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HomeConcertDwelling ideas on festive events – Simon Frith |

Dwelling ideas on festive events – Simon Frith |

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Stay Music Alternate Weblog

In our newest weblog publish, Stay Music Alternate 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 12 months’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 examine 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 examine day, just like the pageant, was known as off.

On Could 13, the Guardian reported: “The British unbiased pageant sector is vulnerable to collapsing, with many cancelled occasions falling by the cracks of presidency help measures for companies struggling because of the coronavirus disaster.” The story was primarily based on an Affiliation of Unbiased Festivals (AIF) survey of its members: 92% stated that they confronted prices that might damage their companies because of cancelled occasions, with virtually all (98.5%) not coated by insurance coverage for cancellation associated to Covid-19. The sector was dealing with redundancies of 59% on common and was on monitor 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 entire 12 months, and that’s all been worn out.”

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

Quickly after studying this I got here throughout a weblog by viola famous person Lawrence Energy, reflecting on how his life had all of the sudden 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 optimistic consequence could be that it means we've got to focus our music making way more regionally, in a group means. Fortunately that’s one thing I really 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 brief discover, however we've got a tremendous viewers, and incredible mates and colleagues do it on that foundation.

I really feel embarrassed that I don’t do extra regionally, as a result of I’m at all times going away to make music. This case would possibly pressure us to suppose. I’m positive that inside a mile radius of the place all of us dwell, every of us may begin a phenomenal live performance collection. Possibly a by-product of that is that we've got to have interaction shut by. If I've to remain in a single place, I might 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 unique query: not how can we to return to enterprise as traditional however can we wish to.

In getting ready my historic discuss 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 dwell music but additionally, as a consequence, in worldwide dwell music scholarship. Festivals appear to draw extra tutorial consideration throughout extra disciplines than another standard music subject. In an try and deliver order to this mass of fabric I categorised it underneath 4 headings.

  • Economics (together with work on advertising, tourism, leisure research, occasion administration and native financial growth). 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, specifically, 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 presently 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 take a look at rock festivals traditionally is to disclose the contradictory dynamics of their evolution. On the one hand, staging festivals is an especially dangerous enterprise, with failure at all times attainable: most rock festivals don't survive for 50 years; then again, 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 offer knowledgeable proof in a court docket case, a contract dispute involving an annual pageant. The dispute was ultimately 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 commonest had been unhealthy climate and poor ticket gross sales. Our ‘knowledgeable’ judgement (we had been anticipated to supply a determine, nevertheless tentatively) was that the pageant in query may have moderately been anticipated to final, in its present type, for an additional 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 dwell music ecology; over time they should adapt to all types of developments within the dwell music financial system.

Folks do, however, count on festivals yearly to return as occasions which can be acquainted. In our dwell 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 grew to become so deeply embedded within the cultural calendar that earlier than the coronavirus struck nobody appeared to doubt that they'd proceed ceaselessly, though, as we additionally doc, they've in reality all confronted critical threats to their survival and to outlive have needed to settle for new methods of doing issues.

There's an underlying historic narrative right here, an evolution of massive occasions from the post-war state subsidised mannequin of the humanities pageant, by the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties growth of jazz, people and free festivals into Nineteen Seventies and Nineteen 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 enormous number of small occasions, some rooted within the lengthy custom of harvest festivals, village reveals and seaside vacation leisure, others (akin to Lawrence Energy’s West Wycombe chamber music pageant) organised by performers or by fans for specific kinds of music. It’s as if there's a fixed move of festivals in Britain from which typically, with the suitable confluence of financial and cultural circumstances, one form of occasion – Glastonbury, say – bubbles as much as the floor and attracts business funding, mass media protection and tutorial consideration earlier than changing 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, nevertheless that's outlined and skilled.
  • They're celebrations, whether or not of holidays, coming of age, or just as a gathering of like-minded individuals, and carnivals, occasions outwith on a regular basis social norms and conventions.
  • They're settings for native commerce and commerce (and plenty of festivals routinely contain musical competitions and prizes).

A method to have a look at the historical past of what grew to become often called rock festivals, then, is to look at how they've retained the mandatory components 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 one hundredth anniversary?

What the present disaster has made me realise is {that a} pageant is a remarkably versatile means of parading group ties and cultural expectations and, in its carnival components, loosening and poking enjoyable at them. Festivals have performed this social position for a lot of centuries. Societies change; festivals replicate the adjustments. Relatively than despairing that our favorite festivals might by no means occur once more within the ways in which we’ve bought used to, we needs to be wanting 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/might/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 one of the best tutorial examine 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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