Think "festival" and what comes to mind? For most twenty-somethings looking for fun in a field this summer it's probably the big hitters like Glastonbury, Bestival and even Benicassim that have them packing the rucksack and slinging the tent in the car. But there's much more to the festivals calendar than just the big names and yesterday I uncovered a secret stash of fabulous but mostly unknown festivals lurking in one particular corner of the UK. No it's not Cornwall, the true festivals county is one far more likely to be overlooked by staycationers this summer. It's Suffolk.
Suffolk yesterday launched Festivals Suffolk, a national campaign to showcase what Choose Suffolk claim is a fantastic festivals pedigree, and I was there to drink the champagne and hear the speeches. All too often these "initiatives" are something of a cobbled-together collection of mediocre attractions shoehorning themselves into a one-size-fits-all marketing plan, but Suffolk really does have the goods to back up their claim to be the festivals county.
As we tucked into some Suffolk cheese and mountains of sandwiches and cakes, the first festival, High Tide, was already underway downstairs at the Cut community theatre and was attracting a buzzing audience despite it being a Friday lunchtime. The Bury St Edmunds Festival of contemporary and classical music, theatre and film is up next (May 14-30) followed by the multi-disciplinary and unusual-venue-loving PULSE Fringe Festival (May 27-June 12) and the world-renowned classical music Aldeburgh Festival (June 11-27), but most of us were more excited to hear Dom Gomez talk about new kid on the block, Harvest at Jimmy's.
I can only afford one festival this year thanks to the dreaded wedding budget so forget Latitude (also part of Festivals Suffolk but the only event not to bother turning up for the launch), I'm saving myself for Harvest on September 11 and 12. Dom may only be in his second year but he's got the Zutons, the Futureheads and Newton Faulkner lined up and some of my favourite London restaurants (including Wahaca) will be serving proper festival food – no nasty burgers here. Dom says he wanted to create something family friendly that celebrates both great food and great music and even Jo Whiley loves it (she's playing an exclusive set there this year) so it must be good. I'm in, and there are still tickets left so why not join me?