It’s no secret that things have a habit of going missing at festivals all the time: from stray cans of Stella and portable gas hobs to leather jackets and digital cameras, each and every major music festival campsite suffers a rash of robberies once inebriated metalheads have retired to their inflatable beds and roll mats. Just because it’s an apparent given that possessions will find their way into new hands over a bank holiday weekend, though, doesn’t mean we have to take it. Something needs to be done, surely: as the yearly festival season becomes ever-more clogged with two- and three-day benders in cities, suburbs and the countryside alike, stories of mid-slumber raids and returns to camp to find rucksacks spilled and valuables stolen will become more frequent than ever before. It’s time suggestions were sought, advice offered and brainstorming begun. So, this Tuesday’s DiScussion is intended to get this particular ball proverbially rolling…
Perhaps you’ve read that DiS’s coverage of this years’ Reading Festival has been crippled, rather, by the theft of our photographer’s equipment – click here if you’ve not. Quite obviously, this isn’t on, and the comments under the original article suggest that Ben Jones, the victim in question, is far from unique: many of you have seen possessions disappear at festivals, and some 260 crimes were reported at Reading alone this year (as of Sunday morning). So what can be done, if anything?
Should security be upped? Should organisers cut a few hundred VIPs from the guestlist to pay for additional bodies to monitor the campsites those same freeloaders never go near? More eyes the better, surely? Or would an increased security presence detract from the authentic festival experience, if such a thing truly exists anymore? Would wandering watchers bulky of build and short on tolerance stamp down on kids just cutting loose while their parents’ backs are turned? Would it be possible to properly police campsites without such a measure leading to drug- and alcohol-related arrests?
Would complete CCTV monitoring ensure that any thieves were caught in the act, or would that again infringe upon the enjoyment of attendees? Should the entrances to campsites be more secure? After all, while it’s difficult to get into the arena at a festival like Reading without the right wristband, it’s a doddle creeping into to camping areas.
What about some kind of locker system? Would it be possible to provide lockers – accessible to all and available for no additional charge – where valuables could be stored when not needed? While a wallet’s necessary throughout the day, a camera may not be. Likewise iPods or any sort of stereo equipment. Do certain festivals already provide lockers? I can't immediately think of one, at least not one where such a facility is made obvious.
Is such crime just a symptom of the success of certain festivals? It’s interesting to note that few thefts occur at The Truck Festival, but that many do at larger events – is this simply because of the number of attendees, or does Reading’s audience differ so much from that of Truck that a criminal element will always be present? Are line-ups ever to blame? Does the booking of particular acts attract a certain type of gig-goer who might fill their free time by looting vacated tents? I’ve been to a good few All Tomorrow’s Parties weekends, and never witnessed or personally experienced any crime, of any nature. Yet my tent has been rummaged through while I’ve been at Reading, and friends have suffered thefts (and assaults, for that matter).
Basically, what can be done to ensure that festival goers come away from such events happier than when they arrived? Nothing sours three days in a field more than losing something as essential as a mobile telephone or – even worse, really – extra clothing, coats, boots or bedding. It’s gutting to return to your tent after witnessing a great set from your favourite band only to find the zip open and your underwear and train tickets scattered all over the grass, and this that or the other stolen. Gutting. But what can be implemented to cut the ever-growing level of crime at festivals?
Also, check this out - Love Not Riots - and learn to love the Sunday night at Reading and Leeds, instead of using it to trash toilets and burn stuff next year.