2012 has not been an easy year for fes­ti­vals. The eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion and the depress­ing wet weath­er took their toll. The sea­son kicked off with a dis­as­trous­ly sod­den Isle of Wight, fol­lowed by sim­i­lar prob­lems at Cream­fields dance week­ender, and Wake­stock in Wales. Even Mor­risons, the super­mar­ket chain, was due to get in on the act with M Fest, a food and ’80s music event in Leeds, but cried off last minute due to the weath­er. By good for­tune Glas­ton­bury had a fal­low year. And then the Olympics came along and stole the show.

A num­ber of events had a last-minute reshuf­fle such as Vin­tage fes­ti­val which fused with Wilder­ness due to low tick­et sales. And just recent­ly came the news that the pro­mot­ers of Hop Farm and Beni­cas­sim have run into prob­lems, see Kent News link although Vince Pow­er and team are promis­ing that Hop Farm 2013 will go ahead.

So gen­er­al­ly atten­dance num­bers have been hit hard, mean­ing pro­mot­ers must think more strate­gi­cal­ly about what they offer. Events cater­ing for an old­er demo­graph­ic are caught in a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion; in order to sur­vive, they must woo a younger crowd who, hope­ful­ly in turn will become loy­al fol­low­ers. But how to incor­po­rate a younger vibe with­out alien­at­ing the diehard fans isn’t easy. The leg­endary Big Chill became a vic­tim of this sit­u­a­tion: after pass­ing into the hands of Fes­ti­val Repub­lic in 2010 they pro­voked fury amongst the old Chillers by intro­duc­ing artists such as Kanye West and Jessie J to its cool, eclec­tic line­up. The back­lash was huge. Big Chill has tak­en a break this year, due to the Olympics, claim Fes­ti­val Repub­lic  – let’s see if they are back on for next year.

Family events

Sol­id fam­i­ly events which have grown grad­u­al­ly over the years and have a folk-based core seem to be rid­ing out the bad times with less prob­lems. These are tried and trust­ed events which attract a loy­al, often more local crowd each year and are less con­cerned with the vagaries of fash­ion. I talked to a group of 21 year-olds at Green Man this year who told me how they had become dis­en­chant­ed with V Fest and its cor­po­rate feel and were enjoy­ing being at a gen­tler event. And Green Man, which just cel­e­brat­ed its tenth anniver­sary, gets the bal­ance issue just right, with no age group dom­i­nat­ing. There’s a super-friend­ly vibe and every­one mix­es in. Dit­to Wom­ad. I would say us ‘old­er fes­ti­val goers’ should­n’t be dis­missed by pro­mot­ers, we are rea­son­ably well behaved (!), no doubt spend more mon­ey in the ‘Nature and Nur­ture’ areas hav­ing mas­sages and treat­ments, and are more like­ly to remain loy­al to events we like.

Hav­ing your fin­gers in more pies year-round keeps pro­mot­ers’ ears to the ground, which is a good thing. Hay­ley Joyes, PR for the fam­i­ly-friend­ly fes­ti­val Play­group, says the organ­is­ers have held dance music nights at Brighton’s Concorde2 for many years. Play­group had a suc­cess­ful 2012, three days of cre­ative arts, music and more, and although the fes­ti­val had a won­der­ful year, the huge expens­es mean they are unsure about next year.

One of the most rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent and imag­i­na­tive of this sum­mer’s events was Fes­ti­val Num­ber 6, and it is firm­ly on my cal­en­dar for Sep­tem­ber 2013. I spoke to Chloe at Fes­ti­val Num­ber 6, who assured me it’s not a one-off; the ‘test run’ year proved to be a suc­cess, and its loca­tion – the sub­lime and quirky Ital­ian vil­lage of Port­meiri­on on the North Wales coast, proved it could cope with fes­ti­val crowds. The event is already in the plan­ning stages for next year.

Festivals for 2013…

we can’t have anoth­er sum­mer of rub­bish weath­er, can we? Here are some fam­i­ly-friend­ly, mixed-age events you might like to consider:

Nova Fes­ti­val: this niche, arty event is on course for 2013 – details to come.

Tow­ersey Fes­ti­val, Oxford­shire: this small, long-run­ning 5‑day fam­i­ly fes­ti­val has a folk vibe and Ceilidh work­shops to keep you busy. Fair­ly qui­et after mid­night so you’ll get a full night’s sleep.

Wych­wood: Oxford­shire week­end hap­pen­ing at the Chel­tenham Race­course with plen­ty of good music and good facilities.

Beau­ti­ful Days: Devon fes­ti­val start­ed by The Lev­ellers, burst­ing with good music . Book ear­ly, this August fes­ti­val is always a sellout.

And if you are still in fes­ti­val mood, there are still some events on for 2012:

The End fes­ti­val: a mul­ti-venue extrav­a­gan­za in Crouch End, north Lon­don, 16–17 Novem­ber. www.theLocal.tv

Shhh Fes­ti­val, Glas­gow, 1 Decem­ber. www.theLocal.tv

There’s lots more good stuff going on all around the coun­try. If you know of some­thing up and com­ing, please get in touch!

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