The alternative festival line-up

From axe-throwing and wild swimming to Plasticine classes and dog shows: rounding up the best things to do at a festival in 2022 that you won’t find on the poster

“Who are you planning on seeing this year?” says just about everyone who’s ever stood in a queue at a festival. What they should be saying though, is “what are you planning on doing this year?”, or even “how many axes do you reckon you might throw this year then?”. As summer 2022 sees pretty much every big and small name in music take to the festival stages of the UK – alongside tents full of blockbuster comedy, theatre, dance and spoken word – the list of options is dizzying. 

But, as everyone already knows, the best times to be had at a festival are usually the ones you don’t plan – and this year sees even more unexpected activities on offer. Maybe the highlight of your summer will be watching Arctic Monkeys take the main stage at Reading and Leeds. Or maybe it’ll be that time you learned to make your own Wallace and Gromit at Latitude…  

Get historic 

In ancient times, no festival would be complete a bit of axe throwing. Unleash your inner Viking at Wilderness by learning the right and wrong way to bury the hatchet, with free turn-up sessions available on Saturday and Sunday. And if you don’t fancy lobbing an axe at a wooden thing, why not shoot an arrow at it instead? Archery classes are running at Wilderness all weekend (book here), suitable for anyone age 7 to 100 who reckons themselves a bit of a Robin Hood/Hawkeye/Katniss.

Find a new sport

Everyone discovers their new favourite band at a festival – but not many find a new sport. Catch the Extreme Bike Battle show at Camp Bestival Shropshire to see BMX biking pushed to the limit, or get the whole family into martial arts at the Kung Fu Kids sessions. If you want something a bit calmer, book a horse ride at Wilderness for a leisurely 45 minute trot around the festival woodlands (maybe just steer clear of the axe throwing area). 

Walk the dog

Dogs make everything better, including festivals. Standon Calling has been a dog friendly site since 2005, and the annual dog show is one of the highlights of the whole festival. If you’re looking to bring your own pooch (even if they’re not competing for the “Waggiest Tail” or “Most Looks Like Owner” rosettes), remember to register on the festival website before you travel. If you don’t have a dog, the show is still worth checking out – as is the Dog Bowl area, where all the mutts are free to run around and act wilder than the late-night dance tent. 

Become a chef

Most festivals have a whole line-up dedicated to food, with everything on offer from Mr Whippy cones to Michelin-starred meals. If you really want to take your festival food seriously though you need to cook it yourself. Learn from the country’s best chefs by watching some of the live demos at Big Feastival, or get hands on with the M&S Food cookery school in the on-site development kitchen. For a more rustic approach, book into a Hunter Gather Cook class at Wilderness for “crayfish trapping, deer butchery and foraging” (followed by wild cocktails and canapes).

Make something

If you’re a fan of The Great Pottery Throwdown you’ll want to check in for a pottery masterclass at Wilderness, and if you’re a fan of Robocop you’ll want to sign up for the Robot Junkyard. Better still, the geniuses from Aardman Animation will be on-site at Big Feastival and Latitude to show you how to make your own Gromit, Feathers McGraw or Shaun The Sheep. Aardman legend Jim Parkyn will also be hosting a talk at Latitude, and the festival’s (real) fluorescent sheep will be milling around for inspiration. 

Master a new life skill

Head to The Sanctuary at Wilderness to find everything from paddleboard yoga and salsa lessons to headstand masterclasses and erotic presence workshops. If you know how to do all that stuff already, improve your festival photos at the Phone Photography Masterclass, or take a Bollywood and Bhangra dance class at Bestival. And if you really know how to do all of that, join Bestival’s Blockbuster Factory to learn how to make a movie about it using only bananas for props. If you’ve done that already, you’re lying. 

Get wet

Forget the festival showers, just jump in the lake. Wild swimming is available at Wilderness and Latitude – along with boats for those that want to stay a bit drier. If you don’t like the idea of swimming in nature, Standon Calling has a full-sized heated swimming pool (available to book for a £2.50 charity donation) as well as the ultimate boujee festival experience – luxury wood-fired hot tubs. 


Sure, you can jump around in front of the main stage. Or you can do it on THE WORLD’S BIGGEST BOUNCY CASTLE. The mammoth inflatable palace is currently being blown up at Camp Bestival Dorset, measuring 23.8 metres long, 20.7 metres wide and 12.8 metres tall – making it higher than the Great Wall of China and three times the size of the Berlin Wall. Remember to take off your wellies (and to jump a long way away from anyone who’s spent all day at the bar…).

Find your perfect festival with the official Ticketmaster Festival Finder