Live music breaks in the UK

We asked top blogger Vicky Flip Flop to join us on a live music break and share with you her favourite places for live music and festivals in the UK.

Vicky is a festival blogger, travel writer and adventurer who believes in making the most out of every minute of your spare time. With a summer jam-packed full of festivals and music events, she’ll be giving us the lowdown on all her festival fun as well as a guide to all the exciting things to see and do in and around the festival locations. 


Festivals and live music events

By Vicky Flip Flop

The Isle of Wight plays a key part in Britain’s musical history, most importantly, our festival history. The infamous 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, where The Who, Joni Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix played, was performed in front of around 700,000 people, making it even bigger than Woodstock, and unfortunately forcing it to shut down. In its short life it set the tone for many festivals to come. It was only resurrected 32 years later, in 2002, thankfully!

I went to the 2017 Isle of Wight Festival to wear my sunflowers, soak up the sun and explore Seaclose Park, where it’s been held since. The festival was a great family event, with a popular line up featuring Rod Stewart, Mel C, Arcade Fire, and an eclectic mix in between. I’m a keen camper, but with the Premier Inn Newport just a minute’s walk away, you can really do this June festival in style. 

Tapnell Farm, the site of the original Isle of Wight Festival, now houses the Isle of Wight Festival Music Show, a great way to learn more about our festival past. It’d be rude not to combine your trip to the exhibition with a visit to Cow Co, the farm’s burger bar. Time your trip right and visit the island’s free, monthly Number One Island music night here, hosted by Bestival organiser DJ Rob da Bank. Although, the farm is well worth a visit at any time, with animals and adventure sports, as well as being the site of such a seminal music moment for the whole of the UK.

Further along the south coast of the island the Ventnor Fringe is an interesting festival – set up by a group of teenage friends back in 2010 it now opens its doors to around 400 artists and 4000 visitors. They’ve carefully curated a showcase of artists from the island and abroad to perform in the town’s many unique spaces, including the local launderette. Perfectly located in artsy, seaside Ventnor, it’s a great festival for anyone looking for something a little different.  

If you’re around outside of festival season you can always check out the vinyl and epic collection of beers to try at the Ventnor Exchange, a creative arts hub, open every night and weekend for drinks and live music.

The Premier Inn at Sandown is only 30 minutes away from the Ventnor Exchange by bus, or a 20-minute drive. I rode the bus halfway and then took the opportunity to walk the beautiful sands from Shanklin Beach to Sandown Beach, and back up to the hotel via the coastal path.

This ‘festival island’ is also home to the Isle of Wight Mardi Gras, held in Ryde every last Saturday in June or first in July. The Newport Isle of Wight Jazz Weekend is a great opportunity for jazz lovers to come together to share their passion and skills, while the popular Rhythm Tree Festival is a favourite for families. And, finally for now, but not for the island, the V-Dub Island Festival not only has over 80 bands and DJs but also, as the name suggests, a focus on Volkswagen campers. There’s a dress up theme every year, a cooking competition, and the surf is most definitely up. Every Saturday all the V-Dubs go for a drive in the beautiful rolling hills of the Isle of Wight.

If you’re on the Isle of Wight out of festival season, but want to soak up some of the local music scene, there’s still plenty to explore. In Newport the Quay Arts Centre has monthly jazz nights from local artists, check out the concert listings for the Medina Theatre, and the recent addition of the Strings Bar and Venue promises more chart name acts. In Ventnor the wonderfully cliff face located Spyglass Inn has live music most days.

If you’re a 90s music lover, don’t leave without visiting Sandown Beach, the location of Take That’s ‘I Found Heaven’ video. Yes, I was excited about this too. 


Top places for live music in the UK

Liverpool

Arrive in Liverpool and head straight to the Cavern Club. Unfortunately it’s not quite the same one as The Beatles performed at over 300 times all those years ago, but the symbolism is still there. And it’s in a great location to start your music mission in Liverpool. The Beatles lived and breathed the city and their presence is everywhere, from statues, to the restoration of their childhood homes to the subjects of their lyrics – best seen on Penny Lane, in the Strawberry Fields and at Eleanor Rigby’s grave. I definitely recommend spending the day at the Beatles Experience to learn more.

