Which British Festival Suits Your Social Class?
Jun 17 2014
The other day, Melvin Benn – organiser of the Latitude festival – announced that yoga would be added to the weekend's activities. He said: “I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to say working class people don’t do yoga, but yoga absolutely reinforces our middle class credentials, and I’ve no qualms about that at all.”
Loads of people thought he was a cunt for saying this, but he should be commended for being so self-aware. He knows his audience: liberal yuppies who want to sit on up-cycled furniture while Carol Ann Duffy reads a shit poem about Stephen Lawrence. Festivals are just holiday breaks, and as such – like Magaluf or Verbier – are theatres of class segregation; it's just that Benn has the bumbling guile to actually admit it.
To save you from making a festival faux-pas while pissed in a field this summer, I thought I'd work out which British festival was for which British person.
SECRET GARDEN PARTY
SGP is an odd one; it shares a similar spirit to Burning Man but attracts an ASOS crowd. People hoover mystery wraps like they're Ken Kesey in the back of the Further bus, but drive there in an Audi A1. It's a total contradiction of K-fuelled night swims and well-paid account executives in butterfly face-paint.
Essentially, it’s an outlet for people who think they’re creative but aren’t. The sort of millennial high-flyer with 50 stamps in their passport but absolutely no idea why they exist. The word "secret" makes the hairs on the back of their necks stand up in excitement, even if – in this respect – "secret" means: "Follow the twats when you exit Huntingdon station."
They're a demographic that wants to be the best at what they do, but have a constant, niggling feeling that they'd actually be much happier living a totally different life. An aspirational middle class, even if they have no idea what to aspire to.
It's easy to make fun of Field Day: It's full of Suffolk streetwear nerds, the guestlist is 100,000 people strong and VICE's ironic DJ collective Big Night Out Soundsystem played there last year. But I would advise you to hold off taking the piss out of precocious art students and Blood Orange fans if you ever want to get laid again, because – for whatever reason – hot, cool people tend to be more attracted to those into hot, cool stuff.
If all of that has you planning a trip to next year's Field Day on the basis that it's the perfect place to chirpse girls, then you definitely possess the cavalier approach of someone with a private school education. Resolutely middle class, bro.
Cheshire's largest gathering of dislocated jaws does not seem like somewhere you'd catch Melvin and his mates swaying to The Lumineers – or any other band that's soundtracked a Waitrose advert, for that matter. It's not definitively working class, but there sure as shit isn't going to be any Bikram or bouillabaisse on the bill here.
T IN THE PARK
One boast T can make is that it's presumably the festival where you're most likely to be bottled with Buckfast rather than Carling. So that makes a nice change. The problem is, all that smashing of glass over strangers' heads is because the place is essentially a huge nappy night in the middle of a field, its punters fired up on hormones and supplies smuggled from their parents' liquor shelf. But then festivals are supposed to involve a bit of anarchy, and even you're given a bump of mephedrone and punch in the face – rather than half a pill and a sweaty bear-hug – it's not like the Hell's Angels stabbed you to death.
T is the preserve of a disenfranchised youth more fond of hurling piss than pilates. And given the fact that the majority of Britain's youth are currently pretty pissed off about the way things are working out for them, it makes the class thing a tough one to call. The safest bet is to say that it's probably not frequented by anyone whose parents drive Range Rovers and own grouse moors in Northumberland.
"Glastonbury ticket holder" is effectively just a synonym for "almond milk aficionado with a disposable income". Upper-middle, through and through.
READING / LEEDS
Have you seen the Reading line-up for the past few years? It looks like the Warped Tour show you could never go to because it was in San Diego and you were in Sanderstead. Blink-182 can still headline because their core fan base never really grew up – they're just a lost mass of 20-somethings who've realised that the key to their own personal happiness is watching Travis Barker play a 15-minute drum solo in a field.
This regressive middle class is a generation that was sold a lie. They are a group who once believed that working hard in school, getting a degree and staying off heroin was the key to financial mobility, but have finally recognised that this is just bullshit.
Let’s ignore the Staffordshire site, as the true V will always be the one in a park in Chelmsford. This one is Global Gathering for those who believe the globe extends from Epping to Clacton-on-Sea – a perma-tanned army of straw hats, waxed hairlines and shared workout routines, AKA the best people ever.
When you herd these heroes into a field, fill it with crates of Carling and blare "Pompeii" at glass-shattering levels, they'll have more fun in those three short minutes than you’ve ever had at whatever Bussey Building lock-in you're currently touting as your Best Night Ever.
They’re a moneyed lower-middle class who have never stopped working, fucking and necking dirty pints long enough to ponder where they stand in society. And they're all the better for it.
The thing about metal is that once you become a proper fan, you cease to be anything else. Any signifiers of class eventually fall away, to be replaced with an unfortunate taste in facial hair and lots of very strong opinions concerning stuff that nobody else really cares about (Ibanez guitars, whether Nile were better with Chief Spires on bass).
You either like metal or you don’t. But if you’re willing to surrender to the genre, you’ll actually end up having a pretty great time with a load of people who are just as weird as you. So grab a foaming pint of Trooper ale and relax – you’re now part of one the most egalitarian, accepting festivals on the summer schedule.
Every year there's some arsehole tainting your Facebook feed with the news that they'll be going to Coachella. You can barely afford your weekly season ticket; how does this person bag a Coachella ticket, a plane ticket and a ride from LAX to Palm Springs?
The truth is that it’s a total mystery. I know Coachella isn't a British festival, but I've added it as it seems like the final level for the festival-going super elite, a mythical utopia peppered with beautiful women, incredible weather and a line-up that can only be witnessed by people with trust-funds or careers in the city.
Despite this, Coachella reminds us that the divisions in British society don’t necessarily run as deep as we think. Although a spectre of feudalism and prejudice might loom over our country, at least we aren’t going to be chucked out for bringing our own booze, judged for looking like shit or tased for acting like a fuckwit.
Essentially, we can enjoy our festivals no matter our background, with absolutely no shame at all.
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