Review - The Exploding Popularity of Microfestivals
Micro-festivals have exploded in popularity in the UK festival scene and Tom Kerridge’s pop-up touring ‘Pub in the Park’ festival is leading the charge. Twin Mum was invited to visit the festival’s first location in Marlow in 2019 to see if it’s really possible to get the full festival experience by going small.
If the thought of going to a big festival fills you with dread – the line-up, the hype, the cost and the large queues – but you still hanker after a festival experience, then micro-festivals could be just the thing for you. Exploding in popularity in recent years, these intimate, curated and beautifully local events offer people the chance to experience more of what they crave – a laid-back intimate affair of between 3,000 and 5,000 people, incredible food, beautifully crafted drinks and a sense of community with lots of locals and a family reunion feel. Micro-festivals don’t pack their line-up with the very latest chart-topping musicians but instead offer the chance to see some of most established and well-known UK bands with outstanding back catalogues.
TV’s most likeable chef Tom Kerridge is the self-styled king of microfestivals Tom Kerridge, one of the nation’s leading chefs, is backing the micro-festival wave with his Pub in the Park festival touring eight venues in the UK this year. Belle visited the launch festival, which kicked off in Marlow -home of his famous ‘Hand and Flowers’ gastropub – in a stunning setting by the river Thames.
Pub in the Park promised to be a ‘relaxed and intimate gathering’, supporting and celebrating local talent as well as offering some of the biggest names in food and music. It certainly didn’t disappoint. The festival is unusually split into two sessions – the day session which finishes at 4.30pm and the festival empties and then the evening session guests arrive at 6pm with the whole festival finishing at a very civilised 10.30pm.
There was a warm welcome speech from Tom by the festival gates to all queuing guests, a number of chef’s table cooking demonstrations, food and drink stalls, a kids zone and a large main stage area. It all felt so delightfully welcoming – as if we were visiting Tom’s house for a garden party with his chef and musician friends.
Food was served by a number of pop-up pubs which created taster dishes at only £5 a dish and there were some absolute beauties in there. The Hand & Flowers served their take on the great British pie – the Minted Lamb Pie, Kerridge’s other establishment The Coach served a delicious Chicken Kiev, and one of my favourite London restaurants Berners Tavern served the creamiest Mac & Cheese with added braised beef. The food was outstanding which was to be expected for a festival that, across the whole tour, will feature a total of 18 Michelin Stars serving tasting dishes showcasing their signature style, including pubs such as Angela Hartnett’s Cafe Murano, Tommy Bank’s The Black Swan and Jodie Kidd’s Half Moon Kirdford.
Well known acts often grace the stages of the more intimate microfestivals The festival also boasts an impressive line-up of music – bands that have been at the top of their game for years – in an intimate stage setting so you can get up close in a way you can’t at bigger music festivals. We missed All Saints by one day but had the opportunity to see the Kaiser Chiefs headline the festival on the Saturday night. There are over 50 music acts performing across the whole of the Pub in the Park festival including Texas, Will Young, David Gray, Clean Banditt, Tom Odell, Razorlight, Fun Lovin Criminals, Basement Jaxx, Rick Astley and KT Tunstall.
For families, Pub in the Park offers a newly added Family Zone where parents can relax while their children are entertained with children’s theatre and games with plenty of kid focused food stalls on-hand. A number of celebrities were spotted outside the VIP tent including DJ Chris Evans who was there with his family.
If Pub in the Park isn’t coming to a destination near you, there are an increasing number of micro-festivals popping up all over the UK. Often small in size as well as duration, they offer locals the chance to meet and mingle with local vendors and emerging artists as well as experiencing leading food and drink producers. Try Mhor Festival in the beautiful Trossachs in Scotland – a foodie festival by the edge of a Scottish Loch, the intimate Hampton Court palace Festival where Kylie is headlining this year and the Henley Festival which is the UK’s first black-tie music festival and boasts headliners including Tom Odell and Boy George as well as a veritable feast of cultural and gastronomical treats.
And with this list barely scratching the surface, whatever you are doing this summer, its worth finding your local micro-festival and heading down for your very own festival fix. It’s clear to Twin Mum that micro-festivals are a welcome trend that is here to stay.
Pub in the Park is back in 2021 at various locations and dates through the summer. For more information see http://pubintheparkuk.com.