Why do people go to Festivals?
The sun is out and the festival season is alive! According to Visit Britain, live music events attract 6.5 million people a year in the UK. Large scale festivals began, of course, in the late 1960s, with Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight as the pioneers, but today in Britain, there are over 700 hyper diverse festival events. From literary to learning, self-betterment to brass bands, today’s festival calendar really does cater to all. When you considering that the average festival goer spends £382.49 on their event, it is easy to see how festivals are now contributing over £213 million to the UK economy.
But what of the experience of festivals? Why is it that people go? In the 1960s attending a festival was a cultural statement. Festivals were centres for activism; but today having good WiFi seems more of a priority. It is an ironic truth how the search for authenticity (which many festival goers claim as important) drives attendance, which in turn generates revenue and investment, resulting in greater infrastructure and, ultimately, mainstreamification of the entire experience. For the truth seekers, some festivals have become victims of their own success, pulling the experience from counterculture to firmly within the commercial mainstream, but for the majority things have simply improved.
Even as big, bold, commercial occasions, the festival is still described as a liberating experience. For sure, releasing oneself from the baggage and responsibilities of everyday life provides short term indulgence; but the richness of the festival experience lies deeper than transitory pleasure. The Association of Independent Festivals articulates the value of the festival in allowing people time for greater self-realisation. Festivals offer space within a temporary community of non-judgemental, classless peers, allowing participants time to re-assess their priorities and make minor re-definitions of themselves.
At PrettyGreen our experience within events means we have long known the value of attendance. Unlike purchasing an object, which people habitualise to very quickly, our memories of positive experiences live on, increasing their value over time. At a festival, people enjoy the hedonism, time, space, relaxation and sense of community; perhaps not realising at the time how significantly the experience can affect their identity after they leave.
Festivals have become cultural artefacts; but they are also deeply individual moments – moments that will be absorbed into thousands of personal stories to be retold years, or even decades into the future. In one shape or another, long may they continue…