James Cousins

Summertime and music in the air

Summer has finally reached York. All the telltale signs are there – the lake is greener and if, you look carefully, I swear it has started to bubble. The ducklings and goslings have learned to attack you of their own volition, no longer needing the encouragement of their parents to peck at your newly-shorts-attired legs for no other reason than to have themselves a bit of a laugh. It’s a time of sunshine, barbeques, picnics and pimms: it’s wonderful. And if you’re doing a ‘degree’ (i.e. most arts degrees) rather a real degree, then you’ve little to worry about in the way of essays or exams. For a brief moment, all seems right with the world.

But, as a first year, certain realities are starting to dawn on me. I’m a third of the way through my ‘degree’, which means I only have two years left before I enter the terrifying place that is the real world, a place where the government doesn’t pay for my food and accommodation, a place where other people don’t care about semiotics, punctuation or obscure post-rock bands, a place of taxes and no holidays. Soon I’m going to be living in my own house and paying actual bills; the people I’ll be living with will even be living with me by choice, not as a result of some biologically or administratively ordained act of fate. And as an added bonus, thanks to a wonderful collaboration between the university accommodation office and my landlord, I’m going to be homeless for three days, another scenario that I’ve long been eager to experience.

Really though, all of this is irrelevant. Summer isn’t actually about travelling, sunshine, or paying off your student loan. It’s about music festivals. Music festivals have come under some rather heavy criticism in recent years, and a lot of it is well deserved. Far removed from the celebratory, free-spirited ideals that spawned them, they have, in many sad cases, disintegrated into overpriced, overfilled and muddy booze-ups. Even in newer festivals like Latitude that aspire to that original artsy, hippy spirit you can still hear the wail of weeping wallets amidst the crowds; the difference is that now you’re shelling out a tenner for falafel rather than a half-cooked burger. It’s hard not to feel a little bitter when you’re so blatantly being taken advantage of. And most likely thoroughly damp as well, some of the moisture originating from the inevitable rain, some of it the perspiration of the innumerable strangers you have found yourself in unusually close proximity to over the course of the day.

But some people would tell you that the mud and the overcrowding are half the fun of festivals, and they’d be right. Despite their failings, festivals offer an experience that cannot be found in any other place in society. There’s a wonderful sense of freedom to be found in sleeping in a field and the newfound ability to walk around for an entire weekend not caring that you’re encrusted with dirt. Your only worry will be how to fit in all of your favourite bands even though at least three of them are playing at the same time – I can certainly think of worse problems to have. So steer clear of the lager louts, come prepared and all will be well. Happy festivaling!

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