A new craze takes summer music festivals by storm: Peace and quiet

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The Independent Culture

It is being hailed as the sound of summer 2008 but you might be forgiven for not having heard it. For this year the nation's festivals, clubs and concert venues are about to reverberate to a growing craze – the sound of silence.

This is not the kind of quietude that sent Paul Simon spiralling into a long, dark night of the soul, but instead, or so its fans say, it is a liberating and utterly joyful experience, though, to be fair, it is not entirely decibel-free.

The growing fashion for noiseless entertainment will reach its apotheosis at the Glastonbury festival later this month, where some 2,500 revellers will cram into the Silent World stage to party the night away to a series of DJs, bands and even chill out to the occasional speaker.

It follows the success of the Silent Disco movement in which dancers don a pair of radio-controlled headphones as they fling themselves around the floor for a few hours of shared, personal entertainment.

To add to the fun disco-goers may tune in to one of two music channels, creating the delicious sight of half an audience head banging to some heavy rock while the other half gets down to some cheesy disco.

Malcolm Haynes, co-ordinator of the Dance Village at this year's Glastonbury festival said the runaway success of last year's Silent Disco there convinced organisers to take the concept to a new level. Appearing alongside the likes of DJ Yoda will be bands including Alabama 3 and Malakai, while the former drug dealer Howard Marks will regale the crowds with tales from his colourful past.

"This is the first time that anything on this scale has been attempted at a UK festival or any other type of venue," Mr Haynes said. "As soon as you put on the headphones you are part of this incredible world. You feel as if the band or the person is playing or speaking directly to you – the sound is so dynamic, it really is an amazing experience."

To ensure that there really is nothing to hear above the singer's unamplified voice, musicians will be banned from playing acoustic instruments.

The Silent Disco concept, which is owned by a group of Dutch entrepreneurs, originally found favour at the festival as organisers sought to lay on entertainment through the night while still affording those already partied out, a decent night's sleep. This year Silent World will be strutting its stuff each night from 6pm until 7am. And the concept will not be confined to the West Country. A silent disco will be staged each night on the Riverside Terrace of the Royal Festival Hall in London next week as part of the Meltdown Festival curated by Massive Attack.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 silent revellers will be joining the fun at the Download Festival at Donington Park, Leicestershire, at an event staged by the Welsh impresarios Silent Arena.

Kieran Russ, a co-founder of the company, said he had been touring British universities and playing to sell-out crowds. He has also helped introduce the phenomena to Estonia, where it was proving a major hit.

"It is the friendliest atmosphere you will ever be in," he added. "We have never had a single fight. Everyone dances really extravagantly – it as if they are dancing in their bedroom. When you take the headphones off you can have a normal conversation but when you listen to what everyone else is up to it is extremely funny with everyone singing away completely out of tune and out of time."

Nick Stevenson, news editor of Mixmag, added: "It is novel and something a little bit exciting and you don't know how it will work or whether it will be any good or not. It is also a very good way of getting round this country's ridiculous laws on playing music late at night."

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