Wednesday, November 23, 2022
HomeConcertHouse ideas on festive events – Simon Frith |

House ideas on festive events – Simon Frith |

Stay Music Trade Weblog

In our newest weblog put up, Stay Music Trade co-founder Professor Simon Frith OBE displays on the historical past of festivals, together with how they’ve been studied, and considers the implications of Covid-19 for his or her future.

This 12 months’s Ruisrock Competition, held yearly in Turku in Finland, was scheduled for July 3-5. It was first staged in 1970 and to rejoice its fiftieth anniversary, Kari Kallionemi from the College of Turku organised a examine day at which I used to be invited to talk. My subject was to be the historical past of rock festivals. Within the occasion the examine day, just like the competition, was known as off.

On Could 13, the Guardian reported: “The British unbiased competition sector is prone to collapsing, with many cancelled occasions falling via the cracks of presidency assist measures for companies struggling because of the coronavirus disaster.” The story was based mostly on an Affiliation of Impartial Festivals (AIF) survey of its members: 92% mentioned that they confronted prices that would wreck their companies because of cancelled occasions, with virtually all (98.5%) not lined by insurance coverage for cancellation associated to Covid-19. The sector was going through redundancies of 59% on common and was on observe to lose greater than half of its workforce between September 2020 and February 2021. As AIF identified, “the overwhelming majority of our members are targeted on the supply of 1 single giant occasion throughout your complete 12 months, and that’s all been worn out.”

The misplaced summer season of festivals will undoubtedly have a huge effect on the dwell music sector usually. Agent Matt Bates instructed the Guardian that touring musicians would lose as much as two-thirds of their dwell revenue from competition cancellations. For many who aren’t among the many superstars who play arenas, “having no festivals to play this summer season has completely destroyed their revenue and their livelihoods”.[i]

Quickly after studying this I got here throughout a weblog by viola celebrity Lawrence Energy, reflecting on how his life had immediately modified.

I can’t get my head round how we’re going to return to travelling around the world as freely as earlier than. A constructive end result could be that it means we’ve to focus our music making rather more domestically, in a group manner. Fortunately that’s one thing I like anyway: I’ve my very own competition, the West Wycombe Chamber Music Competition, and that’s our ethos. It’s small and put collectively at very brief discover, however we’ve an incredible viewers, and incredible associates and colleagues do it on that foundation.

I really feel embarrassed that I don’t do extra domestically, as a result of I’m all the time going away to make music. This example would possibly power us to assume. I’m positive that inside a mile radius of the place all of us dwell, every of us might begin a wonderful live performance collection. Possibly a by-product of that is that we’ve to interact shut by. If I’ve to remain in a single place, I might be blissful to embrace that.[ii]

For AIF the difficulty is how its members can survive whereas ready for his or her websites to reopen. Lawrence Energy asks a distinct query: not how will we to return to enterprise as common however will we wish to.

In getting ready my historic speak for the Ruisrock occasion I used to be struck by how broadly its enterprise mannequin is now taken without any consideration. Within the final 25 years rock festivals, loosely outlined and understood, have come to play the lead position not solely within the worldwide economics of dwell music but in addition, as a consequence, in worldwide dwell music scholarship. Festivals appear to draw extra educational consideration throughout extra disciplines than some other well-liked music subject. In an try and convey order to this mass of fabric I categorized it beneath 4 headings.

  • Economics (together with work on advertising and marketing, tourism, leisure research, occasion administration and native financial improvement). That is to method the competition as a commodity.
  • Sociology (together with cultural research, youth and ageing research and ethnography). That is to method the competition as a ceremony.
  • Politics (together with work on regulation, legislation, coverage and beliefs). That is to method the competition as a setting for disputes and causes.
  • Psychology (together with work on identification and wellbeing). That is to method the competition as an expertise.

Lacking from a lot of this work is a way of historical past and, specifically, an appreciation of two primary historical past classes. First, issues change: there weren’t rock festivals in Finland earlier than 1970 and there’s no necessity for there to be rock festivals in Finland after 2020. Second, issues don’t change. Music festivals existed lengthy earlier than rock and can exist lengthy after it. What’s at present assumed to be the way in which festivals must be is, within the lengthy view, merely a second within the historical past of festivals, a second that would now be coming to an finish.

