Which UK music festivals focus on traditional folk music?

A prominent part of the United Kingdom's vibrant music scene is its rich tapestry of traditional folk music. This ancient art form, passed down from generation to generation, is celebrated throughout the UK in various music festivals. Let's delve into the heart of British cultural tradition to find out which popular UK music festivals focus on this genre. Our journey takes us across the four nations of the UK, each with its own unique folk music style.

Cambridge Folk Festival

The Cambridge Folk Festival, one of the longest-running folk festivals in the world, is a must-visit for traditional folk music enthusiasts. Since its inception in 1965, this annual event has taken place at Cherry Hinton Hall in Cambridge. It offers a unique blend of music, workshops, and sessions that emphasise the importance of this traditional art form.

A line-up of renowned and upcoming artists attracts music lovers from around the globe. The festival prides itself on its relaxed atmosphere and its commitment to bring traditional folk music to a wider audience. The inclusion of a Youth Music Programme ensures the genre's future by encouraging new generations to engage with traditional folk music.

Towersey Festival

Moving on to Oxfordshire, the Towersey Festival offers another fantastic venue for traditional folk music. Established in 1965, it is one of the oldest folk festivals in the UK. The festival's primary objective is to promote understanding and appreciation of traditional music and folk dance.

The Towersey Festival stands out for its family-friendly environment, providing entertainment for all ages. Interspersed with the music are various workshops on music, dance, and crafts, as well as a dedicated children's festival. The festival beautifully portrays the spirit of traditional folk music, ensuring that the genre remains alive and continues to thrive.

Sidmouth Folk Festival

Next, we venture to the coastal town of Sidmouth in Devon, the home of the Sidmouth Folk Festival. This week-long celebration of music, dance, and song has been a staple of the UK folk scene since 1955.

Sidmouth Folk Festival is renowned for its comprehensive programme that caters to all folk enthusiasts, regardless of their level of involvement in the genre. The festival features a variety of concerts, ceilidhs, workshops, and dance events, all focused on traditional folk music. What makes this festival unique is its exploration of the wide breadth of folk, from the deeply traditional to the more contemporary interpretations.

Celtic Connections

In the heart of Glasgow, Scotland, the largest winter music festival in the UK, Celtic Connections, is held. This festival, which runs over 18 days in January, offers a unique musical fusion of Celtic music traditions with a diverse range of genres, including traditional folk music.

Celtic Connections' programme encompasses concerts, ceilidhs, talks, art exhibitions, workshops, and free events. The festival showcases traditional folk music from Scotland and further afield, presenting a global vision of what it means to be Celtic in the 21st century. This broad scope helps Celtic Connections to attract a diverse audience, bridging the gap between tradition and modernity.

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann

Lastly, although not located in the UK, the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Ireland deserves mention due to its profound influence on traditional folk music within the UK, particularly in Northern Ireland. This event is the world's largest annual celebration of Irish music, language, song, and dance.

The Fleadh, which translates to 'Festival of Music,' has been a pivotal event for traditional Irish music since 1951. In addition to highlighting traditional Irish music's vibrancy, the festival provides a platform for musicians of all ages and abilities to compete in various categories. The Fleadh fosters a deep sense of community, one of the defining features of traditional folk music.

In conclusion, the UK has a rich array of festivals that celebrate and honour traditional folk music. Whether it's the long-standing Cambridge Folk Festival or the Celtic fusion of Glasgow's Celtic Connections, these festivals ensure that the UK's traditional folk music legacy continues to thrive and evolve.

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Broadstairs Folk Week

We turn our attention now to the charming seaside resort town of Broadstairs, located in the Isle of Thanet in Kent. This quaint location is home to the annual Broadstairs Folk Week, a seven-day event celebrated every August. The festival has been a staple in the traditional folk music scene since 1965, making it one of the longest-running folk festivals in the UK.

Broadstairs Folk Week is unique in its ability to transform the entire town into a festive hub, with traditional folk music echoing from every corner. The streets come alive with music, dance, and pageantry, with visitors and locals joining in the merriment. The event features concerts, ceilidhs, and "meet the artist" sessions, providing the audience with an interactive experience.

The festival's programme is designed to appeal to all ages, presenting a varied line-up of artists, from established names to rising stars in the folk scene. The focus is not solely on traditional British folk music, but also includes a range of international folk traditions, making the Broadstairs Folk Week a truly global celebration. The festival's commitment to nurturing young talent is evident in its Youth Programme, which offers workshops and performances aimed at encouraging the younger generation's participation in traditional folk music.

Whitby Folk Week

Our journey concludes in the historic seaside town of Whitby, North Yorkshire, renowned for its rich cultural heritage and the Whitby Folk Week. This annual event, which takes place in August, has been an essential part of the UK's traditional folk music scene for over 50 years.

Whitby Folk Week boasts an impressive lineup of traditional folk musicians, attracting a diverse audience from different parts of the UK and beyond. The festival's programme is comprehensive, featuring concerts, dance events, workshops, storytelling sessions, and much more. It provides an excellent platform for artists to showcase their talent and for audiences to engage with traditional folk music intimately.

What sets Whitby Folk Week apart is its emphasis on community participation. The festival encourages visitors to not just be spectators but actively engage in various activities, be it joining a music session, participating in a dance workshop, or even taking part in a traditional folk play. This sense of community and active participation encapsulates the very essence of traditional folk music, making Whitby Folk Week a unique and immersive experience.


The United Kingdom's rich heritage of traditional folk music is beautifully portrayed through a variety of music festivals hosted throughout the year. Each of these festivals, from the Cambridge Folk Festival in the heart of England to Celtic Connections in Scotland, offers unique encounters with the folk tradition. They provide a platform for artistes to showcase their talent and for audiences to engage with this ancient genre in a contemporary context.

Furthermore, festivals like Broadstairs Folk Week and Whitby Folk Week emphasize community involvement and education, ensuring the continued vitality of the tradition. They foster a nurturing environment for young musicians, thus securing the future of traditional folk music.

As we have seen, these music festivals are not just celebrations of music; they are also celebrations of cultural heritage, community, and the timeless human spirit. They serve as a testament to the enduring appeal of traditional folk music, solidifying the UK's position as a vibrant hub for this ancient art form.

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