Festivals, What Is the Future?

We have explored the history of festivals in our last few posts, but what could the future hold for the world of large-scale events. Will we see millennials watching artists performances from their computers, or could music become a near irrelevant part of a ‘festival’ in the future?

Over the last decade, in an effort to diversify from the crowd, festivals offer more than just a musical experience. As a result, the average attendee has become savvier at finding an event that speaks directly to their taste and focuses on using creativity to make it a unique experience for punters. Creative stage designs, artistic installations and immersive performers/performances are some of the many angles festivals have taken to stand out from the growing crowd.

GALA (Peckham) has been pushing the boundaries creativity and visual experience across their weekend, switching the pace and evolving each year to keep their audience engaged and entertained. Highlights include the cladded main stage, kitchen themed ‘Cooking with Palms’ trax stage and infamous Pleasure Dome – featuring hanging red scrolls – definitely displayed their eclectic and free attitude towards this element.

El-Dorado also deserves a mention when it comes down to imagination and set design. The camping festival in Herefordshire has also developed annually, gradually introducing new ideas for their audience. Secret stages accessible through decorated sheds, Persian rug covered mini stages, a mirror lit forest pathway and a boat themed stage floating on the lake, has their audience hooked.

With these two shows becoming better known each year, it is clear that creative set design is something that we will see more of in the future.

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Technology has played a huge role in the development of events. Touring shows have implemented the latest equipment in engineering, pushing the boundaries to help create unreal experiences.

In 2012, Coachella used hologram technology to simulate a performance between a digital Tupac reuniting the late rap legend with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. This was the first time something like this had been utilised for a live music event but not the last. After the Tupac appearance, there were rumoured tours of Buddy Holly and Whitney Houston in holographic form. Maybe our long lost musical heroes will again grace the stage for a digital performance like never before. Their music has already transcended time, maybe their image can too.

Beyoncé 2016 tour – ‘Formation’ used some incredible technological advances. The show included a huge LED covered monolith in the centre, which had the ability to open, split in two and rotate with ease revealing new features. As this technology is utilised more frequently and built upon, it could become more accessible to lower level performers – allowing even more creativity with less budget constraints.

The most common and wide-spread adoption during our times of isolation has to be the advent of streaming. Since the Coronavirus lockdown was enforced, virtual mass gatherings of DJs performers and artists have taken to the digital stage, using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitch and YouTube to provide an alternative to the events we were looking forward to attending.

Mental and physical wellness is another area we envisage festivals moving even closer to in the near future. There has been a steady increase of events focused on wellbeing over the last few seasons, with more and more people willing to move away from the traditional festival set up. Festivals such as Balance (hosted in the Truman Brewery), Love Fit (St Clere Estate) and RunFestRun all revolve their concept around fitness activities, with music playing a relatively small role in the overall event.

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Experience led festivals are also taking off as it has been proven that customers crave the unique, new and exciting. If the individual elements of wellness festivals, creativity, theatrics, poetry, comedy could all be combined into one event, wouldn’t this make for something spectacular? Although this is not anything new, we wonder whether the diversification of festivals will lead to alternative activities being more common place in all events, and something that is nearly expected of.

Camp Wildfire is top of the list for this with a theme of ‘adventure camp for adults’. As it says on the tin, its adults only. However, revellers will release your inner child whilst taking part in over 50 activities such as Quad Biking, Trapeze, Rock Climbing, Yoga, Crafts and so much more. Into the night, head to one of the many miniature bars and party till the early hours.

Latitude is another festival that follows a similar route. Although it is widely known for its music and line-up, the event also has an incredible reputation for providing an abundance of alternative entertainment options. Comedy, Theatre, Films, Kids areas, several food options including a restaurant, wellbeing activities and so much more.

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An element we cannot neglect has to be location and venues. They truly make the difference between a festival is a success, or not. Muddy fields, backyards and farms hardly spring to mind as the most picturesque of settings. Although they allow for a wealth of creativity with a blank canvas to build up from, modern day customers are now looking for unique experiences, which stand out from the crowd.

Fly Open Air in Edinburgh prides itself on their unique venue selection. Predominantly a club show, they have branched out into the festival world hosting two shows a year. A September show in Princess Street Gardens and a May show at Hopetoun House & Estate. The gothic stately home makes a perfect backdrop to accompany the jaw dropping techno line-ups.

Another incredible UK based show series is Heritage Live. Based in Kenwood House and Audley End House, the multi day concert sees acts such as Chic, Nile Rodgers, Van Morrison and Noel Gallagher bless the stage

Moving out of the UK, a show that needs special mention has to be Meadows in the Mountains. Held in the peaks of Bulgaria, this festival must be one of the most remote. In order to get production kit up there, it has rumoured that even 4x4s just do not cut it and horse and cart prevails. When you get there, dancing above the clouds definitely wakes you up to the importance of a venue.

Last but definitely not least, Dimensions | Outlook although having to move venues recently have previously operated out of the most incredible venue in our opinion. An old half-derelict castle in Croatia utilising moats, caves and other features are used for the two back-to-back festivals. The areas used allows the production team to use some incredible lighting effects and creates an experience like no other.

Special Mention: An event we are looking forward to hit the festival scene in the next year is ION. Curated by LWE, the show will be based in an Albanian ex-military base. Again, using caves, submarine bases and other areas of the site will put this on the map for the near future.

Written by Luca Onisto

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