Your guide to summer festivals in Warwickshire, Birmingham, Oxfordshire and beyond
Summer’s here and after a couple of tricky years due to lockdowns, the festival circuit is back with a bang! To celebrate the return of the outdoor jollities, warm beer, pongy bogs, soggy sleeping bags, collapsing tents, nettle sting and sunburn plus, of course, smashing sounds, we have earmarked a bunch of musical happenings all taking place over the next few months within an hour’s drive of Stratford.
Mostly Jazz, Soul & Funk Festival
Moseley Park, Birmingham
8th to 10th July
Lots of rump-shaking goodies on offer including local heroes The Specials, The Fatback Band, Nightmares On Wax DJ Set, Craig Charles and The Wailers.
Our PICK: Cameo. Word up! Cod-pieces ahoy as 67-years-young Larry Blackmon and his classy Atlantan funksters crank it up and strut their somewhat ancient but still grin-inducing stuff.
1st and 2nd July
Classic Ibiza are bringing their heady blend of Balearic beats when they make their much-anticipated return to Ragley Hall.
Starting with a chill-out set where people can enjoy their picnics and a drink, or dance along as the sun fades. Then DJ Goldierocks will turn things up in the interval, getting the crowd in the mood before the Urban Soul Orchestra and vocalists return to the stage to bring a vibrant atmosphere to the summer evening.
There are lazers set to dazzle as the sun sets and the beats continue.
Herald pick: Urban Soul Orchestra’s classic twist on Galvanise by The Chemical Brothers is a joy.
Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire
8th to 10th July
According to its Facebook page, Cornbury considers itself: “Eccentric, charming and irresistible – a homespun melting pot where music-lovers share pies and a glass of champagne with superstars, toffs, rockers, crooners, Morris dancers, farmers, urbanites, fashionistas, gourmet chefs and the little old ladies who make exceptional cakes.”
There have been some top line-ups over the years and 2022 continues thye trend, offering Bryan Adams, James Blunt, Ronan Keating, The Waterboys, Jools Holland, The Darkness and Sixties legend Andy Fairweather Low.
Our pick: Altered Images. Fronted by Clare Grogan, the squeaky Glaswegian popsters had their biggest hits way back in the early ‘80s (Happy Birthday, I Could Be Happy etc). This reformed line-up will surely revisit ‘em.
8th to 10th July
Park Farm Estate, Compton Verney
Also Festival offers a unique angle: less hedonistic more cerebral it seeks to entertain the mind and improve wellbeing. Festival-goers can listen to life-enhancing ideas and big bands from the main stage, experience something creative, new or tasty in our masterclass marquees, take a walk in the woods for intimate talks by day, comedy and music by night, enjoy a rum and a dance lakeside at the Rum Shack, swim, paddle-board or float in the fabulous lake, revel in nature and let wellness wash over you in 50 acres of Capability Brown sculpted parkland - as you curate your magic weekend at ALSO22.
This year guests will their opinions shaken, be titillated and thrilled by author Juno Dawson, poet Salena Godden, author and neuroscientist Anil Seth, actor Orsola de Castro, Simon Armitage with his LYR music project, mythologist Natalie Haynes, adventurer Belinda Kirk, ex-Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and Gallic misanthrope Marcel Lucont - among a multitude of others.
Our pick: The London Afrobeat Collective - this 9-piece Afro-Funk noise bomb is fast becoming a household name in every European town who claims to know anything about a good party.
Outdoor NEC, Birmingham
8th to 10th July
Not the most bucolic locale but a blistering line-up nonetheless including Dave, Cardi B and J Cole
Our pick: Little Simz. Aka Simbiatu "Simbi" Abisola Abiola Ajikawo, there’s not much Little Simz can’t do – she’s a Brit grime genius and accomplished actor and expect a whole heap of goodness on stage taken from her latest LP, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert.
Solihull Summer Fest
Tudor Grange Park, Solihull
23rd to 24th July
Another family friendly shindig with a little something for the - shall we say - more sedate audience. Main attractions are cheeky old Shaggy, All Saints, the immortal Billy Ocean, ex-Go-Go Belinda Carlisle, Bad Manners – amazingly still fronted by that big, dafty Buster Bloodvessel - and Doctor & The Medics.
Our pick: Kool & The Gang. Saxophonist and keyboard wizard Ronald Bell sadly passed away in 2020, but Robert ‘Kool’ Bell’s still bashing the bass for this legendary funk outfit who’ve been doing their slinky stuff pretty much better than anyone else since 1964. Betcha we get Celebration, Get Down On It and Ladies’ Night.
Hill Farm, Oxfordshire
22nd to 24th July
Nearing its 25th anniversary, Truck is an annual UK indie highlight, held on a working farm just outside of Oxford. This year you’ll get to enjoy – and, if the weather’s wrong, roll in the mud with - Bombay Bicycle Club. Sam Fender, Kasabian, Blossoms, Kooks, Kelis, Big Moon, Magic Gang and Orla Gartland among many others.
Our pick: Baby Queen. Arabella Latham is Baby Queen. She describes her work as: “anti-pop”, a genre she defines as the sound of a generation that is sick and tired of the bubblegum girl pop stereotype. She recently appeared onstage with the cast of the Netflix gay coming of age drama Heartstopper, performing her Colours Of You from the show’s soundtrack.
