Call of the Disco Ball

Posted on 4th July 2022
Rain or shine, dressed in a bin bag and wellies or shorts and wellies. Clutching the most expensive can of cider you’ve ever bought. One of your sunglasses has somehow lost a lens but you’re still wearing them for some unknown reason. Did you brush your teeth this morning? What time are the headliners on again? I’ll meet you in the tent next to the wood fire pizza stall…
The summer music festival, it’s an iconic part of the calendar and hundreds are held every year. Today, festivals are a summer staple for many, but did you know that festivals have been held for over 2600 years?

In Ancient Greece in the 6th Century, the Pythian Games were held to honour the god of music, Apollo. These athletic games featured music competitions, music displays and dance. A few centuries later, the Greeks then created the Festival of the Vine Flower, or Anthesteria, which was solely drinking, music and dancing. Not really much of a difference between the 10th century and the 21st century in that sense! Anthesteria was held every year to honour Dionysus, the wine god. The festival lasted three days in the month of Anthesterion (February–March) to celebrate the beginning of spring and the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage. 

The first festival held in the UK was The Isle of Wight Festival in 1968 after The USA had brought music festivals to our attention. The very first IoW Festival had a crowd of only 10,000 people and was a one-day event, whereas today there are around 50,000 people over a weekend. The headline act in 1968 was Jefferson Airplane with Arthur Brown, with The Move, Smile, T-Rex, Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, Plastic Penny, Fairport Convention and The Pretty Things also on the bill. The iconic weekend that is the IoW Festival has now been running for 55 years. However, some have argued that the IoW was just the first modern festival that we know and love today. The first-ever recorded UK festival was in fact, The Workington Musical Festival in 1869. Maybe a bit of a different flavour to music festivals now, but a music festival nonetheless! William Griffiths, the organiser of the Workington Musical Festival, gathered families from South Wales to put together a band, then a choir and then the festival. So there really was only one act, and it was the organiser. Does this count?

Today, the UK has around 240 festivals each year, with different genres, cultures and (dare I say it…) vibes. Some of the staples in the UK festival calendar are Glastonbury, Reading&Leeds, and Camp Bestival, to name a few. Glastonbury Festival is surely the most iconic, however. Glasto’s first year was in 1970, they charged £1 a ticket and had The Kinks as the headliner. The first year 1500 people went to Glastonbury and quickly word got around. The following year 1971, was the festival’s second-ever year and 12,000 people attended, but this year tickets were free! David Bowie was headlining and let me reiterate… tickets were free. Bowie for free. What a time to be alive. Of course, now the capacity of Glastonbury is 203,000 and a ticket will cost you £250 but the music has never faltered; The Cure, Dolly Parton, Primal Scream, Johnny Cash, Beyonce, The Prodigy, Pulp, PJ Harvey, Florence & the Machine, Jay Z, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, I could be here all day listing artists. 

So what about small festivals? A small UK festival is considered to be between 3,000 and 9,000 people. When I looked up one of these “small” festivals, they still had around 70 acts on the bill! (El Dorado Festival 2022, Ledbury) How about a festival of 60 people, and rather than four days, you could fit everything into two hours AND not have to sleep in a tent. This sounds like someone describing The Smallest Festival in the World… imagine if such a thing existed? Well, it does! And Proteus are hosting it.
THE smallest FESTIVAL IN THE WORLD on Saturday 23rd July. The line-up includes; American band The Whispering Pines, Madman Soundz presents our family rave with MC Woosley and Panto Dame Bingo! We’ve got it all…

By Isobel Smith


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