Going Abroad for Music Festivals? A Student’s Perspective

By on Thursday, 21st April 2011 at 11:00 am

(Editor’s note: the graphic above is my attempt to approximate the routes taken by Brits going abroad for music festivals [or conversely, non-Brits coming into Britain for UK festivals]. Obviously it does not include every single music festival across Europe. So apologies if your favourite one is left out!)

Bored of riots at Reading and Leeds every year? Bored of the same bands every year at Sonisphere? Bored of the same complaints about Glasto? So are a lot of people. What are they doing about this, stopping going to festivals all together? Well, let’s not get too drastic. Many people have decided to go abroad for festivals to events like Benicassim (Spain) and Lollapalooza (America).

So what is the appeal of foreign festivals? Well, for starters, British weather is notoriously difficult to predict, and rain often is a blight of British festival-goers. Glastonbury has had 2 rain-free years, something which has been relatively unheard of in Glastonbury’s history, meaning that if Glasto 2011 is rainless, it will be a record since the festival’s inception in 41 years ago. Benicassim organisers have been quick to highlight “the weather in Spain is typically much warmer and more humid than the UK, and it gives makes for an awesome festival with the sun beating down on you.” Hmm.

When you say festivals away from the UK, though, you automatically think Spain, France or the USA. However, I’m here to tell you that you need not go so far for your foreign festival fix. Two festivals which are close to the UK but do require you to cross a stretch of ocean to get too are Jersey Live and The Guernsey Festival of Performing Arts in the Channel Islands. The former is in its fifth year and the latter is in its first. Now, you may be thinking that with the festivals being so young, surely the acts they attract can’t compare to domestic ones?

Well again, you would be wrong. Jersey Live has welcomed Kasabian and the Prodigy in the past and this year is host to Madness and Plan B, while the Guernsey Festival has so far booked Ocean Colour Scene, the Gaslight Anthem and Frank Turner and is still yet to announce its biggest act.

Guernsey Festival of Performing Arts organiser Jon Stephen said, “One of the most unique selling points beside the line-up is that it is in Guernsey. I mean, which festival can you go to where you are literally 5 minutes from a beach? The site is 30 acres of beautiful countryside, it really is a fantastic site for a festival and we even have camping on site for visitors from Jersey and the UK.”

What are the drawbacks though? Well while with most UK festivals, they are only a simple car journey away, whereas if you are travelling to say Benicassim you have to add an expensive plane journey, long train or mind-numbing road trip. For Lollapalooza it’s a trans-Atlantic flight and then even more travelling (if you can’t get a direct flight to Chicago, that is).

“The transport links to the festival from airports and by train though are extremely well provided and allow cheap and easy access to the festival,” a Benicassim organiser commented. Benjamin Saul, a student at the University of Portsmouth who is travelling to Benicassim this year, said, “even though it is a hassle to travel there, I have just become so disinterested in the same T in the Park and Reading and Leeds festival line-ups. The line-up for Benicassim this year is fantastic, and I am guaranteed to see lots of sun while I am there and for me, that’s important.”

For most of us the decision whether to branch out abroad comes down to one factor, money. If you’re a student like I am, you understand that being a student first and foremost, cost will be a big decider, so you have to look at the costs of these festivals abroad in comparison to the UK ones. A weekend ticket to Reading and Leeds is £192 compared to a weekend ticket for Guernsey being £80 and Benicassim at £165.

It may be more effort than nipping up the motorway to T in the Park, but when it comes down to overall experience, nothing can beat the feeling of going overseas for some sun, sea and cider and some festivalling abroad.

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