Originally the vanguard of the counter culture the festival has seen big changes over the decades.
In the late sixties they were like examples of the so called alternative society – a brave new world of tuning in and dropping out or sitting in the mud taking lots of drugs. It’s difficult to believe that in early seventies UK putting on a festival was tantamount to taking on the establishment. the Windsor Free Festival and Stonehenge were battlefields with the police that saw bizarre court cases with hippies being dragged in front of the beak.
In the middle of this Glastonbury and Reading became small intrusions on the calender – an add on to the college gig circuit for the serious band but not the main focus. In the punk era festivals were looked down on and it took acid house and the whole E fuelled idea of communal raving to suddenly push the festival into the heart of British life.
In the early part of this century the festival was everywhere and was the mainstay of a whole industry of bands and mini businesses – it was the key part of the British music industry.
The festival had got respectable, the tabloids switched from a disinterest of a sneering report of stoned hippies in the mud to listing the non celebs in their wacky backstage caravans – soap stars and bemused looking footballers lording it up in their VIP areas. The posher papers were suddenly there as well and the festival was part of the summer circuit.
Everyone was on the case and there were up to 600 festivals in the UK this year. Of course this cannot survive – many were going bust blaming the recession but how many times can you go and see a Z list indie band in the rain?
Then there is the challenge of the European festival – cheap air travel, cheap tickets, great bills in the warmth of Barcelona’s Primavera or Budapest’s Sziged.
What is the future of the festival?
Is it becoming a platform for miming pop acts like V festival?
Will the post Glastonbury counter culture festivals like Beautiful Days, Bearded Theory and Wickerman thrive as they strive to keep the original community counter culture spirit of the festival? or will the cynical money grabbers be the winners?
Will Reading/Leeds have to scale down or change after nearly not selling out this year?
Have the festivals become too corporate?
Or is it great that there are so many niche festivals like the Rebellion Punk Festival in Blackpool? or the ATP for the slightly older post punk audience…
Please comment now!