The US has pomp, South America has passion, Europe has eccentricity, but we have the Great British Festival | Jack Marshall's column

Festivals in the US are preppy white girls with peace signs thrown up for Instagram, sunny and expensive and showy.

By Jack Marshall
Monday, 7th March 2022, 4:55 am
Glastonbury (Yui Mok, PA Wire PA Images)
Glastonbury (Yui Mok, PA Wire PA Images)

South American festivals are passion, blood, mud, thunder, all broiling pits of limbs.

And European festivals are a happily off-centre combo of the two, American in their cost but Brazilian in their hedonism. From the coasts of Croatia to the forests of Belgium, it’s fairytale fun.

Which brings us to British festivals, which are unlike others because we don’t have the climate, because we’re all born cynics, and because the celebratory angle of ‘rough and ready’ was invented here. The agenda is looseness.

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With the slow dissipation of the most medically-perilous stages of the pandemic and the miracle efficacy of the vaccine rollout, we can sleep somewhat more contentedly under a blanket of relative immunity compared to months gone by.

As press releases about upcoming Lancastrian events start to emerge in my inbox, their groundhog muzzles emerging tentatively after a long winter, it’s hard not to get excited.

Some elements of the Great British Festival are undeniably great - the irresistibility of the precious few days of British sunshine, cider in a field alongside a thousand revellers, sausage sandwiches cooked on a disposable barbeque. Sheltering from drizzle to play drinking games.

Some elements of the Great British Festival should, by all rights, be innately off-putting, but for true zealots they just part of the ride. Two pairs of socks and wellies for viscous plains of mud, queues for plastic urinals, sleeping on a blow-up mattress which slowly deflates during the night.

The good and bad all coagulates into one big vibe: muddy stomps and cagoules pulled taut against a summer shower, the smell of tent fabric left all day under a blue-moon hot sun. It’s intoxicating and intangible, fleeting and precious.

While all the stereotypes rattled off in this column about festival experiences are lazy and undoubtedly untrue in countless cases, that’s their innate vibe.

The essence they embody. And so we should be thankful for those points of difference.

Go to Burning Man in the Nevada desert, to Tomorrowland in the Belgian woodland, to Rock in Rio on the beaches of Brazil. Just don’t forget Beat-Herder in Burnley and Highest Point in Lancaster. There’s plenty to see from your own doorstep.