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A panel discussion at Byline Festival 2017, Image (c) Tim Dawson

Top 5: Alternative Festivals

31 May 2018 Suzanne Frost

Of course we all love live music in a muddy field. It is a staple of British summer time. But with young people increasingly concerned and engaged in public causes – from saving the planet to political activism – some festivals this year are looking for a more meaningful purpose than just entertainment. We've rounded up the most interesting festivals with a cause at their hearts.

No Planet B
Image credit: teddybaden.co.uk 

Launching this summer, No Planet B will be the UK’s largest festival experience combining zero waste with veganism and minimalism, creating a truly singular event that aims to join leisure with socially forward thinking. The eco-conscious programming will include talks, workshops, yoga classes and a sumptuous line up of colourful vegan street food including pulled jackfruit burgers from Epic Veg Kitchen, Vegals vegan bagels, matcha, tumeric and blue spirulina lattes from Routes Coffee and the legendary beef(less) pie, battered sausage and tofish & chips from Shakey Shakey. Amid a range of Earth-centric entertainment including inspirational lectures from Manuela Baron (Girl Gone Green), Eco‐Fashionista Kristen Leo, and zero waste expert Shia Su (Wasteland Rebel), performances from the likes of Lekenah Eccles (The Voice), Activist/Singer Carly Taylor and Liverpool five-piece Ukebox, can be enjoyed across the weekend. The festival’s zero waste ethos also marks No Planet B as a strong, innovative new voice, with ticketholders encouraged to bring along an unwanted non‐recyclable product as part of a giant art piece to be unveiled at the weekend’s finale.
 
No Planet B will take place across Great Tew, The Cotswolds, from 17 – 19 August. Early‐bird tickets are available until 12 June offering exclusive rewards to the first 1,000 attendees.
 
 
 
MERGE Festival
via betterbankside.co.uk

Taking place in Londons’ Bankside, each year MERGE festival sees installations and performances from artists, musicians and performers taking place in alternative, disused places and spaces and bringing the area to life with creativity, celebrating Bankside’s rich heritage and contemporary culture. MERGE Festival opens up London’s lost buildings, often for the last time, before their regeneration, and opens the way for discussion and fresh debate. This year includes headline installations Requiem for Cross Bones which takes place at Bankside’s infamous un-consecrated graveyard and the opening of The Feel Good Institute - a brand new experiential installation promoting positive vibes. One of the highlights of MERGE is the ‘The Great Get Together’, a day-long street party in memory of the late MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in 2016. The Great Get Together invites all who live, work in and visit the area to get together and celebrate all that we hold in common.
 
MERGE Festival is taking over Bankside from 8 June – 1 July. Almost everything is free to visit but do check out the full programme.
 
 
 
Under Her Eye Festival
Photo: John Midgley

This unique summit and festival is focusing on women and climate change from both the arts and science perspective. Featuring pioneers across the diverse fields of science, health, technology, finance, activism, leadership and policy the biggest ace up the sleeve of this festival is the one and only Margaret Atwood, who is headlining the summit on Friday. Statistically women are the worst affected by climate change and more proactive than men when it comes to protecting the planet so this festival is exploring the intersection between gender and the environment. Focusing on London air pollution, the live performance Human Sensor will make polluted air visible with high-tech costumes that change colour according to the quality of the air. There will be public art installations and activities across King’s Cross and a screening of Margaret Salmon’s film Shore about our relationship with our seas and oceans. Recognising the rich history of women guarding the environment and the important role they will play in the future, the new ‘Under Her Eye Fellowship’ is enabling a group of young women from different disciplines including anthropology, history, art, volcano and health science from universities across the UK to work together to develop their own art and science projects.
 
‘Under Her Eye’ summit and festival is taking place on 1&2 June at the British Library and around the Euston/King’s Cross area.

 
Queen's Park Book Festival
via thekilburntimes.co.uk

For the book lovers among you, Queen’s Park Book Festival is a weekend celebration of the literary arts in the heart of London. Authors, poets, actors and artists will gather for a weekend of readings, talks, debates and special events throughout Queen’s Park. Back this summer by popular demand, the festival offers an exciting range of events and a fabulous array of authors, actors, chefs, musicians, journalists, poets and sportsmen in the line-up. Literary highlights include local legend Zadie Smith reading from new work, debates on the intersection of politics and TV, the future of the NHS, an interview with Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli and English theatre director and film producer Nicholas Hytner in conversation about Shakespeare. Open for all ages, there will also be children’s events, special programmes and other fringe events interspersed in the main festival programme.
 
Queen’s Park Book Festival takes place on 30 June & 1 July at Queen’s Park, Kilburn.
 
 
Byline Festival
Pussy Riot photo by Rick Kern/WireImage

After last year’s inaugural success, Byline Festival returns this year – and is possibly more important than ever. This one-of-a-kind festival promoting independent journalism and free speech is aimed at anyone who is interested or concerned about fake news, post Trump truth, the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal and the current state of politics. Byline wants to recaptures the spirit of early festivals like Woodstock that a greater sense of purpose and authenticity. This year, they have secured the infamous feminist activist group Pussy Riot as headliners along with a line-up of immersive theatre, circus, art, music and dancing. There are opportunities to create films, news articles, podcasts and dramas at the festival with leading writers, journalists and directors, while John Cleese and Hardeep Sing Kohli are leading the comedy performances. Additional participants and speakers include June Sarpong, Hugh Grant, Bonnie Greer, Alexei Sayle, Kate Mosse, Gary Lineker, A.L. Kennedy, Joanna Scanlan and Andy Hamilton, culminating in the Bad Press Awards hosted by National Treasure John Cleese.
   
Byline Festival is taking place at Pippingford Park in Nutley from 24 – 27 August.
 
 

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