To take a look at rock festivals traditionally is to disclose the contradictory dynamics of their evolution. On the one hand, staging festivals is a particularly dangerous enterprise, with failure all the time doable: most rock festivals don’t survive for 50 years; then again, only a few of those festivals had been conceived as one-off occasions. They had been deliberate to occupy an annual date within the calendar for the foreseeable future.

Some years in the past LMX was requested to supply skilled proof in a court docket case, a contract dispute involving an annual competition. The dispute was finally settled out of court docket however not earlier than we had ready our assertion. The query we had been requested was easy: what was the doubtless life expectancy of a longtime rock competition? Emma Webster and Adam Behr approached this by making a complete survey of why rock festivals fail. They discovered many causes, such because the Icelandic ash cloud in 2010 and the London Olympics in 2012, however the most typical had been unhealthy climate and poor ticket gross sales. Our ‘skilled’ judgement (we had been anticipated to provide a determine, nonetheless tentatively) was that the competition in query might have moderately been anticipated to final, in its present type, for an additional 25 years. We didn’t anticipate Covid-19 however we had been conscious that the specter of an epidemic was one thing to incorporate in competition organisers’ threat registers. Extra importantly we understood that festivals are a part of the dwell music ecology; over time they must adapt to all kinds of developments within the dwell music financial system.

Folks do, however, anticipate festivals yearly to return as occasions which can be acquainted. In our dwell music historical past we cowl the launch of the Edinburgh Worldwide and Aldeburgh Festivals, the Sidmouth and Cambridge Festivals, the Glastonbury and Studying Festivals, WOMAD and the Brecon Jazz Competition. These occasions turned so deeply embedded within the cultural calendar that earlier than the coronavirus struck nobody appeared to doubt that they’d proceed without end, though, as we additionally doc, they’ve actually all confronted critical threats to their survival and to outlive have needed to settle for new methods of doing issues.

There may be an underlying historic narrative right here, an evolution of massive occasions from the post-war state subsidised mannequin of the humanities competition, via the Fifties and Sixties improvement of jazz, folks and free festivals into Nineteen Seventies and Eighties consolidation of the rock competition, to the flip of the century emergence of giant worldwide dance occasions like Creamfields and Tomorrowland. However there has additionally all the time been an unlimited number of small occasions, some rooted within the lengthy custom of harvest festivals, village exhibits and seaside vacation leisure, others (comparable to Lawrence Energy’s West Wycombe chamber music competition) organised by performers or by fans for specific varieties of music. It’s as if there’s a fixed circulate of festivals in Britain from which typically, with the proper confluence of financial and cultural circumstances, one type of occasion – Glastonbury, say – bubbles as much as the floor and attracts industrial funding, mass media protection and educational consideration earlier than changing into a taken-for-granted routine or sinking again down among the many myriad of gatherings out of the general public eye.

From this attitude the important qualities of all festivals are these.

  • They supply a way of group, nonetheless that’s outlined and skilled.
  • They’re celebrations, whether or not of holidays, coming of age, or just as a gathering of like-minded folks, and carnivals, occasions outwith on a regular basis social norms and conventions.
  • They’re settings for native commerce and commerce (and lots of festivals routinely contain musical competitions and prizes).

A method to have a look at the historical past of what turned referred to as rock festivals, then, is to look at how they’ve retained the mandatory parts of group, celebration and small-scale commerce within the context of digital expertise, mass advertising and marketing and the company pursuit of revenue.[iii] However additionally it is to understand that Covid-19 now threatens a competition mannequin that was, maybe, already reaching its safe-to-use-by date, as environmentalists have been suggesting for a while.[iv] Wouldn’t it matter if the Glastonbury Competition had been by no means staged once more? Do we would like Ruisrock to rejoice its a centesimal anniversary?

What the present disaster has made me realise is {that a} competition is a remarkably versatile manner of parading group ties and cultural expectations and, in its carnival parts, loosening and poking enjoyable at them. Festivals have performed this social position for a lot of centuries. Societies change; festivals mirror the modifications. Slightly than despairing that our favorite festivals might by no means occur once more within the ways in which we’ve received used to, we needs to be trying ahead to new festivals taking place in new methods, in ways in which we presently can’t think about.



[iii] This can be a theme in one of the best educational examine of rock festivals in Britain, Chris Anderton’s 2018 Music Festivals within the UK. Past the Carnivalesque.

[iv] See for instance Abigail Dunn’s LMX weblog:



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments