The grass is greener
Covid has only intensified our love of mud and cider-fuelled sing-alongs. The traditional scramble for festival tickets remains in rude health and, as the endless WhatsApp groups smugly attest — for your own sake, mute them, mute them all — most of the big names have long sold out, even with line-ups yet to be confirmed. Fortunately, even in a year with nothing on there are still those who have double-booked themselves and spare tickets are popping up. Ticketmaster, SeeTickets and Eventim all offer official fan-to-fan re-sales, with ticket prices capped at face value to scupper scalpers. The Leeds dream lives on.
Otherwise, there are a handful of fields yet to be filled. Tickets are still going for Latitude (July 22-25, latitudefestival.com) in Suffolk’s Henham Park. Grab them for a laid-back vibe; think painted sheep and hidden sets springing up in the woodlands. Bastille, First Aid Kit and Snow Patrol are all set to play. Desperate to dance? Try Bestival the weekend afterwards (campbestival.net), which this year has Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada and Becky Hill headlining. The amps are at the ready on the Isle of Wight for its annual array of guitar-powered goodness: Liam Gallagher and Duran Duran are joined by the likes of Sam Fender, Tom Jones and Supergrass across the weekend of September 16-19 (isleofwightfestival.com).
Closer to home, there are still a handful of wristbands left for All Points East (allpointseastfestival.com) on the Summer bank holiday. It’s always a good one in Victoria Park, and this year the line-up is suitably spectacular for its return: Jorja Smith, London Grammar, Loyle Carner, Foals and Little Simz. Keep an eye on Wireless’s site and socials (wirelessfestival.co.uk, @wirelessfest) for the final batch of tickets for the September 10-12 shows in Crystal Palace Park. No word yet on who’s playing, but previous summers have seen Stormzy and Skepta pop up. The first release of tickets sold out quickly and anticipation is high.
Crystal Palace Park will also host the brand newSouth Facing Festival (southfacingfestival.com), a month-long series of gigs and events running throughout August. Dizzee Rascal on August 14 and the Streets on August 21-22 promise nights of throwback British hip-hop, while the English National Opera taking on Tosca on August 27 and 29 is sure to be a moving, memorable one. Also new this year is Yam Carnival (yamcarnival.com), happening on Clapham Common on August 28, which promises “black culture from around the world”, with Nigerian star Davido topping the bill. The Common is busy that weekend: the day after, Rtrn II Dance takes over, banging with drum ‘n’ bass. Tickets are still available on skiddle.com, which is a useful site to get to know as it keeps a track of availability for everything on this summer. Other London festivals still bookable are Brockwell Park’s indie-jazz-post punk cocktail, Wide Awake (wideawakelondon.co.uk) on September 3 and Trent Park’s dance monster 51st State (51ststatefestival.com) on August 7, which is on its final two ticket releases and selling quickly.
If the idea of standing around in big crowds is an anxiety-inducing one, go boutique. The Hawarden Estate’s Summer Camp (thegoodlifesociety.co.uk) promises everything from wild swimming to classes in bee keeping and blacksmithery, and runs over three weekends in July for just 100 people at a time. Camp Elwood (July 26 to August 9, campelwood.com) isn’t quite so small, but is equally wholesome and held at a beautiful site, spaced out along the stunning Norfolk coast. Go for a therapeutic weekend, not one to get trashed at.
The big feast
This is not the summer for messing about with meal kits. It is one to spend endless evenings on pub terraces, drifting away after pints to sit alfresco outside favourite restaurants, old and new, and all hope for finding a table at one is not lost. On Monday, the Prime Minister confirmed April 12 as the opening date for outdoor dining and, sure enough, places are busy from then. That said, restaurants across the capital are reporting that things are slightly quieter from May 17, when eating indoors is permitted. Still, the pubs will never again be off-limits: Young’s, Fuller’s and most of the other major chains, plus many independents, keep a policy promising space for walk-ins, meaning it’s usually worth taking a chance even when things look crammed online.
