Estival Festivals


We were at a bijou festival last month. We live in the Peak District so we do a lot of this over summer. This one was the L’Eroica Britannia, the inaugural British version of the Italian cycle race, where everything (be it technical or sartorial) must date from 1987 or earlier.

These cyclists looked molto dapper compared to the modern lot. No obscene Lycra cycling pants or pec-hugging Team Sky racewear. The dress code was cotton Bermuda shorts in muted pastels, Lacoste or Fred Perry shirts and slimline fabric baseball caps. There was a scattering of discreet Italia-striping throughout. All very elegant. A lot of the bikes had no visible brakes which seemed overly purist to me. But what do I know? I couldn’t ride a two-wheeler at all until I was thirty six.

A miniature festival had brought itself together around the finishing line – food, drink, clothing, a brass band playing the theme to Doctor Who. As usual, the prevailing aesthetic was “steampunk”. That’s a sort of quasi-Victorian-wrought-iron-industrial-with-red-velvet, if you’re unfamiliar with the genre.

It’s understandable. The look is extremely picturesque and somewhat sharper than traditional festival hippy-chic. By definition, it’s inherently eclectic so it’s easier to throw together (and more forgiving of inconsistency and tattiness) than would be, say, a sleek futuristic vibe.

But it has held total sway for at least the last five years. As far as the monocle can see, luxuriantly-moustachioed gentlemen in blue-striped long johns ride penny-farthings whilst formidable matrons in chrome breastplates press cocktails on you. The end, surely, must be nigh.

The burning question is, what will supplant it?

I offer three possible suggestions.

1. Cholera-punk: the reductio ad absurdum of steampunk which may emerge as an inevitable backlash. It requires appalling sewerage, dodgy drinking water and for everybody to be thoroughly covered in shit. Some festivals are already way ahead of the curve on this one.

2. The Creeping Onesie: it started with teenagers wandering around campsites in this comfortable but oh-so-disturbing piece of clothing. Already, whole families can be seen dressed as miniature herds of zebra. Ultimately, bands will implode as lead singer and axe man fight over the only flamingo suit the exact shade of flushed pink to suggest unstoppable sexual prowess.

3. The New Elizabethan: if the current monarch lasts another eight years (and would you bet against her?), the nation will be forced to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee. A corresponding zeitgeist could easily surface. The boys will discover the sweaty hell that is wearing tights in summer (call it doublet and hose if you must, but we all know it’s just fancy-schmancy tights) whilst the girls will be imprisoned inside whale bone and farthingale. On the plus side, that seasoned festival-girl’s trick of a sneaky pee whilst sitting and smiling in a maxi dress will become a piece of, er, cake.

I’ll be reporting back.


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