Top Free Music Festivals in London 2016 - Broke in London

Top Free Music Festivals in London 2016

Get involved in the UK’s standard summertime event sans the triple digit ticket costs

By Kath Butler (follow Kath on Twitter: @k_butler92)

It’s April now and as the daffodils and sweaty shirtless men on their Borris bikes begin to appear, so do Londoners start to ponder their summertime festival schedule. Festivals are so engrained in the UK’s summer ethos, an entire industry dedicated to them has developed with full teams slaving away from October of yesteryear booking acts, renting stages and setting exorbitant ticket prices.

Not to take anything away from London’s current paid festival calendar. There are many world-class events with epic names on the bill, spanning numerous music genres that feature. But, when a good two-thirds of your salary is dedicated to maintaining residence in the city that hosts these events, its good to know that London’s broke masses still have options when it comes to getting your festival on. Below is a list of music festivals that won’t cost you 50 quid and another week of meals consisting of something more than bread and tins of baked beans.Be sure to check out a more extensive list here.

#1 Record Store Day | 16 April

5 Free Music Festivals in London 2016

RSD in Soho via Berwick Street London

Spearheaded in 2008 by none other than Metallica in San Francisco, RSD began as a celebration of all things vinyl and its fans, which at the time was a dwindling music listening form. Today we reside in a glorious epoch known as the time of the vinyl revival, spearhead by none other than the ubiquitous bearded hipsters cycling around Shoreditch. The jury is still out on whether the day actually helps record stores and putting biased stereotypes aside it still does offer a great festive atmosphere with numerous live stages springing up at record stores around the world.

London sees its fair share of participants. Scheduled performances are taking place at Brill Café in Exmouth Market, Container Records in Brixton and Lion Coffee and Records in Clapton amongst others. Performers include Charlotte Campbell and loads of DJs. There are usually many unofficial slots that take place too such as the Palma Violets taking to the stage last year at Rough Trade West, so often it’s best to head to an area where you know there is a collective of record stores, think Soho, to get the best vibe possible.

If you do have cash to spend and a turntable to play them on RSD is also known for its exclusive vinyl releases, often a mix of old and new. This year sees output from Air, Django Django, David Bowie, Shura, Vant, Justin Bieber and Bring Me the Horizon. Read the full list here. Aside from Record stores there are also numerous venues that are sound for checking out gigs without a large price tag. Check them out here.

When: 16 April, All day
Where: Various Record Stores in London

#2 Southall Mela | Southall Park | 15 May

5 Free Music Festivals in London 2016

Southall Mela via

Mela is a traditional Sanskrit word that translates to ‘gathering’ or ‘to meet’ and numerous Mela festivals have sprung up across the UK to celebrate and provide a festive occasion for the extensive South-Asian diaspora in the country. The festivals are open to everyone, placing an emphasis on families and community and celebrating many aspects of South Asian culture.

One of London’s largest events takes place in the borough of Ealing in the small community of Southall. The festival started last year and is slightly smaller than its counterpart the ZEE London Mela, but is completely ingrained in the community from which it originated. It was started by a local entrepreneur and has become a staple on Ealing’s festive calendar. The festival raises funds for local charities and allows local traders to sell their wares throughout the day.

The festival is known for its diversity and family friendly atmosphere with numerous kids’ areas set up around the park. This year performers include RnB crooner Zach Knight. The Southall Mainline station is the best way to get there and is a six minute walk from Southall Park.

When: 15 May, Doors: 12 PM
Where: Southall Park, Boyd Avenue, Southall, UB1 3BT

#3 The Alternative Escape | Various Venues – Brighton | 19 – 21 May

5 Free Music Festivals in London 2016

The Alternative Escape Via TGE Website

Every May, the UK music industry descends upon Brighton for The Great Escape Festival to go and find the latest buzz act, for networking purposes and to do some general chest puffing. Often likened to SXSW, we can be thankful that TGE hasn’t deteriorated into the heap of corporate bile that is its US counterpart and is still largely a festival driven by fans and new music, despite my opening sentence. A clear example of this is the festival that runs alongside the core programme, The Alternative Escape.

It began as an attempt to incorporate the numerous unofficial shows taking place around Brighton under the TGE umbrella, but access is available to the general public who don’t have wristbands. The venues that take part in The Alternative Escape aren’t synonymous with one type of genre and look to support emerging promoters, labels and blogs as they continue striving to get new, cutting edge music to the UK public. Often acts that run in the core programme spill over to The Alternative Escape venues, think Black Honey at The Mesmerist  last year.

Shows were put on last year by Teen Creeps, Strong Island Records and Hot Vox and venues included Bleach, The Mesmerist and the North Laine. A lot of the acts are Brighton based, but last year also saw Russian band Pinkshinyultrablast, George The Poet and Aussie rockers Bad//Dreems. The festival is good enough reason to justify a weekend jaunt down to Brighton as the general vibe on the street and abundance of live music is second to none. The line-up is yet to be announced but keep checking back here.

When: 19 – 21 May, Various Times
Where: Brighton

#4 Greenford Carnival | Ravenor Park | 2 July

5 Free Music Festivals in London 2016

ESF Greenford Carnival via Ealing Summer Festivals

Ealing Borough’s tagline should read something along the lines of the area with the most free community events. Greenford carnival is another one which takes place in the small West London community.

Previously a ticketed event, the carnival now takes place in Ravenor Park and is completely open to the public. Its inherently community based, being locally organized, but it well known for a serious attitude when it comes to putting on a good party.

It’s also family orientated with loads of kids workshops, your classic face painting and petting zoo scenarios and live performers drawn from the local community. Not much has been announced for this year but check out the Ealing Summer Festivals website for future updates.

When: 2 July, Doors: 1PM
Where: Ravenor Park, Greenford, UB6

#5 Brixton Splash | Various Locations Brixton | 7 August

5 Free Music Festivals in London 2016

Brixton Splash via Getty

Also a carnival type vibe, Brixton Splash began in what is arguably the centre of Afro-Caribbean community in London in 2005 as a sound system outside Blacker Dreads Record Store, has now grown into one of the largest street parties in the UK. The festival is said to be put on for the people by the people and celebrates inner-city living.

It takes place on the first weekend of August, to coincide with Jamaican Independence Day and sees a wide range of traders, kid’s workshops such as children’s graffiti, after parties and performers, previously having included Katy B.

The festival is under threat from Lambeth Council for next year, so it’s worth heading down to throw your support behind the notable cause which offers opportunities for many unemployed young people to get involved in terms of organization.

When: 7 August
Where: Surrounding Brixton Areas

Happy Free Festivaling!