Festival Segregation

Isle of Wight Festival time again, and some immediate reflections from the first day…

I seem to remember a time-was-when festival were social levellers – unless you were crew or had a guest pass that got you backstage. Then the backstage areas started to wend their way up the main stage margins so the backstage guests could see the stage from front-of-stage. Then you started to get the front-of-stage VIP areas with their own bars, and a special access area in front of the stage to give you a better view and keep you away from the plebs.

There has also been a growth in other third party retailed add-ons – boutique camping, for example:


and custom toilets:


One of the things I noticed about the boutique camping areas (which are further distinguished from the VIP camping areas…) was that they are starting to include their own bars, better toilets, and so on. Gated communities, for those who can afford a hefty premium on top of the base ticket price. Or a corporate hospitality/hostility perk.

I guess festivals always were a “platform” creating two sided markets that could sell tickets to punters, location to third party providers (who were then free to sell goods and services to the audience), sponsorship of every possible surface. But the festivals were, to an extent, open; level-playing fields. Now they’re increasingly enclosed. So far, the music entertainment has remained free. But how long before you have to start paying to access “exclusive” events in some of the music tents?

PS I wonder: when it comes to eg toilet capacity planning, are the boutique poo-stations over-and-above capacity compared to the capacity provided by the festival promoter to meet sanitation needs, or are they factored in as part of that core capacity? Which is to say, if no-one paid the premium, would the minimum capacity requirements still be met?

PPS I also note that the IW Festival had a heliport this year (again…?)

PPPS On the toilet front, the public toilets all seemed pretty clean this year… and what really amused me was seeing a looooonnngggg queue for the purchased-access toilets…

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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