Festival Structures

By Mungo Denison — February 23, 2018

As the sun sets on another festival season, we look back on a summer in which Secret Garden Party took its final bow and Bestival moved to the mainland, citing “a wobbly economy” as a factor in its relocation. With such established players rejigging their offering, what is the future for the UK festival scene?

Faced with a changing festival landscape – in which long-established players are as likely as new endeavours to fold under financial pressures – organisers are keen to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace and focus on their points of difference. Festival-goers are looking for richer experiences, wanting a festival environment to mirror the standard of live music performances they see throughout the year. On tour, many acts offer a theatrical spectacular to their fans and they expect no less at a festival site.

With a degree of homogeneity to festival line-ups from site to site, creating a large, interactive festival structure can give a festival a unique visual identity. Coachella has been a forerunner in this area, creating dramatic and engaging structures on their site and Boomtown, Shambala and Glastonbury have all offered their festival-goers eye-catching festival structures. Indeed, our very own Disco Ball created for Bestival provided a stunning backdrop to the sounds of Nile Rodgers’ Desert Island Disco set.

Creating an iconic festival structure was at the heart of the commission the NEWSUBSTANCE team received last year; our brief was to create a visual realisation of the Download Dog emblem for Download Festival 2016. We spent time with Melvin Benn, Festival Director, to define the brief and ensure a sensitive realisation of the festival’s much-loved emblem. Working in close collaboration with the Download Festival team, we created detailed design drawings and oversaw the creative process through to fabrication and activation. The intricate activation process involved transporting the Dog to site in two 40ft trucks, carrying twelve dismantled sections which were then fixed together during a one day build. Standing in the midst of the festival arena, the installation – with its piercing red eyes – was a dramatic focal point and provided the festival with a truly ‘Instagrammable’ scene. The event, which took place across three days at Donington Park, was attended by almost 110,000 people. Read more about Download Dog here.

The NEWSUBSTANCE team are in discussions with festival producers to enhance their creative offering. Although budgets are an ongoing constraint, the creative appetite is definitely there and plans are already underway for some truly memorable installations in 2018.

Visit the NEWSUBSTANCE website to read more about our festival work including Secret Garden Party and Bestival.