6 Summer Music Festivals In London
Collect your wristband and don your shades because it’s that time of year again – and nothing heralds the arrival of summer better than a festival. That’s the good news; the even better news is that each festival has its own flavour, so whether you want to enjoy a picnic listening to an orchestra, party to pop music or Instagram a fire show, the capital’s got you covered.
1: British Summer Time
More than 65,000 people a day attend Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time (BST), a series of one-day concerts which takes over much of Hyde Park’s 350 acres.
Since 2013, everyone from The Rolling Stones to Kylie and Taylor Swift have graced its stage, while 2016’s headliners included Carole King and Stevie Wonder. Penelope Boyd, head of events at The Royal Parks, which cares for the park, says: ‘The Great Oak stage has hosted the best global artists and 2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year. This is the fifth year for the event, which has created memorable moments for hundreds of thousands of fans, and in turn raised funds that go back into enhancing this iconic park.’
British superstar Phil Collins (30 Jun) kicks things off with his biggest solo show. After a 10-year retirement, he’s back for his Not Dead Yet live tour – and BST will be his only European festival this year. Performers also include Green Day (1 Jul), Justin Bieber (2 Jul), Kings of Leon (6 Jul), The Killers (8 Jul) and Mancunian band Elbow (8 Jul). Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (9 Jul) rock the stage for their only 2017 European performance of their 40th anniversary tour.
Missed out on tickets? Then make the most of the festival’s free events, including open-air films, comedy, Wimbledon screenings, badminton and ping pong. There will also be a pay-per-ride funfair. 30 Jun-9 Jul. bst-hydepark.com
2: Hampton Court Palace Festival
At this festival you can listen to homegrown talent such as James Morrison (8 Jun), Will Young (14 Jun) and Van Morrison (15 Jun) in the palace courtyard at Hampton Court Palace.
The line-up includes Bryan Ferry (7 & 21 Jun), pianist Jools Holland (16 Jun), soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae (20 Jun) and the 1980s star Rick Astley (22 Jun). The classical duo Michael Ball and tenor Alfie Boe will also perform (23 Jun), while the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra plays at a grand firework finale
(24 Jun). Take a picnic or browse the new food court – complete with a Pimm’s tent. 8-24 Jun. hamptoncourtpalacefestival.com
Since 1993, the Southbank Centre’s Meltdown festival has presented new and influential artists cherry-picked by a musician. David Bowie, Yoko Ono and Morrissey have been curators, while Elbow singer Guy Garvey took the helm last year. Each star invites their favourite artists to perform; previous years saw Jeff Buckley play his last UK show for Elvis Costello; rock band New York Dolls reunite for Morrissey and Pete Doherty sing Disney songs with Jarvis Cocker.
This year’s curator is M.I.A., a Sri Lankan rapper and artist who has been nominated for two Grammys and an Academy Award. M.I.A. has collaborated with Madonna, Kanye West and Jay Z. The star says: ‘I’m honoured to be part of Meltdown, among important artists who have contributed to keeping it real in the past. I hope you rate my curating. I’m bringing together new outlaw musicians who have contributed to keeping things weird, exciting, opinionated, loud, emotional, brave or off the grid.’ The line-up begins with Mercury Prize-winners Young Fathers, who open the festival with a choir and a party at the Royal Festival Hall (9 Jun). The next night, Afrikan Boy performs afrobeats and grime (10 Jun), while rapper MHD performs alongside Nigerian star Mr Eazi (11 Jun).
The festival also includes the UK premiere of Jamaican reggae artist I Wayne (15 Jun). Canadian electro pop duo Crystal Castles play the next day, followed by the UK premiere of hip-hopper Young M.A alongside the visual artist and rapper Tommy Genesis (17 Jun). Finally, M.I.A. closes the festival (18 Jun).
9-18 Jun. southbankcentre.co.uk
4: Greenwich+Docklands International Festival
Greenwich+Docklands International Festival has been going strong since 1996. More of a celebration of street theatre than a music festival, it covers 16 days. More than 10,000 people are expected at the free outdoor shows.
Artistic director Bradley Hemmings says: ‘There are advantages of performing outside: we can use amazing settings such as Canary Wharf, Old Royal Naval College or the atmospheric ruins of St George’s Garrison Church in Woolwich. The challenge is that, without a theatre, we must build everything from scratch, which is hard work.’
Hemmings co-directed the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony. He adds: ‘We think hard about engaging deaf and disabled artists and audiences. Look for viewing areas for wheelchair users, captioned performances and British Sign Language interpreters. This year I’m particularly excited about Deaf Men Dancing’s Corazón a Corazón, which brings together tango, British Sign Language and aerial performance.’ So how does Hemmings choose the acts? ‘We keep up to date with what’s happening in street arts. This means supporting the development of new shows or travelling to see performances; recently I’ve met artists in Krakow, Antwerp, Brighton and Edinburgh,’ he explains.
‘I seek out shows that capture people’s imagination, tell stories in accessible ways and encourage us to look at the world differently. I love performances which have an element of surprise.’
Last year, acrobats, jugglers and robots roamed the streets – as well as creepy giant heads and a dancing octopus puppet the size of a van. Festival-goers also witnessed fire spectacles, illuminations and musicians playing inside a moving sculpture. ‘This year we’re running a one-day street arts celebration (25 Jun) called Out in the Streets, marking the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality. And we’re cooking up something even more ambitious for next year,’ says Hemmings. Fireworks bring the festival to a close. 23 Jun-8 Jul. festival.org
5: Live At Chelsea
Live at Chelsea sparks into life with The Chelsea Fireworks Prom (16 Jun) at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1682. Up to 10,000 people are seated in grandstands for the firework and cannon show, during which the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra plays Rule, Britannia! and Jerusalem – so bring along a Union Jack flag. The ensemble also performs Mozart, Elgar and Tchaikovsky, while The Chapel Choir sing. You can also watch Brit Award-winners Belle and Sebastian perform indie pop outdoors (15 Jun), while the Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi shakes things up with classical tunes influenced by rock and electronic music (17-18 Jun). 15-18 Jun. liveatchelsea.com
6: Mighty Hoopla
Mighty Hoopla in Victoria Park draws a different set of revellers. The day-to-night event is headlined by 2016 Brit Award-winners Years & Years. Will Young, All Saints and S Club 3 – a trio formed from 1990s band S Club 7 – perform too, as will Charlotte Church, who covers Bowie, Britney and Beyoncé with a 10-piece band. You can also boogie all night long to Sophie Ellis-Bextor.
As well as revivals, the festival celebrates rising stars such as Raye and Porter. But it wouldn’t be east London without a hipster band in tweed – so the 10-piece band Old Dirty Brasstards round things off nicely.
Aimed at over 18s, stalls offer cocktails, craft ales and food (you can’t take your own). Festival-goers can also dance to DJs, watch a comical, surreal show by the all-female group Figs in Wigs, join in a massaoke, or karaoke for the masses, and do Bongo’s Bingo – which is bingo, just not as you know it! 4 Jun. mightyhoopla.com