Now, this may not seem to be in the true spirit of Glastonbury, Isle of Wight etc., but it’s well worth a try.
I spent last weekend at the Colours of Ostrava festival and, despite a fair amount of waterproof-wearing, there was no need for wellies at all. The few wellie-wearers that I did see were rather making a fashion statement than taking flood precautions.
So how do people manage to have fun at a festival without the pleasure of dancing in ankle-deep squelching mud? Well, in the case of Colours, this festival has a well-established tradition of presenting an excellent line-up of top-class performers, so no-one leaves without fond memories of the wide-ranging musical content. Even off-site the festival brings life and energy to the streets of Ostrava in the form of art events, music and theatre performances.
One thing that has provoked a lot of comment from festival-goers this year is the change of venue for Colours. I was there for the first time, and found the post-industrial environment of the former steelworks a fascinating location, but I wondered what some of the performers thought (not to mention all the loyal fans mourning the loss of the previous site). Imagine coming all the way from Africa or South America to what you understand is a “summer festival” and being stuck on a minor stage in the midst of rusting industrial decay dripping with rain. You would surely wonder if you had got off the plane in the wrong place. Fortunately, the fans at Colours are an appreciative bunch and manage to make all the artists feel welcome. Big smiles all around.
Between the long shifts of music and merriment my friends and I slept it off in student accommodation at the technical university. The first surprise for me was to see the names of graduates daubed in paint on the paving of the campus. It was clear from the lack of creative originality that the happy students had graduated in technical subjects, but it added a nice personal touch to the otherwise drab environment of the dormitory blocks. I wonder how a graduate-graffiti tradition like this would be accepted in British universities? Can’t imagine it going down well in Oxford or Cambridge!
Surprise number two was the size of the room in which two, or even three, students were expected to live out their academic lives. I was glad we were there for only a weekend, and just to crash-out. As the Italian guy said in the film “Down by Law” on entering his prison cell, “There is not room here to swing a cat!”. I remembered the first place I lived as a student, sharing with 3 others on my course. I was glad to be out of that by Christmas the first year when some friends and I rented a private flat (it was a squalid dive, but it was home to us!). These things are as much part of the formative process as the academic study itself.
The Czech Republic is positively bursting with festivals throughout the summer, its almost impossible to decide where to go next.