Business

A cheap festival should not be an oxymoron but many people at Glastonbury this year are in a very different place financially to where they were when they booked their tickets before the coronavirus pandemic.

Festival goer Harriet Wheeler, 32, from Brighton, said people she usually goes to watch music with are not forking out this year.

“We’ve got a lot of friends who come to Glastonbury every year – this is our first – but a lot of them haven’t been able to come because they’ve had to think about the rest of the year and what money they are going to have leftover to spend, whether that’s for themselves or their children.”

Owen Dunwell, 58, from Nottingham, said he has really noticed the extra expense.

“This is our second festival on the trot and all the festivals, all the prices have gone up.”

At the Leftfield stage – curated by Billy Bragg – the line-up includes a talk on the cost of living.

“I think people will want to hear about, you know, the situation we find ourselves in and how we address it,” he said.

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“You know, in the press, the current situation is all focused on the wage price spiral. It’s not at all focused on how we do capitalism.

Owen Dunwell, 58, from Nottingham, at Glastonbury
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Owen Dunwell
Harriet Wheeler, 32, from Brighton, at Glastonbury
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Harriet Wheeler

“Over the last 50 years, such a large chunk of the pie has gone to shareholders and bosses rather than going to the workforce.

“And in the end, if people don’t have money in their pockets, they’re not going to be able to spend that money and make the economy go round.”

Back in 1970, it cost just a pound to get in to Glastonbury, but today tickets cost an eye-watering £285.

Bragg said that must be seen in context, adding: “For some, this is their summer holiday and, you know, £285 for a ticket? You try and get a weekend in Ibiza for that.”

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Glastonbury paints a picture of a thriving festival scene, but many of the smaller UK musical weekends which built up a following pre-COVID haven’t been able to balance their books this year, with rising costs and poor ticket sales leading to numerous last-minute cancellations. The knock-on effect is being felt by many who earn a living from the sector.

Helen Bayett, 30, from Bristol, is the owner and manger of Hot P'tatoes, a food stall at Glastonbury.
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Helen Bayett

Helen Bayett, 30, from Bristol, is the owner and manager of Hot P’tatoes, a food stall at Glastonbury.

“In a normal year we do about eight or nine festivals,” she said.

“This year we can only do two and that’s because of the affordability.

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“Everything has gone up… it’s so expensive to do, we can’t afford the petrol and the running costs and the stock costs.

“You have to have all your cash up front for these kind of things, so it relies on having it ticking over in the summer to build that backup up so that you can then go again.

“This year we only can do Glasto and Greenland because the others we just simply can’t afford.”

Normal service might have resumed at Glastonbury – but post-COVID there is now a whole new set of challenges for the live music industry.

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