There are few countries in the world that have embraced the concept of the music festival as readily as the British. Come sun, wind, or rain and mud, thousands of people across the land can be found spending their summer weekends under canvas by night and in front of stacks of speakers by day.
The reason for such behaviour? Simply the extraordinary choice of music festivals on offer across the UK. There are the big guns, drawing music’s most famous names, such as Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds and the Isle of Wight and the more bijou gatherings such as Bestival, Latitude and Secret Garden. All of which means there is something for everyone – whether a jazz lover, rock ‘n’ roller or devotee of Polynesian nose flute music.
Maybe it’s a curious quirk of the British spirit that such a quantity and diversity of events exist in a country whose weather is so ill-suited to staging them. But perhaps it’s for that very reason that music festivals in the British Isles have an atmosphere of fun, spontaneity and excitement unrivalled anywhere else.
Each festival has its own unique flavour and feel, but the universal expectation is that the punters are faced with a few days and nights in a field, though this can range from glamping in a well-appointed yurt to toughing it out in a flimsy portable tent.
Whatever the expectations, the best festival-goers are those who can maintain a carefree, sunny spirit, no matter how deep the mud. But spontaneity, when confronted by crowds, queues and adverse weather, is greatly aided by strategic planning. It helps to be well organised:
• Plan ahead and if you are going in a group make sure that each party-member has an allocated list of contributions (eg water supplies, drink, folding chairs, gazebo). It helps if one person is appointed the group organiser, and they can coordinate everyone else.
• A trolley or wheelbarrow will be invaluable when it comes to transporting kit from the carpark to the campsite. Many festivals hire out trolleys, but these can be expensive and elusive.
• Choose where to pitch your tent with care. Avoid sites at the bottom of hills (rainwater run-off and mudslides can be a real hazard) or near communal taps, where there will be heavy foot traffic. Make sure you’re not on the main route to the festival arena and avoid sites downwind of the loos at all costs.
• Use picnic rugs, folding chairs or even a lightweight gazebo to create a communal space outside the tent /s – an ideal relaxing spot for weary festival-goers who are satiated with the music and severely sleep-deprived after several days camping.
• Navigating your way back to the tent late at night, when all you’ve got is a torch and your own befuddled recollections, can be a nightmare. Take a short cut by fixing a flag or pennant to the top of your tent so you can recognise amongst it the hundreds of others, which all look disturbingly similar.
• Don’t leave valuables in your tent. Make sure you’ve got plenty of cash as well as cards as you never know what the policy of bars, food stalls and refreshment facilities will be.
• Your mobile will be invaluable: it will help you round up lost members of your party, organise meeting points, liaise over dinner choices. It will also double up as a torch and camera. Most festivals offer phone charging facilities (at a price).
• Take plenty of water. It’s useful for teeth-cleaning and washing, and it’s also vital to keep well-hydrated. You will be able to refill large containers at communal taps.
• Festivals are notorious for wet weather challenges but they can also be hot and sunny and if you are outdoors all day you will be very exposed – pack a hat and plenty of sun cream and apply it regularly. Always be ready to share your sun cream with less organised festival-goers.
• Everyone is at a festival for a fun time and you’ll need to get into the party atmosphere. But if you find yourself in a particularly quiet section of the campsite, late-night antics and loud, boozy conversation won’t go down too well with your sleeping neighbours. Assess the prevailing atmosphere and act considerately.
• Clear up after yourself and be meticulous about using all the recycling facilities that are provided. You should leave your camping site pristine, with no trace of your occupancy.
• Be open to strangers, share your stuff, help out if they’re lost or disorientated. You will find that all the usual social barriers disappear at music festivals, which creates a uniquely friendly and convivial atmosphere.
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