Why We Need Festivals – Now More Than Ever

Sep 13 / Jude Schweppe
Having landed back down to earth with a resounding bump after a magical few days at Bestival last weekend, I’ve been mulling over something that Oli Sim of The XX said during their beautiful set on the Castle Stage last Saturday night. As thousands of fans gathered under the full moon to share in The XX experience (my God, those ethereal vocals), he took the time to thank everyone for being there and reflected that the ritual of coming together to enjoy music, connect with each other and create these special moments was more important now than ever before. ‘We are living in scary times,’ he said, and the gift of music and creativity in helping us to maintain that increasingly elusive connection cannot be underestimated.

Oli, I couldn’t agree more.

Festivals are, of course, about warm beer, sleeping fitfully and uncomfortably (if at all) in hastily erected tents, and, given the British weather, sliding through rivers of welly sucking mud that threaten to send you arse over elbow with every step. But, beyond what the body experiences physically, the festival weekend offers the soul something that, I agree, we are all in need of and searching for right now – genuine connection with our fellow human beings. Those moments when you glance across to the stranger on your left, dancing with abandon in the mud, and smile – the expression on your face saying, ‘Fuck me, could this set get any better?’ The stranger returns the smile, no words are exchanged and none are needed, but you both know that for the two of you, right here, right now there is nowhere else you would rather be. Music, the people who make it, the people who play it and the people who bring these artists together have the power to create these ephemeral moments when it doesn’t matter who that stranger is, what they do or where they come from; all that matters is how grateful you are for the DJ or artist you’ve gathered to listen to and how good their music sounds in these magical surroundings. And in that split second, you have connected with someone who shares your gratitude

My own experience of Bestival 2017 was a special one. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the fact that in my heart I knew this would more than likely be the final hurrah, but I was very conscious of how this incredible gathering of creative souls and seekers, the music, the colour, the laughs, and the surprises all helped to bring me back to myself and remind of what’s important in life. I had become very serious, very focused on work, growing my business, being ‘successful’ and all the things I feel I’m supposed to be as an entrepreneur. I had forgotten that I am someone who smiles a lot and loves a belly laugh, someone who enjoys meeting and interacting with new people, someone who can get into the spirit of the glitter and sequins (while still wearing a sensible parka to keep the wind at bay), and most importantly, someone who is at heart a dancer, and needs music and dance in her life in order to feel sane and balanced and whole. I had also forgotten that my husband and I used to have conversations that weren’t about bills and school fees and house renovations; that we love to hold hands and just enjoy wandering happily through the mud wherever the music might take us, the pressures of our working lives on ice for a precious 48 hours. And I had forgotten that I really fucking love techno!

So, to all the music makers, and the brave and courageous promoters who bring them together, build the stages, plan the schedules, pray that the rain holds off, and do this year in year out, despite the monstrous amount of work and stress involved – thank you from all of us who have experienced ‘The Magic Of The Festival.’ We really do need it now more than ever.
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