Respect Your Festival Blog #2

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Jenni Wares | 07 June 2010

The festivals are all rolling in it, taking all our money and making some of our favourite events more commercial aren’t they? Or are they?

At the Festival Conference in 2009 you probably would have been shocked to see the lack of hands being raised to the question "Was your event profitable last year?" I know I was. The only ones I can remember off the top of my head were Glastonbury and Creamfields.

So why aren’t the others making money?

Well, among the problems the festival world is facing are rising costs of production/equipment/staging/artists fees/waste disposal etc so they’ve got a lot to contend with to make sure the event takes place year on year. Add to that some great English wet weather and all of a sudden they’re faced with costs of providing fixes to ensure the festival-goers and stages don’t disappear into a pool of mud, having to repair the land afterwards and also pick up the cost of disposing of the increased level of abandoned camping gear and other possessions.

So, with not making enough money to turn a profit they have to look at other ways to ensure your favourite event returns year on year and doesn’t end up in the festival cemetery. Now, I’m not a festival organiser, I can only speculate but common sense would point to solutions such as:

- More tickets having to be sold.  Thus reducing the amount of personal space available to you for dancing and camping, possibly losing that boutique feel.

- Your ticket price increasing year on year to the same cost as a last minute all inclusive week in Alicante.

- The hiked up price of your beer, cider and burgers as a knock on effect of higher pitch costs.

- And lastly the introduction of the ever so hated commercialism of Nestles, the Coca Colas and TK Maxxs’.

So then starts the moaning of the masses - “this festival isn’t what it used to be”, “it’s got too commercial now”, “it’s too expensive”.  And these are all valid points but it’s the sad truth that some events might have no other choice to go down these routes to ensure they can return the following year, they don’t (well, at least not to me) appear to be doing it just to line their pockets.  Festival organisers generally start putting on an event for their love of music and they put on a party to end all parties generally with little financial return from the event itself.

Maybe - and this is just my idea to create more of a zen-like utopia in the festival world - instead of people getting so worked up about their favourite festivals getting too big or commercial people could re-direct their attention to themselves and their fellow festival-goers, realise how much of an effect they can have on their event and create more of an atmosphere to look after their festival.

Maybe, if enough of an impact was made by the festival-goer a festival team could promise something in return? A ban on Rowntrees Randoms, a freeze or reduced ticket prices, bigger acts or even some beer tokens to everyone in way of saying thanks? A scheme/initiative like this would be different to what's been done before, might make people pay more attention, become more aware than they are now and take action.  Cause let’s face it, while many do make the effort to put their waste in bins, recycle and take their belongings home with them, a number of people aren’t and so the “Leave No Trace” messages don’t seem to be getting us very far.

Anyway that's my two pence worth, this wonderful non-commercial, cheaper, clean, green, funky festival zen world may never happen and I do understand that some morons will always be morons but I still reckon quite a few could be converted with the right approach. Until then I'll carry on dreaming and breaking up the festivals in beautiful locations that get trashed and make my soul cry, with the festivals were you can hardly spot a single cigarette butt on the floor and could happily walk barefoot the entire weekend. They restore my faith in humanity but admittedly sometimes their line up isn't as strong as the behemoths.

So if you think your event is getting too expensive or has become too commercial, before you have a moan at the festival organisers take a look around at the end of your weekend and particularly on the final day and ask yourself how much could that cost to clean up/dispose of? Then appreciate that what you’re looking at might be one of the many reasons why all the things you hate about festivals will be happening again next year.

Jenni Wares

Respect Your Festival

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