The gentrification of free festivals

Massimo.A. Allamandola suburbanstudio at
Wed May 2 00:48:36 BST 2007

 The gentrification of free festivals

Danny | 30.04.2007 23:17 | Culture | Free Spaces | Scotland
It is spring equinox, the moon is bright. I had sweet-talked some sweet 
foreigners into attending the Beltane festival on Calton Hill in 
Edinburgh tonight. It used to be a great festival, music, fire, dance. 
I've been about 5 times over it's 20 year history, but I've been busy 
with war stuff for the past 3 years. I did go the year it was 'banned' 
( ) and I was one of 
the people who ignored the council bouncers and took down the barriers. 
I've done other stuff to help out too, and when they started asking for 
donations, I was happy to donate.

I don't know when this started but tonight Beltane is 'tickets' only - 
£7 or you don't get in. No concessions so there is no way I can afford 
that. 12,000 people attend each year - so gets gets the £84,000 ? Now 
this would be a bit like griping at how extortionate pseudo-alternative 
festivals like Glastonbury are nowadays but for one salient fact. 
Glastonbury is private land - Calton Hill is common land. How dare I be 
charged money to walk up a hill I've walked up many thousands of times. 
It is a hill I can see my birthplace from, as well as where my father 
and grandafther were born. It belongs to me as much as anyone who just 
moved to Edinburgh to capitalise on the house markets, the sons and 
daughter of the filthy rich who can wipe their arse with a tenner while 
swinging their poi.

Whoever commercialised this event, you have sold out the people who 
supported you, but worse, you have privatised a public space. How 
alternative is that ? You have turned the naked dancers into little 
better than the lap-dancers in Tollcross, or the strippers in the 
'pubic-triangle' east of the Grassmarket. Typical though of this new 
century, I'd never have guessed I'd long for the good old days of 
Thatchers Britain. What is really scaring me is how many other 'free 
festivals' are now going to be unaffordable to me now I have the time to 
attend them again ? And worse, festivals used to be free-spaces where 
you were encouraged to participate not just gawk. 'Society of the 
Spectacle' indeed.

I've come back to write this post then I'm heading out at midnight to 
create my own festival on another bit of public land. The tickets are 
£200,000 - plus booking fee - or 2p concessions. It might not be that 
great this year, but it'll be better than that regurgitated hypocritical 
crap that passes itself for Beltane now for the posh kids and rich 
tourists. This year it is just going to be me, four Scottish friends, 
some Spanish girls, a Breton lad, an Irish couple, a Finnish girl, some 
crappy musical instruments and three bottles of whisky. At least two of 
us will be naked - and this year it is invitation only.


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