Carry on camping: Why the festival experience must retain its sense of community

Carry on camping: Why the festival experience must retain its sense of community

The great British festival weekend has long been an important rite of passage for our nation’s youth. In my day, the camping side of things – pitching your tent next to someone who, after three days, would either end up a lifelong friend or someone you would gladly see fall into the ‘long drop’ toilets – was as exciting, sometimes more so, than the bands. 

The times, however, are a-changing, as no one sings around a campfire anymore. This week’s Music Week festival season debrief suggests the old school camping model is under threat from newer, fancier, more metropolitan events where everyone can go home after a hard day in the field.

Fair enough. Time is an increasingly precious commodity. The expense of a festival weekend can rival that of a foreign holiday, except with less chance of coming home with a tan.

But you can’t help but worry that making the outdoor gig experience easier and more disposable may ultimately have an impact on the thing that really matters: the music. Anyone who’s endured a wet Glastonbury will know the healing power of the perfect set at the perfect time, and how entire audiences can bond with artists for life as they overcome adversity together.

But, while the increasing drive towards shorter, more accessible events – not to mention the rise of golden circles and glamping areas – may ultimately help festival bottom lines, it threatens to rob the festival experience of its most important component: that feeling of community.

After all, if we’re not all in it together at a festival, then we might as well all stay at home.

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