We live in a society where there is still much work to be done. Social inequality, racism, sexism, ignorance in all manner of forms still exist, and not to mention people’s inability to speak to one another with the looming power of so-called ‘social’ media. There’s nothing social about sitting behind a screen all alone. Yes, it’s certain, if you’re feeling cynical the world can most definitely look pretty bleak sometimes. However, there are corners of society that we should be thankful for, and be happy to exist. One, in particular, is the importance of festival culture.
Festivals have existed for centuries and they can certainly create the best in people. Togetherness, unity, music, generosity, peacefulness, wild fulness – all of these human attributes can be encouraged at festivals. So in a world with much unrest, why are festivals so important?
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What is a Festival?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock with strong earbuds, then you’ll probably know what a festival is. If you don’t, then here is a pretty simple definition: a festival is either a period of celebration with a group of people. Or, it’s an organised period of time with music, food, talks, showings, performances and basically any other events. The best kind of festivals are the ones that combine both these definitions. Ones where there are events for people to enjoy, whilst also a sense of celebration. This kind of celebration – in the context of a music festival – might just be as simple as celebrating the fact that we are all alive and life is great. This can also often happen at times of societal upheaval, such as Woodstock in the 70s. Civil rights and the Vietnam War both acted as an emotional backdrop to the festival and, in a sense, brought people closer together. Hattours writes:
“Festivals are an expressive way to celebrate glorious heritage, culture and traditions. They are meant to rejoice special moments and emotions in our lives with our loved ones. They play an important role to add structure to our social lives, and connect us with our families and backgrounds.”
Human beings are social creatures and we crave companionship, in all its forms. However, it’s interesting to see how the concept of ‘social’ has changed. For instance, in the 70s at Woodstock, no one would have been able to message their friends, film the live music and put it on their Instagram story or even watch it live on TV. However, nowadays, the entirety of Glastonbury is put on the BBC website for all to see. Not only that, but we can watch people’s festival experiences on their Snapchat or Instagram stories. We are able to be everywhere, whilst simultaneously being nowhere. Has this perhaps reduced the importance of festivals? In other words, being social is easier now because we are able to connect with people constantly. Whereas, back then, a festival may have been the only chance someone had. This is perhaps where the idea of socialising has drastically changed. Whilst human beings desire for companionship has remained the same, the idea of how this companionship can be given has been skewed. Psycom writes:
“Are you aware of the negative effects of social media? Studies suggest a link between time spent using social media and loneliness… Demographically it seems young adults with heavy use of social media platforms–two hours a day have twice the change of experiencing social anxiety”
Social media has proven resoundingly that it is not a replacement for real social interaction. This is a key point to be made. Plus, it’s also important to realise that festivals are an opportunity to converse with people from various backgrounds, hear other opinions. It is well known that the algorithm of social media will only feed you the content that you want, and therefore will not allow you to see people’s opinions that perhaps you would not like. This causes a polarised society, where many people simply do not want to listen to one another. It’s absolutely vital, then, to ensure that people still have a deep burning desire for real interactions. Festival culture is crucial.
The History of Festivals
Festivals have existed in various forms for centuries. Some people prefer to go to music festivals, whilst others may want to go to theatre or film festivals. My grandfather, for instance, used to attend a BMW festival, where you could go and observe different car models. For me, that sounds like hell, but for him it was the most exciting event of the year. Festivals have been a part of society for generations.
“Well before the invention of the electric guitar! The first known music festival was the Pythian Games, a precursor of the Olympics, which was held from the late sixth century BC at the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. A general celebration of all things beautiful, it included a day of musical competitions.”
However, celebrations, rituals and other such group events are as old as civilization itself. Therefore, like many core pillars of society – such as democracy, story-telling, the legal system – festivals are absolutely crucial.
Importance of Festivals
Summer is upon us, and perhaps you’ll be attending a selection of festivals this year. There is so much variety that really there is something for everyone. However, if you’re looking for a bit of a festival boost, here are the key reasons why I believe that these social gatherings are of pivotal importance to us as a society.
“They bring people together”
Festivals can bring friends, families, and strangers together. In the 70s, during a time when America was dealing with a large amount of social issues, Woodstock would have been one of the most emotional and incredible places to me. The sound of Jimmi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin ringing in your ears. The smell of people smoking cannabis in a free manner. The feeling of students with free political voices. The sights of women and men of all races and ages all uniting. Festivals can make you forget about the problems outside and unite people. In a world with ever growing issues, this kind of event is more important now than ever.
“You understand other people”
Festivals not only bring people together, but they also shine a light on our beautiful differences with one another. For instance, if you attend a festival in another country, you may be blown away by the type of culture they live in, and perhaps be inspired. Flip Flop Travels writes:
“One of the main reasons I enjoy going to international festivals so much is the fact they are a microcosm of what they represent. Festivals are an opportunity to see as much as possible in a weekend into worlds so different, or even familiar, of my own.”
It’s experiences like this that will allow us to feel empathy with other cultures, with other types of people. In a polarised world, this is essential.
“You bask in the joy of life”
In our sometimes dull and monotonous lives, sometimes we need an opportunity to let loose. To celebrate being alive beyond our desk jobs. Beyond all of the spiritual stuff, festivals are simply a good time. They are an opportunity to create amazing memories and funny stories. You collect a bunch of people together, throw in some substances and some music or events – you’re bound to make something good. Festivals, more than anything else, are a time to enjoy yourself and not feel guilty for doing so.
“You see the world in a different way”
Like with acid or other psychedelic drugs, festivals can take the societal veil from over your eyes and show you something more. Plus, there’s probably a chance that these substances will also be kicking around. Festivals allow you to envisage what life would be like if we didn’t live in the capitalistic way we do, but perhaps in more of a collectivised, grass-roots way. The Conversation writes:
“Festivals can disrupt established ways of thinking about heritage. Taking place in streets, pubs, railway arches, houses, boats and doorsteps, they can help residents explore different ways of belonging in cities, reengage with the past and imagine the future.”
There isn’t just one way a society can run, there are many others, and festivals help people experience this. It’s important we reimagine new ways of existing as the way we live now is certainly taking us down a dangerous path.
Festival culture is paramount to society and the day that they stop, is the day that we as a civilisation stop living. They allow us to property socialise, without needing to be behind a screen. They allow us to meet people who are similar to us, whilst also enjoy those who are not. They allow us to celebrate what it is to be alive. Festival culture is perhaps more important than it has ever been.
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