Festival finance: five days in a cold, muddy field for £25,000?

Well-heeled punters are shelling out up to £25,000 for luxury glamping packages at UK music festivals this summer.

If you have plenty of cash, you don’t have to worry about digging out that shabby two-person tent from under the stairs. At some festivals there are an array of upmarket accommodation options available ranging from yurts, tipis and Bedouin-style tents to “Gypsy caravans”, wooden cabins and railway carriages – although quite a few are already fully booked.

It shows that while the cost of living crisis may be biting hard, after two pandemic-blighted years, there are clearly plenty of music fans with money who are determined to spend whatever it takes to have a good time this summer.

Equally, if you are keen to get to a festival but money is tight, there are dozens of cheaper and free events around, some of which have pretty decent lineups.

This is being lauded as the year when music festivals will “return with bells on” after 2020’s wipeout and 2021’s patchy turnout.

Yurt village near Hay-on-Wye to provide glamping accommodation for festival visitors
Yurts are one type of festival accommodation. Photograph: Jeff Morgan 10/Alamy

The season kicks off next month with the Great Escape (11-14 May), when hundreds of up-and-coming bands from around the world take over Brighton’s bars, nightclubs and concert halls for a few days. Scores of events will then take place, including biggies such as Glastonbury in June, Latitude festival in Suffolk in July and the Reading and Leeds festival in August, before the party finally winds up in September, with End Of The Road in Dorset probably the last of the big events.

Festival price rises

Music festivals certainly haven’t been immune to the soaring inflation that has affected so many aspects of our lives.

Last year a weekend ticket to Reading festival – whose 2022 headliners include Arctic Monkeys, Megan Thee Stallion and Dave – had a face value cost of £215, whereas this year it is £240. Or £261.95 once you add on the inescapable fees. It is on 26-28 August.

Meanwhile, Glastonbury tickets for 2022 cost £280 (plus a £5 booking fee). In 2019, the last time the event took place, the face value price was £248. It runs from 22-26 June, and the main headliners this year are Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar.

The cost of a ticket to one of those two events or Latitude – which is this year charging £235.20, plus fees for the 21-24 July weekend, with acts including Lewis Capaldi, Foals and Snow Patrol – has increased by an average of almost 18% over the past five years. However, a quick go on an inflation calculator indicates the figure for the typical increase in the cost of goods and services in the UK over this period is actually higher: about 22%.

A Gypsy caravan at Camp Bestival, Dorset.
A Gypsy caravan at Camp Bestival, Dorset. Photograph: Peter Lopeman/Alamy

The money-no-object options

Many festivals offer more upmarket accommodation options for those looking for something a little – or a lot – more luxurious. Often there will also be companies offering pop-up glamping in nearby fields, although you may find these are not authorised or endorsed by the festival. Tickets to the event itself are typically not included in the price.

Glastonbury offers a few of its own options, including tipis that can accommodate up to six adults and cost £1,150 to hire, although at the time of writing these were fully booked. However, as you might expect, there are plenty of companies targeting Glastonbury attenders with deep pockets.

The Pop-Up Hotel offers a range of packages including the Tenthouse Suite, which costs from £24,999 for eight people. That particular option – a giant luxury tent with four fully furnished bedrooms, a bathroom with shower, flushing toilet and basin, and a large furnished living and dining area – was at the time of writing sold out but the firm’s website features plenty of others, including the Raj Tenthouse Suite. When we looked at that, for eight adults to stay there for five nights, arriving on 22 June, you would pay £20,997.

Other options include a repurposed railway carriage costing from £7,499 for two people, and a Gypsy caravan priced from £3,999 for two people.

The Pop-Up Hotel accommodation is not on the festival site – it says it is a 10-minute walk to one of the main gates.

Festival-goers at the Latitude festival, Suffolk, in 2021.
Festival-goers at the Latitude festival, Suffolk, in 2021. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Other companies offering luxury packages aimed at Glastonbury-goers include Yurtel, which has Bedouin-style tents, huts and other options costing up to £12,750, plus VAT and offers a bespoke travel service including “helicopter and chauffeur planning”; and Hotel Ziggu, whose priciest option appears to be the Lotus Mahal, a grand-looking giant tent that sleeps up to eight and costs £10,500 to hire for five nights.

Latitude is another of the festivals where a number of luxury accommodation options are available, including shiny Airstream trailers (Pink Moon Camping offers these at Latitude, at £3,200 for the weekend but at the time of writing they were sold out).

Glastonbury’s website says anyone thinking of booking unofficial off-site camping needs to be aware “we are not responsible for them and cannot guarantee they won’t let you down”.

Top ticket-buying tips

Some festivals offer payment plans, allowing people to spread the cost over several months.

Meanwhile, if you are not wedded to a particular event, there will almost certainly be some special offers, including perhaps some two-for-one deals, as we get nearer to summer.

Tipis at the Glastonbury festival in 2011.
Tipis at the Glastonbury festival. Photograph: Felix Kunze/Redferns

Monitor the websites of the main ticketing companies such as Ticketmaster, check out the festival online forums and keep a lookout for offer emails.

Cheap and free festival action

If you can’t afford the hefty sums that some of the higher-profile festivals charge, there are a number of low- and no-cost events taking place this year.

However, some festivals that were previously free now charge, and some free events – such as Walthamstow Garden Party in London – aren’t taking place this summer.

Here’s our pick of the events:

  • The African music festival Africa Oyé in Sefton Park, Liverpool, on 18-19 June. Free entry, and a lineup including Oumou Sangaré, Fuse ODG and Kanda Bongo Man.

  • Festival Too – a free, unticketed event held in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, over three weekends: 25-26 June, 1-2 July and 8-9 July. More details to be confirmed. Marti Pellow and Cast were among the acts who played in 2019.

  • Coventry’s Godiva festival in War Memorial Park on 2-4 September. This used to be free but now you have to pay. Last year – when acts playing included Craig David and Supergrass – tickets cost £17.50 for an adult for the weekend, or £12.50 for early birds. Ticket and lineup details are yet to be announced.

  • Rochdale Feel Good festival in Greater Manchester on 13 August. Entry to indoor stages in venues will be free, while accessing the main stage headlined by the Fratellis involves buying a £7 ticket.

  • Leigh folk festival in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on 23-26 June. Almost all the events are free, with the exception of some ticketed concerts.