Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Glastonbury (and a load of other festivals) - a survivor’s guide

See point 5...avoid the toilets at any cost

Unless you’re Bear Grylls, Grizzly Adams or Seasick Steve the chances are that you, like me, spend most of your life in the relative comfort of a big brick thing with hot and cold running water, a well stocked fridge, a nice comfy bed and a wardrobe full of fresh, dry, clothes. It comes as a bit of a shock to the system then when we’re plunged into a huge muddy field together with thousands of others and left to fend for ourselves in the hostile land of the festival. Oh what horrors lie ahead. The cold. The damp. The ‘food’. The toilets. Ye gods, shield your eyes whenever you go in there. The things that come out of the human body...bleurgh. Anyway, in the spirit of helpfulness, and based on going to festivals for a fair number of years, here’s a list of things that might give you a fighting chance of survival. Good luck.

(1) Expect all sorts of weather. You’ll probably get it too. Maybe all in the space of an hour. Waterproofs, wellies and a hat are a ruddy smart move...as is suntan lotion. Well we can all live in hope right?

(2) Food. Take some. Plenty in fact. Food at most festivals generally fits neatly into two categories. Food that sucks and costs a fortune (spinal column in a bap) or food that sucks slightly less but costs more than a two bed semi in Islington (organic spinal column in a wheatgerm ciabatta). A loaf of bread, some cheese spread in a tube, plenty of peanuts, apples and some cereal bars are all good emergency supplies.

(3) Booze. Take some. Loads. As much as you can carry. Somehow you can quite happily drink from the moment you wake up until the moment you’re carried off site with hypothermia and you don’t get anywhere near as drunk as you would do in the ‘real world’. Some festivals do their best to stop you from taking booze into the main bit of the site but short of strip searching everyone these attempts are pretty futile. Just don’t wander in with a keg of beer under one arm and a crate of chateau neuf under the other and you should be alright. On an environmental note don’t be a tool...whatever you bring onto the site take it away with you or pop it in the bin. Don’t take any glass...for obvious reasons. Wine boxes are a great idea and, if you hold down the valve and blow down the end (once you’ve drunk the contents obviously, the silver bag thingy inflates into a handy pillow. Blue Peter, Blue Schmeter.

(4) Accept the fact that you’ll only see 5% of the bands you want...especially if you go to Glastonbury...it’s bloody huge and it takes about a week to shuffle from one end to the other. In fact by the time you’ve struggled across site to watch the next big think they’ll have released a greatest hits album, split up, reformed and written a musical with Ben Elton. It might not be very rock n’roll but if you really want to see someone plan ahead.

(5) Toilet roll. If you can avoid using the loos for five days I can heartily recommend doing so. Just tie a knot/bung a cork in it and hope for the best. If you have to go, find out when the men with the big sucky thing come round and empty the festering bowls of excrement. This often happens in the early morning but it’s worth making the effort just to avoid having to hover above three foot of other people’s ‘waste’.

(6) Money. Take a fair wedge, but not your life’s savings. Don’t plan on using one of those portable ATM’s though. The queues for these can be seen from space and they’ll probably charge you £200 just to get your own money out. Oh...and they’ll run out of cash just when you get to the front. And they’ll eat your card too. Just for a laugh.

(7) Go see stuff you wouldn’t normally see. Some of the best festival gigs I’ve seen have been from bands I’ve never heard of before...or since. At Glasto for instance a dude round a campfire can often seem a hell of a lot better than most of the bloated corporate soul sucking headliners.

(8) Talk to random strangers. The stranger the better. Especially the ones with drugs. I can’t advocate taking drugs of course...oh hang on...yes I can...take drugs. Every kind of drug. You might die but then again who wants to live forever eh? Especially if Coldplay are still on stage.

(9) Get off site early. Leaving a festival is a little like trying to escape from Alcatraz. Only not as much fun. Believe it or not there are still people trying to leave from last year’s Glastonbury...

(10) Maybe this should have been point number (1) but there are some festivals out there now that (whisper it) aren’t like living in a sewer for a week. I have high hopes for the inaugural Wilderness Festival that promises hot tubs and gourmet grub and the Big Chill’s pretty pleasant too.

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