Finoak Blog

Festivals A-Go-Go

Original Festival, Woodstock 1969
The original festival

The festival season is upon us! The ranges of bejewelled, sequinned, feathered, floral head-body-foot wear that lines women's high street shops can make you feel as though you've entered your childhood dressing up box. But don't be deceived – festival-goers mean action, and the shops are only too happy to oblige. Boohoo and Asos both have their own 'festival fashion' sections, where they offer a selection of paisley-floral-sixties coloured jumpsuits, dungarees and headscarves.

The 'flower power' sixties vibe is still concurrent with festivals today, no doubt linked to the nostalgia of bygone festivals like Woodstock in the late sixties. One of the festivals in the UK today that truly takes inspiration from this hazy sixties-style chaotic hedonism is Secret Garden Party, which started with 1,000 punters in 2004 and now heaves under the weight of 26,000 revellers. They claim that you can 'connect to your creative powers' and 'explore your wildest fantasies' there with many attendees take this message to heart.

Modern Woodstock
a modern day Woodstock

Secret Garden Party offers suffer different from the more corporatist affairs such as Reading Festival and T in the Park (which both have huge amounts of corporate sponsorship, and are mostly attended for the star-studded line-ups), It is run exclusively off the profits made from the price of tickets. They employ a coterie of artists, musicians and general magic-makers to produce an experience that is not unlike something from Alice in Wonderland.

From geisha girls to Iron Man made out of an ironing board, and Pacman followed by three ghosts, you can't help but feel like you've entered an alternate universe. They also offer camel rides, baptisms of glitter, and a powder paint fight involving hundreds of people and probably inspired by the Indian festival of Holi, where a similarly colourful event takes place. And of course gaggles of beautifully adorned festival visitors, decked out in their Asos-best.

Holi Festival, India
Festival-goers add plenty of colour (from

Another notorious aspect of UK festivals is, of course, the mud. You're basically in a field with a bit of scrubby grass, so when the skies open everyone expects a mud-bath. Glastonbury 2005 made headlines as tents were washed away and the entire site was transformed into a giant swamp. In true British spirit, the weekend ploughed on, but the rain can put a dampener on the high spirits, in particular the fashionistas whose caftans quickly came to resemble the muddy coats of wildebeests. If given a choice, I imagine that most people would opt for sunshine and ice-cream, although perhaps not if you're in the wellington boot trade.

Across the pond, festival-goers have no such issues. The infamous Burning Man festival takes place over the course of a week in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. It started in 1986 at Baker Beach in San Francisco, and since then has grown into a bustling city of 48,000 plus people, all partying out on the flat and empty planes of the desert. Not a blade of grass or drop of rain in sight. The event takes place on an empty lakebed, known as a playa, and it returns to this empty state after Burning Man has ended – there is no trace left of the densely populated pop-up city.

Sea of tents at the Festival
A sea of tents

The founder of Burning Man, Larry Harvey, gives the festival a theme each year (similar to Secret Garden Party, which also follows this tradition) in order to encourage common ground and friendship between the festival's participants. Festival-goers are encouraged to find ways of making this theme come alive, whether it's through large-scale art installation, performance, costumes, and so on. The festival is less concerned with band line-ups, and more engaged in promoting a space in which participants can practice radical self-expression and communal art.

It takes its name from the ritual burning of a giant wooden effigy on the Saturday evening. Perhaps influence is here drawn from the cult classic film The Wicker Man, although let’s hope that the end results are not the same. However, unless you find yourself in the Nevadan Desert this summer, wellies remain the number fashion tip for festival-goers in the UK.

Burning Man 2012
The burning man