This year our summer tour took in Beautiful Days for the first time. This festival has been widely described as “like festivals used to be”. I think that phrase is meant to distinguish Beautiful Days from the sort of festival that’s sponsored by makers of lager and mobile ‘phone networks, but it must have been created by a twenty-something marketing director. I remember how festivals used to be, and they weren’t like this.
If you’ve ever seen the film of Woodstock, the archetype for later festivals, you’ll remember no food, no toilets, no information, a sea of mud, bands turning up a day late or not at all, playing on a single stage with terrible PA, interminable waits between acts, and some nasty thuggery. Contrast this with Beautiful Days:
- delicious food
In the festivals of my youth, you could either stand in an endless queue to be fleeced by the chicken ‘n’ chips vendor or the same for the hot dog vendor. At Beautiful Days there was a choice of tasty wholesome meals from some of the best festival caterers.
- ample clean toilets
The Beatiful Days toilet fairies were constantly doing the rounds, keeping the facilities clean, fresh and well-stocked with paper.
At the festivals of old there were no children. Beautiful Days had a happy and mostly-free area dedicated to making sure the children had a good time too.
- more music
As a paid-up old fogey, I couldn’t allow that the music now is better. But there is just so much more of it. Beautiful Days offered two main stages and a dance tent, all of which ran more or less to time, and the turnarounds between the acts were effectively managed. And we did see some great performances, my highlights being Bellowhead, the Eliza Carthy Band, Billy Bragg with the acoustic Blokes (thanks for Levi Stubbs’ Tears), and my first experience of Jill Sobule.The nightly showing of Freeborn John, which allowed members of The Levellers to dress up as cavaliers, and involved the English Civil War Society in the gratuitous firing of muskets, was a “concept”, and thus unquestionably ’70s. And what a glorious show it was, too. Apparently a recording is promised. More throwbacks like this, please.
But yes, there were some reminders of how festivals used to be:
- traffic jams
Although Glastonbury now knows how to get 120,000 people onto the site in the manner of a military landing, a mere 10,000 of us spent two hours stationary in a traffic queue waiting to reach the Beautiful Days gate. Very nostalgic.
- security thugs
We’d already half-erected our tent when a short bald muscly man in uniform with walkie-talkie zoomed up self-importantly on a quad-bike and told us in the choicest language to move on, because our chosen spot was reserved for the security team. Not a very nice man, but I suspect he might have been worse if I hadn’t managed to suppress the urge to giggle at his pompousness.
The rest of our Beautiful Days photos are here.