Music festivals are no longer a mildly terrifying zone of disturbing hygiene and flat beer. The industry has grown up and, if you haven’t considered one in a while, it is time to ditch your preconceptions. Many of this summer’s events offer thrillingly broad, stimulating programs and have moved on from being Duke of Edinburgh-style survival challenges.
Festival loos have been upgraded, too, with VIP options in “pampering salons” and even private, lockable cubicles on offer. As the variety of wine bars and stands selling high-end spirits and cocktails has increased, queues for drinks have gone down. You can even swap your tent for the comfort of an Airstream vintage caravan, a yurt with a log burner, or cool canvas bell tent in the walled garden of a country house.
These more sophisticated festivals attract a discerning crowd, who still love music but also enjoy thought-provoking activities and new kinds of cultural and social interaction. The most exciting of these are loosely being called “ideas festivals”. The premise is that the mind is a muscle and you don’t always need a yoga mat for a good old stretch.
Ciro Romano has devised a new festival, Kite, that combines specialist talks, from the satirist Armando Iannucci for example, with culturally relevant music from acts such as Grace Jones and Self Esteem. He believes literature, political and philosophical festivals are what people want these days. “Because of the internet and social media, as a society, we are more versed in current affairs and the world around us,” he said.
Today’s more enriching festivals recognize that what we do with our hands is important too. Many have embraced adult crafting, such as spoon carving, along with practical workshops like indigo dyeing, and are treating them like a form of wellness. The variety of experiences on offer is mind-blowing. “You could find yourself dancing next to a theoretical physicist at a rum shack, learning to build a raft with a Royal Marine or understanding why bad girls are good through Ancient Greek and Roman mythology,” said Helen Bagnall, an organizer at Also Festival, which explores big ideas. The more mature festival-goer’s appetite for quality food and drink is undiminished. Expect banquets by Michelin-star chefs, such as Atul Kochhar and Tom Kerridge, and al-fresco feasts from Thomasina Miers and many more this summer.
So if you’re bothered by images of mud rivers, consider the little luxuries and large range of cultural experiences at 15 grown-up music festivals guaranteed to enhance your life this summer. (Prices include stated accommodation and two entrance tickets, see websites for further details about bedding and VIP add-ons.)
Best festivals for adults in 2022
Blending a passion for today’s big ideas with a love of music, Kite is a workout for both mind and body in the grounds of a Palladian mansion. There are two music stages – the second curated by Heavenly Recordings – a town hall for debates and live podcast discussions. Speakers include Sathnam Sanghera, the author of Empireland, and Tina Brown talking about the Royal family.