Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a number of news stories about smaller independent festivals failing to deliver on what they promise. The popular Y Not Festival recently had to shut the doors on its final day due to adverse weather, while the newly started up Liverpool-based event Hope & Glory was plagued by disruption on day one before deciding to not reopen for its second day. Now these may seem like isolated cases, but the reality is that while not all festivals in the UK shuts their doors prematurely, a large number of them either seem to be making large losses or fail to get enough ticket sales to get them off the ground in the first place. So why exactly is it becoming so hard to put on a festival these days?
Well to start with, the economy of this country combined with the main target market of most festivals seems to hold most of the answers. Young people are famously poor during these times of austerity, and the idea of forking out more than £100 to visit a field and see some bands isn't as available to most young people today. The average festival goer is currently someone under the age of 21, and while the younger generation may have more time to visit these events, they don't have the capital for it, especially as most major festival keep upping their prices year on year.
But what seems to be one of the main causes of festivals going under before they even begin is the sheer amount of competition they face. Established names like Glastonbury or Reading Festival still pull the biggest crowds, mainly because they remain the two most famous names on the festival circuit. But given that both of these festivals charge weekend ticket prices at way over £200 a head, there isn't much room for those going to be able to afford another festival in the year. Not to mention the sheer amount of press these events generate in order to sell their tickets. You could have one of the coolest line-ups going, but without the marketing power behind you, there isn't much chance you'll be able to see your dream event come to fruition.
And although Glastonbury is one of the biggest festivals in the world, it too is still coming under fire from the dreaded council officials. Despite owning the land on which Glastonbury takes place, Michael Eavis has talked at length about the issues he has had with Glastonbury town's local council. While they have no qualms with the event directly, it is the traffic congestion that comes to their sleepy village year after year that is proving a sticking point for the town planners. This is of course something that has blighted many a festival in the past. The idea of bringing large crowds of people to one normally quiet location is simply something that most event organisers overlook, and can usually end up in disaster. We all remember the famous Bloc Festival in 2012, in which the organiser underestimated the popularity of their event and caused not only trouble for the local town, but even those who had bought tickets and ended up missing the acts they came to see.
But as this is Britain, there is always the chance for heavy rain in the summer time. We brushed over it in the introduction but the late cancelation of Y Not Festival on its final day due to rain was a surprise to most. After all, rain at a festival is normally a given. But the problems at Y Not had to do with its location. As the field it sat on had a slight incline, this meant that most of the water began gathering in large parts of the arena and campsite area. Creating a genuine concern of flooding and possible drowning for those attending. This is also the reason why Download Festival at Donnington Park had to be reconfigured as the original site design had the main stage at the bottom of a hill, meaning that rain water was making it impossible for fans to get close to the stage.
But just like all resilient Brits, there are new ways in which many are getting around. A number of newer festivals are opting to trial their ideas at holiday resorts in the off-season. While the idea of raving up in the winter may not seem ideal, many are taking over the Butlins and Pontins of the nation and conducting their own indoor events, allowing goers to book hotel rooms as well. Making the chance of adverse weather becoming less of an issue and locating in towns and cities that are used to the holiday influx. There are also plans to make certain London fields "festival-friendly" meaning that if organiser are planning to put on an event in the summer, there are a number of pre-arranged locations that they can be held to cause the least amount of disruption to those that already live and work there.
So while putting on a festival right now may be one of the riskiest ideas many could undertake. We are seeing a shift in the identity of what many festivals are and could be, making it easier in the future. And while we can't do much about the cost to the festival raver, we can soon be sure that most will at least get the most for what they have paid for.