Friday, 7 May 2010

Festivals - they're not all laughing cause they're mashed, OK?

This is what happy looks like. Yay! Festival time is here.
Festie season starts early where I live. It began a few weeks ago, as soon as the first of the festival workers returned from their winter travels.
The buzz and excitement this creates depends on your attitude to festivals. For some it marks the beginning of months of bumping round the country in lumpy-field-battered vans; hard 18 hour days of setting up, sparkling for the public and taking everything down again.
For others it means anticipation, excitement, "party party!" followed by come down and depression followed by anticipation, excitement, "party party!" come down and depression.
The Other Side Magazine have a brilliant Festival Edition online which helps newbies to understand the basics of festivals. Tips like "Don't bother taking an ex-army tent. Yes, they're sturdy and roomy, but they're heavy. Far better to take a flimsy supermarket affair in your pocket, and crash out in other people's tents anyway." Useful stuff like that. The articles are for festival veterans too, to help get in the mood and work out which of the Festival People we are. Well none of them of course, but we recognise each type. Funny that.

So spread the word. Not everyone understands. Festivals are not all about getting rinsed by too much cider and tripping on the latest chemical compound. People don't have to travel far from home to do that.
That's not the reason thousands explode with impatience, as they tick off the days on their calendars. It's because they are waiting for those few days at their favourite festival, where they know they can be themselves; have a laugh with their mates and just go with the flow.
Clocks don't exist, because even catching the bands they really wanted to see becomes less important than just enjoying whatever diversion they stumble across. (Like appreciating a busking badger, which was one of many created by artist B-FACED for last year's Secret Garden Party).

image: copyright B-FACED
At many of the festivals the mobile phone networks crash at the peak, so everyone learns to either stick together or hope they will meet up back at the tent at some stage. It's very liberating.
Some media have great fun promoting the idea of all festival goers as being drunk/drugged/fluffy air heads. They normally use a photo of a few exuberant, decorated, party monsters to illustrate their theory.
But the reality is they are not all off their heads. Many of them will have consumed no more alcohol than their grandpas would while watching a cricket match with their cool boxes. Many have worked hard for most of the year to pay for their ticket and they're having fun, festie style. Some press shots show the tired and emotional, but my bet's on those pics being taken after the subjects have had three days of walking miles; jumping up and down infront of the main stage; taking part in the fancy dress parade; making an art collage; winning the tug-of-war contest and entering the Mr and Mrs competition on the small stage. There's too much going on to sleep much.

Festivals. Sometimes muddy, sometimes overwhelming, but so worth it for the break from daily responsibilites and concerns.
We'll have more of that please.

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