As Woodstock breaks up in disarray, a British summer of festivals rocks on

DESPITE ORIGINATING the idea of the open-air music festival, the United States appear to have given way to Britain in keeping alive the spirit of Woodstock, the greatest festival of them all.

Its grandchild - Woodstock 99 - ended in mayhem in upstate New York on Sunday night when police were needed to stop part of the 250,000-strong crowd torching the stage, looting merchandise stalls and fighting. The rowdy end to the festival followed similar violence on Saturday night when the rap metal group Bizkit began their song "Break Things" and were taken literally by many of their fans.

In contrast to such counter-culture behaviour, this summer has seen Britain's biggest-ever line up of festivals, giving so much variety that they have become almost a mainstream part of the leisure industry.

The venerable Cambridge Folk Festival takes place this weekend, celebrating its 35th anniversary with singers who could have been there at the beginning, such as James Taylor and Loudon Wainwright III. But where Cambridge and Glastonbury were once the only choice for those with a predilection towards tents, in the summer of 1999 some of Britain's 30-plus festivals no longer even have to involve real live musicians.

"The festival has splintered into a number of different types," said Darren Hughes, the organiser of this year's three Homelands dance-music festivals. "Once there was just the alternative rock scene, and they had the stranglehold on festivals. Now there is so much more."

Homelands grew out of Tribal Gathering, the first attempt to hold legal outdoor raves since the orbital parties of the late Eighties.

But this year, in addition to the traditional rock festival and the disc- jockey-based dance festivals there are even safe gigs like The City in the Park concerts in London and Nottingham. These have commercial sponsors and the most mainstream of acts such as The Corrs and Jimmy Nail to attract children and their mothers.

Commercialisation is one reason for the growth in festivals: the Virgin organisation has had its own festivals for five years and Tennent's lager has made T in the Park in Scotland one of the big four of the summer.

There are reggae, gay and heavy metal festivals. And, proving yet again that punk is not dead, there is Holidays in the Sun '99 - a get-together of the Damned and Sham '69.

James Barton, organiser of Creamfields - the eponymous Liverpool club's excursion into festivals - believes that the British like festivals because of our heritage: "Once the sun comes out people start thinking about heading for a field. It's because of all the years of Glastonbury, which frankly everyone of a certain age has been to at least once. And then there was the whole rave culture thing in the late Eighties.

"The difference is now that local councils are actively encouraging it. They know we can run them well and safely and they see it as a boost for the local area."

The dominance of the festival as a contemporary midsummer pastime is illustrated by the coming eclipse in Cornwall. It is unthinkable that 10 years ago the Cornish constabulary and county authorities would have allowed four festivals to become the main tourist attractions focused around the eclipse. But that is exactly what will happen with Sunshadow '99, Eclipse '99, Total Eclipse and The Lizard - the festivals competing for those who want the sun blocked out by more than just the moon.

In contrast, should the authorities in the township of Rome, New York, ever want to attract tourists again it is unlikely they will be giving the go-ahead to another Woodstock.

UK Music Fests

Cambridge Folk Festival 30 July-1 August

Despite the word `folk' the grandaddy festival of them all still offers great value.


1 August

After a lengthy exile in Jamaica this is the first Reggae Sunsplash in the UK since 1987.

Total Eclipse 6-11 August

A good taste line up of bands to make up for a clouded eclipse.

Lizard Eclipse Festival

7-12 August

Kula Shaker headlining means this is a festival for hippies who think an eclipse means something.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Credit Controller will work...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Software Developer

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leader in video and advertis...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Part Time

£10500 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Part Time Accounts Assistant ...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company supply, install an...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'