I have no desire to attend a festival again, but the UK music scene would suffer without their presence. This sentiment was expressed by Barbara Ellen.

Estimated read time 3 min read

I am referring to music festivals. I strongly dislike them and always have, even during my youthful goth phase, with crimped hair, drinking snakebite, and having a naive and trusting nature.

Despite the increasing number of British festivals being postponed or cancelled, I am feeling worried because this trend has been ongoing for some time. In 2023, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) reported that one in six UK festivals have already been forced to come to an end due to the pandemic, with the total number dropping from 600 to under 500 (in 2019, government data showed almost 1,000 festivals). Smaller and mid-sized grassroots events are the ones most at risk. There is concern that the UK may lose its reputation as a leader in live music. This is why I am feeling uneasy. Regardless of my personal opinions on music festivals, it is difficult to imagine a world without them.

I have fulfilled my obligations to endure festivals despite my dislike for them. I attended an early Glastonbury, where I snuck through a hedge, but was overwhelmed by the strong smells of beer, patchouli, marijuana, and unwashed fans of progressive music. As a ungrateful and resentful writer covering music, I went to festivals everywhere, including Reading, T in the Park, various European events, and many others. One festival in particular stands out in my memory, which involved a spacey individual relieving himself nearby with great enthusiasm. How delightful.

I used to wonder what the purpose of these large shopping centers with a festival theme was. The distant stages with tiny bands, overflowing toilets that resembled disease-ridden pits, and annoying faux-hipsters wearing jester hats. The expensive vegetarian burgers with a texture similar to linoleum and backstage areas filled with muddy, zombie-like individuals, as if it were a Heineken-sponsored zombie movie. Imagine my delight at no longer being a part of the chaotic festival scene as I age and become more rundown. However, while watching the first Glastonbury festival after the pandemic on TV, I unexpectedly felt nostalgic and fond. It wasn’t until later that I realized why – I wasn’t actually there.

Although everything remains the same, the current situation still evokes a feeling of cultural unease. There are various reasons why festivals are facing difficulties, including Brexit, increased expenses, financially-strained attendees, changing audience preferences, problems with artists, and the ongoing effects of the pandemic. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution, although the AIF and other organizations argue for a temporary decrease in VAT on ticket sales until the situation improves.

It is apparent that festivals are a vital aspect of the UK music scene, just like struggling live venues. While large outdoor events may receive more attention, smaller grassroots festivals are arguably the most significant. They play a crucial role in our cultural ecosystem and serve as the foundation of the British music industry, providing a platform for emerging artists and bringing together the team behind the scenes.

Lazily pointing to successful market leaders is not a solution for complacency. Glastonbury alone cannot sustain the entire music festival circuit. Furthermore, the UK’s reputation for live music is often taken for granted and considered a given, but once lost, it could take a significant amount of time to regain. Let me clarify: I have no desire to attend another festival. The mere idea of a laminated pass makes me break out in hives. However, I understand the significance of a vibrant festival culture that is truly live.

Source: theguardian.com

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