Sunday, 29 July 2007


I have returned from the most miserable Cambridge Folk Festival I've ever attended. For a number of reasons, none to do with the weather, it just wasn't much fun and I'm left questioning if I ever want to return. I've been going over a decade and it's always been a real highlight of my year.

The dictatorship that has overtaken the event is just unbearable. If you choose to sit within the marquee at Stage One then you should not take any form of chair, you should not sit on blankets and you should not read. Seriously. Reading is frowned upon. So, I pay for my ticket, I travel and camp, I get up early and head over to the stage where most of the acts are that I'd like to see, I find a spot and settle in for the day. I'm not a wanderer, I like to settle in, take my lunch and something to drink and relax there. Maybe I'd like to skim through a magazine while some gentle guitar is played on stage, but no, this is frowned upon.

If you want to sit on a chair, you should sit outside of the marquee. So, if you prefer to sit in shade you must go without a chair. Now, I completely agree with full height chairs being banned from the marquee when so many of us are sitting at, or slightly above, ground level. However, when that chair has legs of an inch or two what is the problem? Really? We're all different. Some of us want to wander from stage to stage and I can see that it might be frustrating to have people sitting when you want to get in to listen to a band but how do you have a greater right to be there, just because you don't choose to sit all day?

Today they sent stewards round to tell us to move, to shove up against one another. What the hell? This festival has been going for years and suddenly we have to be told where to sit? We are supposed to consider if we are taking up an unreasonable amount of space. What's unreasonable? How much square footage are we allowed each? I had visions of being cast out of the tent for being a bit too fat. Or maybe not blonde haired and blue-eyed? A few years ago I bought a chair after the one I was using was out of favour with the Cambridge Dictators. I returned with it the following year and was told that chair was no longer acceptable. So I used a second chair instead. I returned this year with that second chair - that one is no longer acceptable, but had I brought the first chair I bought? Yeah, that one would have been just fine. So, I bought another chair. I'm not holding my breath as to how long that one is going to remain in favour.

What's great is that they've introduced these areas that are white lined, which you are not allowed to sit in - that's a brilliant idea, I commend it as it makes getting in and out of the marquee simpler. Until you start packing us in like sardines - without the key for an easy peel and escape. It becomes impossible to move. And if you want to go to the toilet and return to where you were? Forget it. Everyone is packed too tightly. For the first time I can remember, I've seen tempers frayed. What is usually a calm, relaxed friendly festival has become uptight and aggressive.

A man yelling at a woman for talking loudly whilst he tried to listen to the band onstage, which I personally find offensive - but the problem is, he wasn't allowed in the marquee because he'd chosen to take a chair, so had no option but to sit outside.

So, the sun shines, they tell you to be careful and apply sunscreen - if you were allowed in the bloody marquee the sun wouldn't be shining on you!

I cut off my festival armband as soon as I was in the door. Normally I feel quite sad to see it go, but this year I couldn't wait to be rid of the reminder of the weekend. This is also the first year I haven't come home with a festival tankard. I have no wish to be reminded of it.

It wasn't purely the dictatorship, other events coloured my judgement and left me truly miserable and longing for home. And the abuse hurled in my direction on Friday evening didn't do a whole lot to brighten my spirits.
I'm sure that some of the people I attended with thought I was a miserable old cow. And I probably was.

I think it's time to run a hot bath and soak the dirt of Cambridge from me.


Domster1974 said...

I read this and the one after it, and thought it better to make one post as I am sure you are getting annoyed by my ramblings about your ramblings by now.

Festivals have not been the same since the late 80, early 90s. I know they are huge regenerators of cash for the organizers, but there was a sense of fun and adventure, and it was enjoyable. Business has taken over and it is all about the money.

You get new people in, who think they can make more money, but it does ruin the festival for the people that go.

We have a balloon festival in Northampton, and it was always pretty successful. It used to be free, obviously ride and food and drink you paid for, but it was free.

This year the council decided to charge. Now not a huge amount and most were happy that to keep the festival going to pay a little. Now this was a con. It runs for a few days, and most people would pop in early, have a look around pop back in teh afternoon, and then after the hopeful sunshine pop home for a rest and then back for the fireworks. You would think this would be fine as it is what everyone did for years, or so I have been told.

The organizers decided once you left to get back in you pay again. It was a disaster, and they lost money, all the stalls lost money, as people just didn't go back. The attendance was down some 50%.

Whereas a little common sense would hav had more people come, spend more money, and have fun. Whereas everyone who i knew that went hated it.

Flibbertigibbet said...

I am far from annoyed by your ramblings, I very much enjoy finding them!
I was reading about Solfest recently and it said their costs in just a few years have risen from 50K to 500K which is just terrifying.

It does feel like a lot of places just want to pack the people in and to hell with the resulting atmosphere as there are too many people for the remaining space.

As for charging people for re-entry, absolutely ridiculous! That's never going to work, who would bother? People are insulted by such things, you expect to get your hand stamped, just as you would at alton towers or the NEC or the like. It doesn't matter if it's just a couple of quid, people would rather go elsewhere.