Cultural festivals like Glastonbury feed the soul

Glastonbury may have grabbed the headlines this weekend for its 50th anniversary, but it and all the other great shows and festivals we’ve enjoyed this summer, with more to come, serve as a poignant reminder of all that that we missed during these two terrible years of lockdown.

It was one such event, the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, that alerted us to the dangers of what have become known as ‘superspreader’ events. This took place from March 10 to 13 two years ago, from the “second day” after the WHO classified Covid-19 as a pandemic. The festival drew nearly 252,000 visitors that year, including a crowd of nearly 69,000 on the final day.

In some senses, these large gatherings replaced the old religious congregations as society changed.

The latest Behaviors and Attitudes Survey shows that while in 1971 75% of people said they attended church regularly, that figure has now fallen to 30%.

Festivals and cultural events are super diffusers of a different kind. They spread happiness, a spirit of well-being, a sense of belonging and common purpose, knowledge and information. In this they also resemble religion.

Fortunately, we still have many events coming up this summer. Glastonbury may be over, but there is still the West Cork Literary Festival and the Chamber Music Festival in July and August. The Cork Midsummer Festival held a host of events with sold out notices. Longitude and Electric Picnic are on the agenda for July and September. Galway has its usual rich diet of attractions.

There is a lot to enjoy. Let’s make the most of it.

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