(Re)Constructing Music Festival Places

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The British music festival market is remarkable in its size, breadth and longevity. In recent years, a considerable growth has been seen in the numbers of greenfield music festivals: those rock, pop and folk music events which are held outdoors, across a weekend, and offer on-site camping accommodation. These represent the annual (re)construction of a temporary "village", and may accommodate anywhere from a few thousands to tens of thousands of festival-goers. They offer excellent promotional opportunities for their organisers, sponsors and hosts, and have become important leisure and tourist resources at the local, regional and national level. At the same time, they have significant social, cultural and aesthetic roles to play, in that they showcase new musical talent, and allow festival-goers to gain "authentic" experiences of music and sociality. However, despite their social, cultural and economic significance, there is a notable dearth of academic work critically examining greenfield music festivals, or theorising the relationships of these events to their host locations. This lack is addressed here by reconsidering music festival histories and expectations, and by examining the organisation, mediation and reception of three greenfield music events - the Cambridge Folk Festival, the Cropredy Festival and the V Festival - through a cultural economy approach. In light of the research findings, stereotypical understandings of greenfield music festival places and histories as carnivalesque and countercultural are critiqued, and the roles of other festival histories and meanings discussed. Three novel theoretical concepts are then introduced: "Cyclic place" moves beyond the ideas of the carnivalesque and liminality to suggest a new way of thinking about music festival spatialities; "Meta-sociality" helps to overcome the limitations of neo-tribal ideas in respect of music festival socialities; and "Specialness" addresses questions of festival loyalty and belonging. Taken together, these help to explain how greenfield music festivals come to be annually (re)constructed in their own images, and why they remain such an enduring element of British cultural life.
    Date of Award2007
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Swansea University

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