A guide to alcohol-free festivals this summer

What could be better than a nice refreshing drink in the sunshine?

Well, how about a nice refreshing drink in the sunshine, without the dizziness, hangover or guilt?

It’s entirely possible, and - dare we say it - even more enjoyable than an alcoholic one. There’s a growing range of sober festivals, both home and abroad, that focus on the festivities rather than the  refreshments.

Here are a few recommendations to have fun this summer - sober style.


Mindful Drinking Festival - Spitalfields Market, London

Saturday 20th July

Organised by the fabulous Club Soda - proponents of the Mindful Drinking Movement - this festival is the big one for UK Teetotallers. And it’s free!

Taking over the open-air treasure trove of Spitalfields Market in East London (usually a superb craft & food market), the festival promotes ‘mindful drinking’, which is quite a revolutionary idea these days! In the words of the organisers, mindful drinking “could be cutting down on alcohol, or doing a sober sprint, or even going completely alcohol-free. It’s really up to you.” They believe it’s about having the choice to consume less booze when you want to socialise and have a good time.

One of the most enjoyable things about this festival is the focus on the drinks themselves - there’s a bounty of innovation in the range of potions and concoctions on offer, from producers both big and small. You can wander around tasting all kinds of interesting drinks and chat to the artisans themselves. As well as that, there are talks, workshops and tasting events.

It’s a great time for low- and non-alcoholic beers, with plenty of independent brewers starting to concoct some seriously tasty flavours. We’re also seeing a healthy selection of non-alcoholic spirit alternatives, made from all sorts of weird and wonderful botanicals.

As well as this, tonic waters continue their renaissance with a widening range of flavours and global provenance.

We’d love to see a festival like this up North, too. Anyone up for organising?


Into The Wild Summer Festival - Chiddinglye, West Sussex

August 23 - 26

Into the Wild is an adventurous festival that promises to bring a ‘vibrant creative village of life and all its potential’. Exploring art, nature, people and spirit, it’s a lively gathering of interesting folk in a beautiful woodland setting in West Sussex.

With a dazzling array of activities such as ‘hip-hop Shakespeare workshops,’ drumming circles, archery, Mongolian throat singing, mask making, beekeeping, wild food foraging, hula-hooping, skating, and 9 types of yoga, you’ll be sure to find plenty of things to get involved in.

The food offering is something to marvel at - wholesome, natural dishes and cuisine from around the world. The festival prides itself on being drink and drug free, creating a safe environment for all, and offering the “opportunity to get into it, rather than out of it”.  

Some great wisdom from Into The Wild’s FAQ page:

"There are loads of events you can do these things, its great to wake up with a clear mind and have a day of fun and games. Imagine feeling healthier and happier after a festival than when you arrived.” We’ll drink to that.

This one’s aimed at those with an interest in nature and the spiritual realm. Expect free hugs, organic food and a lot of music. There will also be yurts.


Others

We also like the look of the Buddhafield Festival (17-21 July, Blackdown Hills, Somerset), another shindig focused on nature, health and spiritual living. This family-friendly fest is run by the Triratna Buddhist Community and includes song, dance, arts, crafts, live music, meditation and play. The theme of this year’s festival is ‘evolution or extinction’ - building community in the face of environmental challenges.

Their alcohol-free offering is done to promote “the flourishing of clear and radiant awareness.” Sounds good to us.

There’s a couple you’ll need to travel a bit far for, as well - Electric Daisy Carnival (Orlando, Florida, Nov 8-10) and Bonnaroo (Manchester, Tennessee, June 13-16).

Although they’re a long way out, they deserve a mention for promoting sober raving amidst the madness of their dance music extravaganzas. These include support groups and activities for the non-drinking attendees, as well as a good range of non-boozy drink options.

We need more alcohol-free festivals

There’s clearly a growing need for alcohol-free options in the music festival scene. While Mindful Drinking Festival is leading the charge, there’s a surprisingly low number of similar gigs elsewhere. Booze-free venues like Sobar Nottingham put on local events which can prove really popular, but it’d be great to see this on a bigger scale.

It’d be interesting to see a regular music festival go booze-free. Would punters be up for it? Could you make it through a Coldplay set without needing a couple of pints?

Or how about a wider range of non-alcoholic options alongside the warm cans of Red Stripe for £6? Teetotal G’n’T at Glastonbury, anyone? Don’t mind if we do.  

You could even start your own. All you need is a picnic basket, a bluetooth speaker and some Teetotal Drinks. Stick a few sausages on a portable barbecue and suddenly you’ve got a festival going…

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