Small Festivals: Why They Rock Harder Than the Large Ones

Goc, founder of ArcTanGent Festival, explains why small festivals are much more fun than massive ones.

Posted on Jul 9th, 2013 in Features and Interviews / By Goc O’Callaghan
Small Festivals: Why They Rock Harder Than the Large Ones The festival-going crowds are more spoilt for choice than ever before with something in the region of 450 festivals in the UK alone. The festival scene has reached saturation point, and is now maturing and segmenting. With each new festival comes the opportunity to produce something new, targeting a niche demographic, fine tuning your market audience, experience and musical lean. With this segmentation, certain types of people go to certain types of festival, creating a “tribe” like movement: groups of people who move in the same circles due to their communal love for the same thing. Often these tribes move in smaller circles and therefore go for smaller festivals, rather than those aimed at the mass market.

By segmenting the UK festival scene, there are often huge debates about what a “real” festival actually is… but does this really matter? Surely it’s about the experience that you have when you are there. After all, people attend festivals for the experience, whether it is a rite of passage at Reading or Leeds when you are a teenager, or the must-have hippy-trip of Glastonbury. Your choice of festival definitely says something about your identity.

It is unavoidable that with the segmentation of the festival circuit, smaller festivals will start up, and chose to stay small. Often, these smaller festivals are run purely and simply for the labour of love. Without a huge team of people, corporate sponsorship and a central London office (think Live Nation), smaller festivals are more often than not, run by those with a real passion to produce an event that people will love, revel in the experience of it, and want to sing from the roof tops about. After all, running a festival is less than rock and roll, especially when you're calculating the amount of waste your festival will produce and consequently working out how many toilets you'll need!

It is this shear passion for creating a niche experience, that makes the small festivals triumph over the mass-market main–stream festivals. What is more life affirming for a festival-goer than being in a field with 5000 other people who all love the same thing?! It’s that feeling that you have found exactly what you have been looking for and sharing that experience with people who, are ultimately strangers, but that share so much of your love and passion for the same thing. Very quickly these strangers become friends at a small festival, discussing how amazing the band you have just been screaming your lungs out to is, then catching this now familiar-stranger again at the bar, realising you’re camped 10 tents away from each other, dragging them up from the pit-floor when the crowd surges during another band and seeing them the following year in the same camping spot, in front of the same stage, sharing the same experience again. A level of intimacy only offered by the smaller festival.

Other than finding a niche small festival that seems tailor made for you, there are some very straight-forward reasons as to why smaller festivals are significantly better than large festivals. For example, walking from your car to your camping spot with all your stuff does not require you to walk for several miles over-loaded with absolutely everything you need for the weekend. There is actually some space around your tent; it’s easy to walk off the path through a crowd of tents to your own and you won’t get scorned at for putting up a gazebo in the middle of your circle of tents, as there is plenty of space for everyone. The stages aren’t a mind-boggling three-mile trek apart through a maze of tents and festival security; in fact you can watch the main stage from your tent door if you want to. The food and drink you consume won’t be extortionately overpriced and representative of cardboard or piss as it is all locally sourced and independent. Strangers quickly become friends and you see the same familiar faces year on year. The organisers listen to what you have to say… and a weekend of awe-inspiring fun does not destroy your bank balance.

Goc O’Callaghan
Festival Director of ArcTanGent

Tickets £59
29th – 31st August

3 days camping, 80 bands, 4 stages, silent disco, locally sourced food and drink