We were all ready for the 2020 festival season, but as the Coronavirus pandemic grounded the UK to a halt in March, there remained little hope that any festivals would be taking place as usual this year. But don’t pack away the bucket hats just yet – many festivals have taken to the internet to provide festivalgoers with some virtual experiences to aid the lockdown boredom. Whilst attempting to rave in your bedroom doesn’t have quite the same appeal as it would in a soggy field with your friends, how do these virtual experiences compare to what we could have experienced this summer?
In what would have been the festival’s 50th year, Glastonbury has gone to great lengths to provide a virtual experience to live up to their iconic reputation. Headlining their efforts was the ‘Glastonbury Experience’ – teaming up with BBC iPlayer to bring viewers a mix of over one hundred performances from past years. Their website also provided a range of activities beyond music, such as a ‘Meditation Opening Ceremony’, as well as access to art and cultural highlights. Glastonbury have mainly used their social media platforms to share art and ‘throwback’ photos, alongside promoting their iPlayer experience, and have certainly succeeded in providing something for everyone to enjoy during lockdown.
Similarly Oxfordshire’s Truck Festival have used their social media channels to share and celebrate previous events, but in a more communal way – the highlight of which being a ‘Truck World Cup’, a poll-based knockout competition which proved to be a great way to interact both with past performances and with other festival-lovers. Other experiences included sharing festival-related memes, reminiscing over old line-up posters (why were the best ones always when we were too young to go?), and the creation of themed playlists. Despite a lack of live music content, Truck were certainly able to maintain a great sense of community and atmosphere amongst their followers.
Wireless Festival, however, pulled out all the stops by recreating a virtual 360 festival experience, which could be viewed through a VR headset (or your phone, for those of us without the tech). Whilst it may not have the same vibes in your bedroom, it’s certainly the closest thing to a festival experience available. Their social media reflected this, mainly focusing on promoting the three-day event. Wireless also provided an opportunity to donate to the charity Black Lives Matter, which was a meaningful addition to the experience.
These festivals have clearly made great attempts to make up for what we’ve missed out on this year, but how close can they really come to recreating a true festival experience?
It seems most people would agree that festivals are not just about the music, but also the unplanned experiences– the crowds, the sleepless nights, and sometimes surviving only on gin and granola bars for a weekend. Naturally this atmosphere is difficult to replicate in a space which only allows six people. Perhaps, then, only being able to partake in some elements of the festival experience allows for a greater appreciation of the event as a whole – the good times and the dirt that comes with them. And above all, festivals aim to people together – so now, at a time where feeling connected seems so difficult, it is surely worth participating in anything that can help emulate that experience.
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