Down The Rabbit Hole: Partying to Belong

01 Jul 2022

With Down The Rabbit Hole and the Vierdaagsefeesten coming up, a lot of students will be partying like there’s no tomorrow. But festivals are more than just drinking beer and listening to music. ‘It’s a part of personal development.’

When thinking of a festival, what springs to mind is partying, dancing, and (if so desired) consuming lots of alcohol -and drugs-. For reasons that are no doubt familiar, this was not possible for the past two summers, which caused a slew of social issues among students. But this year things are back on track.

The past few weekends featured a host of one-day festivals, such as Drift and Parasol, that attracted plenty of students from Nijmegen, which served as a nice warming-up. Today marks the kick-off of Down the Rabbit Hole, a three-day music festival in De Groene Heuvels (En: ‘The Green Hills’) park, about 15 kilometres outside Bergharen. But things will get wild in two weeks’ time, when the Vierdaagsefeesten will turn Nijmegen’s city centre into a week-long party.


But besides the entertainment value, the option to attend festivals is also important for young people’s development, according to Vincent Meelberg. He is connected to Radboud University as a cultural researcher, investigating the effects of music and sound on people.

‘During your student years it is important to discover who you are and what you want. Listening to music or partying in a certain way contributes to that personal quest. This is especially the case when it happens in large groups, such as during festivals. It’s not just the partying that’s important, but also the feeling you get the morning after. Collectively waking up hungover at a camping site leads to fraternisation.’

‘As soon as you enter the festival grounds, you’re in a different world’

The cultural researcher explains that for many partygoers, a festival is also a chance to escape the humdrum of everyday life. ‘As soon as you enter the festival grounds, you’re in a different world, without the cares of the outside world.’

Thijs Verwijmeren, lecturer of social- and cultural psychology at Radboud University, confirms this. ‘Recent studies have shown that for young adults, relaxation is an oft-cited reason for going clubbing. Festivals are very suited to this sort of thing: everybody wants to have a good time, away from the daily grind.’

Loudly Singing Along

So, anyone loudly singing along or dancing up a sweat at Down the Rabbit Hole this weekend has no reason to be embarrassed. It’s good for you and all part of the experience, according to the two scientists.

A recurring news item of the past two years was that students often due to a lack of social activities. Has this changed now that festival grounds are getting crowded again?

‘People feel the need to belong’

Verwijmeren thinks it has. ‘The same recent study showed that, besides relaxation, social contact is another main reason for going clubbing. This makes sense; people have a need to belong, the urge to be part of something. At festivals you’re surrounded by like-minded people and making new contacts outside your social circle, which satisfies the urge.’

Meelberg: ‘People need social interaction to let loose. You can get this subconscious sense of being part of something bigger, especially when you’re dancing all together or enjoying music. That’s an experience that is impossible to have by yourself. That community spirit is vital to the feeling like you’re somewhere else for a change.’

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