The Game Fair
Ragley Hall, Alcester
29th to 31st July
Ragley is proud to be the permanent home of The Game Fair.
Established in 1958, The Game Fair once again takes place in the familiar surroundings of Ragley Hall. A celebration for 100,000+ people of the countryside and the summertime in all its glory.
Celebrating British field sports and country life, The Game Fair boasts a comprehensive itinerary for the whole family, including gun dog handling, clay shooting, archery, fishing, falconry and ferreting. Visitors can also enjoy a host of food, drink and shopping stalls, as well as outdoor activities including off-road driving. Ensuring there is something for everyone.
Our pick: With celebrity chef James Martin heading up the team at The Enclosure it would seem remiss not to go for one of the lavish dining experiences.
Campbell Park, Milton Keynes
30th 31st July
The sun had better get his hat on for this one. Good vibes come courtesy of an absolutely stellar line-up of Julian Marley & The Uprising, Inner Circle, Third World, Prince Fatty & Horseman, Shaggy, Black Uhuru, Aswad and General Levy.
Our pick: Hollie Cook. Her dad’s Paul Cook, the Sex Pistols’ drummer, and her mum, Jeni, was part of Culture Club (Boy George is Hollie’s Godfather). She was part of the final iteration of The Slits, toured with The Stone Roses and she collaborates with the brilliant producer Prince Fatty. What a CV! Hollie calls her stuff “tropical pop”. We call it fab!
Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire
4th to 7th August
Wilderness always bills itself as a “boutique” event which basically means you get to swim in a lake, get cleansed in a sweat lodge, do dawn yoga classes, throw the i-ching, learn to chill out, that sort of thing. The music is also always unimpeachable. This time round we get Years And Years, Jungle, Roisin Murphy and Willie J Healy plus loads and loads of trendy DJs.
Our pick: Underworld. They may have been at their biggest fame-wise with their Trainspotting anthem Born Slippy back in the ‘90s but Underworld have continued to thrillingly explore the rich foliage of trance and dance so this should be a stunner.
Fairport’s Cropredy Convention
11th to 13th August
The local folk heroes’ annual hoedown has transformed itself over the many years and now its musical landscape extends well beyond singing medieval numbers in a nasal accent and shouting widdishins, widdishins, bladder on a stick!. This year we get Buggle Trevor Horn - who, remember, was responsible for the might Frankie Goes To Hollywood – plus Clannad, Steve Hackett with his Genesis Revisited. Top of the bill are, of course, the Fairports themselves with a bunch of Friends to help make the occasion.
Our pick: Richard Thompson. One-time Fairport and true national treasure, Thompson can play guitar like an eagle can fly and has a vast repertoire to draw on. Sometimes he lets you vote for what he’ll play in which case our x is against his Brit Bonnie & Clyde tearjerker 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.
The Big Feastival
Alex James’ Farm, Kingham
26th to 28th August
The Blur bassist, cheese bloke and local laird’s latest food-and-sounds hotchpotch is his usual something-for-everyone affair featuring rock mainstays Stereophonics, R&Bsters Sugababes, Anne-Marie, Basement Jaxx, Futureheads, and - Bogies!!!!! - Dick & Dom
Our pick: Human League. Always a monster singalong live, the League (Mr Oakey and the gals still very much intact) will unleash their fab synthpop greats to ripple across the furrows and hedgerows. Best way ever to spend the Friday kicking off your August Bank Holiday weekend.
Ragley Hall, Alcester
25th to 29th August
Camper Calling is a perfectly formed family festival returning for its 5th year at Ragley Hall.
There’s a great lineup this year with James, Basement Jaxx (DJ set) and Shed Seven, backing them up is Scouting For Girls, The Selecter and Del Amitri. Meanwhile there’s a chance to listen to an array of top quality cover bands including Bootleg Beatles, Bjorn Again and Fleetwood Bac. There is also family entertainment, loads of activities including craft workshops, lake activities and some seriously tasty food & drink, you’ll be as busy – or as chilled out – as you choose.
Our pick: Charlotte Church's Late Night Pop Dungeon.
Down the dark, dark stairs, upon the bloody gallows of soft rock, through the oubliette of cheese, into the torture chamber of disco, you are welcomed to the Late Night Pop Dungeon. The Grand High Executionatrix, dungeon mistress Charlotte Church, and her ten-piece ultra-metronomic post-punk-disco-R’n’R’n’B backing band will give her MK Ultra treatment to the greatest tunes that time forgot, and some that will forever haunt our collective memory. Fab.
Moseley Folk & Arts Festival
Moseley Park, Birmingham
2nd to 4th September
Long since having outlived its “Folk” moniker, the Moseley bash is a heck of a fine way to see out the Summer. The line-up’s as diverse as you like, from reformed Britpoppers
Supergrass, to hoary old progsters Jethro Tull, taking in cool Scouse-adelics The Coral, Midlake, people’s poet John Cooper Clarke, Seasick Steve, The Weather Station and Martin Carthy along the way. There’s also a Q&A with the wondrous travelling hippie Vashti Bunyan whose recently published autobiography Wayward: Just Another Life To Live is utterly lovely and one of the Our books of the year.
Our pick: Kurt Vile & The Violators. There’s laid back and then, several more degrees to the horizontal, there’s Kurt Vile whose latest LP, (watch my moves) is just about the laziest-in-a-very-good-way record you’re ever likely to hear. Cue drawl and feedback.