Festival Survival Guide

The Great British festival experience. Three days of living in a field, punctuated by tumbling over guy ropes, toilet queues and tepid pints of lager. For some it’s a rite of passage, for others an annual pilgrimage, but to the initiated it’s a bewildering weekend of bright lights, loud noises and odd smells. So let us tell you all you need to know about having a pain-free festival experience.


You need to pack sensibly. Even if you’re travelling in the luxury of Mummy’s SUV, there will be a point when you have to carry all of the crap you’ve brought. This will weigh twice as much at the end of your weekend, when you’ve got to drag everything back to the car park. Survivors of Bestival’s legendary ‘Hill of Death’ will know what we’re talking about. A good rule is to take only what you can afford to lose, plus a torch and plenty of bog rolls.


Unless you love the sensation of being crusty, you’re going to have to make some provision for getting yourself clean. Of course you might have sprung for the VIP treatment, so will be blessed with waiting outside a portable shower unit whilst a horny design agency manager and his well-posh girlfriend noisily finish their ‘business’. For us mere mortals it’s going to be a strip wash and liberal application of hand sanitiser keeping you lemon fresh. For God’s sake wash your hands after using the bog, unless you want to be popping back there every 20 minutes for the rest of your weekend.


Think about what might make your life easier for minimum effort. An inflatable pillow weighs very little, but you’ll be able to bend you neck on Sunday without crying. Piles ointment is also quite handy. There’s plenty of reasons as to why you might need it, especially if you’re checking out the wide selection of international cuisine on offer or your Cyndi Lauper outfit is grabbing all the right attention. Also consider ditching that bottle of spirits in favour of extra socks and underwear.


Drag is popular, as is the acquiring of an epically sized, moron-signposting, festival hat. Fancy dress is almost obligatory at UK festivals now, providing plenty of opportunities for an embarrassing encounter with John from Accounts whilst you’re hilariously dressed as your favourite celebrity sex offender. You should take into account the British weather as well. Those open-toed sandals might exude hippy-chic in the dry sanctuary of the mung-burger café, but when you’re out in the mud you’ll catch pneumonia, or worse. The biggest news in UK festivals is the opening of a factory to churn out young ladies in Hunter boots, denim shorts, tiny tops and jumbo sunglasses. Festivals used to an expression of individuality, now it’s nothing more than a muddy fashion parade. Bear this in mind, as everyone will be secretly judging you.


Starved of wobbly bicycles they have no powers… At a festival hipsters lose their ownership over all that is cool and alternative, so don’t feel ashamed about your parochial music tastes or mainstream clothing. As they walk past trying to impress why not shout out, ‘look how ironic he is!’ Any festival offers a rich vein of people pretending they’ve eschewed middle class privilege, it’s just snobbery thinly disguised as socially unchallenging counter-culture. Don’t be fooled, they’re not creating cool. They just buy it.


For the sexually incontinent, festivals can facilitate a feeding frenzy of impressive proportions. No matter what you’re looking for, you can probably find it. So an endless supply of moist towelettes and condoms is essential. The former will make your sexy regions presentable following an afternoon of jumping around in the RAM Records tent, the latter will prevent your bits getting inflamed and offer ample waterproofing for your banknotes at Glastonbury.


Remember they’re illegal and possibly dangerous, so taking leisure-time pharmaceuticals of any kind incurs a risk of messing up the weekend and maybe your life. If you insist on getting off your tits, at least try not prove how much of a hero you are by necking everything in sight. Nothing will invite ridicule and deter prospective sexual partners more than parading around with purple sick down your festival finest. Additionally there’s always a chance you’ll pass out or lose your mind, thereby missing the one band everyone raves about for years to come. A handy tip, if you are determined to buy prohibited substances onsite, anyone wearing a hi-vis vest will be selling them. But they’ll only respond to the most persistent of enquiries.


Other people are trying to enjoy themselves as well. This status quo might be disrupted by you rubbing the blue paint from your hilarious Smurf outfit over someone’s effortlessly pretentious festival-wear. Similarly irritating are the know-it-alls, who loudly talk about ‘the old days’ to impress all with their festival pedigree. Nobody cares that you saw Primal Scream here in 1989, they’re just thinking you’re way too old for that bra-top you’re wearing. The stewards and security personal are provided for your safety, so give them some respect. Don’t playfully antagonise them, as their super power is the ability to have a dozen colleagues leap out of nowhere and properly screw your day up. Nothing is more amusing than a drunk and crying Smurf being manhandled away by four skinheads in hi-vis jackets. Avoid setting up a line of camping chairs marked by 20ft tall flags in front of the main stage. The 50,000 people behind you will think you’re a selfish wanker. Pick up your litter as well. Your floral headband suggests you embrace 60s idealism, but the 400 nitrous oxide canisters discarded by your tent show you’re just a scumbag.


So you missed your favourite band. If you were shagging, laughing or having a great time then it’s not the end of the world. Ignore anything anybody else says about festivals. The mission is ensure the real party is happening where you are. Chris Martin might be pratting about in the next field, but it should fade into insignificance compared to the epic time you’re having. You can hang out near your tent until your favourite band plays, or seek some adventure. Lose your mates, keep an open mind and see the weekend become marvellous.

*Header image by Marc De Groot

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