’Tis the season: take a look at the best outdoor music festivals in London
Few cities take advantage of the summer months quite like London: every year when the season comes around, you’ll find the parks full of locals sunning themselves, pub gardens bustling with chattering crowds, and urban flâneurs making the city pavements their catwalks. The general approach to good weather in this city is definitely “catch it while you can”. Taking place over the course of the summer, there are few better ways to take advantage of the sunny weather than at the many music festivals in London. From bucolic Kew the Music and the inaugural Citadel Festival to the internationally renowned Lovebox festival and the Last Night of the Proms, these annual events are as emblematic of the English summertime as a bowl of strawberries and cream.
Back for only its second edition, the Clapham Common-based Calling Festival has already earned itself a place among the best music festivals in London. Britpop lovers will be out in force to catch Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, while other headliners like Ryan Adams, The Hives, Echo And The Bunnymen and Modest Mouse will cater to fans from across the rock spectrum.
There are few better venues for an outdoor festival than the leafy environs of Kew Gardens, which just so happens to host the world’s largest collection of living plants. Settle in amidst the foliage and let the music wash over you: this year’s Kew the Music will host living legends, The Specials alongside modern standouts like Paloma Faith.
Somerset House isn’t just one of London’s most beautiful landmarks – it’s also the atmospheric backdrop to Summer Series. Each year, the concert line-up includes established artists alongside up-and-comers, representing all different genres. From the electro-funk of Chromeo to the Top 40 pop of Jessie J, the sweet melodies of Belle and Sebastian to the soulfulness of Kwabs, the 2015 roster is as wide-ranging as ever.
Since 2002, Lovebox has grown from a small gig held on Tottenham Court Road to a festival colossus that takes over East London’s Victoria Park for two days every summer. This is a true festival lover’s festival: expect hyped-up crowds clad in their summertime best, stages packed with heavy-hitters (this year: Snoop Dogg, Rudimental, Hot Chip, Mark Ronson, Jessie Ware…), and a range of arts programming on the side.
Citadel Festival is new on the festival scene this year (only more proof of the capital’s seemingly limitless appetite for al fresco tunes). While a slew of popular, indie-leaning acts like Kurt Vile, Bombay Bicycle Club and Dan Croll have signed up to play, visitors will also be tempted to take in dance workshops, hit the wild wellbeing yoga tent, and fill up on London street food.
The pretty surroundings of the Old Royal Navy College, views of London’s famous skyline, and a line-up of living legends: Greenwich Music Time’s charms are certainly persuasive. Straddle the eastern and western hemispheres while taking in performances by Ray Davies, Gipsy Kings, and Sir Tom Jones.
Returning for its third year, Visions is unlike most other music festivals in London: performances are dispersed across some of East London’s coolest venues, as opposed to being held on one main stage. For lovers of independent and up-and-coming artists, this is the event to attend, as hyped groups the likes of Son Lux, Hinds, The Antlers, and Shamir are all slated to play. And for those with a creative yen, don’t miss the one-day festival’s companion screen print class.
Does it get more British than the Last Night of the Proms? Hardly – for proof, just glance out at the crowd of thousands, each waving their Union Jacks with abandon. While the rest of the Proms concerts, held at the Royal Albert Hall, are certainly worth attending, nothing quite matches the revelry of the festival’s annual conclusion in Hyde Park.
Offering up more than just music, the diverse On Blackheath festival squeaks in just before summer’s end. Young ones are invited to take in puppet shows, magic sessions and art classes, while older attendees can enjoy performance artists and installations while sipping locally brewed beer and nibbling on ceviche. And then there is, of course, the music: from Elbow and Manic Street Preachers to Laura Mvula, there’s ample reason to swing by the stage.