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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 July 2006, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Brits decamp to Glasto del Sol
By Ian Youngs
BBC News, Benicassim, eastern Spain

Benicassim festival
Up to 12,000 of the 35,000 fans at the festival were from the UK
With no Glastonbury this year, thousands of British music fans have ventured to the Benicassim festival in eastern Spain.

One in three fans at the event has travelled from the UK, attracted by cheap air fares, sun, beaches - and music.

Situated between Barcelona and Valencia, the festival - now in its 12th year - takes over the resort town of Benicassim for a long weekend.

Organisers say 10,000-12,000 Britons are here, with many choosing to use it as the focal point of their summer holiday.

"There's no Glastonbury and there's no other real comparison in the UK, so we thought we'd go somewhere abroad," says Tom Corbett, 29, from London.

"We had a couple of days in Barcelona first and I expect a few people will mix it in with a holiday as well."

Sandy Henderson, 32, from London, came to the festival in 2005 after finding out about it from a friend who went several years ago.

"That year, they mentioned that it was extremely Spanish, with few English speakers," he says.

Ian Edmondson
It's so easy to get tickets without sitting on the internet all day
Ian Edmondson (left)

"So it seems like it's changed significantly. It's like Glastonbury but with sun and a beach."

Budget air travel has made it easy for Brits to reach continental festivals for little more than it may cost to reach an event in the UK.

"It's cheaper to come here than to go from Manchester to Reading," British festival supremo Vince Power says.

"We have to thank the cheap airlines. But also people think it's guaranteed weather here. They can make a holiday out of it."

The number of UK visitors to Benicassim has risen every year, according to Mr Power.

He took a stake in the Spanish festival after selling live music company Mean Fiddler, which organises Reading and Leeds.

"There's no Glastonbury this year, which helps," he says. "And the bill is really good this year."

Sleeping bags

It is not just fans who are making the journey - Saturday's line-up was headed by UK stars Morrissey, Franz Ferdinand and The Kooks.

"It's less likely to rain in Benicassim than it is at T in the Park," says Franz Ferdinand singer Alex Kapranos.

The weather is a big attraction for fans and bands alike, with little chance of a Glastonbury-style wash-out on the Costa Azahar.

And unlike British festivals, the music does not get into full swing until the late evening, going on until 0800 the following morning.

Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand were one of the British acts on show on Saturday

"People at British festivals tend to have their sleeping bags tucked over their faces by 11 o'clock," Kapranos says.

The later start is intended to stop visitors getting overheated and lets them spend most of the day at the beach - which is about a 30 minute walk from the festival and its campsites.

But it can also have its drawbacks for Brits who may be more used to swimming in Glastonbury mud.

"I've got massive sunburn from being outside in the day," says Jonathan Withey, 29, from Brighton.

"If you are comfortable in the sun, you will love it. If you are not, you will struggle."

Despite its popularity, tickets for Benicassim were relatively easy to come by - unlike many UK events, which sell out within hours.

"It's so easy to get tickets without sitting on the internet all day," says 35-year-old Ian Edmondson from Lancaster.

"I just went on the website and got them within five minutes."

The Chelsea pub in Benicassim
The town of Benicassim tried to make Brits feel at home

And British organisers could follow other continental examples, according to Colin Dear, 25, from Essex, who was at the festival sporting an England cricket shirt.

Showers are provided on the campsites and the lavatories in the festival arena are "proper toilets", he says.

"They don't smell because they flush. Well, they don't smell much."

But there have been complaints from the UK contingent about the size of the main arena and the distance to the campsites.

Glastonbury's return next year will prove whether this year's influx to Benicassim is a one-off - or whether its popularity among UK fans will continue to grow.

The choice between Benicassim and Glastonbury will be "easy" next year, according to Tom Corbett - Michael Eavis' farm is still the first choice.

"But if I can't get a ticket, then I may be back."




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