Europe 42 – The best of the rest

The best of the rest (2)

Bayreuth Festival

Where? Bayreuth, Germany

When? July-August

How long? 1 month

Unlike any other festival, Bayreuth (®www.bayreuther- is dedicated to the work of one composer, Richard Wagner, whose various works are performed at the purpose-built Festspielhaus between the end of July and end of August each year. The rub is that tickets are almost impossible to come by unless you’re super­

organized – most have gone by October of the previous year, and in any case there’s a waiting list so you may well have to wait years before your application is accepted. As for the music, the organizers aim to stage a new production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle every five years, along with three other operas. When no Ring is performed, then five operas in all are staged.

Benicassim Festival

Where? Benicassim, Spain

When? July

How long? 4 days

Held just north of Valencia, Benicassim is in its thirteenth year, and is now one of the most established music festivals on the European circuit: Glastonbury, without the mud. Each year the event plays host to some big-name headliners – Oasis, Kasabian, Franz Ferdinand and Pixies have starred recently – but most festivalgoers come to rave all night in one of a number of dance tents that stay open till the early hours. If crawling back to your pre­heated tent at ten o’clock in the morning for a couple of hours’ kip before heading down to the beach for paella and Frisbee sounds like fun then this is the festival for you. Tickets cost around €70 a day.

Brighton Festival

Where? Brighton, England

When? May

How long? 3 weeks

Drenching Britain’s raffish capital of coastal cool with vivid colour, this is the biggest arts festival in England, with a main programme of music, dance, theatre and talks that features a healthy mix of the conventional and the Avant Garde. As with so many arts festivals, it’s the fringe events that give Brighton (® its unique flavour. Stroll through the city centre on Streets of Brighton day and you’ll happen upon impromptu performances from torch-song divas dressed as nuns, gangs of giant seafood and other masters of the surreal. And every weekend, artists all over the city turn their homes and studios into public galleries, showing original work by themselves and their colleagues in extremely convivial surroundings.

British Summer Festivals

Where? England, Scotland and Wales

When? June-August

How long? 1-3 days

Whatever you think about summer music festivals, there’s no denying their explosion across Britain over the last few years. Glastonbury set the standard, and the vibe, and now barely a week goes by over the main summer months when there isn’t some sort of out outdoor shindig going on. The big names – Reading and Leeds (now depressingly known as the Carling Weekend), and relative newcomers such as Scotland’s T in the Park and the two V events – tend to draw the largest crowds and most currently favoured acts, while other mid-sized newbies such as the revived Isle of Wight Festival and its late-season Isle of Wight brother, Bestival, fill in the gaps. August’s The Big Chill is, as you might expect, a more laid- back, family-orientated affair, as is the previous month’s Guilfest, which tends to draw popular old favourites rather than cutting- edge acts. Then there’s the niche and specialist events, including Reading’s well-established world-music extravaganza, Womad (which over recent years has replicated itself in other locations around the world, Adelaide, Taormina, Gran Canaria and Singapore among them), and the notoriously hard-to-get-tickets-to Cambridge Folk Festival, both held in July; others include Monsters of Rock – metalheads only; Creamfields – house and diehard dance fans only; and the Brecon Jazz Festival – cool jazz aficionados only. Weather permitting, you could have a great summer.

Cannabis Cup

Where? Amsterdam, The Netherlands

When? July 14

How long? 4 days

As if Amsterdam weren’t depraved enough, High Times magazine dreamed up the annual Cannabis Cup (®www. fourteen years ago and it’s since grown into a major international event. For four days, potheads, hash connoisseurs, hemp entrepreneurs, and other Rizler freaks gather to fill their minds, bodies and souls with the Holy Herb and eat their way through a mountain of junk food. Oh yeah, and they try to get it together to award the Cannabis Cup to the best grass and hash around. All the toking and voting action takes place in the Pax Party House on Ferdinand Bolstraat. This is where you’ll find several hundred of the world’s finest stoneheads sprawled around the room passing spliffs and trying to remember what on earth it was they were meant to be doing there in the first place. If you want, you can register as a judge – this is free, and grants you access to an armoury of the most powerful types of weed known to man. They also give lectures (methods to grow the best bud in the world, avoid legal troubles, etc), show and sell hemp products, hold meetings to decide the best coffee shops, and put on some great gigs and DJ-ed events, often hosting big names. If you like a bit of a toke yourself, there’s no better place to be in the world. As High Times puts it, it’s a “Spaced Odyssey”.

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