It is with a heavy heart that I write this piece. As the summer is drawing to a close, with it departs one of the highlights of my year... festival season.
For those who are prepared to brave the elements, don't mind getting a little closer to nature and can live without a hot shower for a few days, the rewards are plentiful - Music, Art and all out good times. It's pure indulgence that brings people together in a truly unique way with everyone seemingly at their happiest and most creative.
There's something about the open air, the lack of any real time frame or responsibility, the experience of discovering new music and meeting new people around each corner that makes a festival such a special place. It's this pure indulgence that appeals to me every time - a feast for the senses; the taste of cider, the feel of grass under your feet, the fresh air, the insane sound systems, the guys with the crazy outfits, the art installations, the muffled bass heard from the distance, the sound of zips running up and down of tents, the crackle of fires all of which form shared experiences based around a wealth of different art forms.
For me it's as far away from the static, serious environment of the gallery space as can be, creating an opportunity to really engage with the creativity on offer as opposed to just standing and looking. Of course music plays the lead role in all of this and the shared energy of a group of people experiencing a piece of music together can't be compared to the traditional institution of the Art gallery. However, for me the essence of involvement and accessibility is something that inspires me to make music and art. Each time I go to a festival it's like recharging my creative batteries.
Talking of batteries, when I think about what contributes to this sense of freedom and expression I notice that one thing is missing - mobile phones. Whether it's because you choose to leave them behind or because you can't get signal, there is a sense of phone freedom at festivals. At the recent Shambala festival, heads were up, people were looking around noticing their environment and each other.
Shambala is renowned for being a getaway for those looking "to play, to reinvent, revitalise and then to return to the world fuelled-up on the beauty of being alive", in their own words.
There was definitely something in the fact that the mobile phone shackles had been lifted and for those four days the festival benefitted enormously from it.
Being a slave to your phone has always been something that troubles me, something that shows no sign of going away any time soon. When you walk around London at any given time you see peoples faces buried in their screens - messages, games, networking, socialising, banking, shopping, music. The whole world has been condensed into a small plastic box and I am no exception. All we hear are the virtues and benefits of this ubiquitous mobile culture; information in the palm of your hand, your future partner maybe one click away, shopping made oh so easy by advertisers knowing exactly what you like. But we rarely hear about what we lose out of this.
I've never understood how spending your precious time stacking icons of fruits on top of each other does much good for the world. Nor how, instead of watching live music, it is better to watch it through your phone screen, desperately trying to film it over the shoulder of the person in front of you. This misses the energy and reality of the moment only to leave you with a low-res version taken on a camera and microphone that can't deal with the frequencies that you'll probably never watch back...
When I looked around this summer in festival land, I hardly saw anyone filming the music, just saw lots of people enjoying it, living for the moment and sharing the experience with others. It was reality in the old fashioned sense, a world away from devices and the results were genuinely spectacular. I know this can never be a reality in the modern world in which we live but getting a slice of it every summer in order for live creativity to blossom is, in my opinion, something worth holding on to.
So there we are, another year, another festival and I'm already thinking about next year. It's time to batten down the hatches and bed in for the winter but fear not, there's always a light at the end of the field... and it won't be from a mobile phone.