This talk will focus on the outdoor popular music festival sector, one long associated with hedonistic, carnivalesque and liminal experiences and behaviours – from the countercultural events of the late 1960s to the outdoor raves of the 1990s. It examines whether the contemporary proliferation, diversification and corporatization of the sector undermines notions of liminality or the liminoid (whether in terms of the use of space or in terms of the behaviours we associate with festivals), and questions our historical understanding of events as inherently hedonistic or carnivalesque.
Chris Anderton suggests that the mediated history of festivals as radical or liminal spaces needs further scrutiny in order to show how festivals can embody very different meanings at different times and in relation to different demographic, psychographic and taste groups. The role of festival promoters, sponsors and audiences is examined, as are some of the factors that may influence the atmosphere and longevity of events: factors which may be said to either commercialise or sanitise liminal experiences and behaviours. He introduces the notions of cyclic place and meta-sociality as a way to account for, analyse and understand the wide variety of behaviours, beliefs and experiences associated with festivals.
Chris Anderton is Associate Professor of Cultural Economy at Solent University, Southampton, UK. He is the author of Music Festivals in the UK. Beyond the Carnivalesque (Routledge, 2019), co-author of Understanding the Music Industries (Sage, 2013), and has published and presented internationally on music festivals, the music industry, and music history.