From folk shindigs to pop parties, there’s sure to be an event for everyone this summer
Cambridge Folk Festival | 28-31 July
This behemoth of the international folk scene goes from strength to strength, bringing an ever-more impressive line-up of talent to its picturesque setting of Cherry Hinton Hall. This year’s bill is typically diverse, featuring names like Suzanne Vega, Gypsy Kings and Billy Bragg, as well as a host of local acts. This is the Kit – with an irresistible, folk-infused sound and captivating lyricism – promise to be a highlight. As frontwoman Kate Stables explains, part of their music’s appeal lies in how open it is to interpretation. “The way I write is quite collage-y – very rarely does it happen that I write a song about one thing,” she explains. “Words are this offering with a loose shape. It’s the listener or the reader who gets the final say. If everyone had the same experience with every song, then I think I’d be doing something wrong.”
Their latest album – and perhaps best yet – deals with themes of illness, sadness and the human (and female) condition. “I had been thinking about human patterns, the stopping and starting of life and behaviour,” Kate says.
She and her bandmates retreated to Wales to polish their arrangements for Off Off On before recording. “I’m a bit of a lone wolf. I like writing for me and can only do it properly on my own, so it’s important to balance that out – because otherwise I’d be a hermit, not getting the musical benefits from people I love.”
This also influences Kate’s choice of instrumentals: “There are a few horn players that I love so much, I want them to be on the album. Whatever they were playing, I would want them in the room.”
Kate’s inspirations are as much literary as musical. Ursula K Le Guin has recently been a key muse. “I’ve got a big sack of words that I tip out over the floor and I have to find what’s linked to what,” she explains. “I search about on instruments to find musical bits that go with the words, or vice versa.” She adds: “You could say that this album has been in the making since the beginning of my brain.”
Crossing genres, This is the Kit have paid a visit to Cambridge Folk Festival twice previously. “For me, the word folk just means people – folk music is just people music,” Kate says. “That’s its essence: the acknowledgement of each other.”
On returning to live performance, she says: “It feels like when you’ve got to stop eating something to work out what impact it’s having. When you start again, you notice the effects. For me, and a lot of people, doing gigs is our primary nutrition.”
We Out Here | 25-28 August
Taking place at the same site as Secret Garden Party in Abbots Ripton, We Out Here offers a genre-spanning, four-day celebration of jazz, soul, hip-hop, house, afro and electronica. Among this year’s acts is Emma-Jean Thackray – who has been lauded as one of the UK’s freshest jazz talents. Winner of multiple awards, a Mobo-nominee and hotly tipped by Jools Holland, her musical roots stretch far back. “Hearing my family singing along to stuff and seeing the joy that it brings people – that’s what captured my imagination,” she says. “My mum liked a lot of 80s soul, my dad is into pop-rock and my granddad is obsessed with Santana,” Emma-Jean continues. “He’s got 20 different Santana T-shirts that he wears every day.”
Looking forward to the full return of live performance, Emma-Jean has taken to the stage at all We Out Here festivals to date. “It’s got this intimate feeling. It’s very much about the music, which not a lot of festivals are.” Expect the unexpected: “Improvisation is where the jazz is: the language that you have, the way that you’re listening to each other, the way you’re responding – that’s jazz. It has to be in real time.”
You can read our full interview with Emma-Jean here.
Cambridge Club Festival | 10-12 June
For Corinne Bailey Rae, who performs at this year’s Cambridge Club, lockdown – returning home to Leeds after a spell touring the world – was strange to say the least. “Music is about being inspired in front of an audience, fed by the reaction of people. I’m not the sort of artist that will work on their own. I like to be around people and other musicians,” she says.
Performing at Cambridge Club Festival, she is expecting to be invigorated: “At a festival, you spin the wheel. I quite enjoy that energy, because I like to try and win people over.”
She will be joined by iconic acts including Diana Ross, Nile Rodgers and Chic, The Jacksons and TLC, while other festival highlights are sure to include talks and stand-up in the Auditorium of Intrigue, as well as family fun ranging from den making to dodgeball! Both day tickets and weekend tickets are available for the event, which runs from 10 to 12 June at Childerley Orchard.
Read our full interview with Corinne here.
