- By Peter Shuttleworth
- BBC news
As the sun rises and the nights get longer, it means music festival season is almost here – and it’s not just Pulp, Elton John and Billie Eilish.
In addition to Glastonbury, Isle of Wight and Reading & Leeds, there is an explosion of smaller, more affordable local festivals, or as some call them “glorified village festivals”.
“Those are the festivals where Glastonbury meets the Vicar of Dibley,” said one man who helps run one of 800 small festivals across the UK. “And people love it.”
So what’s behind the increase?
More like grand garden parties than the musical metropolis of bigger, more famous festivals, these hyperlocal events are proving popular for their appeal, accessibility, and value for money. their money.
Latest figures estimate there are 975 music festivals in the UK – with 778 being classified as micro-festivals, usually held on a voluntary basis, and not due to the popularity of the target repertoire. motivating topic.
They appeal to a broad age demographic and have fewer than 5,000 attendees.
In a quiet, quaint corner of south Wales, the 2023 edition of one such festival begins on Friday.
The volunteer-run Devauden festival in Monmouthshire has grown from a few locals blanketing a picnic in the fields to a lavish three-day festival involving 4,000 people over the span of 13 years.
It has now grown to more than twice the size of its host village thanks to its reputation as a family-friendly place to hang out, affordable food and drink, and signature activities. decent seal.
Festival organizer Jeremy Horton said: “We wanted to offer a showcase of local talent and original music, bringing the community together and fundraising more appropriately.”
The festival started as an ambitious project in some beers Friday night to raise enough cash to keep their cash-strapped local village hall running.
The hall is now, apart from the garage, the only remaining community facility in the village just outside of Chepstow.
Does cost make a difference?
But it’s important, especially during the cost of living crisis, that organizers know that their appeal isn’t just charm and accessibility – it’s value for money.
Tickets for this year’s festival start from £33 including camping.
Jeremy added: “Affordability and keeping the value of tickets is really important because that’s part of the reason why we’re so popular.
“We make sure the food and drinks are good value as well, so traders don’t cash in on fixed objects, so you’ll be able to buy a pint here for £3.50 or £4, which is a fair price.
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“Tickets for some of the big events these days are scary. Especially in today’s financial climate, people still want to have fun and have a good time but they don’t want or want to pay for tickets. land.”
John Rostron, chief executive officer of the Association of Independent Festivals which represents more than 100 events, said: “The mini-festivals are ridiculous, great value for money.
“If you compare them to concerts, especially big stadium concerts, you can go to a festival for a third the price and see 10 bands, every day for three days. – and some of my favorite musical discoveries came across at the festival.
“You can also let your kids run around or play in the playground and everything you want is in one place; food, drink, music, culture, literature and sometimes comedy – or you have You can just sit by your tent and chat with your friends.
“There are mini festivals in most UK counties, so you don’t have to travel far and line up, which is good from both a financial and environmental standpoint.”
What do bettors want?
Deavuden’s headliners are Rum Buffalo and Rusty Shackle rather than Guns N’ Roses and Sir Elton John, who topped the bill at Glastonbury this year – and that’s what customers want.
Paula Simpson, 53, who lives in Brockweir, near Tintern, said: ‘It’s close to home, very well organized and has plenty of space to sit outside and listen to great bands and musicians to suit all tastes. of everyone”.
“Really cheap tickets for a whole weekend of music including camping and the volunteers made it such a great weekend.”
Tracy Gorge will also be returning to Devauden Festival again this year and camping again, despite living just a few miles away in Chepstow.
“It was a very friendly festival, it was fun and we loved it,” she said.
How important is the provision of food and drink?
There are about a dozen savory outlets at Devauden this year and a number of sweets and drink stalls, including baker Isabel Davies, who will be picking up her creperie and pastry cart from nearby Coleford in Forest of Dean.
She said: “We cater at festivals that we ourselves want to be in and Devauden has a lovely vibe and is very family friendly.
“The cost of living has hit everyone, including businesses like ours, as the cost of our bills and materials goes up.
“It’s a tough balance because you have a customer service duty at festivals like this to deliver fresh food and charge good value for money.
“But Devauden has plenty of high-quality food outlets that cater to everyone’s palate – that’s so important in a festival like this and part of its popularity.”
The most important thing – music
More than 70 unsigned Welsh artists are among the artists at this year’s festival hoping to follow in the footsteps of Boy Azooga, BBC 6 Music favorite The Bug Club and Violet Skies and land a contract recorded after playing Devauden.
The Apple Tree Theory is one of them, and they go back to a “special festival” that has “grassroots growth of new bands” as its focus.
“Devauden is such a lovely festival and the volunteers take great care of the artists, they make you feel very welcome,” said The Apple Tree singer and percussionist Pete “Bongo” Morgan know.
“It’s been a great source of energy and helps the music ecosystem of new Welsh music as they’ve given a number of bands that haven’t been known for a while to showcase their talents. perform at a real festival in front of a crowd of real music lovers. It’s one of our favorite events.”
Renowned Welsh performer Rusty Shackle closes the Devauden Festival on Sunday after performing for the first time in 2010.
Now, their violinist Scott McKeon helps with reservations for bands.
“We wanted to give the bands the opportunity and the feeling of performing at a proper festival, not sitting in the back of a truck in a town parking lot,” says Scott.
“We have a very diverse mix of artists from hip-hop, ska and DJs to rock, reggae and dub – we are no longer a village festival, we are a genuine festival. “
Devauden is part of a world with a rich musical heritage; Queen’s epic Bohemian Rhapsody, Oasis anthemes Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger and the hit Coldplay Yellow recorded en route at nearby Rockfield Studios and Newport were once lauded.”New Seattle” in the 1990s.
So maybe a music festival seemed natural but it was only suggested because of the need to raise money to keep their 60 year old village hall alive for scouts, beavers and slimming groups use.
Jeremy Horton said: “The village hall costs £20,000 a year to operate without opening and we need regular income for the hall.
“It’s about how much money is needed, there’s no way a pastry shop or a car trunk will do that and stay open.
“Since there are no pubs or shops in our village, it’s the only place where the community can meet – but buildings in this era need a lot of money to keep up and running. good standards.”
This year’s festival will cost a record £80,000 for the stage but organizers are expected to rake in £25,000 for their halls.
“Above all, it has created a real community spirit and made Devauden a more attractive village to be a part of,” added Jeremy.
Free tickets for all villagers help get people on board, but many make up the 140-strong volunteer army, many of whom have to take time off work to prepare and clean up the festival site.
It has been a self-sustaining festival so far this year and an economic impact assessment estimates the 2022 festival has boosted the local economy by £53,000.
But it was awarded public funds for the first time with a grant of nearly £158,000 by the Welsh government over three years, should the festival hit certain targets.
“Since the first festival in 2010, this event has grown with the aim of helping local people access arts, culture, sports and community activities,” said the country’s Arts Minister. Wales Dawn Bowden said.
Council said the event was one of Monmouthshire’s annual highlights and was “extremely important to the county as many visitors help support local businesses”.
“It really brings the community together, which is a testament to the contribution volunteers can make, as they help support this massive event. Above all, it’s a great event. family-friendly event, open to everyone,” said Monmouthshire council leader Mary Ann Brocklesby.