Are You a Kidult, a Grup, or Just a Festival Fan?


Photo by Irene Agnese — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Festival News this week carried a story from CNN.Europe on the noticeable bald heads, grey hairs, and families at this season’s festivals.

Brigid Delaney’s report can’t seem to make up its mind: is it bad that so many forty year olds are going to festivals? Or, is it good that festivals attract multi-generational audiences and are selling more tickets than ever before. Either way, everyone is noticing that performing arts festivals - dance, music, and theatre - are a growth industry as much as a growth art experience.

The CNN story follows the news that Michael Eavis is changing the process of ticket buying at Glastonbury to make sure a younger generation is not shut out of the quick-to-sell-out annual fest.

OMG. YG2BK. 2G2BT. MIRL. BFD. T+. **

It is an interesting dilemma to solve when your festival sells out so quickly many potential audiences are left in the dust. However, what’s the problem?

Richard Herring thinks our world is being ruled, onstage and off, by forty year olds who act like teenagers, “Kidults.” Adam Sternbergh reaches back to Star Trek (how retro can you get?) to see our culture being controlled by and geared to adults who act like kids, “Grups.” (Star Trek trivia time - grups was the term used by a planet’s youthful inhabitants to identify Capt. Kirk and his crew, a shortened from of grownups.)

Are the Euro kidults going to battle the U.S. grups for cultural supremacy?

One of the wonders of the documentary film on Woodstock (sorry, I am too young — i.e. too kidulty/gruppy — to have provided a first hand account) was to see all the little kids running around, dancing, and smiling. (Why weren’t my parents more hip and open?) In other words the very touchstone of youth festival culture had a multi-generational bridge built-in to the experience.

Festivals can be a magnet for great live art as much as a genuine sharing — across the stage and within the audience.

Eavis’ proposal is to set aside 40% of the tickets for telephone sales only so that teenagers can call from their mobile phones. Hmmm. Even if they have a phone but not access to going online, they still need a credit card — and the money to buy.

Surely, though, at the end of the day, a festival’s audience is more than anything else a reflection of the festival’s programming, and the pricing.

If some of the great companies and artists combine generations in creation and on stage (think Paul Taylor Dance Company, Peter Brook’s productions, or New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, to name a quick three from a list of thousands) why shouldn’t the festival audience be a direct reflection?

A festival fan sharing fun is a good thing — and sells out.

- Bill Reichblum

** And now your very own guide to a few messages from that youthful form of communication - text messaging as used above: Oh My God. You’ve Got to be Kidding. Too Good to be True. Make in Real Live. Big Freaking Deal. Think Positive.
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