A retrospective festival circuit

“John Peel to have new music festival named in his honour,” spouts Guardian Music today as yet another temple is erected to the hallowed memory of music’s saviour.

Worship this time takes the form of a shiny new festival (because it’s not like the music festival market is so saturated that several large events have already been forced to cancel this year).

John Peel was great in his time and all, and I’m happy to go as far as to say that, without him, the face of alternative music over the last 30 years would have looked very different. But to name a festival that showcases ‘emerging bands’ after someone who has been dead for eight years seems a little nonsensical.

Rather than breaking away from “nostalgia in music, particularly in live music, [which] is all over the place with bands reforming,” as Norwich Arts Centre Director Stuart Hobday claims, sticking John Peel’s name on the event serves the same purpose as having the likes of The Stone Roses headline.

As music industry profits descend into freefall, there is an increasing trend of sending bands of John Peel’s generation off on tour and selling tickets for upwards of £40 to over-30s with plenty of disposable income, as opposed to investing in as-yet-unprofitable new talent.

Of course there are still great new bands emerging thanks to pioneering labels like Luv Luv Luv, but more often than not festival organisers are looking to the past to find headliners strong enough to draw an audience.

While the sentiments of the John Peel Festival of New Music are wholesome and optimistic enough, the fact that someone felt the need to attach a slice of nostalgia to its title says something bleak about the UK festival circuit.

By Sophie Armour

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