chapter  1
30 Pages

Contextualising outdoor music festivals in the UK

WithChris Anderton

This chapter provides a historical overview of the development of outdoor popular music festivals in the UK. It shows how festivals can be understood in other terms, and demonstrates the limitations of the countercultural carnivalesque. In the popular cultural imaginary, outdoor music festivals are strongly associated with the transatlantic hippie counterculture of the late 1960s and the emergence of rock music as a genre ideologically separate from pop music. During the early 1970s, a new form of outdoor music festival emerged in Britain, which perpetuated the aesthetic, spiritual, environmental, utopian, and communal aspects of the counterculture: the ‘free festivals’. The chapter discusses a range of festivals that pre-date the emergence of pop and rock festivals in the 1960s, including competitive, charitable, folk and municipal festivals. It also provides an alternative history of commercial popular music festivals from the late 1960s to the 1990s which adds to, and contrasts with, the countercultural narrative presented earlier.