Few cities take advantage of the summer months quite like London. Once the sun shrugs off winter’s chill, the city’s parks throng with locals, restaurant terraces brim with chattering G&T sippers, and the city’s stylish set mark out the season’s chicest trends. Running alongside this frisson of sun-fuelled activity, and undoubtedly adding to the season’s appeal, are a flock of London summer music festivals. From bucolic Kew the Music and the Citadel Festival to the internationally renowned Lovebox festival and the Last Night of the Proms, these annual events are as emblematic of the English summertime as a bowl of strawberries and cream.
The ultimate venue for a London summer music festival, the leafy environs of Kew Gardens host the world’s largest collection of living plants. Settle in amidst the foliage and let the music wash over you. Kew the Music has previously hosted legends such as The Specials alongside modern standouts like Paloma Faith.
Somerset House isn’t just one of London’s most beautiful landmarks—it’s also the atmospheric backdrop to London’s Summer Series music festival. Each year, the line-up includes established artists alongside up-and-comers, representing all different genres. From electro-funk of to contemporary pop, the sweet indie melodies to deep soul and jazz, each year the roster is extraordinarily diverse.
Since 2002, Lovebox has blossomed from a tiny gig held on Tottenham Court Road to a London summer music festival colossus that takes over West London’s Gunnersbury Park. This is a true festival-lover’s choice: expect cool crowds clad in outré trends, stages packed with blockbuster names and a range of engaging arts programming on the side.
A slew of popular, indie-leaning acts sign up to play Citadel Festival every year, making this a popular summer festival choice for alternative tastes. Had enough of the main stage? Get active in a dance workshop, stretch out on the mat in the wellbeing yoga tent, and fill up on London’s coolest street food.
The pretty surroundings of the Old Royal Navy College, views of London’s famous skyline, and a line-up of living legends: Greenwich Music Time’s charms are certainly persuasive. Straddle the eastern and western hemispheres while taking in performances by established musicians which count Ray Davies, Gipsy Kings, and Sir Tom Jones as previous headlines.
Visions is unlike most summer music festivals in London in that performances are dispersed across some of East London’s coolest venues, as opposed to being held on one main stage. For lovers of independent and up-and-coming artists, this event is a must.
Does it get more British than the Last Night of the Proms? Hardly—for proof, just glance out at the crowd of thousands, vigorously waving Union Jacks. While the remainder of the Proms concerts, held at the Royal Albert Hall, are certainly worth attending, nothing quite matches the quintessentially English revelry of the festival’s annual conclusion in Hyde Park.
Offering up more than just music, the diverse On Blackheath summer music festival has a refreshingly local feel. Young visitors are invited to enjoy puppet shows, magic sessions and art classes, while their parents can enjoy performance artists and installations while sipping locally brewed beer and nibbling on ceviche. And then there is, of course, the music. Counting Jamiroquai and Manic Street Preachers as previous acts, there’s ample reason to swing by the stage.
An award-winning festival that spans 10 summery days, All Points East draws all the darlings of the music industry – The Strokes, The Chemical Brothers, Tame Impala, to name a previous few – to East London’s Victoria Park. It’s not just about the big-name headliners, though. Four of the 10 days offer free entry to the festival, with movies, art programmes and cheery gigs by independent musicians.
Commandeering Clapham Common with high-octane electronica in the middle of summer is South West Four. This festival champions the freshest beats in trance, house, dance and jungle, reliving the illicit raves of the nineties in full view and on an epic scale. From Craig David’s R&B drops to high-tempo mixes by Chase & Status, its headline acts are dominated by the biggest stars in digital music.
Nineties pop icons and well-loved chart-toppers draw fans of all ages to Brockwell Park’s Mighty Hoopla. This festival pulls the spotlight back to beloved hit-makers such as Gabrielle, Bananarama and Atomic Kitten. Every show guarantees more than a few sing-along moments as the biggest stars of the previous two decades take centre stage.