Below are a bunch of festival listings drawn directly from The Festival Gadget database. They're fairly representative of all 734 listings currently in our database, if a little on the lengthy side (we tend to push the boat out a bit more with the bigger celebrations). Having said that, the average length of our festival descriptions comes in at a sturdy 96 words.
From where there was nothing, Burning Man emerges in a sandstorm of futuristic surrealism for eight days each August. Burning Man's not a festival, that's way too restrictive as a definition, rather it's a happening dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. To many, Burning Man represents an artistic utopia, a successful study of creative co-existence. It's an escape where participants are free to express themselves almost without bounds. To shed their societal skin and be whoever it is they want to be. To others, its simply the greatest show on earth, an around-the-clock party with a booming bass-line and a cast of crazy characters. Imagine the Star Wars Cantina scene re-written by Hunter S. Thompson on a binge and directed by Dali and you're coming close. At its heart, Burning Man is a happening organised by participants for participants that follows ten core principles — radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation and immediacy. Whatever you make of it, it can't be argued that the Burning Man Project is brilliantly unique. Long may it burn!
Here it is ladies and gentlemen, in all its drum bangin', booty shakin' finery, the party to end all parties, Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For four days prior to Ash Wednesday each year Rio lights up and literally no-one is spared! The commercial aspects of Carnival at the Sambadrome we've all seen on the box — the Parade of Schools where multi-million dollar floats and scantily clad locals (and tourists) compete to the rhythm of their baterias but Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is much, much more than what goes on in the Sambadrome. Follow the bloco scene and party all night long to live music, local processions and Brazilian samba fuelled by plenty of the local poison, Caipirinha — available from just about anyone, anywhere, anytime. For recuperation during those hazy daylight hours relax on some of the most magnificent beaches that grace God's given earth (Copacabana, Ipanema), then, prepare to do it all again. Carnival in Rio is in the streets, it's in the people, it's rhythmic and it's incessant. If your body can handle it, you've just got to experience one Rio Carnival before your time is up!
Combine a population of just over a hundred thousand with year round temperatures that top 30 degrees Celsius and the unquestionable Australian zeal for a soothing lager and the result is one hell of a lot of empty aluminium beer cans. I'm talking Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory and those empty beer cans? Well they're the raw materials on which one of the world's most bizarre events is based. Since 1974 the Combined Lions Clubs of Darwin have promoted Darwin's Beer Can Regatta held annually on Mindil Beach. The event pits arguably the world's finest beer can boat builders against each other in a battle of seaworthiness — a very loosely-bandied term. Throw in plenty of festivities for the landlubbers — the Henley-on-Mindil bottom-less boat races along the beach, a thong (foot not under-wear) throwing competition, tug-of-wars and bathing beauty contests -- and you got yourself one hell of a beach-party mate.
Join the masses for 25 days this August as the streets and venues of Edinburgh come alive with unbridled creativity. Every year thousands of performers take to a multitude of stages (and soapboxes and street corners) all over Edinburgh to present a huge diversity of shows and performances that cater for every imaginable taste. From the biggest names in comedy, theatre and entertainment to unknown artists looking to enhance their fledgling careers, Ed Fringe never fails to deliver memorable performances across a multitude of genres ranging from physical theatre through to cutting edge satire. Take nothing for granted at the greatest cultural show on earth in one of its most spectacular cities.
Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts — or simply Glasto to its friends — is a multi-headed behemoth of an event, a legendary hippie gathering and the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world. Today it's headline musicians are plucked from a pouch of the biggest players of the day but it doesn't stop with the live tunes. For four days each and every June 170,000+ festival-goers are treated to over 700 performances of music, dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret and a myriad of other arts on the 900 acre grounds - rain, hail or shine, though it's often the former. So if you're taste in music is eclectic, your need for sleep non-existent and there's a touch of hippie stirring somewhere deep inside, then a trip to Glastonbury is a must at least once in this lifetime.
On the last Wednesday of August each year thousands of revellers converge on the small Spanish town of Buñol to pick a fight. What began in 1944 as a simple tomato fight between a group of friends in the town's main square - the Plaza del Pueblo - has turned into arguably the worlds largest food fight. The festivities begin in the week leading up to La Tomatina with a celebration of the towns' Patron Saint. Fireworks light the heavy summer sky while street parties warm up at ground level. Rose wine flows and the hefty scent of wood fired paella fills the air. Music plays and people dance. Come Wednesday and the Town Square is awash with travellers and locals alike. Seasoned veterans mix with wide eyed first timers as more rose wine is passed around and the excitement level grows. At around about noon, a number of trucks carrying the edible red grenades rumble their way into the main Town Square to the chant of tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes from the now drunken crowd. Chivalry slinks out of town for a while as everyone becomes fair game. Red missiles are a dime a dozen, no-one escapes. The aftermath looks a little like a latter scene in Carrie. The ground, a fantastic base for the worlds largest Bolognese sauce. As exhausted combatants trudge their way towards temporary showers put in place for the event, the cleanup begins in earnest. And within hours, the Plaza del Pueblo magically returns to its former glory.
Oktoberfest, the world's largest and most celebrated beer festival. Never been? Close your eyes and picture part Disneyland, part Bud Brewery. Oktoberfest is to the beer aficionado what Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory is to the sweet-toothed. Rides, beer, roast chicken, beer, pretzels, beer, lederhosen, did I mention beer? Six million litres of the stuff! Set on grounds of over 100 acres, Oktoberfest has consistently attracted in the region of six million visitors year in, year out since 1980. So if you enjoy your sustenance in a shade of amber delivered by a voluptuous Bavarian beauty to an oompha backbeat then Oktoberfest may just be the beer fest for you.
The event draws party-goers from near and far and although Sanfermines entails so much more to the locals, it's the Encierro — the daily running of the bulls — that the majority of the tourists are on hand to see. For a little over half a mile bull runners — clad in all white with red handkerchiefs tied around their necks — battle the cobbles of Santo Domingo en route to El Plaza del Toros whilst in pursuit are six, infuriated, agitated and totally disorientated toros. Injuries are numerous, since 1924 they've proven fatal for more than a dozen protagonists. For seven days and seven nights there's little let-up as Pamplona parties around the clock.
The end of April marks a very special time on the Finnish calendar; the beginning of Spring. Ask just about any Finn you care to meet what that means to them and they'll give you a one-word answer, Vappu! Vappu is the closest thing you'll find to Carnival in this part of the world, an unrivalled, two-day Finnish celebration held the length and breadth of the country. It brings out the Finns in droves. To many in the know, it's Europe's best kept party secret. Helsinki's Vappu celebrations congregate around Esplanadi and the Havis Amanda statue on 30th April (although the whole city is in party mode). On May 1st, celebrations move up the road to a city park, Kaivopuisto where things take on an ever-so-slightly more sedate tone.