Festivals – but not as we know them: the next generation of music weekenders is here

Music in a muddy field? No, summer rock has changed

Gillian Orr
Saturday 06 April 2013 02:18

There has been much discussion of the death of the festival over the past couple of years. Not all festivals have the eclectic mix of arts and culture of Latitude that keeps the crowds flocking; 2011 was a particularly disastrous season, with 30 music festivals cancelled and even Glastonbury's Michael Eavis predicting his mighty event's demise in a few years' time (although that looks unlikely to be the case). “People have seen it all before with festivals,” he said. “They want something else.” Last year also saw a number of high-profile events go under, including Sonisphere and the Big Chill.

But British festivals are not only struggling because of the effects of the economic downturn – other factors are at play too. Crippling artist fees, the same headliners on rotation, and a saturated market have all affected the industry. British festivals also face increasing competition from cheaper European ones. Why stand in the rain at Reading when (for more or less the same price thanks to budget airlines) you could be sunbathing at Benicassim? The foreign festivals are now as heavily promoted in the UK as domestic ones.

All this means that organisers have had to rethink the existing model. These days revellers are looking for more than a green field, a camp site and a headline set from Muse. Again.

The crowd-sourced festival: Alt-Fest

Billed as “the world's first crowd-funded and crowd-led music festival”, Alt-Fest will take place over three days in August 2014 at Boughton Hall in Kettering, Northamptonshire, and looks set to be a must for any serious metal-head. Organisers asked customers to pledge money online via a Kickstarter page. Then, depending on what they spend, they can buy tickets at big discounts, get VIP treatment, choose a band and introduce them onstage, or receive a number of other perks such as having their name flashed on to the big screen. So far, over £50,000 has been raised. Customers can also vote for who they'd like to see play on the festival's website.

“Nobody had really been fully interacting with the crowd or the people that go to the festivals,” says Dom Void, co-founder. “We decided that we would create an event where the very people that would go would essentially lead the festival so it became the people's festival.”

Acts confirmed so far include Atari Teenage Riot, Breed 77 and Fields of the Nephilim. alt-fest.com

The village festival: Festival Number 6

Taking place in the sleepy and magical village of Portmeirion, Wales, Festival Number 6's inaugural outing in 2012 was voted Best Small Festival at the NME Awards earlier this year. The location itself really is the star feature (the festival takes its name from the cult television show The Prisoner, which was filmed there) and tickets holders can stay in the historic Portmeirion Castle. Manic Street Preachers have been announced as one of the headliners, saying “Festival Number 6 is the only thing that could break our self-enforced two-year British gig ban. To be able to play in Sir Clough Williams-Ellis's iconic village is something of a dream for us”.


The concrete festival: The Great Escape

There are a number of city festivals – or concrete festivals – that look to Austin's SXSW as a template. Rather than traipsing around a field, acts play at venues all over the city meaning you won't need to think about wellies and raincoats when you're packing. The Great Escape, which takes place in Brighton every May, has gone from strength to strength in recent years and has seen attendance up from 4,500 in 2006 to 16,000 last year. You can catch hot new talent such as Unknown Mortal Orchestra, King Krule and Iggy Azalea this year.


The beach holiday festival: Beach Break Live

Pioneering the idea of the UK music holiday, Beach Break Live is predicting around 20,000 people will attend the event when it descends on Newquay's Fistral beach for the first time this June. “Something like 20 per cent of the UK festival market now travels abroad so they can combine a holiday with their music experience and we want to offer that experience at home,” says founder Ian Forshaw. Jake Bugg and AlunaGeorge will be taking to the main stage.


The Olympic Park festival: Wireless

If you never made it to the Olympic Park last year but are still interested in taking a look around, perhaps Wireless is the festival for you. Billed as the UK's “No 1 urban/pop festival”, this year Wireless moves from its home in Hyde Park to Stratford for three days in July, and boasts a chart-friendly line-up that includes Jay-Z's only European performance this year and Justin Timberlake's sole UK festival appearance. Being a day festival, this one also suits those with an aversion to camping.


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