The evolution of festivals: What does the future hold?

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It is safe to say the UK loves a blinking good music festival.

There are now literally hundreds of them, in all shapes and sizes, held annually across the land.

Whatever pushes your buttons musically, there is something for everyone, many of them crossing the genres, with different acts appearing simultaneously on different stages across the weekend.

Woodstock is credited as being the first festival of its kind, with more than 400,000 people turning up at a dairy farm near New York City in 1969.

The infamous hippy weekender had the likes of The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin on the line-up. Far out, man. 

The 1970 Isle of Wight festival was even bigger and somewhere in the region of 600,000 people partied hard on the island that August weekend. 

A month later, the Pilton Pop, Blues and Folk Festival took place on a farm in Somerset, attracting around 1,500 people and costing only a quid to get in.

That farm was, of course, Worthy Farm and that festival, some years later, became known as Glastonbury.

Traditionally festivals were, and still are to an extent, pretty basic affairs in terms of accommodation, sanitation and personal hygiene.

Over the years, the majority of festival-goers have seemingly been quite happy to camp in a muddy field with precious little in the way of a flushing toilet or hot showers, living on dubious looking food from dodgy looking vans.

That said, there has definitely been a shift in the whole festival experience and the calibre of what is on offer is now considerably better.

As an agency frequently in situ, working events like these, we have seen many of them change and evolve into slicker and more sophisticated operations.

Take the accommodation as a starting point.

Some might argue that to glamp at a festival is to miss the entire point, but everyone is different and some of us would rather not attempt sleep on a roll-out camping mat with a cheap pop-up tent collapsing around us at 3am.

Luxury camping is now big business at festival sites and you can hire everything from a pre-erected, basic tent to a swanky bell tent fitted with all manner of home comforts.

Other festivals, like Reading for example, have upped the ante offering cute little wooden huts to sleep in, called podpads. 

Maybe it’s an age thing, but the thought of our stuff staying dry and getting to sleep in a proper bed after a day of dancing in a field definitely floats our boat.

You will also now find a tonne of other stuff to surprise and delight as some festivals offer everything from spa treatments to cookery demos, haircuts to tech hubs, where you can catch up on the outside world or simply charge your device.

These days it is not just about who has the best line-up, but more about the experience as a whole, giving organisers more to think about than ever before.

But where to next? What could possibly be added to the festival experience to improve it further?

No doubt you have seen the Fyre documentary on Netflix (if not, then make it a priority) which showcases just how disastrously wrong it can all go if you bite off more than you can chew.

Entrepreneur (or fraudster, if you prefer) Billy McFarland had a vision of the most exclusive and desirable festival ever to have graced the planet.

The venue - a stunning private island in the Bahamas, previously owned by Pablo Escobar.

The clientele -wealthy millennials who were wooed by major influencers bigging it up on Instagram and then parted with thousands of dollars to be there.

But sadly Billy did not have the tools, cash or insight even, to properly execute it.

We won’t spoil it all, but needless to say it was probably the most #epicfail in festival history and Billy will definitely not be seeing much sunshine for the next few years.

Perhaps the biggest lesson here is to not fix what ain’t already broke, but is there room for festivals to evolve further without overdoing it?

Will they start to rival the mini-break as they become more luxurious and appealing to an older, more affluent market with their comfy beds and opulent VIP areas?

Perhaps they will become even more immersive, with an increasingly diverse itinerary of activities away from the musicians on stage, from horse riding to bivouac building, bush craft to coding clubs.

As more of us take our offspring along now than ever before, should crèches and kids’ clubs feature too, giving mum and dad a chance to really blow off some steam?

The facts remain that, in their purest form, festivals have been enjoyed by millions of people around the world for decades, with or without all the whistles and bells.

So as they evolve, there could be some resistance to all the slickness and festivals in their original, mucky, all-about-the-music format might start to resurface.

Whatever the future landscape, festivals are undoubtedly here to stay and we are cool with that.

We love the unbridled escapism and joy they bring…the chance to step away from the daily grind, to get our glitter on and live our best moments…  

#humanconnection  

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Andrew Flett