Some people might say the reason why people enjoy attending mass festivals is simple – and on one level, it may be. What isn’t to like about disappearing from the “real world” for a few days (or weeks!) to unwind, release, and dance in the open air with fellow friends? The number of tickets sold to these festivals each year tell us, not much. 

But a new school of thought is developing around why people may be drawn to partaking in large festival events. Yes, it is about relaxing, drinking cocktails and beer and having fun – but could festivals be filling an evolutionary gap in our society which craves community? 

Escape to Come Home

Often, we think about leaving home to attend a festival in the desert (perhaps even on a different continent) as a form of escapism. While this may be partially true, many people say that the feeling they get when attending these festivals is that they have arrived home. 

The freedom of movement, the radical self-expression, the kindness and free-loving ethos that has become synonymous with mass community festivals provides people with a sense of safety and belonging that perhaps they struggle to find in their everyday life. For avid festival-goers, attending these events becomes a non-negotiable priority, sometimes scheduling and planning its arrival years in advance. So what is it exactly that draws them back, over and over again? 

Business consultant Chris Romano comments that being involved with festival building fosters a sense of community pride, connection, and engagement that he struggles to find in other exploits. 

While Romano may be talking more specifically about small town festivals, his commentary on the unique social impact that festivals can have tells us something important: festivals play an important role in strengthening and uplifting communities that seems to be missing from our everyday lives. But why now? Only in recent years have we seen such a dramatic spike in festival attendance across the world – so what are we missing? 

Why Connection is So Important

Even prior to the development of the Covid-19 pandemic, modern society was evolving to connect more on social media,  to play online games and enjoy other digital activities. With platforms like Facebook and Instagram dominating the cross-country social game, people (especially teenagers and younger adults) have become far more acclimatised to non-physical social interactions than any previous generations. 

But a sense of physical, grounded human connection in the form of a greater community has always been important for personal development – we just aren’t used to it the way our ancestors were. Things such as preparing food, building structures and collecting water, these are all things we miss out on in the cities of our isolated, well-prepared homes. 

Perhaps, through attending safe, regulated festivals at well-timed moments of our lives, we too can begin nurturing the quintessential sense of community belonging that we need in order to thrive as a species.