Free UK Festivals and Carnivals
Region-by-region guide to 60 events in 2018
Whether you want to listen to pop, house, rock or jazz music, or be part of a carnival or parade, there are free UK festivals to suit all tastes, and most are suitable for families. Just use the list below to pick your area.
Here are a few highlights we’ve spotted among the free festivals still to come this summer:
- Feel Good Festival in Rochdale (including headline act, Feeder - see North West below)
- Godiva Festival in Coventry (with performances from Ronan Keating and Gabrielle - see West Midlands below)
- Youth Beatz in Dumfries (including Rudimental - see Scotland below)
Alternatively, it's still possible to get into some big paid-for festivals, including Reading and Leeds Festival, and Bestival - see the stewarding guide below.
In which region are you looking?
It's worth noting that some festivals are spread across different venues and may have concerts that cost extra, so always check with the organisers before you go.
Totally Thames Festival
Where: Central London (view map)
Dates: Throughout Sep
Description: A whole month of celebration and entertainment. The 2018 line-up hasn't been annouced yet, but in previous years it's included the Mayor's Thames Festival, the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival and the Great River Race. Although the festival itself is free to attend, some of the activities charge a fee.
Red Sails Festival
Where: Portstewart (view map)
Dates: Sun 22 Jul - Sat 28 Jul
Description: A family-friendly festival with free music from local bands and orchestras, a puppet theatre show, exhibitions, and a spectacular firework display to end the festivities. The festival is mostly free but some events may charge.
Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival
Where: Edinburgh (view map)
Dates: Fri 13 Jul - Sun 22 Jul
Description: Established in 1978, the Edinburgh Jazz Festival is a mixture of free and ticketed events spread over a week in July. Free events include the Mardis Gras show on Sat 14 Jul and the carnival around Princes Street on Sun 15 Jul.
Where: Dumfries (view map)
Dates: Sat 30 Jun
Description: Aimed at young people aged 12-25 and featuring celebrities as well as local bands. Register for a chance to get free tickets via the link above. Acts this year include Rudimental, Sigala, Jax Jones, S Club and more.
Where: Glasgow Green (view map)
Dates: Sat 14 Jul - Sun 15 Jul
Description: A two-day celebration of Scotland's LGBT diversity. It includes a huge parade going through the city centre, with thousands of people taking part. Entry to the musical festival charges a fee.
Rothbury Traditional Music Festival
Where: Rothbury, Northumberland (view map)
Dates: Fri 13 Jul - Sun 15 Jul
Description: The festival offers traditional outdoor music, Highland dancing, craft stalls, competitions and workshops. Some events are ticketed and charge a fee, but the 'final fling' dance and sing-a-long on Sun 16 Jul is free.
Monmouth Music Festival
Where: Monmouth (view map)
Dates: Fri 27 Jul - Sat 4 Aug
Description: The festival offers a diverse range of musical genres including rock, classical, pop, folk, jazz, ska, punk, world music and more. Also includes a 'family fun day' carnival on Sun 29 July, featuring stalls, circus acts, rides, kids' workshops and floats.
Upton Blues Festival
Where: Worcester (view map)
Dates: Fri 20 Jul - Sun 22 Jul
Description: Set in and around the pubs and streets of Upton upon Severn, Worcester, this music festival features everything from blues rock to bluegrass, country blues to New Orleans, acoustic to soul and gospel.
Where: Hull (view map)
Dates: Fri 31 Aug - Sun 2 Sep
Description: An eclectic, family-friendly, and largely free, three-day extravaganza of music, dance, theatre, poetry, visual arts and comedy that celebrates Hull's independent spirit and contribution to the cause of freedom.
Herne Bay Festival
Where: Herne Bay, Kent (view map)
Dates: Thu 26 Jul - Mon 27 Aug
Description: Live music, street theatre, performances, workshops, demonstrations and more.
Faversham Hop Festival
Where: Faversham (view map)
Dates: Sat 1 Sep - Sun 2 Sep
Description: Traditional, fun festival set in the picturesque medieval town's square and surrounding streets, celebrating the days of hop picking in Kent. It offers live music across five stages, dance, circus acts, magic shows and more.
As well as the free UK festivals listed above, there are a few ways to get into sold-out festivals for nothing.
Volunteering through charities
Some big charities like the Samaritans and Oxfam look for volunteers to help at big festivals. Don't volunteer if you're in it just for the free ticket - approach a charity you really believe in and do the work properly.
- Festival Samaritans provides volunteers for big festivals such as Glastonbury, Leeds and Reading. It recruits every January, and anyone is welcome to apply, whether or not they have been a member of the Samaritans before. You can register your interest now for next year's festivals.
- Oxfam provides stewards and campaigners who have to work between three and five shifts over the duration of big festivals. Head to the application page to check out this year's opportunities - when we last checked on Fri 1 Jun, there were limited spaces available for Reading and Leeds Festival, Bestival, and more paid-for festivals.
Odd jobs like litter-picking & car park attending
It's not easy to make a festival run smoothly, and extra help is always required with anything from car park assistance and tent pitching to litter-picking. Organisers usually use firms which provide staff specifically for festivals.
- DC Services provide safety stewards, traffic marshals, recycling and litter teams to the likes of Leeds and Latitude (check its events calendar). Apply online to work as volunteer staff.
- Seed Staff - You can volunteer for various festivals, including Y Not?, Download, BBC Proms, Reading and Leeds. You can apply online, with volunteer jobs including wristbanding and picking up litter.
- Hotbox provides volunteers for anything from assisting festivalgoers with directions to helping them pitch their tents. If your application is successful, you'll have to work up to three shifts over the duration of the festival.
- Festaff supplies volunteers for stewarding, wristbanding, bar work and other general duties at festivals including Bestival, Isle of Wight, Rewind, and Creamfields. You can apply online, plus you may be required to attend training.
Volunteering for festivals independently
Another option is to check with festival organisers directly to see if they're looking for volunteers. They usually have a dedicated area on their website for this.