Strawberries & Creem | 17-19 June
With Lil Wayne, Ella Mai, Mabel, Tems, Enny, Wilkinson and many more, this year’s Strawberries & Creem is set to be the biggest bash yet. Hosted out in Childerley Orchard, the festival has been growing steadily in size and reputation since its inception in 2014. With a mission statement of ‘Celebrate Heritage, Champion Future’, S&C presents both globally acclaimed artists and cutting-edge, home-grown talent, with a spotlight on rap, R&B, grime and garage. It’s also committed to raising the bar for gender parity, with organisers signing up to the 50:50 initiative last year, meaning women and non-binary performers make up at least 50% of the bill. With rising stars and old favourites ready to dazzle, this glittering line-up is not to be missed.
The Wild Wood Disco | 17-19 June
A true gem of the local festival scene, the Wild Wood Disco offers a mini Secret Garden Party-style experience, complete with woodland dance floor and plenty of glittery, smiling faces. Running 17-19 June, this year’s bill features Erol Alkan, Dan Shake, Jayda G and DJ Format on the stages, with everything from yoga to fortune telling to discover in the woods. Plus, a new Two Tribes Campfire psychedelic discotheque promises forest feasts and irresistible beats.
Secret Garden Party | 21-24 July
Rising, phoenix-like from the ashes, SGP is back this summer after a five-year hiatus. The announcement was music to the ears of fans, prompting a record-breaking sell-out which saw 70,000 hopefuls applying for the 15,000 tickets available. Those lucky enough to bag a spot can look forward to the usual weekend of creativity and debauchery in the Cambridgeshire countryside, with electrifying art installations, a genre-spanning line-up of musical acts and plenty more fun and silliness to explore.
Cambridge Nature Festival | 27 May – 30 June
The first of its kind in the city, this festival, organised by Cambridge Nature Network – a composite of organisations working to boost the natural world in the area – hinges on all things green. “You don’t have to go far to find wildlife in Cambridge, and the festival aims to celebrate this and get us all more in touch with the amazing natural world on our doorsteps,” explains festival organiser Natalie Lambert. Boasting family-friendly activities galore, including BioBlitzes, guided nature wanders, live music, wildlife ID workshops, art exhibitions and much more, a Wildlife Day at Wandlebury Country Park opens the festival. Natalie continues: “We hope to inspire people to discover more about nature and to create such a buzz (pun intended) that we all want to do it again next year!”
Mad Hatter’s Mini Festival | 1-3 June
Showcasing the cream of Cambridge’s crop of musicians, Tom Lumley & The Brave Liaison headline this festival. For some respite, head to willow weaving, mandolin or grow-your-own workshops, or partake in yoga and wellness sessions. Camping or day tickets are available.
Wild Wood Rumpus | 4-5 June
There’s something to tickle everyone’s fancy at this family-friendly shindig, from theatre, circus acts and literature, to
wild bush crafts and forest fun. Get back to nature with shelter making and a forest school – plus, plenty of delicious food to delight the taste buds.
Red Rooster | 2-4 June
With a Grammy award-winner, Cedric Burnside, on the roster, and Seasick Steve, Nick Waterhouse and Sugaray Rayford
in tow, head here for a taste of cajun, soul and rock ‘n’ roll.
St Neots Folk Festival | 10-12 June
Showcasing the best of St Neots’ local artists and venues, Spiers & Boden and Gaelforce headline at this fiddle-fuelled event that will leave you reeling. Saturday also hosts a Day of Dance, with traditional Morris troupes.
Ely Folk Festival | 8-10 July
Morris dancing, real ale and roots music meet at this knees-up, with rising folk talent gracing the stage across three days. There will also be kids activities, ceilidhs and workshops for those wanting hands-on fun.
Cambridge Rock Festival | 16-19 June
Finding itself at the East of England Arena in Peterborough for the first time this year, 65 acts will provide rock ‘n’ roll and punchy punk sounds, with plenty of refreshments along the way.
Cambridge Summer Music Festival | 15-31 July
If classical is more your thing, Cambridge’s most prominent celebration of the genre will be paying particular tribute to Vaughan Williams.
Beats from the East | 4-5 June
In its first year, this affordable festival puts the spotlight on local talent. Over two days, more than 40 DJs will bring you the best grooves and bops.
Hifields Festival | 27-28 August
Spend the bank holiday in style at this jam-packed festival, based near Newmarket, just on the edge of Cambridge. Acts include big hitters like Wilkinson and Solardo, nostalgic faves DJ Luck & MC Neat and Artful Dodger – and a couple of non-DJ live performers, including Scouting for Girls.
DSCNNCT | 17 September
Cambridge’s premier house and drum and bass festival is back for its third year, with its biggest line-up yet – Shadow Child and Brockie & Det lead the pack. Expect its stunning waterfront location in Fenstanton to be filled with a storm of sound.