When summer approaches in Europe, it signals the start of the rock festival season. Some like Glastonbury Festival are world famous, popular, the tickets are expensive, and they are sold out in hours. However, there are festivals that are far more understated while still providing the outdoor experience for many followers.
One of the oldest festivals and still going strong is the Isle of Wight Festival. It started in 1968 and the beauty of this particular festival is that it gives people a feel of real escapism as they travel by ferry onto the island. The world’s greatest bands that have played there over the years and the line ups have included Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie. Due to its location, nearly everyone camps for the 3 days in late June. The event reached its peak in 1970 when 600,000 attended but then Parliament added a section to the Isle of Wight Act stopping gatherings of more than 5000 people in any one place on the Island without a license. In 2002 the festival was revived and nowadays it is attended by around 60,000 people.
The biggest rock festival in France is the Les Vieilles Charrues which is attended by over 200,000 people. The festival has been running for 25 years and it is held near the city of Carhaix in the west of Brittany. The festival is helped to run by over 5000 volunteers and over the years the organisers have given money to renovate the Chateau de Kerampuil a castle near the venue.
One of the biggest rock festivals in Eastern Europe is the Rock for People festival in Hradec Kralove in the Czech Republic. It is actually on the site of an old airfield and the show satisfies the audience’s taste for hard and alternative rock. Attendances reach 35,000 and the show attracts bands from all over the world including the United States.
Rock music is very popular in Northern Europe and each year the Roskilde Festival is held just outside Roskilde in Denmark. In 2013 the attendance was 130,000 with 180 performing bands and 21,000 volunteers. With so many bands performing rock music is not the only musical veneer on show. There are 9 separate stages for the bands to play and the festival is held over 4 days. There are other performance going on such as theatre and one man shows, there are many food stalls and even a cinema. The campsite is 80 hectares and opens 4 days before the festival starts as people often arrive early.
Although there are many examples of large festivals there are also many smaller ones that are popular as well. Farmfest is organized at Gilcombe farm near Bruton in Somerset. It doesn’t attract the big rock bands, but the live music includes acts that are “left of mainstream”.
The Friday to Sunday festival has plenty of space for campers and there are many food stalls including vegetarian and vegan options. There are other activities on offer as well as the music. There is a cardboard arcade, a Drag Queen Bingo or a video game party for the attendees to enjoy.
Many people tour different festivals and see how many they can attend. Others will simply migrate to their favourite destinations each year. It is clear that there are now a wide variety of rock festivals on offer each year catering for a wide range of different tastes.