As the festival season gets underway for the summer, here’s a question for you – how old is too old to go to a festival?
Without a shred of hesitation, for me, the answer will always be a resounding and deafening NEVER echoing through the Studio10 corridors. So along with thousands of others – age utterly immaterial – I am heading off to the Isle of Wight at the weekend to see some amazing headliners and will be partying till dawn.
As far as I’m concerned my love of festivals will not diminish until my legs can no longer carry me there, and according to recent statistics, I am by no means alone.
Throughout history, humans have been known for a love of music and dance. Pretty much since the dawn of time we’ve gathered together to let down our hair and free ourselves with movement and music. It’s fundamental to who we are as a species. It was only in the latter part of last century that it became considered a ‘young’ pursuit. When Glastonbury was first held in 1970, it was populated by (and performed at by) the young, and when Studio 54 was at its disco dancing height the faces were by and large all under 25 years. Totally different genres but the same idea – young, beautiful people using music to escape their day-to-day lives and party the night away.
Fast-forward to the present-day music scene and the landscape has very definitely ‘matured’ in every way. We know that music festival goers span all age groups now, but what I find interesting is the even spread of numbers among the age groups. According to 2021 Statista data, 31% for the under 25 years matches 31% for the over 41 years festival goers, with 12.5% for the 26–30 years group and 18% for the 31–40 years group. Far from being about the young, festivals are becoming as much the preserve of the very grown-up as they are the not so grown-up.
Even only ten or so years ago, older faces in the crowd were significantly fewer, but now not only is the audience far more diverse, there are entire festivals devoted to meeting the needs of a new breed of adults – those experiencing ‘middle youth’, who love music and still want to party away their weekend like it's ‘92. I go because I LOVE to dance, to be free and to laugh with my friends, and being a grown-up certainly isn’t going to stop me heading off for a weekend of glamping (the offerings at these events have become way more sophisticated if that’s your choice) and musical indulgence.
And that’s another thing – the music. The artists of previous decades, of our generation and a generation or two before us, are still going strong. They are headlining these events. People 50-plus loved them first time round, and young people today see their contributions to music as part of their musical heritage, in much the same way that my generation saw the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Essentially, they’re bloody cool at every age, so it stands to reason that every age wants to enjoy them. Add to this is the fact that we are also discovering and enjoying the popular artists that today’s generation are listening to, and it’s clear that we are most definitely there for this music too.
As adolescence now stretches into the 30s, ‘middlescence’ – that time when your kids are grown up but you’re still young, fit and full of energy and fun – stretches from mid-40s up to 60s and 70s. We’re the ones who attended the great musical events the first time round – and you never really grow out of loving that vibe. Festivals are, quite frankly, for anyone at any age. So – I may not have a tent and a ratty old sleeping bag stuffed into an oversized rucksack, and I might be swapping a floor-soaked beer tent for the prosecco bar and gin bus, but Isle of White Festival – here I come. And after that, it’s on to Ibiza. And after that … any suggestions?