Eat

A feast of London festivals

Picture: A festival. Public domain

Published: 28/06/2018

‘Eel readers may do well at making good food choices in their everyday lives. But what happens when we’re having (possibly alcohol-fuelled) fun in the sun, especially at a music festival, asks Kirsten Foster.

It’s easy to let things slip. The most sustainable option for music fans heading to a festival this summer might be to take their own carefully-sourced food and drink in with them and take their waste away again. The trouble is, the organiser’s policy and security might mean the first is impossible, and inconvenience makes the second very unlikely. At least regulations mean free drinking water points and recycling facilities are available at all festivals, but there’s a lot more that can be done.

So who are the headliners of sustainable festivals in London – and who’s at the bottom of the bill? I took a looked at 10 taking place around the capital between May and August 2018.

Published policy

Super promoter AEG/Goldenvoice is responsible for Victoria Park’s All Points East (APE) and British Summer Time (BST) in Hyde Park. It’s the only festival organiser I looked at that publishes a detailed sustainability policy online, with pledges ranging from supplying dedicated litter teams to giving reusable water bottles to staff. The free water points that are available throughout both festival sites are signposted and marked on site maps.

Local links

The London street food boom means most festivals boast of giving small London-based food businesses a pitch on their sites. The food and drink concessions for APE and BST are managed by London Food Link supporter Sourced Market, which grills vendors about the provenance of their ingredients and 90% of vendors have local links. They even have an on-site greengrocer to supply any food truck that runs out of veg, avoiding extra offsite trips. Field Day is using celebrated local London street food and drink markets, Street Feast, Venn St Market and London Brewers market to keep revellers fed and real ale-d; Gala Peckham has looked no further than their local microbrewery to supply their craft beer needs.

Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for in most festivals, with Field Day leading the way with a range of street food offerings curated by vegan blogger Fat Gay Vegan.

Rubbish

When it comes to recycling, all festivals will have to meet local council policies on waste, so all will have recycling facilities, but Wireless and Community lead the pack with detailed info on a recycling policy that includes plates and cutlery from all vendors that can go in the compost bins along with food waste, and a returnable deposit on plastic bottles and cups from bars. Lovebox and Citadel also stand out for pledging to make their sites plastic-straw-free areas. The organisers of APE and BST say many traders send their waste cooking oil for recycling and all packaging is recyclable or biodegradable.

Summery summary

Where these festivals, chosen to represent a cross-section in terms of size, style and geography, seem to do best are in areas that have been given most social media attention in recent times – reduced-plastic, vegetarian and vegan diets, “local” street food and craft beer.  But overall, sustainability seems to come low on their priority list, at least in terms of giving it any publicity. Most had no sustainability info on their websites and press departments and promoters were unwilling or unable to provide more detail.

Ultimately, festivals will probably become more sustainable when festivalgoers demand it – so it’s over to us to make some noise back.

Kirsten gathered information for this article from each festival’s website and by emailing organisers to fill in any gaps. Not all responded.

The festivals

All Points East, Victoria Park, 25 May – 3 June
Gala, Peckham Rye Park, 27 May
Field Day, Brockwell Park, 1-2 June
Heritage Live Concerts, Kenwood House, 15-16, 22-24 June
Community, Finsbury Park, 1 July
Wireless, Finsbury Park, 6-8 July
British Summer Time, Hyde Park, 6-8 and 13-15 July
Lovebox, Gunnersbury Park, 13-14 July
Citadel, Gunnersbury Park, 15 July
South West Four, Clapham Common, 25-26 Aug

How do they shape up?

Sustainability policies on website
3/10 [British Summer Time, Wireless & Community]
Recycling facilities
10/10 [All festivals listed]
Plastic cup and bottle refundable deposit scheme
2/10 [Wireless, Community]
Plastic straw ban
2/10 [Lovebox, Citadel]
Compostable cutlery
2/10 [Wireless, Community]
Veggie or vegan options
10/10 [All festivals listed]
Organic options
3/10 [APE, Field Day, Gala]
Sustainably sourced ingredients
3/10 [APE, Citadel, BST]
Using local food businesses
5/10 [APE, Citadel, Field Day, BST, Gala]
Free water points
10/10 [All festivals]

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