The weekender occupies a special, hedonistic place in British culture. A festival for the working man, weekenders are there to dance away the grit and graft of the week, to completely immerse yourself in your chosen tribe, hear the best music of your life and – crucially – not see a single splatter of mud. Free from the genre polygamy and lowest common denominator booking policies that plague the modern festival (look! We’ve got a Mumford & Sons AND Calvin Harris!), weekenders are for the fans who want to live and breathe their culture, who want to hear the deepest tunes, see the best dancers and wear the sharpest threads.
It’s true that the words ‘weekender’ and ‘festival’ have become somewhat interchangeable in the last decade, but – once at least – there was a discernable difference. Open air festivals are an imported format – their roots lie in America’s counter culture rock explosion of the 60s, specifically taking the hippy pinnacle of Woodstock as a starting point. This model of festival took place in sun kissed fields, soundtracked by the wild, long haired flail of acid rock. In England, this utopian ideal also came with the added bonus of rain, cold, mud and cow shit. The whole wet, filthy scene had no appeal to the hordes of kids who were into the tighter, sharper looks of imported black American dance music – the Mods, then, later the soul boys. They had to search elsewhere for their recreation.
Luckily, the British had already come up with the perfect solution for fun-in-the-not-very-much-sun; the holiday camp. Created as a retreat for families unable to afford foreign travel, the 1960s and ‘70s saw a boom in camps springing up around the country. Starting life as jolly family destinations, these camps soon found themselves colliding with Britain’s polarised post-war youth culture, with the infamous skirmishes between Mods and Rockers gathering terminal velocity on the Easter Bank Holiday weekend of 1964. Rival gangs descended on Butlins in Clacton, ostensibly to take a break from urban (and suburban) living. Predictably they ended up slugging it out on the beaches (interestingly enough, Clacton is also the site of Britain’s oldest known weapon – the Clacton Spear, dated at 450,000 years old. Obviously they’ve been scrapping there for a while).
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