Festival at Kostrzyn, beginning on the 30th of July. This relatively new event has gained an incredible following, with an average attendance of 625,000 people over the last four years, being recently baptised as the biggest open-air festival in Europe. Being organised by the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, one of the biggest children’s charities in Poland, to thank its supporters and volunteers for their work, means that this huge event is completely free. Traditionally Woodstock has been thematically concentrated on rock music, with bands such as The Prodigy, Papa Roach, and The Stranglers playing, though bands from other genres including folk and metal, have increasingly in the last few years had a place here.
Kendal Calling – UK
From the colossal to the modest, located amongst the tranquillity and magnificence of the Lake District, East of Ullswater and south of Penrith, will be the site of this year’s Kendal Calling festival. In 2010 the festival was awarded the Best Small UK Festival, with the attendance limited to only 20,000 people, the atmosphere is uniquely intimate and welcoming. Every year, along with the influx of brilliantly chosen artists, comes new refreshing ideas. Kendal Calling prizes itself not just on great music, but great food too, as their choice of exotic and alluring market stalls change and increase year on year, a favourite being Gandhi’s Flip Flop, serving authentic home made veggie Indian food. Silent discos in the woods, glow tents, real ale festivals, late night cinemas, and a vast foray of performance art too, all for £120. This year festival favourites The Kaiser Chiefs will burst in, along with Billy Bragg and his New England, and new on the block singer songwriter Nick Mulvey. In 2014, the comedy folk band The Lancashire Hotpots managed to motion the entire audience into a swirling mass of conga lines as they sung their terrific and very apt, ‘We Love The North’, and this year they are back with their new album ‘A fistful of Scratchcards’. Kendal Calling is far from the massive crowds that are drawn toward the bigger festivals in the UK, but its unassuming size is what makes it so admirable, and memorable for its visitors.