Festival Season 2011 – How Was It For You?

So, it’s pretty much over. The annual four month summer festival season, which begun back in May with The Great Escape (or arguably the end of April with Camden Crawl), and took in a frankly ludiucrous number of weekends across the UK and Europe culminating with this weekend’s Bestival, is wrapping up for another year.

What did you make of it, and how did it compare to previous years? Will 2011 go down as a vintage year, or are festivals, in the immortal words of England’s patron saint of tent life, “on the way out”?

Festival punters

Let’s start with the age old debate: are there too many of them? The big argument a month ago was that the closure of numerous events – and the fact some festivals didn’t sell out – was a sure sign that things were going tits up. I’m not sure either of those hold water. First up, most of those forced to close – Devonrox in Devon, London’s Carnival del Pueblo, Oxfordshire’s Amplitude – don’t, and have never, constituted ‘festival season’ in my book. In other words, scores of new promoters might have a go, and fail, but that’s totally separate to the established calendar. And if any of the big guns are concerned about sales, they can always drop the ticket price a bit, book a handful less bands, or shove in a couple more Motorola posters.


Another criticism that’s echoed round the fields this summer like the distant pssschtttp of a furtive nitrous balloon is a lack of variety in the bands, and a dearth of truly mindblowing headliners. This I can subscribe to; Coldplay back on the farm after just six years was a bit of a let down to anyone that prayed for a brief and futile moment that the Stones or Zepellin rumours were true, and Download 2011 had nothing on Download 2010. It seemed for a while in July that Blondie were stalking me and Reading’s bill-toppers, while impressive, weren’t tell-the-grandkids astounding.

That said, there were plenty of places to see interesting things if you looked hard enough, from Field Day to Reading’s Festival Republic Stage, and overall summer 2011 felt like one long bounteous orgy of outdoor fun. Personal highlights included Muse, Eels, Beyonce, TV On The Radio, The Antlers, Foster The People, Noah & The Whale, and (although I may be the only one on this) Nik Turner’s Space Ritual. Oh, and of course Pulp.

Pulp at Glasto

What about prices? Did you manage to afford the festival(s) you wanted, and are you still up for forking out a few hundred quid on the whole experience? Reckon they represent good value for money? Considering you could relive the Glastonbury weekend about 48 times over and not repeat yourself, £200 seems pretty fair to me. But maybe you disagree.

How else will festival season 2011 be remembered? The generally shitty weather? The generally peaceable vibe, in an otherwise quite tumultuous few months? Was safety a concern following the tragedy at Pukkelpop?

If you’re looking forlornly at the tattered tent in the corner and wishing there was just one more chance to hit the fields, feel free to reminisce over on our festivals section, where we’ve archived some 40 galleries celebrating and capturing all the summer’s key weekenders. There’s also video interviews and walk-ons, blogs, reviews and the rest.

For now though, share your summer 2011 memories with us. And let us know:

-What was your defining summer moment?
-Are there too many festivals?
-Where will you go next year?
-Do we need a bigger variety of bands?

NME’s 2011 Festival Survey

NME Festivals – Full Summer Coverage

The Big Picture – The Summer’s Best Festivals In Full Screen Images