For most of its 22-year history, Run to the Sun has simply been a group of VW Campervan owners getting together to drive to the beach in Cornwall. Now it has grown into a fully fledged three-day music festival, with four arenas and two sites, but it still starts with 'the cruise' - campervans and VW Beetles meet at Heston services on the M4, then process towards Newquay, picking up more vehicles as they go. In previous years this has created a convoy 8km long. Music this year comes from DJs such as Boy George, Fedde Le Grand, Mauro Picotto and Fergie.
Off The Tracks
23-25 May, 29-31 August
There are two Off The Tracks festivals held at Castle Donington each year, each with a capacity of 1,500. Highly family-friendly and charity-orientated, the first festival features sets by Transglobal Underground and Banco de Gaia. Things get hippier in the Orchard, with shiatsu, tai chi and meditation. Children get their own parade and circus workshops. The line-up for August includes Dreadzone and Kissmet. 'Basically, I'll book anything but heavy metal,' says organiser Andy Cooper.
This might be the largest free folk festival in Britain, but it's still gentle and easy to navigate with concerts taking place in the halls and pubs around Leigh-on-Sea. Performers this year include the highly rated Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, Rachel Harrington and local boys Mawkin who will team up with Jim Causley.
Animals get in on the festival scene this year when Zoo Thousand and Eight takes place at Port Lympne Animal Park. There's a strong line-up that aims to attract up to 20,000 revellers, who will be able to use the zoo's facilities, including shop, cafe and - crucially - loos. And, the zoo is anxious to stress, animals won't be distressed by sets from British Sea Power, Block Party and Chas'n'Dave as performances take place away from the animal enclosures, although visitors will be able to take in the zoo's attractions, including black rhinos and gorillas. There's a VIP option as well as camping.
This mix of music, cabaret, film, and kids' entertainment takes place in the most unlikely setting - the grounds of the Workhouse Building, built in 1838 to house 250 paupers, just outside the small Welsh village of Llanfyllin (but within easy reach of the M6 and M54). As well as a dance music tent and workshops for adults and children, the festival showcases local musicians. This year there's also an area for exhibitors to display their environmental innovations.
Like Glastonbury, Blissfields is held on a dairy farm, but there the comparisons stop. Blissfields has grown from a party for 70 people in 2001 and now attracts around 5,000. The main action takes place on the Punch Bowl, a natural amphitheatre. Organisers Paul and Mel Bliss are determined the festival will concentrate on green issues and unsigned bands, though there are some big name headliners like The Wonder Stuff, Roni Size and The Whip. People can bring their own food and drink but there will be food from local suppliers, including artisanal ice cream from a farm near Basingstoke and, eschewing sponsorship, the bar is run by Paul from the local pub.
· Tickets: £60, eight-16 years £40, under-eights free, car parking £5.blissfields.co.uk
Whiddon Down, Devon
Started in 2003 as a private party, last year Chagstock went public when a thousand people turned up at the festival's new site on the edge of Dartmoor. This year it is licensed for 3,000 people but there are no plans to grow bigger. 'We want to keep the cosy, family-centred atmosphere we've got,' says organiser Simon Ford. The line-up includes Show of Hands and Ella Edmonson; nice touches include free water. 'This year the Hothouse Flowers are headlining but it's mostly local acts, and it costs £30 for the weekend - a bargain. It's a one-man-and-his-dream festival,' according to Neil Greening of efestivals.co.uk.
· Tickets £30, children £15, evening and day tickets from £12.50.chagstock.info
Lounge On The Farm
The shift in demand from huge corporate festivals to intimate local ones has been likened to the rejection of supermarkets for farmers' markets and local produce. So Lounge on the Farm is a masterstroke - a festival on a farm with stalls selling food and drink from the surrounding area. All the fruit and veg served is grown within 20 miles of the site, Merton Farm near Canterbury. Cider comes from nearby Pawley Farm (one of Rick Stein's Food Heroes) and beer from Kentish brewery Hopdaemon. The local ethos extends to the music too, with bands from the surrounding area playing as well as big draws such as Lightspeed Champion, The Bees, The Shortwave Set and Findlay Brown.
