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.
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!