Friday, March 1, 2024

House ideas on festive events – Simon Frith |

Stay Music Alternate Weblog


In our newest weblog submit, Stay Music Alternate 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 yr’s Ruisrock Pageant, held yearly in Turku in Finland, was scheduled for July 3-5. It was first staged in 1970 and to have a good time its fiftieth anniversary, Kari Kallionemi from the College of Turku organised a research 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 research 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 by means of the cracks of presidency help measures for companies struggling on account of the coronavirus disaster.” The story was primarily based on an Affiliation of Unbiased Festivals (AIF) survey of its members: 92% stated that they confronted prices that would spoil their companies on account of cancelled occasions, with nearly all (98.5%) not lined by insurance coverage for cancellation associated to Covid-19. The sector was dealing with 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 centered on the supply of 1 single massive occasion throughout the complete yr, and that’s all been worn out.”

The misplaced summer season of festivals will undoubtedly have a big impact on the stay music sector typically. Agent Matt Bates informed the Guardian that touring musicians would lose as much as two-thirds of their stay 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 famous person Lawrence Energy, reflecting on how his life had out of the blue 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 final result is likely to be that it means we’ve got to focus our music making rather more regionally, in a group approach. Fortunately that’s one thing I really like anyway: I’ve my very own competition, the West Wycombe Chamber Music Pageant, and that’s our ethos. It’s small and put collectively at very brief discover, however we’ve got a tremendous viewers, and unbelievable pals and colleagues do it on that foundation.

I really feel embarrassed that I don’t do extra regionally, as a result of I’m all the time going away to make music. This case would possibly power us to assume. I’m positive that inside a mile radius of the place all of us stay, every of us might begin a ravishing live performance collection. Perhaps a by-product of that is that we’ve got to have interaction shut by. If I’ve to remain in a single place, I’d be blissful to embrace that.[ii]

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

In making ready my historic discuss 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 stay music but in addition, as a consequence, in worldwide stay music scholarship. Festivals appear to draw extra educational consideration throughout extra disciplines than every other widespread music subject. In an try and carry order to this mass of fabric I categorized it beneath 4 headings.

  • Economics (together with work on advertising, tourism, leisure research, occasion administration and native financial growth). 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, regulation, 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 fundamental 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 presently assumed to be the way in which festivals should 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 attainable: most rock festivals don’t survive for 50 years; alternatively, 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 professional proof in a court docket case, a contract dispute involving an annual competition. The dispute was ultimately 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 probably 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 commonest had been unhealthy climate and poor ticket gross sales. Our ‘professional’ judgement (we had been anticipated to supply a determine, nonetheless tentatively) was that the competition in query might have fairly been anticipated to final, in its present kind, 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 stay music ecology; over time they should adapt to all types of developments within the stay music financial system.

Folks do, however, count on festivals yearly to return as occasions which can be acquainted. In our stay 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 Pageant. These occasions grew to become so deeply embedded within the cultural calendar that earlier than the coronavirus struck nobody appeared to doubt that they’d proceed endlessly, though, as we additionally doc, they’ve the truth is 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 huge occasions from the post-war state subsidised mannequin of the humanities competition, by means of the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties growth of jazz, folks and free festivals into Seventies and Nineteen 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 reveals and seaside vacation leisure, others (resembling Lawrence Energy’s West Wycombe chamber music competition) organised by performers or by lovers for specific forms of music. It’s as if there’s a fixed movement of festivals in Britain from which typically, with the precise confluence of financial and cultural circumstances, one form of occasion – Glastonbury, say – bubbles as much as the floor and attracts business funding, mass media protection and educational consideration earlier than turning 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 plenty of festivals routinely contain musical competitions and prizes).

A technique to have a look at the historical past of what grew to become often called 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 the company pursuit of revenue.[iii] However it is usually to grasp 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 Pageant had been by no means staged once more? Do we wish Ruisrock to have a good time its a hundredth anniversary?

What the present disaster has made me realise is {that a} competition is a remarkably versatile approach 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 replicate the modifications. Moderately than despairing that our favorite festivals might by no means occur once more within the ways in which we’ve bought used to, we ought to be wanting 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 the very best educational research 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:

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