If you were an amateur anthropologist, you'd be forgiven for thinking that after centuries of lacing up their Victorian corsets and doffing their hats to one another, Brits finally had enough of the proverbial stuffiness and are taking advantage of festivals to live out their wildest fashion dreams, good taste be damned. Three different tones of neon-coloured tights, wrapped in fishnets and topped off with a heavy helping of glitter? Sure! Tie-dye shorts and flippers beneath a pink shirt and steampunk bowler hat? Why not! Inflatable penis costume? Well, where else are you going to wear it?! Forget the classic festivalwear of jeans and a band T-shirt, British festivals are the place to live out your wildest and most garish fashion dreams, so cut loose and let you freak flag fly.
Forget the classic festivalwear of jeans and a band T-shirt, British festivals are the place to live out your wildest and most garish fashion dreams, so cut loose and let you freak flag fly.
Even so, do us a favour and leave the Borat mankini at home. It's been more than 10 years since the film, and the joke has aged about as well as the movie.
Look, it's Britain. It's going to rain. The only time it's not going to rain is when heavy rain is forecast, so you gear up with your poncho, wellies, tissues, cold medicine and who knows what else, only to stand in the boiling sun, sweating like a jackass. But apart from that one time, it's going to rain, so you might as well resign yourself to a wet fate. The good news: no one seems to care very much, and neither should you. Go, dance in the rain, you magnificent nature child! Enjoy the glory of your favourite song by your favourite band, played against a backdrop of lightning, thunder and rain that inexplicably seems to be pouring down, up and sideways at the same time! Seek shelter in a tent with that hottie you met at the bar a few pints back!
You might think that mud belongs in the previous category, seeing as it's usually a product of rain. But oh no, mud at British festivals is a category all to itself. With many festivals located on farmland out in the country, it's no wonder that even a little rain in the week preceding the event, combined with hundreds of thousands of feet traipsing over the ground every day, can churn up a mud bath straight out of a pig's dreams. Thick, vacuum-strength mud that grabs you by the shoe and doesn't let go, that somehow floats up and splatters you in the face, that heaven forbid you should fall into because not even your own mum will recognise you anymore and you'll have to live the rest of your days as the Mud Man of Loughborough. You can bet your wellies there will be mud, so it might not be the best idea to pack your brand new pearly white Yeezy 500s. Actually, scratch that – never bet your wellies in the first place, as they'll be your best mate come festival season (sorry, Bob, we'll hang in October, I promise).
Live music has long been one of the pillars of the UK music industry, with more than 4 million people attending a festival in the UK each year. It's almost like it's in the Brits' blood, as much a part of every summer as going to Oktoberfest is for Bavarians, and it shows. Singalongs get going at a wink from the frontman, mosh pits open up at the slightest suggestion, and the crowds' dedication keeps the performers on their toes as well. Even if you drop a brand new song just a day before the show, the audience will know the lyrics, as The 1975 were pleased to find out at Reading in 2019, for example. Everyone comes for a loud, boisterous and carefree celebration of music, and that might be the best part of any British festival.
And finally, to top it all off, nowhere else in the world do festivals have the ability to attain such cult status, accumulate so many epic moments throughout the years and steer the conversation about which one to go to so firmly in their direction.
Whether it's the annual discussions and arguments regarding who should headline Glasto, whether it's ordinary blokes like Alex Mann attaining stardom by stepping up to the challenge and spitting fire onstage, whether it's classic shows such as Nirvana at Reading in 1992 or Billie Eilish's inevitable dominance foretold by a drone photo, festivals in the UK are rightfully the stuff of legend, ingrained in the collective memory of mankind. Go to one and you just might end up a part of music history.
Cover photo: Joey Thompson (Unsplash)
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