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HomeConcertResidence ideas on festive events – Simon Frith |

Residence ideas on festive events – Simon Frith |

Reside Music Alternate Weblog

In our newest weblog submit, Reside 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 12 months’s Ruisrock Pageant, 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 research day at which I used to be invited to talk. My matter 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 impartial competition sector is vulnerable 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 based mostly on an Affiliation of Unbiased Festivals (AIF) survey of its members: 92% mentioned that they confronted prices that would damage their companies on account of cancelled occasions, with virtually 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 monitor 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 entire 12 months, and that’s all been worn out.”

The misplaced summer time of festivals will undoubtedly have a big impact on the reside music sector usually. Agent Matt Bates instructed the Guardian that touring musicians would lose as much as two-thirds of their reside revenue from competition cancellations. For many who aren’t among the many superstars who play arenas, “having no festivals to play this summer time 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 instantly 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 optimistic end result is likely to be that it means now we have to focus our music making rather more regionally, in a neighborhood means. 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 now we have a tremendous viewers, and unbelievable associates 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 may drive us to assume. I’m positive that inside a mile radius of the place all of us reside, every of us may begin a gorgeous live performance collection. Possibly a by-product of that is that now we have to interact shut by. If I’ve to remain in a single place, I might 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 ordinary however will we need 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 as a right. 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 reside music but additionally, as a consequence, in worldwide reside music scholarship. Festivals appear to draw extra educational consideration throughout extra disciplines than every other fashionable music matter. In an try to convey order to this mass of fabric I categorised it underneath 4 headings.

  • Economics (together with work on advertising, tourism, leisure research, occasion administration and native financial improvement). That is to strategy the competition as a commodity.
  • Sociology (together with cultural research, youth and ageing research and ethnography). That is to strategy the competition as a ceremony.
  • Politics (together with work on regulation, regulation, coverage and beliefs). That is to strategy the competition as a setting for disputes and causes.
  • Psychology (together with work on identification and wellbeing). That is to strategy 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 need to 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 have 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 offer professional proof in a courtroom case, a contract dispute involving an annual competition. The dispute was ultimately settled out of courtroom 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 dangerous climate and poor ticket gross sales. Our ‘professional’ judgement (we had been anticipated to supply a determine, nevertheless tentatively) was that the competition in query may have fairly been anticipated to final, in its present kind, for one more 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 reside music ecology; over time they need to adapt to all kinds of developments within the reside music financial system.

Individuals do, however, anticipate festivals yearly to return as occasions which can be acquainted. In our reside 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 ceaselessly, though, as we additionally doc, they’ve in reality all confronted severe 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, by means of the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties improvement of jazz, people and free festivals into Nineteen 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 enormous number of small occasions, some rooted within the lengthy custom of harvest festivals, village reveals and seaside vacation leisure, others (comparable to 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 circulate of festivals in Britain from which typically, with the proper confluence of financial and cultural circumstances, one sort 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 neighborhood, nevertheless 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 method to have a look at the historical past of what grew to become generally known as rock festivals, then, is to look at how they’ve retained the mandatory components of neighborhood, celebration and small-scale commerce within the context of digital know-how, 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 would like Ruisrock to rejoice its a hundredth anniversary?

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



[iii] It is a theme in the most effective 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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