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Surviving A Music Festival – Part One

Beki Kidwell

Triangle

I attended my first festival in 2009, aged 17 with approximately 20 of my close friends. I found it impossible to hold back my excitement from the minute my ticket arrived in the post, to the second I woke up on the opening day. That feeling hasn’t changed much over the years, but I have gained experience that has left me with some top tips to reveal as a forewarning of what you really will need to know in order to survive a weekend at a British music festival.

Transport

I’ve had the displeasure of enduring many a rotten and uncomfortable coach journey on the morning of a festival. It’s a fact that you will not get there by the time it specifies in the confirmation email. As long as you know this prior to the event, you will be a little less inclined to pull your hair out after being stuck in traffic on the same strip of road for over six hours from Bristol to Somerset.

My advice: Add a couple of hours on to your estimated journey time or, simply, drive yourself. I’ve enjoyed the journey so much more when spent in a car with friends. You can stop for coffee, take short cuts and listen to pre-made playlists on the highest volume without ‘disturbing other customers’. Depending on the festival, the journey may take just as long as a coach would, and you could end up squeezed in the back along with everybody else’s rucksacks and putrid boots – but trust me, most of the time, as you smugly pass full coaches of people stuck on the country lanes approaching the site, unable to fit under bridges or through tunnels, you will not regret your choice of transport.

Accommodation

The construction of your tent happens at a strange time between the absolute exhaustion of treading miles to find a decent, empty camping spot and feeling the frantic need to crack open your first can. Though sadly, you must start the process of tent-making the second you stop. If you don’t start laying the foundations, some busy-body will be along to steal your spot with an excuse that you can’t fight against – you’ll be too tired to even try.

My advice: Although you went to a fancy shop and bought one of the largest tents on sale as a ‘treat’ after years of shoddy £20 mishaps, you will soon come to realise that the treat doesn’t come until after the thing is nailed into the ground. So, get to it. Stay awake long enough to know that you have to get it done, and honestly, the minute it’s over you will feel such relief that you won’t even remember the heartache of erecting the thing.

It took me and my partner over two hours to put up our tent in gale-force winds this past June. It turned very nasty, very quickly. Yet, by the time the last bolt was secured, it was a thing of real beauty. So, just be aware – the minute you purchase that state-of-the-art, weather proof, people proof tent – you will need the patience of a saint, or at least friends who are willing to ignore you as you sob and curse the world for giving you such abysmal hand-eye coordination. Warn them in advance, get everyone to crack-on and pitch in, and soon you will be dining like kings under trustworthy shelter that won’t leave you waking up to a small river flowing through your sleeping bag.

The Crowd

The crowd at a festival is noticeably swayed by the type of event you have chosen. I’ve been to quite a few, from hippy garden parties to a metal-head’s paradise, and though the crowds hold vast differences in punter, as the mid-afternoon crowd surges into the arena, you will always discover the same distinct bunch of drunken fools looking to ruin the 40 minute set that you’ve been looking forward to all morning.

My advice: If you find yourself in this situation – as I have many, many times – the best thing to do is simply move away. Sadly, the more intoxicated an audience member is, the worse they will continue to become. You might begin to think, as they drift towards more aggravated and unlucky crowd members, that you’re out of the woods. Except the pathway of a drunk is never a straight one; they will keep coming back, asking you for hugs and looking troublingly as if they could vomit at any moment. So my advice in this situation is to suck it up and move a little further back. Then they can ruin somebody else’s afternoon!

So, that’s the first entry on how to survive a music festival. You can take my advice or leave it, but just know that as much as I moan about what can seem like ‘downfalls’ to a weekend in a soggy tent surrounded by merry bystanders, I find the typical British music festival a captivating and wonderful experience and, after seizing my advice, I hope you will too.