Beyond the music: the UK’s alternative literary and arts festivals


Looking for something alternative to do this summer? Look no further, The Edge runs down some of the festivals taking place over the summer which go beyond musical entertainment, and offer something for alternative tastes.

Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival

This festival runs from the 17th July – 20th July in Harrogate, and has much on offer for those who are interested in the literary world, particularly crime writers. One of the highlights of the weekend is the presence of renowned writer, J K Rowling, who will be in conversation with Val McDermid as her pseudonym Robert Galbraith, discussing crime writing, and her new book, The Silkworm. There is also a special TV event surrounding Broadchurch, which will include creator Chris Chibnall, and stars Olivia Colman and Jodie Whittaker. The weekend will also play host to a collection of other writers, including Val McDermid, John Harvey, Mark Billingham, Laura Lipman and Belinda Bauer. A murder mystery dinner and talks about technological crime, and new wave forensics will also take place.

Weekend Rover tickets are available at £215 per person.

Latitude Festival

Latitude has plenty of entertainment for all, with some big musical acts across the weekend. However, the festival has so much more to offer in the way of comedians, poetry and literary stars. The festival runs from the 17th – 20th July, in Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk. Some of the comedians include Dara O’Briain, Josh Widdicombe, Kevin Bridges, Milton Jones, Seann Walsh, Henning Wehn and plenty more big and small names. This is the perfect chance to see some big name comedians, or discover someone new. The Royal Shakespeare Company will also be there, as well as plenty of other theatre companies. Latitude is certainly full of things for culture lovers, the challenge will surely be to fit it all in!

Weekend tickets are £195.50, or you can buy a single day ticket for £84.50.

Voewood Festival

This one runs from 15th – 17th August, and is set in Voewood House in Holt, Norfolk. On the festival’s website it is described as “a cultural jukebox loaded with writers and thinkers, talkers, drinkers and musicians who have no need of words.” Artists include New Order and Joy Division star Peter Hook, Midge Ure, Martin Parr, Alison Moore, Los Pacaminos, singer Paul Young, and literary stars DBC Pierre, Iain Sinclair, Louisa Young, Owen Sheers and Tim Lott. There will also be food and drink from the local area, and book and record stalls. What also makes this festival unique is that it is raising money for local Kelling Hospital. 

Weekend tickets are £125, although if you are under 30 that drops to £95.

Stoke Newington Literary Festival

This city centre festival will take place on the weekend of the 6th – 8th June in Stoke Newington, London. This festival features a lot of acts and speakers, with still more to be announced. The Friday starts with a gala evening featuring film critic Mark Kermode, and throughout the weekend features talks and exhibitions. Talks include intriguing titles such as ‘The Science of Star Wars’, ‘Hip Hop Shakespeare’ and ‘In Search of London’s Lost Narratives’. Speakers include Laura Bates, Suzanne Moore, Daniel Rachel, Andy Miller and Bob Stanley. This marks the fifth anniversary of the literary festival, and also includes writers workshops, like a course on how to write children’s books, and art instruction.

Many of the events over the weekend are free, but a £60 weekend ticket will give you access to all of the paid events.

The Big Feastival

The Big Feastival is presented by Jamie Oliver and Alex James, and takes place on James’ farm in the Cotswolds. The weekend, 29th – 31st August, promises to be full of exciting food, and music, providing entertainment for the whole family. Fatboy Slim, Kelis and Laura Mvula are scheduled to perform on the Saturday, while Sunday plays host to Jamie Cullum and De La Soul. There will also be plenty of chefs present over the weekend, including Gennaro Contaldo, Monica Galetti, Nathan Outlaw and Mark Hix.

Weekend tickets are £119.25, and day tickets are available with differing prices for each day.

Edinburgh International Film Festival

This film festival is held in the city from 18th – 29th June, and this year’s will be the 68th edition of the annual festival. This year they have partnered with Empire Magazine to present what they call the ‘Hero Hangouts’ where a variety of big names will be interviewed live on stage. Names are yet to be announced, but they are set to be stars from in front of, and behind the camera. The opening film will be Hyena from director Gerard Johnson and will join eight other films competing for the Michael Powell Award. The festival is set to explore films from all over the world, with screenings including Castles In The Sky, Greyhawk, Hide And Seek, My Accomplice, Set Fire To The Stars, A Practical Guide To Spectacular Suicide, Still Life and We Are Monster.

Tickets can be bought for each of the separate events over the course of the festival.

Port Eliot Festival

This literary festival runs from the 24th – 27th July in St German’s, Cornwall, and offers food, literature and fashion. The festival has been running for over a decade, and includes writers like Rosie Boycott, Alex Bellos and Luke Wright, also featuring entertainment from Count Arthur Strong, The James Hunter Six, and John Shuttleworth. Port Eliot also boasts the only festival based flower show in the UK, and food from Russell Norman and the Hemsley sisters.

Weekend tickets are £172.50, with family tickets at £430 for the weekend.

Edinburgh Fringe

The Edinburgh Fringe is one of the cultural highlights of the year, with comedians and theatre companies frequently using the festival to test new material before going on tour. This year the festival runs from 1st – 25th August in theatres and venues throughout the city. The Fringe features both established and up and coming acts, and is the perfect opportunity to try something completely new, or catch the comedian you’ve yet to see on tour. Acts so far include Zoe Lyons, Nish Kumar, Patrick Monahan, and the hotly anticipated Whose Live Show Is It Anyway?The festival also includes drama, dance, musicals and opera – you really are spoilt for choice over the month-long event.

You can book tickets for individual shows throughout the whole festival.


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Studying for my PhD focusing on Eighteenth Century Pirate Literature. Writer 2011-2013, Culture Editor 2013-2014, Editor 2014-2015, Culture Exec 2015-2016, Writer 2016-2017. Longest serving Edgeling ever is a title I intend to hold forever.

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