The Festival is Over...Nearly

All in all and despite the weather I've had a legendary summer hopping from festival to festival, campfire to campfire, gig to gig. It's just how I like it.

Here's Telling the Bees, ready to go on stage at the Bulverton Marquee, Sidmouth.

And this was taken round the fire at Uncivilisation, the gathering of the Dark Mountain Project, waiting to hear Rima and Tom tell strange Siberian stories late into the night.

In between festivals we got some good walking in, and from time to time the sun shone.

This seasonal, summer, peripatetic lifestyle keeps me sane. The thought of being indoors through the summer months fills me with dread, and the times I've had to do it have left me morose, lethargic and depressed. The prospect of winter becomes unbearable.

But, of course, the summer comes to an end. There's only Moseley Folk Festival to go, already there's a hint of autumn in the night air, and soon the students will be back and term will have begun again.

Sneakily, I've managed to inject a little summer into the Religious Studies course at Oxford Brookes (where I've taught part-time for seven years). I teach a module on 'Festivals in Religion and Culture.' Fear not - it isn't all practical - I use it as a vehicle to teach some heavyweight theory too. Though I say it myself, I'm pretty proud of it: it's exactly the kind of course I'd want to take if I were an undergraduate. We have a lot of fun with it.

And believe it or not, there are students who've never heard of Stonehenge Free Festival (you mean, you didn't have to pay?), or the Battle of the Beanfield, or who think that festivals mean big corporate events with big stages and big names and a hefty ticket price too. It's my duty to educate people, no?

So here's the blurb to give you just a little taster.

Festivals, and going to festivals, have never been so popular. In 2010 one in ten British adults went to a festival. There are currently over four hundred different events in the UK, from large, famous festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading, to smaller, so-called boutique festivals, like Wood, Green Man and the Secret Garden Party. There are festivals for every taste, inclination and identity. People go to listen to their favourite bands, to camp and be outdoors, to experiment with alternative ideas and lifestyles, to meet sexual partners, to party and, of course, to take (mostly illicit) drugs.
While the 'rock festival' is a modern, Western, post-war development, festivals per se are ancient and more often than not bound up with religion. We will examine a range of religious festivals to ask why so many religions have felt the need for large, social, festive occasions. How it is that a religion like Catholicism, concerned as it is with correct moral behaviour, allowed and tolerated Carnival, a time of license, transgression and excess? To what extent are rock festivals, in spite of their secular origins, expressions of religiosity or spirituality?
As a significant if controversial aspect of contemporary popular culture festivals raise all manner of questions and merit serious scholarly attention. In this part of the module we will attempt to answer these questions using theories drawn from Religious Studies, Sociology and Anthropology. We shall examine a range of different festivals, secular and religious, ancient and modern.

Between us, at least, we shall keep the summer alive.


  1. I wish you had been lecturing on this when I was there. But I was there the last year of OxPoly...Ahem years ago.

  2. Not only would I have loved that course as an undergrad, I would love to take it now! Especially from you. Sounds excellent.

  3. Hey Andy! Just came across this post - if it's OK with you, I'd love to use that campfire photo on the website for this year's Uncivilisation?




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