Advice for first time festival-goers

I absolutely love festivals, though I must admit that these days we usually buy a camper-van ticket and stay in the relative comfort of Tom’s VW van rather than under canvas.  In my old age I find there’s just something about lighting up the camping stove and making a cup of green tea and a bacon sarnie before heading into the hubbub of the festival site.  My first festival was Sziget Festival in Budapest in 2007 which was absolutely amazing – there was so much to see and do, the tickets aren’t a complete ripoff, the food is amazing, the price of beer is capped at about 2 euros (or was when I went) and the parties and music go on late into the night.  I then went to Reading Festival in 2008, which frankly, apart from the music (four words, Rage Against The Machine) – I hated.  Some of our stuff got nicked, the last night was like a war zone (people set a block of toilets on fire and were throwing gas bottles into it) and the price of food and drink I think is extortionate (I really sound like I should be on Grumpy Old Women now).

Sziget festival
// sziget festival, 2007

Reading festival

// reading festival, 2008

Despite this experience, I’m still a massive lover of festivals, and with so many more festivals coming up over the next month or so, I thought I’d share my tips for first time festival go-ers.

  • Always opt for a tent slightly bigger than you think you need. If there are two of you sharing a tent, don’t assume that a 2-man tent will cut the mustard because chances are, it won’t. Sure, it will occupy two people sleeping next to each other, but if you want to store all of your things in there with you and you like a bit of space to stretch out, you’ll need a bigger one.   Get a pop-up tent if you don’t fancy the idea of trying to put up a tent when all you really want is to crack open a cider.
  • Choose your festival wisely.  I didn’t like Reading Festival but I absolutely love End of The Road, which is much more friendly and fun, with a great atmosphere and lots to see and do (there’s a fairy light forest walk, peacocks wandering around, a comedy tent in the woods and usually a Pie Minister van!) Don’t limit yourself to the big ticket, popular festivals – I hear great things about Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, Beacons and Somersault Festival.  Find a festival that matches your interests – if you’re into skateboarding and surfing check out Boardmasters in Newquay.  (Check out this guide to the Ten Best Boutique Festivals in the UK).

End of the Road festival

// end of the road festival, 2012

  • Don’t take anything you’d be deeply upset if it was nicked or lost.  I know a lot of people who transfer their sims into cheap old phones rather than taking your iPhone, consider disposable cameras or a cheap compact digital rather than an SLR and stash cash and anything else valuable in the bottom of your sleeping bag or a hidden pocket.
  • Take enough clothes with you, but be ready for any kind of weather. Even if you are spending a summer weekend in the middle of a field, that doesn’t mean it won’t rain, so pack an anorak just in case. Make sure you have plenty of warm layers with you, too. You can find plenty of shorts, tops, jumpers and stylish casual dresses from George at ASDA so you won’t have to spend a fortune on your festival wardrobe.
  • Take some sensible footwear. Whether that’s wellies, boots or a pair of Dr. Martens, you will need something that is both comfortable, and waterproof, just in case the heavens open.
  • If you’re camping as a group, pitch your tents close to each other, with the doors opening inwards in a circle. This will stop people from camping in the middle of your ground and will also prevent people from walking through your camp.   Don’t camp next to a path, or a toilet block (no matter how convenient it might seem, a few hours in, it will smell. bad.)
  • Take gaffa tape. You will need it if your tent poles break (which is easily done if a drunk person falls on your tent or someone comes along who hasn’t read the torch tip) It’s also helpful to have with you just in case anything else needs fixing temporarily.
  • Take toilet roll and plenty of baby wipes. Take some sheets with you when you head into the arena, just in case the loos don’t have any paper in them (i.e. after the first day).
  • Don’t forget a torch. You will see people wearing headlamps and all sorts, but a simple torch will do the trick and will mean that you can see all of the guy ropes when you nip to the toilet in the middle of the night.
  • Pack a waterproof jacket. You will need it when it starts to rain! The last thing you will want is to feel sorry for yourself, soaked through to the bone. A simple parka jacket or anorak will suffice and you don’t have to spend a lot to get one.
  • Pack snacks and cereal bars.  Festival eating can get expensive if you’re buying every meal from food vans, so try and pack some cheap snacks that will tide you over and save you spending £6 on a bacon roll every day.
  • If you’re driving and then parking your car and leaving it for a few days, pack a pair of clean socks, pants and warm clothes in your car so you’ve got something comfy and clean to come back to!
  • Festival toilets are the stuff nightmares are made of, so no matter how cool you might feel in your playsuit/jumpsuit/kigu onesie, that is not going to be fun come 1am when it’s dark and you have to get completely undressed to go to the loo.

But most of all, make the most of the experience! Be careful, stay safe and enjoy yourself.   Let me know your festival tips – what’s your favourite festival? What’s the one thing you wouldn’t be without?

// me, at end of the road festival

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