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The rise of middle-aged music festivals

Kite Festival in Oxford: less ecstasy, more espresso

“A new type of festival has started to rear its head,” says Clive Martin in The Fence: the “lifestyle festival”, which brings the Glastonbury experience “towards the world of Sunday supplements”. You’ll have seen their wacky, incongruous line-ups on posters pasted on the Tube – Oxford’s Kite Festival, for example, had a “really-quite-deranged programme” this year, which brought together Grace Jones, Richard Dawkins, Delia Smith, indie band Black Country, New Road, and “David Miliband on Crisis Leadership”. And while a traditional festival requires a week of recovery, this new breed is all about wellness, “from run clubs to wild swimming, Finnish saunas to cooking classes, hip hop karaoke and ‘paddleboard yoga’”.

The trend isn’t hard to explain. Music-orientated festivals need to spend a fortune on production, whereas booking a broadsheet journalist “requires little more than a working microphone and a handful of drinks tokens”. And the middle-aged middle classes who attend these new events are living healthier for longer. “Generation X are sexy, solvent and looking for fun – all of which makes them a promoter’s dream.” And what’s the point in fighting it? “An ageing society full of festival-goers is certainly better than one full of curtain-twitchers.” Here’s hoping that the new lifestyle headliners eventually match the antics of their musical predecessors. Perhaps one day we’ll see George Monbiot instigate a mosh pit, or Yotam Ottolenghi “use a rather more ‘potent’ fungus in his mushroom and herb polenta”.