This couldn't be more different from your run-of-the-mill festival. A mix of music and meditation, it's alcohol- and drug- (and dog-) free, to help 'the flourishing of clear and radiant awareness'. The festival raises funds for the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order and as well as meditation, yoga and tai chi there's a kids area, workshops, debates, dance and crafts. Previous years have seen people bathing in mud in 'the swamp' or meditating covered in leaves in the forest. To cut the event's carbon footprint, the organisers have chartered buses from Bristol, Brighton and London; there's also a lift-sharing section on the website.
· Tickets £88, ticket plus coach to London £123. 01647 24539;buddhafield.com
This is a new, three-day festival in the Lake District. Headliners include California-based skate reggae act OPM, who made their name with 'Heaven is a Halfpipe', and tribute band Guns 2 Roses as well as homegrown talent. With a 2,500 capacity, it will take place at Sinkfall Farm overlooking the Irish sea, a 40-acre site that will also house children's music and circus workshops.
Standon Calling started as a private party for 30 people in 2001. Two years ago it made the leap into a full-grown festival and aims to have breaking and established acts in an intimate setting; this year Super Furry Animals will headline. Held in the grounds of a 16th-century mansion, this is a festival that is definitely at the posher end of the market - in keeping with the house party feel, there's a swimming pool available to festival-goers and accommodation options include beach huts and ship's cabins. Dressing up is part of the appeal, with much input by set designers and a crescendo on Saturday evening with new areas unveiled and surprise bands. 'I think of it as a theatrical production,' says organiser Alex Trenchard.
Celtic Blue Rock
Llanfyrnach, West Wales
Formerly free, now charging a token sum, Celtic Blue Rock specialises in unsigned Welsh bands; there are around 100 performers over the weekend. While ticking all the eco and crafty boxes, Blue Rock pays particular attention to keeping kids happy; there's a special kids' stage, and a Circus Malarkey tent with arts, crafts and circus training. New this year is Baby Blue Rock, a youth area for those aged between 16 and 25, aiming to give younger festival-goers a chance to learn the fine arts of sound, lighting and stage management.
Moor Music Festival
Addingham Moorside, West Yorkshire
Moor Music bills itself as 'a party for the people by the people', which we think refers to the event's strict no-corporate-sponsorship stance. This year will be the fourth outing for the event, set up as a hobby by a group of friends including a painter and decorator, an electrical engineer and a librarian. It takes place on a hillside opposite Ilkley Moor. The Homespun tent will host DJs and live music from drum and bass to soul, there's acoustic music in the Earl Hicky Tribute Lounge, and the Moor Live stage features everything rock.
There are not many events where you have to take ID to prove you're young enough to get in. The Underage Festival, now in its second year, is strictly for 14-18-year olds (inclusive), but the line-up is so good many adults will be gutted they are missing out. Signed to appear this year are Foals, Gallows, The Horrors, Bonde do Role, The Rascals. The organisers insist it isn't a watered-down experience for children, but a proper festival, just without the alcohol, or adults.
Belladrum Tartan Festival
Near Beauly Invernessshire
Seven stages will offer unsigned Scottish bands, jazz, folk and classical music plus burlesque, but the main stage is a treat - a bank of terraces that are a natural arena. The weekend opens with a ceilidh. Food aims to be local and organic; this year should see oysters and ale from the Black Isle breweries. It's very family-friendly, around a sixth of the audience is aged 12 or under (and get in free). This year, impressively, Scouting For Girls will headline.
Tapestry Goes West
Margam Park, Port Talbot
Edging towards the mainstream, but still utterly eclectic, Tapestry is not about big-name acts, although last year performers included Misty and folk outfit Circulus. Instead, there's an amusing Monty Pythonesque Camelot theme, and the festival will be awash with mead and jousting. 'There will be more archery, more re-enactments this year,' promises organiser Barry Stilwell, a plasterer from Camden. 'Actually, what I really want is more skirmishing.'
According to Neil Greening of efestivals.co.uk, Earthwise is 'quite hippy with lots of green crafts and an accent on active participation rather than passive entertainment', which means that you'll find stalls selling ethically sourced jewellery alongside workshops teaching chalk carving and a solar-powered internet cafe. World music predominates, with many jamming sessions. and speakers will talk on subjects including social justice, animal rights and environmental issues. This year Earthwise will be held at the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire.
