Well it’s that time of year again – Glastonbury, which I personally will be enjoying from the comfort of my sofa with a nice glass of Pinot Grigio (Ryan Adams, natch!). Tbh I don’t know why anyone would bother going to Glastonbury when the BBC does such a bang up job covering it, of all the festivals it is notoriously the biggest, muddiest, most prone to English downpour-iest of them all!
BUT I cannot tell a lie, I have a tiny little ping in my heart this time of year to go to a festival, despite past experiences that left me muttering “Never again!” – the portaloo stuff of nightmares, the filth, the humanity, the mud, the food which always seems amazing the first day but by the third makes your stomach churn, the sunburns (if you’re lucky!), the lack of a decent night’s sleep for three days….somehow, despite it all, come June I get a sort of festival amnesia and start to remember the good times.The dancing with friends, the amazing moments where you discover new music that you love, the momentary freedom from all worries and complete carefree idleness of it. Ahh…has anyone got a spare ticket for Belladrum?
Anyway(!) as a non-typical festival go-er, *cough* fussbudget, I have picked up a few survival tips over the years which I will pass on to anyone contemplating their first festival/or just you know, other non-natural festival goers who don't get what all the fuss is all about!
1.Camping: If you are new to the festival going lark, you might want to start slow/take the easy route when it comes to lodging. Many festivals now offer pre-fab sleeping options – we slept in tipi’s the first time we went to Belladrum/Tartan Heart Festival, which meant we didn’t have to stress about putting up tents/taking them down/worrying about other people crashing into them in the night/all that fun stuff. It was communal though, six people getting changed in one room is not exactly ideal, so maybe only for close friends/families. A lot of festivals now offer smaller pre-fab options too, yurts and “chalets” and whatnot. These things do cost more, but unless I was with other experienced campers (*cough* people who could put up my tent for me!), I would definitely consider these as a great, stress free option.If at all possible, especially if you are roughing it, bring an air bed. I know, it’s hardly the image of Girl Scout/Guide survival, but trust me, it makes festival life so much nicer.
2. Drinks: Don’t bring a metric ton of booze. Alcohol is unquestionably dear in the festival grounds, but are you honestly going to consume that entire case of Magner’s all by yourself? Of course we all smuggle a tinny or two into the festival, but generally speaking unless you are someone who regularly drinks a ton, you are going to end up with leftover booze you have to haul home. I would say bring a two litre bottle of water at least, as well as some soft drinks. Hydration is key. And PACE YOURSELF, for the love of god, seriously. (I speak as someone who has needed midday naps!). Try not to start drinking too early –if you are in a mixed party no doubt some crazy people will be having beer for breakfast – just don’t, not if you still want to be standing for your favourite band come 9 p.m.
3. Clothes: So festivals have become a bit of a fashion scene in the past few years, thanks to magazine obsessing and Kate Moss in wellies and all of it. In terms of style, just do you. There are certain cliches that people have gone overboard on in recent years, the flowers in the hair,the Hunter wellies, etc. Maybe do something different…though on the flip side I will say something about the diversity of the festival environment does bring out my inner magpie. It is a truth universally acknowledged that breathing festival air makes you want to put on glitter and turquoise eyeliner and those kooky trousers you are too shy to wear elsewhere and suddenly you're Ziggy Stardust – oh, just me? OK then....;-0
On the practical side, DO bring warm layers that you can add and subtract if need be. Pack thin but warm sweaters and leggings to put under those Woodstock skirts if the air gets nippy. A lightweight scarf goes a long way towards keeping any chill out. A good quality waterproof, especially in the U.K., is an absolute must. And wellies, yes you might need them – but honestly, don’t spend a fortune unless you actually wear wellies in your day to day life. A cheap pair will last you a muddy weekend just fine, and it won’t be the end of the world if you don’t use them. Do make sure your footwear is comfortable, and if you are remotely germ-phobic skip the sandals, because sandals+ portaloos = YUCK.
4.Toiletries: As bare a minimum as you can stand. Face wipes and baby/wet wipes are ESSENTIAL, because depending on the festival, chances are you won’t be bathing for a while. Bring a mini first aid kit if you have one. Dry shampoo/headbands/scarves – options for when your hair starts to look like an actual rat’s nest. Most festivals have sinks with running water so you will be able to brush your teeth and wash your face if need be (I MAY have dunked my frizzy head in as well!). SUNSCREEN is super important, even if it's overcast you are still getting sun. Makeup: as minimal as possible - tinted moisturizer, waterproof mascara, etc. I would say people tend to arrive at festivals and start drawing purple hearts on their face so if you are of that inclination pack your sparkly eyeliner!
5.Music: It’s why you came, after all(?), so here’s my top tip: Go your own way. We/I attended festivals primarily with large groups. Which can be a lot of fun, and there is safety in numbers. But don’t just follow the herd. If there’s some tiny act you want to see in the new band tent but your friends are all beer gardening it at the main stage, do just follow your own instincts. I went to my last festival without the o.h. I was in a large group but tbh I spent a fair bit of the festival all by my lonesome. It’s not for everyone. It can feel daunting. But I saw one of the best live shows of my life (King Creosote) while everyone else went to see the main headliner (I don't even remember who it was!). I had the most fun, all by myself. I was ready for bed by 11 p.m. or so while everyone else was hitting the disco. Know your limits. Even not drinking an awful lot, I am someone who struggles to party into the wee small hours, always have been. Don’t force yourself to keep going if you are barely standing. Your body will thank you the next day (yes I’m into old lady speak now, if you are 18-25 just dance the night away!).
6.Safety First: Be safe/be smart: I know I just said to be bold and hang out Billy Idol style, but obviously if you don’t feel comfortable or safe seek out company. I returned to the campsite alone with a tiny bit of trepidation, but was gladdened to see a couple of others in the group had retired early too and we had a campfire style chat. Had our little nook been deserted I might have felt a tiny bit less safe/confident. And this was at a relatively small festival – with something like Glastonbury/T in the Park, etc, it is probably best to have a buddy system no matter what when going to your tent.
7. HAVE FUN!: I won’t lie, I am someone who finds the whole festival experience a tiny bit emotionally draining/overwhelming at times.You are in a strange, largely grimy environment that is completely outwith your control. You might be a bit smelly, it might be pouring with rain and all your friends are in some stupid packed tent, your favourite artist might throw a hissy fit and walk off the stage a couple of songs in for no particular reason (Badly Drawn Boy, I’m still a bit devastated!).Very little goes according to plan, so you have to be prepared to let go, go with the flow, be a bit dirty, and just be a festival warrior. Enjoy the sunshine, do your best hippy dance and remember that someday you will wish you were there again!
P.S. How could I forget TOILET PAPER!!! UM I mean LOO ROLL! Bring extra, much extra....