“Harry Potter” Festivals: The Dumbledore’s Army Gatherings of the Muggle World
Here’s an opinion that some of you may disagree with: Unlicensed Harry Potter festivals should exist. In fact, to a degree, it is essential that they do exist.
Following the ending of the Chestnut Hill Harry Potter Festival, there is a sudden surge of the simmering of discussion surrounding the idea of Harry Potter festival events. Normally, this is a much quieter debate within the Potter fandom, but since the end of Chestnut Hill, a widely known and seemingly fantastic Harry Potter festival, questions are arising over the existence of such festivals. I, for one, believe that in many ways, they are a vital ingredient within a fandom that we all so dearly love.
Now, I must confess that I have never actually been to a Harry Potter festival, licensed or unlicensed. I live in a bustling city in the North of England, but no such events have ever happened here before. However, festivals like that of Chestnut Hill have spread like wildfire across all corners of the globe and Internet, and whenever I see a friend attending one across the country or in a different city, I can’t help but feel a slight pang of envy. I hate to fall into cliché, but these events are truly magical.
Consider this: Everyone has a different story of how they came to love Harry Potter, and everyone has a different story of how Potter has helped them in their lives. Yet one of the most common reasons is comfort in a sense of identity and finding like-minded people, even if they are printed in ink as opposed to living and breathing right before our eyes. Countless fans have found solace, security, and confidence in one’s own identity through seven glorious volumes, but finding the same like-minded people that you fall for in books is a much harder task. It’s a scramble through a maze looking for that one glowing trophy. When your deepest interests are those involving fictional wizards, schools for witches and wizards, and sports consisting of flying broomsticks, finding a community isn’t easy.
Despite this, there are places where we can find and bond with fellow Potter fans that aren’t brief exchanges admiring a Slytherin shirt on the street: festivals. Not just anybody goes to a Harry Potter festival: It is the most ardent fans who want to experience, even in the smallest of doses, the world that they adore come to life, and not only in terms of scenery and decoration but in human company too. Festivals are places where the community physically unites, gathering and expressing their love for Potter. Fans become replicas of Dumbledore’s Army, ready to fight the world with wisdom, loyalty, courage, and ambition. They are places where we can unite outside of the Internet and immerse ourselves in what could be considered the closest we’ll ever taste to the wizarding world.
So why now? Why now argue in support of the existence of unlicensed Harry Potter festivals? Well, as Warner Bros. pressures such gatherings and distributes cease and desist letters, these gatherings and communities are torn apart. While we have fandom culture seeping through the Internet, we need physical, in-person gatherings to reinforce the friendship, unity, and bond that we all share in the immersion of our world. It is one thing to have Potter friends scattered across a country, continent, world, but it’s another to meet those people in person and share your passion for the glue that unites you together. Like Dumbledore said, “We are only as strong as we are united.“ To pressure such festivals and gatherings to end is cruel since seriously, what are we truly doing wrong? We aren’t creating rallies against Potter or saying the series should be banned. No, we’re celebrating it!
We should not need an official stamp of approval to celebrate something we love. We should not need an official stamp of approval to express our love and support for culture and media that is ultimately boosted by our support, funding, and continuous pushing of Potter books, DVDs, and wands into the palms of others. How is that fair?
We shouldn’t need a stamp of approval to celebrate and support something that we love.