Festival Survival – by Ben Barron, Student, blogger and Professional Festival Goer
It’s that time of year again when the good old British sunshine- supposedly- is on full blast and institutions such as Wimbledon, Pimm’s and the barbeque are at the centre of everybody’s mind. The summer also brings with it another phenomenon which hundreds of thousands of Brits flock to each year, I’m talking of course about the summer festival.
Back in 2006 when I was a naïve young man I set off to Leeds for my first camping festival experience; in short I had one of the best weekends of my life however I also learned a hell of a lot about how to camp at a festival properly. If you are a first timer at a festival in the next couple of months then the wisdom I am about to bestow upon you may save you a lot of time and effort.
Firstly, however obvious this may sound I can’t stress enough the importance of having a half-decent tent - two friends of mine found this out the hard way. After an eventful trip to Ireland for Oxegen festival (including a cancelled plane and a lift from a strange man to another airport) they arrived with the realisation that they hadn’t even bought themselves a tent. After some serious brainstorming they came up with the genius plan to buy a value supermarket tent - big mistake. After being relatively happy with their temporary home for the weekend the powers that be decided to pelt Ireland with some relentlessly heavy downpours which resulted in their ground mats becoming primitive rafts. This was fine whilst merry on cider however when hungover the realisation that the value tent may have been a failure of epic proportions rapidly sank in.
Another issue often faced by the festival goer is the ongoing battle with cleanliness. When I first went to a festival I was on reflection overly concerned with personal hygiene which resulted in one of the more disastrous excursions of my life; I decided to brave the showers. Whilst not being unbearably horrific themselves I must point out that being in a communal shower block full of other and in some cases extremely intoxicated men is not the most pleasant experience. All I can say was one of the aforementioned intoxicated men suddenly decided to vomit inside the shower and it was at that point where I decided festival bathing perhaps wasn’t my cup of tea. Do not fear however as there is an easy solution, simply man up. At a festival deodorant baths are nothing to be ashamed of, just dowse yourself from head to toe in the stuff (however maybe not near smokers/naked flames) and pack wet wipes to help clean off any mud in the event of heavy rain, simple.
Festivals outside of Britain must be approached as a completely different beast. Here you must not prepare for the sometimes unavoidable British summertime rain but the possibility of 40 degree heat and travel.
I myself have never braved a festival outside of Britain however I do have friends who have blessed me with some invaluable advice should I ever decide to take my festival going on a European campaign. Firstly don’t pack too much food or booze, it will only serve to be a huge pain in the neck when traversing airports and is an unnecessary weight to be lugging around with you. Foreign festivals like Benicassim in Spain and Exit Festival in Serbia come equipped with supermarkets filled with reasonably priced food and drink, and you won’t be expected to pay £15 for a packet of crisps like you are in this country!
Another great piece of advice given to me by a friend was to really think hard about what you are taking with you to sleep in. Don’t forget that in a really warm country like Spain the music will take place throughout the night to save everybody from watching bands in the blistering midday sun, it therefore would be a really stupid move to opt to sleep in a sleeping bag or under a duvet. Instead take a duvet cover and sleep inside it as if it was a sleeping bag itself, this is a cooler alternative for people who like to be covered when they catch some much needed shut-eye after a long night of music, drinking and dancing. It is still possible you will be too hot to sleep however during the day and this isn’t helped by the fact that the ground is fairly rocky, to combat this it may be worth looking into booking a hostel just in case you are in some dire need of intensive rest from the sun!
Whilst these tips will hopefully prove helpful to those of you braving the festivals this summer it is true to say that all of these measures have been learned thanks to the exact science of hindsight. No experience is ever going to be seamless and to be honest this can quite often lead to the most memorable festival moments. The best thing you can do is make sure you are prepared for most catastrophic eventualities and then just go with the flow.
Put quite simply, get the boring bits and the organising done before you go so when you get there you can lose your inhibitions without worrying about starving to death, sleeping rough or worst of all running out of booze.