This new festival also aims to be the country's smallest: numbers are capped at 500 and it's held at a secret farmland location near Bungay to keep gatecrashers out. Environmentally based and family-centred, a large, masked party on the Saturday night will be augmented by workshops for children and adults. Music will range from folk and reggae to dub, performed on solar-powered stages.
Creetown Country Music Festival
Border country, and country music. Now in its 12th year, Fiddler Adam and Brian Hughs and the Lone Sharks headline. Other attractions include line-dancing in the street, a market that mixes stetsons with Scottish griddle cakes and a fastest draw competition. An already high kitsch factor will be upped this year with a night of non-Western tribute bands including Counterfeit Abba and The Cheatles. Camping is possible and increasingly popular but many visitors have hitched a ride on a caravan.
'Like a family reunion you actually want to go to,' is how the organisers describe this event, which doubles the population of the village of Ullapool, on the shores of Loch Broom in north- west Scotland. Weather may be dodgy, and it's a long way from anywhere, but those who've been rave about it, and last year's festival sold out well in advance. There are fringe shows in the local pubs, and food and drink stalls with the best of highland and island produce.
Though it is a small event, the line-up overshadows that of many mainstream festivals - though it's only been running three years, alumni include Franz Ferdinand, The Stanglers, The Bees, The View and The Undertones.
Long-time Glastonbury fan Jill Insley explains why she has fallen out of love with the big boy of the festival scene
Four years ago I wrote a piece for The Observer on how the Glastonbury music festival was ideal for families. I described what a fabulous time we'd had, wandering around the kids' field, taking part in plays, making wall-hangings in the arts and crafts stalls, and snoozing in the sun.
Well that was based on the Glastonbury of 2003 - our first and last sunny festival. The weather was so dry that the organisers had to damp down the roads with water from a crop sprayer to reduce dust.
Since then the numbers of people attending Glastonbury have soared, and the rain has poured. I now think that Glastonbury is not only unenjoyable for children, but can also be dangerous.
In 2004 the mud didn't seem so bad, and we had our memories of 2003. In 2005, conditions were worse: by the time we turned up, the ground had already been turned to mush by thousands of feet. For kids, this was hard work. They kept getting stuck in the mud and walking out of their wellies. There was nowhere to sit down and rest, or to put a plate when you were eating.
Nevertheless, last year we decided to give it another go. We were due a sunny festival - and how bad could it be even if it rained? The answer was very bad. Festival founder Michael Eavis may have spent pounds 750,000 on installing new drainage and hardcoring the roads, but sadly he doesn't have any influence over the weather. It started raining seriously on the Thursday, and didn't stop all weekend.
The kids' field, which had looked colourfully old-fashioned in the 2003 sunshine, looked tatty and sad in the 2007 rain. The mud made it virtually impossible to move between stages with the children.
Even that would have been OK - just - but for the sheer weight of people. Last year the Eavis family extended the festival by another 30,000 - taking numbers up to 180,000. Tents seemed to be more squashed in, queues for food and loos were longer, and it was much more difficult getting about in all the crowds. Some 1,200 people had suffered injuries by the Sunday, and 32 needed hospital treatment after falling over in the mud, according to newspaper reports.
Worst of all, mobile phone networks gave in under the pressure of so many people texting and calling in such a small area. One of the things that is drummed into parents is that you should write your mobile number in indelible ink somewhere obvious on your child in case he or she gets lost. In the past this worked well - someone would call us within minutes to let us know where the children were. But this time there was absolutely no hope of that. Texts from one Vodafone user (me) to another (my friend Lisa) were taking 24 hours, while O2 phones just stopped working.
The final straw for me was an article in Eavis's Pravda-like news-sheet, Glastonbury Daily. On Sunday's front page, Michael Eavis said: 'In a way I'm glad it rained. We needed the showers to test out the new drainage system.'
Personally I'd rather he tested it on his cows. We will go to a music festival this summer, but it'll be a much smaller one.
· This article was amended on Thursday April 24 2008. The Zoothousand festival runs from the 4-6 July, not the 4-6 August as we said in the article above. This has been corrected.
· This article was amended on Friday April 25 2008. The Buddhafield festival is held in Somerset, not Devon. This has been corrected.