Why do we expect the festival feeling to last all year around?
A few years ago I wrote a blog comparing how my life was split into two parts, Christmas and Festivals! Don’t get me wrong, I have three wonderful children, a best friend/husband, 4 cats and a home to keep me busy, but there is no doubt that when the festivals ended, we rested our festival feet and Christmas took over. Then of course on the first on January the opposite happened as talks about tinsel, Christmas pud and pressies were taken over by talks of solar powered fairy lights, music, campfires and lots of fields in various guises.
But things are changing, festivals have taken over for me pretty much all year around now and every year we start planning, designing , thinking (and obsessing ) about those great big parties under the stars much much earlier. It got me wondering why this was happening. Was it just us organisers that needed more time to get things sorted or was it the festival goers that needed something more from us? What made us keep the festival spirit alive all year around??
It is only fair I point out that I am not just an ordinary festival goer. I run Angel Gardens which is a creative space that travels around the county at up to 12 festivals a year. With up to 100 crew at each festival, an acres worth of activities, tents and fancy stuff, performers, workshops, campfires, pa systems, stage lighting, 3 miles of fairly lights and 12 miles of bunting (I kid you not) and a full 12 hour program of performance and activities every day at every festival we do….so you can imagine that I’m not just buying my tickets, packing up my tent and food for the weekend (I have to do that as well). I have a lot more to plan for that most festival goers. But it used to be that between October and January the festival community went into hiding and you wouldn’t hear a dicky bird in that time. But now I am getting emails from organisers asking for line ups in July for festivals in May, and I am part of social network groups of festival goers who are planning their summer in October!
What about you punters, festival goers, discerning goers of fest??? Why does the festival feeling just keep alive all year around? with Facebook pages, twitter and forums on both festival sites and independent information givers such as E-Festivals and Festival Kidz, we are discussing, sharing and getting giddy and staying in touch all year around. I know that I have a whole different life outside of home and family. My friends, clients, crew and customers (ie; my festival family) live all over the country and we all expect more than a few days in a field from each other. We all do! We are a community that doesn’t live near each other yet consider each other crucial parts of our lives. We have to put in a lot of work to keep ourselves together. We want to know what organisers are doing, thinking and planning to make life more exciting at their next festival, we want a say in their plans and we all want to know about each other, support each other, remain friends and have contact throughout the winter months.
I look and follow all the festivals I work with and watch them with awe as day in day out as they post music, images, questions and jokes to keep their special community alive during the winter months. They organise events to give their festival family an excuse to get together and party outside of their chosen field. Blissfield’s for example host ‘The road to Blissfield’s’ where they promote gigs throughout the winter of bands they will be hosting in their (beautiful) field in July. Bearded theory held an after show ball this year, black tied festival goers flocked to derby to party in a function room in a city centre hotel. (The hotel didn’t know what hit them! All these scary looking hippy, rocky, gothy, alternativy types all giddily checking in in ball gowns and doc martins! Black ties and leather trousers). The highlight for me was spotting the bouncers as we entered the hall, all suited up and looking defensive. as we left I spotted them hugging a burly man in a frock and high fiving a mo-halked black tied gent as he passed!.. Festival folk can do that so easily!
You see my theory is that the festival scene is not a scene anymore it is very much a community, a family and transient meeting place for like-minded souls. We come together for three or four days, live together, talk together, bond together and watch each other’s backs! It’s something exciting and something I cherish been a part of. We all toddle off back to our lives during the winter months. But the magic that is the festival, is not the music or the dance tent, it is the coming together, accepting and loving our neighbours (albeit in tents) and allowing our neighbours to return the favour. The festival becomes the environment that allows us to be us and allows us to be families in the way we want without judgement or pressure. An organiser provides experiences and ingredients for us to use in our time together.
So it’s hardly surprising when we get home form these little oasis of time and space that we look and expect a link to that time and that community, no matter how short. With the dawn of communication and social media we can remain part of that circle, community and family all year around. Festival organisers know this too; the most successful festivals are those that understand what their festival family wants and needs, respects that they hold together this community and that without them it would, like any family fall apart. It is an amazing thing that someone can work so hard for twelve months of the year to create 4 days of companionship, community and fun…
I have worked for festivals that care about their customers and those that want to make money from them (you can do both BTW) and it the money driven festivals that inevitably fail. My husband said a wonderful thing about a festival we struggled with. “You can’t buy a vibe” and you can’t, you need to provide an honest and open space not a contrived idea of a festival and charge a premium. ( that’s another story) as organisers we have a duty to provide an honest and inspiring home for our guests to come and live together, it’s not a festival for us! It’s a festival for them… for you… the space that keeps you inspired to keep the festival spirit alive all year around, the space that brings you together to celebrate your individuality as a group!