As for festivals Liverpool is proud to be home to the Liverpool International Music Festival – every August with over 1000 artists. There’s also The Liverpool Food and Drink Festival in September and, inevitably, International Beatleweek where there’s so much going on, you don’t actually even need to be a fan to enjoy yourself, although of course, it helps. 

Liverpool hotels

London

We can’t really talk about music in the UK without mentioning our musical and country capital, London. Visit the Big Smoke and you’ll find an eclectic mix of traditional pubs offering live music, huge stadium events and music trails where you can see where our country’s greatest musicians began, recorded… and drank.

Camden is one of the key music locations, just down the road from The Beatles’ famous Abbey Road studios and crossing. The borough was the stomping ground of many a music legend including Amy Winehouse, the stars of the 90s Britpop movement and Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols and The Rolling Stones. Visit Camden Market, drink at the Good Mixer and go see a band at KOKO, it’s one of the most important venues in London’s musical history.

Brixton is associated with Bowie, Soho with Ronnie Scott’s and now Hackney is home to the hipster artists in Shoreditch. You can easily join one of the many tours in each, or just plan your own trip and follow those blue heritage plates around the boroughs. If you want to visit just one place in London to find out about it all, go to the British Music Experience at London’s O2, one of the newest venues on the city’s skyline. 

London hotels

Brighton

With its strong student population Brighton is one of the most popular music and festival cities on the UK’s coast. Every evening you’ll find music across the city in the many bars, restaurants and cafes it boasts. Headline musicians play the Brighton Dome, The Brighton Centre and Corn Exchange, while the Marlborough Pub and Hope & Ruin are home to more local bands and up and coming artists.

As for festivals, Brighton is home to one of the best city festivals in the country, the annual Great Escape Festival. With more than 150 acts on the line up the festival is know to have launched the career of many new artists. Brighton Pride is always one of the most exciting and popular with big headline acts, alongside the other two city favourites the Brighton Early Music Festival (classical and educational) and Wildlife Festival at Brighton Airport (festival curated by DJs Disclosure). They’re two very different festivals but equally important on the Brighton music scene. 

Brighton hotels

Cardiff

Cardiff – home of the likes of Charlotte Church, Cerys Matthews and Super Furry Animals. As the capital of Wales there’s a keen student population here ready to support their favourite big name act at the Motorpoint Arena, St David’s Hall, or Cardiff University Student Union. Make sure to check the line ups on your dates to see if there’s anyone worth seeing.

Further down the musician food chain, you’ll find great live music at The Globe, or The Full Moon where you can enjoy the extensive range of liquors while you watch whatever band they have for you that night. Clwb Ifor Bach is another key venue in Cardiff, and named after a Welsh leader who rebelled against the English during the 12th century. There’s music here every night, usually local and alternative.

As for Cardiff’s summer festivals, at the new Burning Lantern Fayre music, entertainment, circus skills and arts and crafts come together to create a lovely family friendly event.

While the Hub Festival on August Bank Holiday weekend features music, art, performance, street food and plenty of refreshments for all ages. There’s also the Swn Festival – a month of special concerts throughout Cardiff curated by DJ Huw Stephens. 

Cardiff hotels

Festival packing list

If you’re heading to one of the UK festivals this year, here are a few things you don’t want to forget.

  • Ticket
  • Money
  • ID
  • Phone and portable charger
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Groundsheet
  • Camera
  • Clothes for warm
  • Clothes for cold
  • Wellies
  • Trainers
  • Flip flops
  • Cosmetics
  • Rain mac
  • Sun cream
  • Toilet roll
  • Baby wipes 
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Torch
  • Make up
  • Glitter
  • Picnic mat
  • Vitamins
  • Paracetamol
  • Ear plugs!