There are over 10,000 music festivals during the Great British summer at the moment, but where is the best and brightest for you to buy a ticket and pack your camera kit?
Spring is almost upon us, we’re all hopefully getting a bit more sun to drench our films in, and the little bit of light pouring through my window has reminded me that really Summer is almost around the corner; that can only mean one thing for me. Festivals. I am a festival fiend, I’ve still got entry wristbands on from 2009 that I can look at, and rekindle some of my fondest memories. But this article is not just about looking back, it’s about looking forward as well, to this summer’s festivals. Who is playing where, how much for and most importantly what camera should I take?
My first LomoFestival exploit was at the world famous Glastonbury Festival in 2011, I took my trusty Zenit 12 XP and ventured out of my tent in my wellies to document one of the finest weekend’s I’ve ever witnessed. Glastonbury is one of the most vibrant, colourful and loud festivals out there, so naturally I chose to shoot in black and white. As 2011 was the 40th anniversary year of the first festival you could say I was trying to recapture the original heritage and vintage look of the festival through my 40 year old camera and my black and white film. The truth is I just thought it would look good. And luckily it did. That summer I took the same camera to Latitude Festival in Suffolk and Reading Festival in, well, Reading. I love all of these photos as they were my first venture into film photography at festivals, and since then at Bestival 2012 on the Isle of Wight (8 festivals since Glastonbury) I couldn’t resist and packed myself 4 different cameras. Since my first summer of festivals in 2009 I’ve had a lot of fun, drunk a bit too much and photographed a lot. But where was best?
Glastonbury: The mecca of Festivals, there is no higher standard. Coachella will try and fly you stateside to convince you otherwise, and T in The Park will give you a 15 hour train ride to give you their side of the argument. But really, there’s no other option. It has line-ups that are consistently mind mindbogglingly good, the atmosphere is that of eclectic chaos and calm. One minute you’re in a genuine Spanish tomato fight, soon after that you’re going to see Kool and the Gang and then you’re up on a hill with 4000 other people who, just like you have also chosen to buy a giant candle (why wouldn’t you) and it’s 4am, you’ve got to drive home in 3 hours so you just sit there and take it in, because that moment could well never happen again.
2013 Price: £205 (Sold out: Resale in March)
Line Up: Unannounced
Camera Recommendation: There was no Glastonbury in 2012 so my only experience is with a Zenit XP 12, if you’ve got one, take it! Otherwise I’d recommend a Sprocket Rocket or a SuperSampler both loaded with CN800.
Rockness: In the late summer of 2011 I was lured in by this Scottish festival’s bargain £99 ticket for the 2012 Festival. So three other chaps and myself snapped up one each and then let the winter settle in. As spring broke we realised that as we live on the South Coast of England, we were 650 miles from our bargain festival at Loch Ness. A few months later, and after much deliberation about travel, a £99 train ticket and 16 hours later we had set up camp in the delightful wind and rain and vowed never to do that journey again. However, the next morning we were greeted with a view no less than spectacular. We arrived in the dark so didn’t notice at the time, but when you step out of your tent and are greeted with the site of a stage sitting on the edge of the most famous lake in the world it’s quite easy to think that 16 hours spent sitting in a cramped carriage and occasionally hearing the rants and raves of a drunken Scottish woman is a small price to pay for quite easily the most beautifully set Festival of them all. The music is just the cherry on top.
2013 Price: £139
Line Up: Fatboy Slim, The Maccabees, Ellie Goulding, Madness, The Vaccines, Example, Bombay Bicycle Club.
Camera Recommendation: Due to the great views I’d recommend a panoramic camera like a Sprocket Rocket or a Horizon, but again, my trusty Zenit ’12 was a great addition to the backpack. Pack CN800 and 100 Earl Grey for the Zenit if you can get your hands on any.
Isle of Wight: Probably the most ‘pop’ of all the festivals I’ve been to. I went purely to see the The Boss himself Bruce Springsteen who was without a doubt the greatest live act I’ve ever seen. I would have happily paid the ticket price for those 3 hours (yes, 3 hours!) It is a well organised festival, that although mildly dipped in heritage with 3 original festivals held between 1968-70, the current era of the festival, revived in 2002 has become one of the biggest in the country. I had a great time at the Isle of Wight, but for a ticket price the same as Glastonbury and nowhere near the same romanticism I’d spend that money elsewhere.
2013 Price: £197.50 + Delivery
Line Up: The Stone Roses, The Killers, Bon Jovi, Paul Weller, Bloc Party, The Script.
Camera Recommendation: I chose my Sprocket Rocket for the Isle of Wight and it proved itself a reliable choice. It is now my go to festival camera along with the Zenit. If it’s sunny as well, a SuperSampler could well liven up some photos when sitting in the camp site when no-one particularly good is playing. Either way I’d take CN800.
Latitude Festival: Latitude, located in Henham Park, Suffolk prides itself on being ‘more than just a music festival’. It most certainly is. Still fairly small, a mere 35,000 show up each year but not only for the music. It is an incredibly well dressed festival, everywhere you look there’s a statue, a painting, a craft session or even a spray painted pink sheep. When I went it was not the most summery of weekends, so my friends and I took refuge in a lot of the tent stages rather than the open air stages, this meant we had the opportunities to see some great comedy, some excellent poetry and some delightful honey sandwiches, as well as some bands. Latitude is jested at for being only for the middle classes, but although some may argue that it’s ticket price is extravagant, for the sheer scale of choice on the line up I’d be inclined to say it’s fair.
2013 Price: £183
Line Up: Unannounced. Expect a mixture of intelligent music and comedy.
Camera Recommendation: Again, the Zenit proved itself at Latitude, black and white was my choice again, as I just feel like it can capture Festivals in a great light not often seen. However, if you’re looking to be livelier, a sunny weekend and the brightly coloured arena would lend itself to a Diana F+ loaded with CN100
Bestival: Our festival tour comes to an end with the traditional closer to the festival season, September’s Bestival located on the Isle of Wight. Winner of Best Major Festival at the Festival Awards, it is safe to say that you’re looking at one of the Best-Festivals here. A short ferry ride brings you into a world of pure imagination, you’ll find forests, roller discos, burlesque tea parties, weddings in an inflatable church and superb food and drink but the best thing? It’s all in fancy dress. Bestival is the culmination of 40 years of British Festival-going condensed into 4 days, and you would be incredibly hard pressed to have a bad time. In addition, I don’t think there’s been many finer festival moments in my experience than running around the camp site with my girlfriend dressed as Adam and Eve and then bumping into a snake. It is only Bestival that can provide such a perfect moment in all of it’s fancy dress anarchy, and I most certainly will be revisiting.
2013 Price: £190
Line Up: Elton John (I did say it was Fancy Dress), Snoop Dogg, M.I.A, Franz Ferdiand, The Flaming Lips, The Knife, Wu-Tand Clan, Belle and Sebastian
Camera Recommendation: With such a wealth of colour and entertainment on show I’d recommend a Diana F+, a SuperSampler and Sprocket Rocket all loaded with CN800.
Hopefully reading this has helped you make some decisions as to how you want to spend your summer. If you’ve never been to a Festival I urge you to buy some wellies, take the bullet of the ticket price and let yourself go. I can no longer see a summer go by where I don’t throw that heavy back pack over my shoulders, and then pick up a box full of warm beer and cans of baked beans. It is a spectacle to behold both in front and behind the lens.
Thanks for reading and as they say,
Peace and Love.