A Love Letter to Festivals

Summer is the best season – a statement most of us will agree on: bevs on the beach; beer gardens; fighting off those ballsy seagulls that keep going for your chips… Summer is great.

And for many of us, summer means festival season. There’s nothing quite like sitting in a field with a concerningly hot Dark Fruit in hand, debating whether this fizzy Lemsip-tasting concoction is safe to drink, and then arguing over who gets the broken camping chair.

But this year, there will be no questionable cider in a muddy field; no broken camping chairs; no bucket hats and no matching wellies. And it’s a bummer. Don’t get me wrong; I accepted the lockdown. I’ve been social distancing, I haven’t had a latte in weeks and I’m forgetting what my mum looks like. But this is how things will be for the time being… Even so, I’ve felt more and more depressed with the announcement of each festival cancellation.

For many music-loving Brightonians, the passion for festivals begins aged 16, when the coming of age pilgrimage to Reading occurs. We listen to indie rock and discover the joys of hanging out with friends; supporting our favourite bands with the sun (and downpours) over our heads. For some reason we love £10 vodka lemonades so much so that we are left gagging for summer the following year.

This new love will propel us festival fans across the UK for years to follow. We’ll stay local with Boundary; or travel further afield to the mecca of music festivals: Glastonbury, each time the cheapest, shittiest Argos tent becoming more and more decrepit. And every festival I attend, I am reminded that I am one of many who have purchased this shitty tent (i.e. the first Google result for ‘tent’), making it near impossible to stumble into the correct one at the end of each day.

It is therefore hugely advantageous to attend local festivals: it’s a novelty to crash into your own bed after a long day of two-stepping. Or alternatively, fall asleep on the beach, and wake up the next morning to the soft sounds of the sea (and foxes having sex). It is also nice to go home to a shower… I have been known to crash the second I get home from a weekend festival, leaving dried mud and confetti stuck to my leg 36 hours after the festival has ended.

Usually the season would already be underway and we’d be making the most of the last Brighton Festival and Fringe events happening throughout the city. We would laugh at the comedy; take in the exhibits; and discuss that cool thing with the electricity and the techno… (XFRMR if you’re wondering).

We would have spent a weekend last month hopping from venue to venue supporting up and coming acts at The Great Escape. Some would say that this festival is the heart of ‘indie Brighton’, with edgy acts playing in our favourite hipster pubs… I don’t know if you’ve heard of an underground artist by the name of Lewis Capaldi?

But the festival I’ll miss the most this year, is the essence of Brighton and the heart and soul of the LGBTQIA+ community: Pride in the Park. After watching the Pride parade and feeling a bit wobbly after a few too many rosés at 2pm, the whole city will flock to Preston Park to dance; drink (oh go on, I’ll have another bottle); and celebrate love. The community spirit is rife, as is the community hangover the next day. I vividly remember rocking up to my bar job via Uber the day after Pride 2019, the human embodiment of a hangover… As was every single customer that I went on to serve that day.

As summer draws to a close, the festival-lovers will hang on until the final song is played out. This is usually at Boundary and I will insistently be wearing shorts, not willing to admit summer is over (in September). We will dance until told to leave; maybe even stop off at Volks before heading home with ears ringing, and memories to last until next time.

Now, in my flat, I reflect from the past few years: flicking through photos from Pride, Creamfields, Y Not Festival… I even feel a little nostalgic about the ‘Hotdog and Cider Festival’ I attended once on the Level (I was on a date and a bird shat on both me and my chips). But this year the bands will stay at home, as we must too. So I’ll sip on my refrigerated cider; raise my can to my friends on Zoom. I’ll sit wearing my flares in the flat, and watch Blossoms perform for Instagram Live: this is our new normal.

Words by Amber Middleton
Photos by Ashley Laurence and Mike Tudor

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A Love Letter to Festivals