The decline of the music festival?

Over the past few decades the overwhelming number of summer events has propelled the modern music festival to new levels of popularity and importance amongst the British people. Festivals mean different things to different people. So, what is the key appeal?

It’s undeniable that people love getting drunk in a field with their mates, whether that’s on organic cider at Green Man and the like, the crates of warm Stella hauled into Reading or Leeds, or indeed the Bacardi Breezers downed by teeny boppers at V Festival. With a bit of music thrown in, what more could you want?

But the new breed of music festival, such as V and Creamfields, together with the gentrification of some people’s idea of the festival experience, have led to the increasingly common view that we are seeing the decline of the music festival, which is obviously not true.

While the old school heads may shake at the thought of this new youthful breed of music festival – where mainstream artists take centre stage – the fact is people are choosing to spend their time appreciating music, spending their hard earned cash on a live music experience. In the age of the YouTube youth, the live performance is all we music fans have left, and these festivals are keeping it alive.

As for notions of the corporatisation of modern festivals, people may moan about the rise of the middle class glampers with their air-conditioned wigwams and nice toilets, but they can continue to slug it with a badly put up tent and a hole in the ground like  everyone else.

It is true that the middle classes have attached themselves to festivals, and some would argue that they’ve prised the “real” festival experience away from more traditional audiences. But the so-called “real” experience isn’t beyond the grasp of those who seek it.

Just because newer formats have become popular with the feared middle classes, it doesn’t mean that you can’t find an experience that harks back to ideas of the good old days: watching The Grateful Dead play for four hours, passing ‘round a doobie and dancing naked around a fire.

Earlier this year The Sunday Times released a guide to this year’s 100 best festivals. The 100 best festivals? The choice is so great, there is almost certain to be one experience that suits you and your expectations down to the ground.

The festival isn’t dead – it’s healthier than ever.


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August 2022
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