History of Festivals
Take a minute out of your busy boring day and discover the history of festivals with me.
Right. It’s been an interesting summer having launched hotfestivals.com I’ve been pretty much running everything by the seat of my pants. That has basically meant that I can pick and choose (and wangle my way in) to festivals as we go along. Whilst I’m figuring out the exact nature of hotfestivals a few questions have popped up that seem to be splitting the nation. First has got to be; is a festival a carnival or are they two different things? Can a carnival and festival co-exist or is a festival a broader term for the right to party and a carnival a type of festival?
Before we go there, lets do some digging, well some light googling just to start. Wikipedia (the font of all crowd sourced knowledge that is as gappy as a toddlers mouth) says a festival is a celebration that focuses on a theme and it could run for hours to even weeks.
So.1) a festival is a celebration
Interesting fact number 2 Is that at the root of the word festival is the latin term ‘Feria’ not as you’d instantly expect describing the feral nature of festival goers post festival, no no no. People this has history. Feria is latin for free day. It was the name given to the day (usually two consecutive days) that the slaves where allowed to get the hell off the plantain SORRY, i mean the plantation, stop breaking their backs, sweating in fields and have a free day.
So. 2) a festival is free day, a day free of work
The new grove dictionary of music and musicians (you’ve got that one dog eared at the back of the library right?) gives us a something a bit more meaty;
Festival is a generic term, derived from the Latin festivitas, for a social gathering convened for the purpose of celebration or thanksgiving. These occasions were ritual and associated with mythological, religious and ethnic traditions. From the earliest times festivals have been distinguished by their use of music.
So. 3) a festival is social and a bit shit without music
The symbolic meaning of the festival is related to value recognised by the community as essential to its ideology and world view, to its social identity and ultimate continuity.
4) a festival stands for something
But they say there is a big difference between ancient festivals and those we have today. So, what’s the difference between our ancestors harvest festival and an arts or music festival? Our ancient festivals were of the people and by the people where as todays festivals are all about minimising captal gains tax and maximising profit from the people while they stay in pretty much the same lodgings as they did a billion years ago.This aspect of festival ‘of the people by the people’ has been lost and some would say (yeah yeah I did a survey) that this has been lost. Festivals have been commercialised and before my very eyes festival participation has basically been transplanted as a get off your face holiday because it’s cheaper than a package and everywhere is booked up on airbnb, the exact opposite of renewal.
5) renewal, for the people by the people
I mean when the ancient tribes of the UK made their annual migration and met up at Stonehenge two months later having travelled by foot they would all party and have a feast together around the stones (there’s cctv footage of it on disclose.tv or something) – Does that mean the bbq is integral to a festival? is that why we must all have achey feet by the time we go home? is this where the mudbath tradition comes from? Hmm maybe I’ll just add a bbq to my xmas wishlist and do a facepack.
Ahh this is an interesting one – all festivals have at least one thing in common, they are ephemeral. What an awesome adjective. I mean – I’ve been described as illusive, a grand illusionist seeming to disappear and just pop up out of nowhere as I’m being thought about – so this sounds like the perfect job for me (phew, kinda knee deep already). Ephemeral, basically meaning after the festival has been and gone it lives on only in the memories of who was there. isn’t that life.. ?
6) Exists as a hazy memory
Did you know the very use of festivals and carnivals have been considered to be manipulative mechanisms for neutralising social conflict? Is that why the music is so bad at them?
The popular festival enables the politically marginal (not buttered up at all is it) to express discontent through ritual, restricting revolutionary impulses to symbolic form, in which case the festival acts as a medium of resistance to the established order! (yes, we’ve been puppets on strings, so it would seem).
7) Has been used as a playground to ease discontent, and then marginalise it
Unless a festival is privately endowed (do they give them away free if you get married?), freeing the organizers to follow their artistic inclinations, it is likely to become caught up in the politics and economics of currying favour with government subsidisers or commercial sponsors – AAAAHH, now this must be why the music is so bad?
8) Money controls the acts (kinda the same as marriage)
After the second world war and following the success seen in the USA, European cities began to use the arts and culture to aid economic regeneration and has spread to cities, getting the good ol’ festival caught up in commercial objectives such as raising a cities profile and attracting tourists (let the infighting begin /carry on / be ignored and opted out of).
9) Festivals aid economic regeneration
What a tension between festival as a celebration and festival as an enterprise. It’s like having two conflicting values right at the top of the tree, especially in the old paradigm, thankfully that’s crumbeling now but the world is run by idiots, and we call them men.
10) You need land for a festival
Any nice farmers want to lend me their field to put on a festival? I’ll take back my last comment if you’re male – I cook a really good fry up.