Tuesday, June 21, 2011

People used to go to rock festivals to escape the things they now find at rock festivals

I’ve never been a big festival goer. I watch with interest as the people I know who are big ones for Glastonbury stiffen as the big weekend approaches. In the world I inhabit, where some kind of privileged access is what people are used to, the jockeying for position started months ago. Have you got the right kind of ticket with the right kind of pass and the right access to the right car park or camp site? Have you got the right equipment? Bin bags? Wellies? Wet wipes? Plastic bottle full of ready mixed gin and tonic? Insurance? Insect spray? Anxiety pills?

I seem to remember that in the late sixties and early seventies people set off to festivals with a tenner in their pocket and a carefree skip in their stride. Nowadays they seem to take with them all the comforts and anxieties of home. A friend of a friend’s daughter turned up at Glastonbury a few years ago with a pull-along suitcase and some hair straighteners. I thought this was funny until I saw, at last year’s Latitude, a special tent where one could go and, for a fee, plug in your hair and beauty aids.

What’s even more surprising is that while the original festival goers set off to the country intent on shrugging off the hierarchies and strictures of everyday society and getting back to the garden, nowadays people go to the country in order to obey the festival organiser's rules, codes which are far more draconian and much less amenable to reason than any they would expect to deal with in their daily life. If ever you think the law of the land is unreasonable, think again. Try arguing with a festival steward over whether you’ve got the right wrist band. That’s when you learn about unreasonable authority and how a dog's obeyed in office. But nobody seems to mind. They accept it as the price of taking part. It particularly amuses me how my daughter and friends keep the wristbands on for months afterwards – as if they’d like to prolong their weekend serfdom.


  1. Hi,
    I have only just seen this post, on account of being at Glastonbury for the last few days...
    I think you are being a tad harsh on the current crop of festivals. If you want to rough it (and the vast majority do tend to leave their hair straighteners behind) you can, if you want to spend your own money on what others may consider fripperies, you can - what's the problem?
    As for 'draconian' rules, well, I'd rather have those than the antics that preceded (and necessitated) the wall being set up in 2002.
    And with regard to the 'weekend serfdom' - come on, you're just being a bit grumpy aren't you?

  2. I had a couple of friends who would leave their wristbands on until they fell off of their own accord -- and this was in 1995.