A FUNNY thing happened to me last night. Arriving at a large music festival, I was greeted by a pair of burly-looking security guards… with a smile and a joke.
To readers who choose to spend their leisure time in theatres, opera houses and nice restaurants, that may seem particularly unremarkable.
But if you spend a large chunk of the summer camping in fields and braving the crowds at music festivals, as I do, you’ll know it’s a very rare thing indeed.
Now, I’m not talking about volunteer stewards; those guys are always friendly. Heck, they’re only doing the job to get a free ticket in the first place, so they really don’t need to turn on the attitude.
What I’m talking about are the thick-set, wide-as-they-are-tall custodians who are far more likely to greet you with a grunt, snarl and a brusk request – no, demand – to look in your bags.
It has often amazed me how often the nicest festivals seem to have the rudest security guards.
There’s really no point splashing out on colourful flags, gleaming bars and hanging flower baskets if you then hire a bunch of brutes, who serve only to unsettle us from the moment we arrive. If you’ve paid the best part of £200, you might think you deserve better. And you do.
This weekend’s festival was, of course, the Big Feastival – Alex James and Jamie Oliver’s annual shindig at Alex’s 200-acre farm at Kingham.
Everything shouts ‘nice’ there. From the immaculate litter-free site, to the great music and amazing food – hand-picked, so I was told, by Jamie himself.
Heck, even Coca Cola is banned and cigarettes are not sold on site (quite something for an event held on the farm of a man who, endearingly, once openly admitted splashing out £1m on Champagne and the other kind of coke, back in his wilder rock star days). But just because everything else is lovely, it doesn’t follow that the security guards have to be delightful too. But they were.
All weekend, they joked, grinned, and offered a helping hand.
They were, in short, a joy – and a credit not just to Jamie and Alex, but to their own industry – which is battling something of a (sometimes deserved) image problem.
Other festival promoters are learning. Complaints about unfair, intrusive and abusive security in recent years at the also lovely Cornbury Festival, held at Great Tew, also seem to have hit home.
Security at this year’s event proved a joy.
Now let’s see if everyone else is watching and learning.