Summer Festival Guide

Chris Jones sifts through the events programmes of everything from Celtronic to Forfey, Stendhal, Féile, Sunflowerfest and more

Summer is well and truly upon us, and so thoughts turn to tents, fields, warm beer and music in the great outdoors – it's music festival season.

This year the much-loved Glasgowbury in the Sperrins has been discontinued, but fear not, as there are plenty of other small festivals around, each hoping to tempt you into the countryside, or any number of venues across the country, over the next few months.

So, to save you from sifting through the various events progammes available online to plan your summer festival diary, here is a handful of some of the best, most eclectic, festivals taking place in Northern Ireland during summer 2014.

Celtronic

Where: Derry~Londonderry
When: June 25 – 29
Tickets and info: celtronicfestival.com
Highlights: Âme, Space Dimension Controller, Derrick Carter, Ben UFO and Pearson Sound

Derry~Londonderry loves dance music, and dance fans love Celtronic. Taking place over five days in June, the festival is based in several city centre venues and showcases the absolute cutting edge in house, techno and electronic music. Hessle Audio mainmen Ben UFO and Pearson Sound open the festival at Sandino's, and Chicago house legend Derrick Carter closes it at the same venue.

Elsewhere, Berlin duo Âme headline the big Saturday night bash at St Columb's Hall, and you can catch Move D, Karenn, Kölsch, Space Dimension Controller, Magic Mountain High and a host of local talent as the festival develops. If you can't make it to Ibiza this summer, Celtronic is a viable alternative. Just without the beaches…

Tanglewood Music and Arts Festival

Where: Narrow Castle Estate, Warrenpoint
When: July 4 – 5
Tickets and info: tanglewoodmusic.co.uk
Highlights: Ocean Colour Scene (acoustic), Booka Brass Band, PØRTS

Situated just outside Newry, Tanglewood should prove an attractive proposition for festival fans from south of the border, as well as elsewhere in Northern Ireland – helpfully, festival organisers are running buses from several major towns.

The festival is set in the beautiful surroundings of the Narrow Castle Estate, and you can expect a wide variety of music, food and crafts. Excitingly, there is also 'a bar fully stocked with craft beers from around the world'. Cheers!

The biggest names on the bill are Simon and Oscar from 1990s favourites Ocean Colour Scene, who will be playing an acoustic set, and they are joined by the Booka Brass Band, The Bonnevilles, PØRTS and more. There is also a big emphasis on DJs, from local boy Rigsy and punk godfather Terri Hooley to purveyors of reggae, hip-hop, house and psytrance.

Féile an Phobail

Where: West Belfast
When: July 31 – August 10
Tickets and info: feilebelfast.com
Highlights: Kaiser Chiefs, Soul II Soul, The Selector

Féile an Phobail bills itself as 'Ireland's biggest community festival', and it certainly boasts an extensive list of attractions in 2014, with venues across west Belfast hosting an array of talks, tours, debates, discussions and family events over the course of 11 summer days.

The full line-up has yet to be revealed, but as always, the focal point is the Big Top in Falls Park, which this year will stage an amazingly diverse range of music, from Kaiser Chiefs to Boyzone, Frances Black to Laidback Luke, Soul II Soul to The Selecter, plus comedy from Jason Manford among others.

Forfey

Where: So cool they don't give you an address, just their postcode – BT92 5AQ (it's near Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh)
When: August 1 – 3
Tickets and info: forfeyfestival.co.uk
Highlights: More Than Conquerors, Go Wolf, The Wonder Villains

Down in Fermanagh, Forfey has spent nearly a decade building a loyal following and a reputation for putting together one of Northern Ireland's coolest festival line-ups. The emphasis is squarely on the music – no dance workshops or shiatsu sessions here – so it remains a festival for those looking for a weekend in the company of Northern Ireland's brightest young things.

Forfey don't really do 'headliners', but the big names include More Than Conquerors, Rams' Pocket Radio, Go Wolf and The Wonder Villains, and there is plenty of young songwriting talent too – any one of Callum Stewart, Joshua Burnside, Ciaran Lavery and Beulah Kim could provide an 'I was there' moment.

Stendhal Festival of Art

Where: Ballymully Cottage Farm, Limavady
When: August 8 – 9
Tickets and info: stendhalfestival.com
Highlights: Frightened Rabbit, The Undertones, Bronagh Gallagher

With Glasgowbury gone, Stendhal Festival of Art looks best placed to assume its mantle as the Northern Ireland music scene's most comprehensive showcase. Set in the picturesque Roe Valley outside Limavady on the north coast, this year is the festival's fourth edition, with the usual mix of music, comedy, theatre, poetry and art.

The multi-disciplinary mix is alluded to in the name – Stendhal Syndrome is 'a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art' – so now you know.

Musical highlights are sure to include Scottish indie-rock band Frightened Rabbit and the evergreen punk legends The Undertones, along with Duke Special (DJ set), Go Wolf, The Clameens, Bronagh Gallagher, PØRTS and oh-so-many more.

Sunflowerfest

Where: Tubby's Farm, Hillsborough
When: August 22 – 25
Tickets and info: sunflowerfest.co.uk
Highlights: The Orb, The Answer, The Bonnevilles

Back for its 20th instalment, Sunflowerfest bills itself as a 'boutique festival', and it certainly is cosy, set in verdant countryside near Hillsborough. The farm becomes part of the festival site – one stage is in a large concrete shed – and there is exploring to be done down by the 'Enchanted Glade'.

The festival promises to 'nurture the mind, body and soul' with art, dance and storytelling, and there is a full music line-up too. The headliners are eye-catching: psychedelic techno act The Orb and Downpatrick blues-rockers The Answer should shift a few tickets on their own, and other bands on the bill include The Wonder Villains, The Bonnevilles, ska outfit Pocket Billiards and Million Dollar Reload.

Others to consider…

The big two pop and rock festivals are back for another summer season. Belsonic runs from August 15 – 22 at Custom House Square in Belfast, with another selection of crowd-pleasing headliners including Queens Of The Stone Age, Chic feat. Nile Rodgers, Example, Biffy Clyro, Kodaline and Imagine Dragons.

And, over in the south of the city, Tennent's Vital should pack Boucher Park with two nights of music and mayhem as stadium-fillers The Killers (August 21) and David Guetta (August 24) come to town. Visit our front page for a chance to win a pair of tickets to each day.

If you're after something more cerebral, why not try Derry~Londonderry's CultureTech. A festival focusing on the nexus between digital technology, music and media, organisers are promising an 'even bigger' programme for this year's event, which takes place from September 15 – 21. Last year the festival featured 500 artists, musicians, speakers and performers across over 150 events, and attracted 24,000 people.

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