Stormzy rocks at the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’

Under 35? 78% of you would rather pay for an experience than material goods.

Do experiences matter more than things? According to millions of posts today, this year’s Glastonbury Festival will be the memory of a lifetime for many fans. Is this part of a deeper trend?

Stormzy, The Killers, Kylie Minogue and The Cure, with hundreds of other artists on the line-up including Janet Jackson, Janelle Monae, Bastille, The Courteeners, Billie Eilish, Liam Gallagher, Vampire Weekend, Miley Cyrus, Christine and the Queens, Dave, Johnny Marr, Lewis Capaldi and Wu-Tang Clan.

Over 200,000 festival goers on 900 acres of Somerset farmland, 2,800 performances over three days, 79 stages, 400 food stalls, 40,000 bins, the largest green-field music and performing arts festival in the world.

A surprise appearance by Sir David Attenborough, accompanied by whale song and greeted by a huge roar from the crowd. “Now this great festival has gone plastic-free,” he said. “That is more than a million bottles of water have not been drunk by you in plastic. Thank you! Thank you!”

And pure, undiluted sunshine.

Welcome to Glastonbury 2019.

This morning, the critics are hailing it as one of the greatest in the 36 years of Britain’s most famous festival. Some even say it was one of the greatest festivals in recent history.

Musicians, politicians and fans have hailed Stormzy after he became the first black solo British headliner. During his set, he played a speech by the Labour MP David Lammy on the disproportionate number of black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the criminal justice system.

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the performance as political and iconic. “It won’t just go down in Glastonbury history – it’ll go down in our country’s cultural history.”

The very first Glastonbury festival was very small, held in 1970, and had only 1,500 people turn up. They were charged £1 for the ticket that included free milk from the farm. Today, a weekend ticket costs £248.

What lies behind this phenomenon?

Many experts agree that festivals are part of a major change in Western society, in which experiences have become more important than things.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things but, nonetheless, they remain separate from you.

“In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences,” writes Thomas Gilovich, Professor of Psychology at Cornell University.

Stuff is nonsense?

It’s all about happiness, say some. The Easterlin paradox is a theory which finds that money buys happiness, but only up to a point. Rather than buying the latest iPhone or a new BMW, modern psychology suggests you’ll get more happiness spending money on experiences like going to Glastonbury Festival, doing outdoor activities, learning a new skill, or travelling.

“How spoilt!” say the cynics. You’ll get more happiness on experiences as long as someone else is paying for you to be fed, sheltered, clothed and healthy. Just wait until life gets real. Then “stuff”, such as a nice house, a car and some favourite possessions, will make you far happier than a weekend in the mud. (Yes, it usually rains at Glasto.)

You Decide

  1. Would you rather spend £30 on a great day out with friends, or buying a possession you could keep?
  2. Should happiness really be the goal of life?

Activities

  1. Make a list of your five greatest experiences, and the five objects that you value most in your life. Score each out of ten. Total up each list and compare the results!
  2. Write a short story called, “An Unforgettable Experience”. It might be a chance encounter on a bus. It might be the Glastonbury Festival. You choose.

Some People Say...

“The ocean covers two-thirds of this planet of ours […]; the land only covers one-third of the globe. There are seven great continents on which we human beings live. Each of them has its own marvellous creatures – birds and mammals, animals of all kinds. Each of them has its own glory, each of them has its own problems.”

Sir David Attenborough, speaking yesterday at Glastonbury

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Research by the advertising agency J Walter Thompson shows that the festival market is in rude health. Average annual individual spend on festivals totals almost £200 each year; three in four millennials go to at least one festival every year; 25% go to four or more, and more than a third have traveled internationally to visit one.
What do we not know?
What a festival really means. From the Festival of Britain in 1951 to the anti-commercial festival movement of the Woodstock generation, to the recent explosion of food and literary events, the festival has adapted and evolved markedly over the decades. The term has never been more diverse and difficult to define than it is today.

Word Watch

Stormzy
Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr, known professionally as Stormzy, is a British rapper. Stormzy won Best Grime Act at the 2014 and 2015 MOBO Awards and was named as an artist to look out for in the BBC’s influential Sound of 2015 list.
David Lammy
Labour MP for Tottenham and the former minister for higher education.
Easterlin paradox
A finding in happiness economics formulated in 1974 by Richard Easterlin. The paradox states that, over time, happiness does not trend upward as income continues to grow.