A Guide for Festival Virgins
Fresh off the 1970s coach, bag in one hand, soon-to-be-totally-ruined camping chair in the other – I was ready for my first ever festival. At 21, it was quite late for me to pop my festival cherry, but between working and travelling in recent summers I had never found the time or money. Nevertheless, 2011 was the year for me to make the leap, and I would not be regretting it.
So, halfway through the festival season with countless opportunities coming your way over the next few months, what would my advice be to any festival newbies planning to experience the mayhem? Overall, it could probably be neatly summarised in two words – don’t plan.
…I began to think I should have applied for a visa.
It took me all of two minutes of the walk to meet my friends to appreciate the sheer magnitude of the sea of mud, tents and drunk people that lay before me. Forty-five minutes later on my quest for the campsite, I began to think I should have applied for a visa. And it soon became clear that my delusions of running from Mumford and Sons to U2 in 5 minutes were on the optimistic side.
The scale issue is only compounded by the mud – it’s deep, treacherous, and unforgiving, so expect to find yourself with a face-mask if you show it too little respect. After festival sites have seen some rain, you don’t run, you don’t walk, you trudge. . .and fall.
First lesson – avoid making ambitious schedules, because sometimes you just have to make the sacrifice, sit back, and crack open another beer.
…bootyshaking the mud off your backsides to Beyoncé…
I have to admit I was pretty clueless when it came to packing for a festival, but by day three I realised that you can’t go far wrong. Wellies, a waterproof, perhaps a tent and maybe underwear are all essential, but the last two you could probably make do without.
Because eventually you understand that things will inevitably get filthy regardless of your best pre-bed-wellie-removal technique and the year’s supply of baby-wipes you’ve packed. You also realise that none of the ‘luxuries’ you’ve brought with you could possibly measure up to the thought of that homecoming shower, and when all the stinking thousands of you are stood in a field bootyshaking the mud off your backsides to Beyoncé, no one will give a portaloo how disgusting you look.
Second lesson – there will be mud, don’t fight it.
…if you thought the Blitz spirit was dead and buried, go to a festival this year.
But that pervasive, annoying mud somehow also manages to stimulate the atmosphere, the ecstasy and the togetherness that has become an overriding feature of British festivals. As I saw people succumb to it across the weekend, someone was always instantly there to lend them a hand. And as Elbow singer, Guy Garvey pointed out in their Saturday night Pyramid slot at Glastonbury, strangers there just talk to each other, and laugh together, completely spontaneously. Because there’s something unique and euphoric about spending time with thousands of other people who only have to think about sleeping (a little), drinking (a lot), and experiencing probably the most fantastic entertainment that can be thrown at them over a weekend.
Seriously, if you thought the Blitz spirit was dead and buried, go to a festival this year. The best thing to do is not spend your time following any plans or routines, but get out there and just ‘go with it’.
Third lesson – talk to everyone, you won’t regret it.
…that atmosphere, that escapism of living in a field…
These were, for me, simply some of the greatest days of my life, and it’s hard to put a finger on why that was so, or why I felt genuinely depressed for the days that followed. But I realised that, aside from the phenomenal entertainment and the world-class music on show, what I really missed was that atmosphere, that escapism of living in a field, a bubble, completely unconnected from the outside world of jobs, assignments and general responsibilities. Trust me, it’s intoxicating.
Final lesson – relish every second.
Image courtesy of Stig Nygaard