Free UK Festivals and Carnivals
Region-by-region guide to 45+ events
MSE Update, Thu 2 Apr at 10am: Many of this year's festivals have been closed or postponed, following the Government's advice to socially distance and avoid large gatherings.
On Wed 1 Apr, the Fringe Society announced that Edinburgh Fringe Festival will not go ahead this year. All registration fees, tickets and Friends memberships will be refunded.
Although the following aren't free festivals, we thought it would be helpful to mention here that Glastonbury, Download, Isle of Wight Festival and many others have been cancelled for 2020.
On Wed 18 Mar, Glastonbury Festival announced it will not be going ahead this year and that everybody who had already secured a ticket and paid their deposit has the chance to roll the deposit over to next year's festival. This will happen automatically, but those who'd prefer a refund of their £50 deposit must contact See Tickets.
See our Coronavirus Financial Help & Rights guide for info on its financial implications in the UK, including sick pay rights, mortgage help, event cancellations and more.
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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.
Turning Tides Festival
Where: The Tide, Greenwich (view map)
Dates: Fri 5 Jul - Sun 7 Jul and Fri 12 Jul - Sun 14 Jul
Description: A music, arts and wellness festival to celebrate the opening of London's first linear park. A weekend of music, riverside yoga and meditation.
Totally Thames Festival
Where: Central London (view map)
Dates: Throughout Sep
Description: A whole month of celebration and entertainment. The 2019 line-up hasn't been announced 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: Mon 22 Jul - Sat 27 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.
Where: Dumfries (view map)
Dates: Sat 22 Jun - Sun 23 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 Sigma, The Vamps and Professor Green.
Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival
Where: Edinburgh (view map)
Dates: Fri 12 Jul - Sun 21 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 13 Jul and the carnival around Princes Street on Sun 14 Jul.
Where: Glasgow Green (view map)
Dates: Sat 17 Aug - Sun 18 Aug
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.
Northern Pride Festival
Where: Town Moor and Exhibition Park, Newcastle (view map)
Dates: Fri 19 Jul - Sun 21 Jul
Description: Northern Pride Festival (formerly Newcastle Pride) is a day two festival across two locations in Newcastle which will have performances on the main stage as well as Family and Youth zones and a fair ground. 2019's headliners include Fleur East and Liberty X.
Rothbury Traditional Music Festival
Where: Rothbury, Northumberland (view map)
Dates: Fri 19 Jul - Sun 21 Jul
Description: The festival offers traditional outdoor music, Highland dancing, craft stalls, competitions and workshops. Some events are ticketed and charge a fee, but in previous years, the 'final fling' dance and sing-a-long on the Sunday has been free.
Monmouth Music Festival
Where: Monmouth (view map)
Dates: Fri 26 Jul - Thu 1 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, featuring stalls, circus acts, rides, kids' workshops and floats.
Upton Blues Festival
Where: Worcester (view map)
Dates: Thu 18 Jul - Sun 21 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. This year there's over 160 free performance to watch.
Where: Hull (view map)
Dates: Wed 28 Aug - Sun 1 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: Sat 27 Jul - Sat 31 Aug
Description: Live music, street theatre, performances, workshops, demonstrations and more.
Faversham Hop Festival
Where: Faversham (view map)
Dates: Sat 31 Aug - Sun 1 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. If it's Glastonbury specifically that you've got your eye on, make sure to read our blog post on four ways you can still go for FREE.
- 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 sign up. Includes many paid-for festivals such as Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds and Download .
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.