Residence ideas on festive events – Simon Frith |

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Stay Music Trade Weblog

In our newest weblog put up, Stay Music Trade 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 yr’s Ruisrock Competition, held yearly in Turku in Finland, was scheduled for July 3-5. It was first staged in 1970 and to have fun its fiftieth anniversary, Kari Kallionemi from the College of Turku organised a research day at which I used to be invited to talk. My subject was to be the historical past of rock festivals. Within the occasion the research day, just like the pageant, was referred to as off.

On Might 13, the Guardian reported: “The British unbiased pageant sector is susceptible to collapsing, with many cancelled occasions falling by means of the cracks of presidency assist measures for companies struggling on account of the coronavirus disaster.” The story was primarily based on an Affiliation of Impartial Festivals (AIF) survey of its members: 92% stated that they confronted prices that might damage their companies on account of cancelled occasions, with nearly all (98.5%) not lined by insurance coverage for cancellation associated to Covid-19. The sector was going through redundancies of 59% on common and was on observe to lose greater than half of its workforce between September 2020 and February 2021. As AIF identified, “the overwhelming majority of our members are centered on the supply of 1 single massive occasion throughout your complete yr, and that’s all been worn out.”

The misplaced summer season of festivals will undoubtedly have a huge effect on the stay music sector usually. Agent Matt Bates advised the Guardian that touring musicians would lose as much as two-thirds of their stay earnings from pageant cancellations. For many who aren’t among the many superstars who play arenas, “having no festivals to play this summer season has completely destroyed their earnings and their livelihoods”.[i]

Quickly after studying this I got here throughout a weblog by viola celebrity Lawrence Energy, reflecting on how his life had immediately 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 constructive end result may be that it means we have now to focus our music making way more domestically, in a group approach. Fortunately that’s one thing I like anyway: I’ve my very own pageant, the West Wycombe Chamber Music Competition, and that’s our ethos. It’s small and put collectively at very quick discover, however we have now an incredible viewers, and implausible pals and colleagues do it on that foundation.

I really feel embarrassed that I don’t do extra domestically, as a result of I’m at all times going away to make music. This case may drive us to assume. I’m certain that inside a mile radius of the place all of us stay, every of us might begin an exquisite live performance collection. Perhaps a by-product of that is that we have now to have interaction shut by. If I’ve to remain in a single place, I’d be completely happy 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 special query: not how will we to return to enterprise as traditional however will we need to.

In getting ready my historic speak for the Ruisrock occasion I used to be struck by how extensively its enterprise mannequin is now taken with no consideration. 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 stay music but in addition, as a consequence, in worldwide stay music scholarship. Festivals appear to draw extra educational consideration throughout extra disciplines than another common music subject. In an try and carry order to this mass of fabric I categorized it beneath 4 headings.

  • Economics (together with work on advertising, tourism, leisure research, occasion administration and native financial improvement). That is to strategy the pageant as a commodity.
  • Sociology (together with cultural research, youth and ageing research and ethnography). That is to strategy the pageant as a ceremony.
  • Politics (together with work on regulation, regulation, coverage and beliefs). That is to strategy the pageant as a setting for disputes and causes.
  • Psychology (together with work on identification and wellbeing). That is to strategy the pageant as an expertise.

Lacking from a lot of this work is a way of historical past and, particularly, 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 at present assumed to be the way in which festivals should be is, within the lengthy view, merely a second within the historical past of festivals, a second that might 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 at all times potential: most rock festivals don’t survive for 50 years; however, 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 supply knowledgeable proof in a court docket case, a contract dispute involving an annual pageant. The dispute was finally settled out of court docket however not earlier than we had ready our assertion. The query we had been requested was easy: what was the seemingly life expectancy of a longtime rock pageant? 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 most typical had been unhealthy climate and poor ticket gross sales. Our ‘knowledgeable’ judgement (we had been anticipated to provide a determine, nonetheless tentatively) was that the pageant in query might have moderately been anticipated to final, in its present type, 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 pageant organisers’ danger registers. Extra importantly we understood that festivals are a part of the stay music ecology; over time they should adapt to all types of developments within the stay music economic system.

Folks do, however, count on festivals yearly to return as occasions which can be acquainted. In our stay 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 Competition. These occasions turned so deeply embedded within the cultural calendar that earlier than the coronavirus struck nobody appeared to doubt that they might proceed endlessly, though, as we additionally doc, they’ve actually all confronted critical 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 pageant, by means of the Fifties and Sixties improvement of jazz, people and free festivals into Nineteen Seventies and Eighties consolidation of the rock pageant, to the flip of the century emergence of big worldwide dance occasions like Creamfields and Tomorrowland. However there has additionally at all times been an unlimited number of small occasions, some rooted within the lengthy custom of harvest festivals, village reveals and seaside vacation leisure, others (corresponding to Lawrence Energy’s West Wycombe chamber music pageant) organised by performers or by fanatics for explicit kinds of music. It’s as if there’s a fixed stream of festivals in Britain from which typically, with the appropriate confluence of financial and cultural circumstances, one form of occasion – Glastonbury, say – bubbles as much as the floor and attracts industrial 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 angle the important qualities of all festivals are these.

  • They supply a way of group, nonetheless 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 lots of festivals routinely contain musical competitions and prizes).

A method to take a look at the historical past of what turned often known as rock festivals, then, is to look at how they’ve retained the required parts of group, celebration and small-scale commerce within the context of digital expertise, mass advertising and the company pursuit of revenue.[iii] However it is usually to grasp that Covid-19 now threatens a pageant 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 Competition had been by no means staged once more? Do we would like Ruisrock to have fun its a centesimal anniversary?

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

[i] https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/could/13/uk-live-music-festivals-sector-at-risk-coronavirus

[ii] https://www.thestrad.com/playing-and-teaching/lawrence-power-life-lessons-from-lockdown/10640.article

[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: http://livemusicexchange.org/weblog/looking-for-silver-linings-abigail-dunn/

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