That said, for a guaranteed good time, have it large. Social distancing restrictions inspired oversized spaces last summer, and they’re back for this one: on Walthamstow’s Blackhorse Lane, Truman’s Social Club (trumanssocialclub.co.uk) has row upon row of wooden benches under awnings, and 20 draft beers poured fresh. Alexandra Palace (alexandrapalace.com) — which still has tickets for its Kaleidoscope Festival — stole Truman’s claim to London’s biggest beer garden when it opened its boozy terrace last year and, at that size, all but guarantees tables through the summer. Bookings can be made for up to three-and-a-half hours, and they’re prepped for the weather with heaters and umbrellas throughout. Those peckish after a couple of pints can tuck into street food from the likes of Browski Burger to go with the views. Going big usually means you’ll avoid going home: old Hackney favourite Pub on the Park (pubonthepark.com) and Victoria Park’s People’s Park Tavern (peoplesparktavern.pub) are both sizeable enough to reliably have room.
A welcome relaxation of rules around al fresco feasting means more restaurants than ever have outside space and, because many are new, they haven’t been pounced upon. Richard Corrigan may have a full-house at Bentley’s — though one or two tables are free for late suppers, after nine — but the new terrace at his joyous Daffodil Mulligan (daffodilmulligan.com) still has seats at more reasonable hours. The Wigmore (the-wigmore.co.uk), where Michel Roux Jr looks after the food, has gone outdoors for the first time and while reservations are being snapped up, throughout the summer midweek and Sunday spaces are readily free. Paddington’s floating seafood restaurant The Grand Duchess (londonshellco.com/the-grand-duchess) is land-bound for the first time, and its new waterside deck still has tables for lunch and supper; settle in for crisp white wine and a platter of fresh fish. In Camden, it’s not just a new terrace but a whole new restaurant as The Farrier (thefarriercamden.com) becomes the market’s first pub — tables for dinner and lunch, including on Sundays, are still there for the booking.
In many cases, the trick is to give a little, and settle in either later or earlier than usual — even places like the ever-popular Jikoni (jikonilondon.com) have room for those who don’t insist on eating at say, 1pm or 8pm — or to get booking in advance now. Marylebone favourite The Grazing Goat (thegrazinggoat.co.uk) is full for the moment, but has availability almost every day from mid-May onwards, while the new al fresco firepit at King’s Cross breweryTwo Tribes (twotribes.co.uk) is busy for most of April, but frees up almost entirely in a fortnight’s time.
Can’t decide between food and music? Have both. There are still tickets going for The Big Feastival (thebigfeastival.com) on Blur bassist Alex James’s Cotsworlds farm, which between August 27-29 is serving up Nile Rodgers & Chic and Rag N’ Bone man alongside cooking classes with some top chefs. Tom Kerridge, meanwhile, is back with Pub In The Park (pubintheparkuk.com), which will be busy pouring pints and plating up pub classics for £6 a dish throughout the summer: it comes to Dulwich June 26-27 and heads to Chiswick September 3-5; Basement Jaxx play at both.
Life in the living room has few thrills; let this summer be a corrective. While nightclubs are off the cards until June 21 at the earliest — be sure to try the new Ernie’s Yard, a massive 12,000sq ft outdoor venue in Canning Town opening June 25, and promising 12-hour dance parties — from April, head to the “fun-set strip” of Costa del Tottenham (costadeltottenham.co.uk). The spot still has tickets going for its terrace, which boasts DJ sets, live comedy and plenty to eat.
If a change of scenery is more of a priority, try GoBoat (goboat.co.uk), which is now taking bookings for its self-drive boats in Paddington and Kingston. Pottering down the canal too gentle? The Lee Valley White Water Centre (visitleevalley.org.uk) has reopened too for those who want to sling themselves over the rapids in a raft — definitely one for those missing an adrenaline rush.
Elsewhere, for those with lockdown weight to shift (all of us) who can’t face the gym, try bouldering; the capital’s climbing walls open on April 12 and offer a hell of workout. Plus, unlike wild swimming, people don’t feel compelled to constantly talk about it. There are good sites in Vauxhall (vauxwest.co.uk), Green Lanes (castle-climbing.co.uk), Acton and Bermondsey (archclimbingwall.com) to get started on. Finally, if this year has left some rage that needs releasing, paintballing is back and, as an organised sport, is exempt from the rule of six. Try GO Paintball London (gopaintball.co.uk) — actually just on the Surrey border, Towie favourite Mayhem (mayhempaintball.co.uk), half an hour east of Liverpool Street Station, or Greenwich’s Bunker 51 (bunker-51.com), which is London’s only indoor centre (and, as such, will be sticking to two households only for the time being). After a year that’s forced us to be very grown up, being a little childish may be the perfect thing to do.
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