“Music festivals are where me and my friends had our ‘coming of age’. Every summer we always go back to different ones, it’s a huge part of our lives.” Mark, 25
POLITI-TAINMENT: STORMZY & ATTENBOROUGH STEAL THE SHOW
Politi-tainment is a trend where we’re seeing high profile politicians leveraging entertainment to break barriers and drive deeper conversations, especially with younger audiences. Music has always been used by artists as a means to provoke (socially or politically), and this function was certainly not lost at Glastonbury 2019… UK’s Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn described Stormzy’s performance at Glastonbury as political and iconic: “It won’t just go down in Glastonbury history – it’ll go down in our country’s cultural history.”
The 25 year old grime artist, who was the first black solo British headliner at the festival, used his show to highlight black inequality and injustice. Racial injustice in the UK criminal system was a prominent feature in Stormzy’s set. He also celebrated inclusive steps in the ballet world (shoes finally being made for dark skin tones). Another part of his performance that got youth talking was his stage outfit. The elusive political graffiti artist Bansky revealed that he created the symbolic customised stab proof vest the singer wore on stage.
Elsewhere, broadcast legend David Attenborough appeared on stage at the festival to rapturous applause, hailing Glastonbury festival’s rejection of single use plastic water bottles. There was a warm welcome for the 93 year old. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t there to sing - his presence was important to young people because of the current political and environmental context.
The climate crisis was a major theme of the festival. The importance of this conversation felt especially relevant when the UK’s hottest day of the year hit during the weekend, and people began to worry about water supplies. The topic of single use items is now firmly associated with live music and festivals, with young people especially putting pressure on businesses and organisers to do better. Despite these efforts, and headlines applauding the ban on single-use plastic water bottles, a lot of waste was left after the event wrapped up.
CAPALDI & CROWD INTERACTION
Singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi is not only responsible for our favourite account on Instagram at the moment, and the #1 single “Someone You Loved”, he has become known to many as “the Scottish Beyoncé.” The crown fits. Capaldi is known for his music, but also for how hilarious he is, both on social media and in real life. His entrance to Glastonbury was a strong youth highlight, an antidote to the more political performances.
“Capaldi’s entrance was my favourite because it perfectly sums up his tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. Many artists take themselves too seriously these days and I imagine that being on a stage at Glastonbury is such a huge moment in a musicians career that they would want to make sure it was perfect. It’s refreshing to see someone successful take the piss and muck around and make fun of themselves, like my friends do. The beauty of Capaldi’s fame is that he’s not on some sort of pedestal, he’s someone you can relate to, and someone you’d want to hang out with. Coming on stage to a clip of Noel Gallagher making fun of him, dressed as him is just another example of Lewis being like everyone’s dumb, goofy little brother.” Eleanor, 27
Capaldi walked on stage to a clip of Noel Gallagher slagging him off. Dressed in a bucket hat and trench coat (a signature style of Gallagher’s), Capaldi stripped down to reveal a white t-shirt with Gallagher’s face printed on it. In the eyes of young fans, especially fans of his Instagram antics, he couldn’t have been more relatable, or perfect.
Speaking of relatability, the other 'best Glastonbury entrance' award goes to 15 year old Alex Mann, who was invited on stage to rap Dave’s song, Thiago Silva. For many, it was the moment of the weekend - crowd interaction brought to the next level. Alex’s fandom seriously paid off, and he didn’t miss a beat. Social media went wild with emotional reactions, envy and calls for record deals.
“Dave has undoubtedly solidified legend status after this weekend. You could see how much it meant to Alex to be brought up on stage for the duet and he shut down the show with his performance. I think one of the main reasons Grime music has become the cultural movement that it is, is due to how relatable it is to the younger generations. This was really embodied by Dave including one of his fans such an unforgettable experience.” Fin, 26
The online conversation driven by both these viral moments is a form of entertainment reminiscent of old-school TV. They were highlights shared by everyone. Attractive personality traits drove these moments to elevation in online youth conversations - Capaldi’s irresistible humour and Alex’s unexpectedly confident energy. Both exemplify passions held by younger generations in relation to authenticity and success.
At the end of the day, festivals are not about the headliners, they are about the people. This is significant for fans and performers alike - IDLES frontman Joe Talbot was moved to tears on stage during his performance. It is those utterly human moments that end up standing out the most.
Music festivals are about people, community and the collision of worlds. Despite festivals being places where emotions are heightened and life is elevated for a few sweet, short days, it’s important to consider how your festival activity relates to the real world (in reflection, celebration or something else). Unique or unexpected artistic collaborations (eg. Banksy and Stormzy), do a brilliant job at standing out.
Remember that, at a festival, you are a guest on the land. As youth’s attention on single-use plastic items continues to heighten, waste is an essential consideration for any festival activity. If you are planning a festival activation do as much as you can to reduce your environmental impact. Leave no trace. Encourage and help others to do the same.
You don’t have to do or be everything for everyone at a festival. Pick one thing, even one moment, you want to get right and that could be all the magic you need to have an impact on a youth audience - whether they are actually there or not. Relatability is key.