That time is upon us when thousands of music lovers descend on their muddy field of choice to listen to good bands, drink and be merry. Even though there’s no Glastonbury this year, there are more festivals than ever, whether dance, folk, jazz or a mix of all of them is your bag, there is a camping pitch waiting for you.
So I thought I’d share my ten tips for surviving a festival, remember it’s a jungle out there.
- Take a feather pillow
The days are long and the nights are even longer so it’s a major luxury to get back to your tent, into your ill-fitting sleeping bag and ever leaking airbed and then rest your weary head on an actual pillow. Folded up t-shirts or inflatable pillows just aren’t going to cut it. Carrying a pillow may seem like a pain at the time but you’ll thank me later.
- Buy beer, take spirits
I never understand it when I see lads with a big trolley full of cans. If the weather is being kind and it’s hot, you are going to be supping from warm beer for the whole weekend. Plus you will have to keep going back to the tent for supplies. My advice is to take a good selection of spirits (Sambuca is an essential) and buy your beer as you wander around, nothing beats a nice cold beer when you’re watching your band of choice.
- Take phone pack
We’re all as addicted as each other to these pesky devices and can’t resist a selfie in front of the main stage or with that nutter you walked past dressed as a gibbon. But phones mean batteries. Most festivals now have recharge tents and while they’re good in an emergency there are usually queues longer than the Northern Line and you only ever leave with 50% power. Invest in a power pack and charge that bad boy overnight.
- Plan the pitch you want before you go
It sounds a bit dull but it really is worth being a bit strategic here. The first year I went to Glastonbury we pitched up near The Park Stage (naturally). Bad move. We were lying in almost full light with music booming throughout the tent. My advice is go for somewhere near to main stage as they are usually one of the first to finish at night. That way you can lie in your tent and listen to the music in the day but get some shut eye at night. Plus when the gates open it resembles Saving Private Ryan as you battle for the pitches so if you’re single minded, you’ll get what you want. Hesitate and you’ll be by the toilet block before you know it.
- Day bag
Sometimes your tent can be miles away from the action, so I have a small-ish man bag that I got from JB Sports which appears to have been possessed by the spirit of Mary Poppins bag, it can fit everything in. I always keep my valuables in there, even putting it under my pillow when I sleep. I’ve never experienced things being robbed but there is no sense in tempting fate. What’s in my magic bag? Money obviously (my friends take the piss because I budget for each day and put them in separate envelopes, OK I’m a planner!), if the rules allow a small bottle of the spirit of your choice, tissues (these are lands of no toilet roll, never ever travel without a packet of Kleenex) and hand sanitiser.
- Get separate tents
The first year we went to Glastonbury we all had good sized tents that we doubled up in and it was great. We could unpack all our clothes which was amazing, I can’t be doing with living out of the rucksack. The next year we thought we’d get one of those super tents with bedrooms, our reasoning was we could be together if it rained and have a kind of store room. This wasn’t the best idea. They sell them as double bedrooms, maybe if you’re a Borrower. I’m 6ft and not exactly slim. Luckily my roomie is five foot and teeny but even so, one of us always was in danger of spilling out. Don’t go there.
- Don’t be too rigid in planning bands
I’ve listened to so many people putting together a massive itinerary of all the bands that they will die if they do not see. I can understand that if you live on a remote island and this is your only trip to the mainland to get your music fix but most of us live near to a metropolis and you don’t have to see everyone. Some of the best things about my festival experience has been discovering new bands that I happened upon. Now when I listen to them, it takes me right back to standing in that particular field and feeling as free as a bird. That being said, if your absolute favourite is playing, don’t miss them. Most bands give the performances of their lives at a festival.
You might be one of the hardcore who subscribe to the “I’ll wash when I get home” mentality and fair play to you, although please avoid me after day two. However I’m a 43 year old gay man and I’m not stinking for no-one, so some form of body maintenance is required. I’m not brave enough to use the communal showers after a friend of mine experienced a naked hippy come and ask her to use her soap and then proceeded to discuss the finer points of the acts the night before. However I’ve found that you can do wonders with a wetwipe whilst trying to surf the airbed that’s all of a sudden decided to be full of air. I also raid Boots the week before we go and get some aftershave testers. OK it might not do that much good but it makes me feel better. My female friends always take a bright red lipstick. As the days pass and the hair becomes flatter and the dirt has its own dirt, a lathering of red lipstick brings the glamour back.
- Go to the loo in the morning
OK let’s grasp the nettle. It’s horrible. There are many different options from long drops to portaloos to holes in the ground and none of them are nice. Glastonbury’s long drops are probably the best although I never thought I would like an open air poo. Having experienced V Festival’s sewer coffin portaloos, I can confirm, fresh air above you is preferable. My tip is go in the morning, for two reasons. One they have more than likely been cleaned and are the best they are going to be. Two if you get it out of the way, you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day.
- Get out on your own
One of the best things about festivals is being in a big group with all your mates, lying in the sun (hopefully) and listening to bands. But I implore you to get out on your own at least once. It’s such a wonderful feeling to wander around, look at the stalls, go where you whim takes you without a massive discussion about who wants to do what. I remember sitting on a bench at Glasto, pint in one hand and flat bread in another, the sun was beating down and I was watching FKA Twigs on the stage. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
So there’s my tips. I’d love to hear of any other ideas, I’m not going to a festival this year but I’m thinking Glastonbury is a must next year. Where are you headed and what are your rituals? Whatever you do, dance and have the time of your lives.