Music and culture festivals in Wales

Feed your mind, body and soul at one of the dozens of festivals taking place across Wales this year. We’ve got events featuring adventure sports, literature, music, comedy and much more, so there’s plenty to sink your teeth into. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Plucking amazing

Benjamin Creighton-Griffiths playing a harp.

Benjamin Creighton-Griffiths by Benjamin Creighton-Griffiths
Wales International Harp Festival – Caernarfon, 1–7 April

Guitars are OK, but why settle for six strings when you could have nearly 50? The 4th Wales International Harp Festival celebrates an instrument with deep ties to Wales (as well as marking the 90th birthday of legendary harpist Dr Osian Ellis), with a series of concerts, competitions and master classes. There are even workshops for absolute beginners who want to try their hand at the harp.

Are you having a laugh?

Machynlleth Comedy Festival – Machynlleth, 4–6 May

A Mid Wales market town may seem like an odd choice of location for a comedy festival, but this off-the-wall setting is very much in keeping with the event’s ‘anything goes’ approach. Featuring a who’s-who of rising comedy stars and established performers workshopping brand new shows, it’s the place to be if you want a first look at what’s going to be hot in comedy this year. 

By the book

Children playing round a HAY sign in the sun.

Hay Festival, 2017 by Elisabeth Broekaert
Hay Literary Festival – Hay-on-Wye, 24 May–3 June

These days the event famously described by President Bill Clinton as ‘the Woodstock of the mind’ needs little introduction, but it wasn’t always that way. Dreamt up around a kitchen table in the town known as the ‘second-hand book capital of the world’, it’s now a globally recognised arts and literature extravaganza featuring hundreds of leading writers, thinkers and performers. Speakers and performers this year include Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Chelsea Clinton, Michael Woolf, Jake Bugg, Laura Mvula, David Walliams, Simon Schama, David Olusoga, Rose McGowan, Dara O'Briain and many more. 

Deep thought

Sunset over the festival field

HowTheLightGetsIn festival, Wye Valley by Andrew Whitton / HTLGI
HowTheLightGetsIn – Hay-on-Wye, 25–28 May

This unique festival of ideas and music offers an intimate counterpoint to its slightly noisier Hay-on-Wye neighbour. But while the scale may be smaller, the ideas are just as big. Attracting an impressive roster of writers and thinkers from the world of politics, art and culture, there’s also a host of other entertainment, from live music and masked balls to spa treatments and circus performances. 

The 2018 speaker line-up includes political activist Noam Chomsky, actress Helen Lederer, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and many more. All of this alongside an electrifying programme of music, comedy, culture and performance featuring Scissor Sisters disco-queen Ana Matronic, inimitable electronic-funk band Hot Chip, Mercury Prize winner Badly Drawn Boy, psychedelic 90s group The Orb, Glasto headliners The Correspondents, plus hundreds of others.

Intimate electronica

Gottwood - 7-10 June

An electronic music festival tucked away in a wooded corner of Anglesey, Gottwood is rapidly becoming one of the favourite underground events on the European festival circuit. With numerous stages and a relatively small capacity, festival goers frequently mention that the four-day experience has the intimacy of a house party with all your favourite DJs playing at it.

Hear this

Chapter Arts Center

Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

 

Festival of Voice – Cardiff, 7–17 June

The biannual celebration of music and art returns to our capital with an eclectic assortment of events and performances at various venues across the city. On the bill this time round are two very different shows from living legend Patti Smith, an Evening of Protest with Billy Bragg and Nadine Shah and a unique collaboration between Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

For aquatic action

Glass Butter Beach – Abersoch, 13–15 July

Celebrate our Year of the Sea at an event combining the windswept watersport of wakeboarding with sets from some of the hottest names in dance and alternative music. Returning in style after a year off in 2017, expect this to be the biggest and best edition yet, with five music stages, street food market and skateboard competitions complementing the action out on the water.

Beach Sculpture Festival 2018

Various beach locations, Swansea - 25-29 July

It wouldn't be the Year the Sea without a sandcastle competition! Although, when we say 'sandcastles', we actually mean 'amazing temporary beach structures' made with help from professional artists... Bring a hat, sunscreen and a bucket and spade. While you're in the area, explore the Coastal Path between Mumbles and Rhossili and discover 'Sculpture on the Coast', a special way-marking sculpture trail which will link in with all the beach workshops.

Really Welsh

Two Gorsedd trumpeters playing the Corn Gwlad horns

Trumpeters playing a fanfare on the Corn Gwlad, National Eisteddfod of Wales

 by Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru

National Eisteddfod – Cardiff, 3–11 August

The travelling celebration of Welsh music, language and culture lands in the capital this year, bringing with it thousands of competitors from across the country. They’ll be taking part in Welsh language contests of poetry and song, culminating in the atmospheric Gorsedd of the Bards, a colourful ceremony honouring the achievements of Welsh poets and prose writers. Everyone’s invited, so don’t be put off if you aren’t a Welsh speaker - though you can take part in an onsite Welsh language lesson if you really want to make sense of it all!

Go green

Green Man 2017 - Green Man effigy.

Green Man Festival by Olivia Williams
Green Man Festival, Crickhowell, 16–19 August

Once a tiny folk event attended by just a few hundred people, Green Man has grown to be one of the can’t-miss fixtures of the summer festival season. Now welcoming more than 15,000 visitors every year, the line-up reflects the attendees’ varied tastes. Whether you’re a fan of twinkly indie, traditional folk, pulsating garage rock or ear-melting electronica, there’s probably something on the bill for you. Already confirmed for this year’s outing are 60s-influenced harmonists Fleet Foxes, Grammy-snaffling guitar-slingers The War on Drugs and anarchic psyche warriors The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

What’s your number?

Group of adults watching a band perform by the estuary in Portmeirion at Festival No.6

Band performing at Festival No.6, Portmeirion, North Wales

Festival No. 6, Portmeirion, 6–9 September

Once the setting for brain-bendingly psychedelic mystery series The Prisoner, the fantasy village of Portmeirion on the North Wales coast is now the backdrop for one of the UK’s best-loved boutique festivals. Wandering through the town’s storybook jumble of tiny candy-coloured houses and hidden gardens is an experience in itself, but the music definitely lives up to the location. This year, festival-goers will be treated to sets from Google-proof post-punks The The and Caledonian art-rockers Franz Ferdinand, among others.

The great outdoors

Group of violinists playing by stalls.

The Good Life Experience, Hawarden, North Wales

The Good Life Experience, 14-15-16 September

Set on the Flintshire estate of 19th century Prime Minister William Gladstone, the Good Life Festival is the brainchild of broadcaster and performer Cerys Matthews and husband Steve Abbott, along with farmers and authors Charlie and Caroline Gladstone. Its broad remit is to go in search of the good life – and along with the staples of music, food and drink, it also features butchery displays and axe throwing. But not at the same time.  

Capital music

Sŵn logo burnt onto a piece of wood

Sŵn Festival, Cardiff by Steve Malpass

SŴN Festival, Cardiff, October dates TBC

An urban music festival which takes place across numerous venues across Cardiff. The emphasis is very much on emerging talent, so you’ll see tribes of indie kids traipsing excitedly from one place to the next in search of the next big thing, bringing a unique buzz to the capital city. 

To find out about all the festivals and events in wales this year, head to our What’s on page.