The Urban Dictionary describes festivals thus: “A festival is an event, usually attended by the unwashed masses and hippies.It is compulsory not to wash for one week before attending a festival. And hippies must always have a grimy joint pressed between their filthy, yellowed fingers.” Sounds great but I think festivals have completely changed since this was accurate. And do real hippies even exist any more?
Glastonbury is the most famous music festival in this country but this year’s extravaganza headlined by The Rolling Stones bore no resemblance to the first 1970 festival which 1500 people attended after paying £1 for a ticket.It is fair to say I think that most of the attendees would have been a certain breed, the hippies of their day, promoting peace, love and happiness. Today, tickets to Glastonbury if you can manage to attain them with “apply in advance” system, will set you back over £200; the 150,000 Glastonbury festival goers these days have to have a certain income, the unemployed free spirits are now replaced by bankers, civil servants, celebrities or children of the wealthy. Festival organisers argue that the steep increase in ticket prices reflects the hiring of more expensive acts which in turn attracts more people, thus causing a need for more security and better infrastructure. Commercialising the festival ideal has meant that organisers are forced to attract higher numbers, this is achieved through advertising on the T.V, social networking and selling the broadcasting rights to the BBC.
Traditionally festivals were escapism from the humdrum and mundane, they were places of fun and free love with smaller acts and a sense of community. Not washing for five days and sleeping under the stars or in tents was the norm. Now at Glastonbury there are teepees, camper vans, caravans and trailer tents. Some choose to rent private accommodation outside of Worthy Farm and choose to be ferried between the festival and their accommodation by quad-bike or even private helicopter.Hardly the choice of a hippie. There are probably more hair straighteners than joints to be seen at Glastonbury now. Commercial sponsorship has changed the whole ethos of festivals.Perhaps it is because the anti-capitalist hippies have lost the fire in their bellies and a new generation has little interest in being different or radical. And the hippies of yesteryear are now fully paid-up members of the capitalist society.The Don Henley song ‘Boys of Summer’ depicts this beautifully with the line, “I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.” He explains,”I was driving down the San Diego freeway and got passed by a $21,000 Cadillac Seville, the status symbol of the Right-wing upper-middle-class American bourgeoisie – all the guys with the blue blazers with the crests and the grey pants – and there was this Grateful Dead ‘Deadhead’ bumper sticker on it!” Grateful Dead fans were once the epitome of free-loving hippies – how things change! Some smaller more traditional festivals are springing up but lack the clout to attract the bands with the big names. These have much lower price tags though and Hunter wellies are not compulsory.