Saturday, 22 July 2017

A positive story about the Glastonbury festival

Anyone who's been regularly reading my blog since the end of June will know that I've been posting a lot of stuff around the theme of women and festivals recently.

This all stemmed from a detailed report that the BBC did into festivals over the past ten years, which revealed a distinct lack of female headliners at festivals as well as that festival headliners were getting older and whiter. The report was released on the eve of this years Glastonbury Festival, which tends to be the sacrificial goat when it comes to festival criticism. I think the fact that Glastonbury is the biggest and most well established of the UK festivals, not to mention the most televised, might have something to do with this. Although the festival's radical, idealistic post hippie roots combined with its contemporary ticket prices are also part of the reason why it tends to get the most stick, rightly or wrongly.

My own response to the BBC report was critical of Glastonbury, in as much as I agreed with the NME that Florence + The Machine should have been offered a headline slot in their own right in 2015 rather than have got a headline slot by accident, but I did try not to single out Glastonbury for criticism specifically because I feel the issues raised in the BBC report are issues affecting festivals in general, not just Glastonbury.

As to why I, personally, can't ever envision myself attending Glastonbury this is a basic equation of: Cost of ticket, travel and camping equipment combined with not knowing in advance who you are going to see = Approximately £300 (probably more, if we include food) spend on festival with potentially very few, or no, bands playing I would like to see. I did spend something in the region of £300 attending British Summer Time last year (I'm including the London hotel bill there..) but I did that knowing who I was going to see, which made all the difference.

As an interesting sideline, it's food for thought that Jeremy Corbyn's appearance at Glastonbury this year gathered equal amount of interest/coverage to that of any of the musical headliners. Which in some ways is a positive thing, reflecting perhaps the youth surge in the 2017 General Election, but it's equally as much a sign of the times so far as changing attitudes of festival audiences are concerned. Not necessarily as much of a warning sign as the New York Times' decision  last year not to cover Coachella and Bonnaroo anymore, in that they felt that both festivals had become a poseurs paradise, the various bands playing effectively no more than decorative wallpaper to the punters gazing adoringly into their phones, but a definite change nonetheless.

With all this in mind, it was oddly heartwarming to read Lifeonlauralane's recent blog post about the fantastic, above and beyond, support she received as an attendee of this years Glastonbury Festival. Despite the traumatic circumstances that led her to contact the festival and ask for help, it's clear from her story that the event staff went above and beyond to ensure she felt safe attending the event. There are reasons why Glastonbury is the most popular and well attended of UK festivals and, hopefully, the attitude of its staff is one reason why people keep coming back.

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