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The Off-Piste Guide to UK Festivals

Last updated February 24th, 2014

It’s that time of year again when all the major UK festivals start announcing their headliners – from Blink 182 at Reading to the wild rumours of Prince at Glastonbury – but over here in the Event Academy offices, we’ve been comparing our festival creds with the most obscure festivals we’ve been to or worked on.
These smaller, independently-driven festivals cater for much more niche audiences than the major pop-culture weekenders you might see in the press, creating unique and experimental experiences. We’ve pulled together a little shortlist of some of our favourites for you to enjoy and added in our festival event management takeaways, enjoy:

Camp Bestival

In short: Family friendly arts festival in the Lulworth Castle grounds.
Highlight: Incredible projection mapping finale by the talented folks at CHR0MA, combines an animated story, projected onto the castle, with epic fireworks.
Takeaway: This wild finale is an incredible feat of creative and technological talent that it takes several months to produce and prepare before the event. However, the awe-inspiring atmosphere it creates makes the hard work and effort completely worth it. Why don’t more festivals consider handing their finale over to arts-digital collectives to come up with more wild ideas?


In short:  “Go harder, or go home” – that’s the mantra you have to live by if you attend this raw, action sports festival.
Highlight: Away from the madness of the skate, bike and inline competitions you’ll find great workshops where you can learn how to DJ or try your hands (and body) at free running.
Takeaway: If you’re going to hold an extreme sports event or festival, you need a really good relationship with St. Johns Ambulance… NASS has that.

Carrying The Fire

In short: Very intimate festival exploring the connections between the arts, ecology and cultural resilience.
Highlight: Disconnecting from technology for a few precious days of debate, discussion and rewilding.
Takeaway: We believe there’s a growing market for festivals like this, which encourage you to disconnect from the world and provide a counter-cultural environment for gathering and living a little more frugally. Even if you’re organising a large scale event, why not test out this theory by having a secret garden area with no electricity or phone signal…

The Do Lectures

In short: 40 attendees, 20 speakers, a farm in the woods with everyone eating together and sharing experiences (like TED without the glitz and glamour).
Highlight: Sharing your weekend with people with fascinating ideas and then discussing them over locally produced food that you eat together. Quite possibly the best ideas banquet in the world.
Takeaway: If you’re holding an event where your audience is required to take in a lot of information or new ideas, make sure you schedule in some breakout time where they can discuss what they’ve heard and learnt with each other.

Burning the Clocks

In short: Brighton residents hold a Disney-style parade that ends in a fire-fuelled apocalypse on the beach.
Highlight: Lighting up the darkest day of the year, Burning of the Clocks is a great non-religious community event that brings together everyone in the city.
Takeaway: Impeccable health and safety management! Can you even begin to imagine the risk assessment and insurance nightmare those organisers must go through? We salute you Same Sky.

The Great Escape

In short: One wristband provides you access to over 400 artists, playing gigs at over 35 venues across Brighton.
Highlight: Finding a new unsung artist whose music you can become addicted to.
Takeaway: With so many venues across the city, the festival organisers have to make sure that they issue decent and easily identifiable (but not easily forgeable) wristbands and provide good radio communication between door staff so they can ward off any troublemakers.

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