Birthday Cake And Bands: Festivals celebrating Birthdays this year

The Mouthpiece

So, winter is finally on the outing and spring is fast rearing its leafy head. This time of the year also marks an exciting time on the festival circuit. March and April are well-known for the annual catfight over the battle of the line-ups and friendships are routinely fucked by ill-advised choices. Which festivals float the boat and which have sank in Italian waters? What makes a good festival? Well, The Stone Roses, Sun and Guardian reviews aside - an anniversary usually helps.

Five of them have found a reason to celebrate. Secret Garden Party, Supersonic, Sziget, Download and City of London are all hitting the big birthdays come summer times. And whilst many of us strain to remember what the sun actually looks like, luckily we’re on hand to shine a torch on memory lane.

2012 will see the tenth anniversary of Secret Garden Party. Established in 2004 as an alternative to the mass of long-established mainstream music festivals, the event has solidified its existence as a vehicle for independent arts and music fans. Having grown from 1,000 visitors and one stage, 2011 dropped 26,000 revellers and 15 platforms.

Secret Garden Party

Held on 19th-22nd July this year’s line-up includes Edward Sharpe, Orbital and The Magnetic Zeros. If parades, art tents, theatre workshops, bands in trees and open-mic stages aren’t enticing enough, you can also bob about on a boat and soak up the sun and sounds with friends.

Taking place on 10 acres of landscaped gardens in the heart of Cambridgeshire, the festival is an eclectic mix of cocktail bars, twilight fire circles and fancy dress parades.

Scenery aside, the giant hammocks and trove of tree houses reinforce its chilled reputation. This year’s theme is “Standing on Ceremony” and will explore the world-wide list of rituals, ceremonies, carnivals and anniversaries that bind human-kind together. Expect a vision on par with how you’d imagine an explosion in an Andy Warhol factory to look; a sea of colour and carnival.

Second up is Supersonic, also celebrating its tenth year of birth. The Birmingham festival has a history of merging the gap between music and art. Home to avant-garde sound and performance as well as a series of workshops, the venue is a mass of converted workshops and art galleries around the Digbeth town. Featuring music as diverse as doom metal, progressive rock, folk, dubstep and grindcore, it has long since garnered its reputation as a playground to experimental music.


Other highlights include a treasure trove of international films, documentaries, workshops and noise collages, with many of the items featuring a Q&A with the big-wigs afterwards. Wikifestivals own content editor, Cynthia, attended the event last year, so check out her review here for a no-holds-barred look at the revelry in graphic detail.

For festival-goers wishing to incorporate a trip across the pond, Sziget in Hungary is marking its 20th anniversary. Held every August on The Old Buda Island in Northern Budapest, it was recently voted into the top 5 of European music festivals by The Independent. Not least, one assumes, because it sits on the famous Danube River.

What sets Sziget apart is its diversity. Keen to display a wide range of melodies during the week-long event, expect to see Blues and Jazz stages thrown in amongst the rock mix.

Sziget festival

Sziget also caters to its audience. Famous for attracting a raft of visitors from Western Europe its one of the only festivals that provides ‘party train’ transport from neighbouring countries. On hand to ferry the stoned from Amsterdam is a train full of resident DJs. For anyone wishing to combine the two, flights to Amsterdam are ridiculously cheap (if booked in advance) from most UK cities and if you’re partial to the herbal ways of life, it may be worth popping into say goodbye before the ban is enforced.

Other highlights includes games of volleyball, football, indoor rowing, bungee jumping and rock climbing. For anyone wishing to have a wander, the island is located in the city of Budapest and organisers are quite happy to allow trips to the city centre during the day time. Being located on an island, some festival goers have apparently tried to enter the site by swimming across the Danube or by paddling across in an inflatable raft. Don’t. Organisers are quick to remind visitors that if you don’t drown they’ll be happily on hand to arrest you on the other side.

Headliners this year include The Stone Roses, Placebo, Hurts and Crystal Fighters. With tickets to the resurrection of the Mancunian band’s reunion tour selling at £55-a-pop, many fans are turning to the European festival circuit as a more economical alternative. Plus if the hype turns out to be misplaced and the Heaton Park gigs set off the sirens there’s a parachute of other well-known names to fall back on.

Download festival, meanwhile, is ten years old old. Held at Donington Park for three days every June, the festival has long-established itself on the European rock circuit. This year’s headliners include The Prodigy, Metallica and rock-gods Black Sabbath. It’s also worth noting that Download remains the only gig Ozzy and co haven’t cancelled in the wake of Tony Iommi’s illness. If you’re a fan it may be worth bribing some friends.

The spiritual home of rock also plays host to late-night bars. Unlike many of its UK counterparts, the festival has a license until 2am and the after-hours Campsite Entertainment Zone comprises cafes, beer stalls, funfair rides and a cinema.


To mark 2012 as a momentous occasion on its calendar, organisers have recently unveiled plans for an innovative pop-up hotel on site. The RIP Metal Hotel will comprise rooms with two beds, bathroom and flat-screen TVs for the non-camping fan amongst us. Festival life has never looked so clean.

Last on the list is the City of London Festival and it’s celebrating the big one. It’s sat on its cultural throne for the past fifty years. Held this year from the 24th June -27th July the annual event is heavily geared towards a classical music slant. Recent programmes have widened the spectrum however, and the event is now home to jazz, world music and opera. Art events include film screenings, lectures and guided tours.

Promoters can now breathe a sigh of relief that Occupy protestors have flown the coop and no longer block the entrance to one of its venues. St Paul’s Cathedral and Livery Company Halls are amongst the most renowned of the festival’s settings.

City Of London

In a bid to make the festivities more widely accessible to the masses, many of the programmed events are completely free. The latter are often held outdoors in the city’s street, squares and gardens. These include Liverpool Street Station and Finsbury Circus Gardens.

Organisers usually centre the event around a theme, with London’s links to other cities being a firm favourite. Whereas 2005 paid homage to a Dutch film, 2006 focused upon Japanese culture. Other events have focused upon the abolition of the slave trade in the UK. Either way, expect to be enlightened.

To read more on the festivals mentioned, click the below links: