I’m writing this before I head back up to the festival site for the last time.
It’s been an interesting few days. I’ve enjoyed myself, but I am not sure I will come here again. I don’t know whether the festival has changed, or I’ve changed, but something has been different this year. I feel more out of place. And it’s not a comfortable feeling.
Music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. But it’s started to take more of a back seat. I don’t play regularly with a group any more, although I still enjoy playing my different instruments. It’s something that will always be part of me, but it is no longer a defining part of who I am. I haven’t even acquired a new instrument this time around (although that’s mainly because I really wanted a melodeon, but they’re too expensive for an impulse buy). And I think that’s part of what feels different about the festival. I came here because I like the music. For most of the other people, it seems to be more part of their culture than it is mine.
The social norms seem to have changed as well. Small children are allowed to run around screaming and obstructing the stage crew, unchecked by their parents. Queueing seems to be an alien concept. No-one moves to let you walk past them, even if you ask. And there is a lot more tie-dye clothing this year than previously. It all makes for quite an uncomfortable experience; I can’t easily adapt to different social norms, particularly when I wasn’t expecting them to be different.
The sensory aspects have also been difficult. The acoustic sets are fine, but anything with a microphone is extremely loud. I’ve ended up listening to most of the sets with noise-cancelling headphones in. They work, in that I can hear what’s going on without getting overwhelmed, but a lot of the acoustic detail is lost and I feel disconnected from the live performance. (They don’t do enough to block out the Morris dancers, but that would probably take strong drink and illegal drugs – which, thinking about it, is possibly what causes the dancing in the first place…)
I’ll have to think carefully about whether I want to come here again next year. It might be time for a change – and that, of course, brings its own challenges!