Mud, mirth and beyond

first_imgEver wondered what goes on in those bits of the festival that are rarely shown on TV? Months ago you were up at three in the morning to buy your one festival ticket. You bought all you needed for a weekend camping (one tent, two wellies, and a lot of baby wipes); you set up tent well away from the portaloo and made your way down to the main stage. So there you are with a crowd of expectant faces when Lucie Silvas appears. Disaster! You throw your hands up in frustration, scream with consternation and turn away in disgust. But wait. What do you see but a whole world of other stalls and stands? You’ve found the festival beyond the music.Of course not everyone must go through this strange but comforting ritual to discover the background delights of festivals. Most see them as they walk in, or read about it in the programme, or wake up with a hangover and only one sock in the middle of a circus. But sooner or later everyone comes to explore the other side.And it’s not just a set of empty diversions for those who got corporate tickets, or lost. The other attractions are what give a festival its colour and complexion. After all, they all have big bands, stages, fences, crowds and even bigger security guards. They all make lots of money, though they do give it to different people (Oxfam, Greenpeace and Richard Branson invariably). It’s what they have going on around all this that makes each festival individual and unique.The hippy granddaddy of the festival is, of course, Glastonbury. Originating, no doubt, in ancient times, Glastonbury has long been a centre of the slightly weird to the downright barmy. And the festival, while centering around the music, has a truly awesome amount of space devoted to every form of performing art imaginable, and a few beyond that.There are traditional and folk music acts, circuses, mimes, jugglers, stilt walkers, burger salesmen, hippy priests, and old women who will sell you homemade cookies at competitive prices. In the vast fields devoted to the great, the random, and the odd, you can discover unique politics, philosophies and religions. You can bask in the ludicrous, the self indulgent and the crazy. You can marvel at the talents, abilities and skills on display. You can wonder at why a man taught himself to juggle twelve balls at a time in a perspex box. Truly it is a celebration of the limits of mind, body and soul.As the first of the many fresh-faced festivals, the V Festival is the trendy, easy going, well off, new liberal, middle-class, mud-hating, blow-up sofa bringing place to be on one weekend in mid-August. Not as extensive as Glastonbury, the other side of the V festival is dominated by the absolute basics – food and beer.That’s not to say there aren’t a couple of smaller stages devoted to the up-and-coming or down-and-leaving bands of the day (where else are you likely to see a woman in a heart-shaped hat playing a xylophone?). Their funfair provides endless fun to the drunk and bored, and very reasonable prices if you happen to have lots of disposable income cluttering up your bank account.The skateboarders add a youthful edge (especially if you grew up in the late 1980s) and the padding and armour they wear just adds to the sense of danger and risk, when they stand about doing nothing all day. So, maybe not enlightenment but certainly a lightening of the wallet is the order of the day at V.And finally, the grown-up anarchist rocker enjoying his weekend before being an IT consultant again is the Leeds/Reading chaos. Here can be found plenty of stages, plenty of alcohol and plenty of weirdly, wonderfully and woefully dressed rock fans. Beer riots and tent fires are not unknown. Sporting takes the form of the bottle throw, the fifty metre crowd surf and the classic mud wrestling. All in good spirits (and bad lagers), Reading and Leeds festival-goers have a focus beyond that of the common man.And so, as we reflect on the past festival season and our brief tour, it seems Lucie Silvas has done us a great favour. Exploring the other side of festivals can be more than a way to pass the time, it can be an exploration of the true essence of a festival – get a load of people in a field and let them act like the music-loving crazy people that they are.ARCHIVE: 0th week MT 2005last_img

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