I spent last weekend stood in a field. There were other people there, and we all looked the same, and dressed the same, and had the same haircuts. That might sound like a horrible dystopian future, but in reality it’s the nature of every festival in existence. Naturally, the people in attendance are all cut from the same cloth – they’re all there to see the same things, to take in the same surroundings. And this brings the ability to let go, to revel without fear of prejudice. Hence the appeal of the festival. That, and the music, of course…
Field Day has become a staple of the festival calendar over the last few years. The Goldilocks of music festivals, it’s not too dance-y, not too rock-y, not too long, not too short… it used to be said that it wasn’t too busy either, although it’s always been said that it’s too quiet.
“Let’s face it – when everyone is a VIP, no-one is”
In all honesty this year’s offering perhaps didn’t live up to the hype that’s been steadily growing since the festival’s inception. The whole experience emphasised some sad facts of life, mainly that the growing success of a venture almost inevitably coincides with a decline in quality. This was apparent in the over-sold, under-organised feel of the festival as a whole. Queues for toilets and bars were scandalous, giving the impression that the organisers were simply cramming as many people as they could into the space without adjusting the infrastructure accordingly. ‘VIP’ areas were similarly packed – indeed, the VIP-for-a-fee tickets smacked of a marketing gimmick. Let’s face it – when everyone is a VIP, no-one is, and vast swathes of the crowd shouldn’t be paying more money for access to an area which is essentially no different to the usual arena. Field Day is a festival that’s growing into a huge beast – the question is whether the organisers have the facilities to cater for it.
Happily though, as always, the music on offer was plentiful and superb. The close proximity of the various tents and stages makes it possible to casually wander between a huge array of artists and genres, catching things in between planned events that might go unnoticed at a more spread-out festival. Don’t like something your friends are watching? Fine, have a wander – pick an obvious meeting point and catch up with them later. Head across to the excellent Street Feast area, gorge yourself on the unbearably good Smokestak sandwiches, or fuel up for the night ahead with Anna Mae’s carb-laden mac’n’cheese goodness. Take in some village fete silliness, or plonk yourself in front of a brass band for a while – organisers are realising more and more that a festival is more than just the sum of its musical acts, and Field Day is a fine example of a diverse range of entertainment within the confines of a relatively small space. A friend of mine in attendance made the observation that you often spend the majority of time at a festival waiting; not for drinks or toilets, but for the act that signifies your weekend. Cleverly curated festivals like Field Day make the waiting intriguing, distracting and appealing.
It’ll be interesting to see what next year brings for Field Day. With Victoria Park at capacity it’s clearly a case of optimising the available space. While music, light, and dancing comprise the costume of a festival, infrastructure is the backbone. In the UK we’ve become used to queuing for toilets and crowding into bars, but boutique festivals and well-managed overseas events have shown us that that doesn’t have to be the case. Next year marks Field Day’s 10th anniversary – as an established enterprise it can no longer rely on the goodwill afforded to start-ups. It’s grating to see such excellent artistic curation let down by poor operational organisation. Hopefully 2016 will be the year we can finally number Field Day among the best festivals in the UK – I’ll be there with my fingers crossed.