Festivals are one of my favourite summer experiences, replacing a year’s worth of weekday, business, messaging, email, social media thumb-scrolling nonsense, with a me that is refreshed and awakened. But like all good things that feeling doesn’t come easy. There may be mud (don’t panic; it washes off), trauma-inducing toilets, and no easy access to home comforts. So, as a professional festival-maker and festival-lover, here are some of my top tips to help you get the most from your festival experience and reach that blissful state where you feel you could leave everything behind and live in the festival world forever… Or until they kick you out. This is the definitive guide to navigating festival-land this summer for a time so fun and refreshing you won’t want to leave:
- Bring good footwear
I once spent a lot of money on some fancy wellies. They were completely uncomfortable and lasted one festival season. Regardless of what your wellies cost or look like they will end up covered in mud so buy a cheap quality pair, buy some good thick socks and move on. To stop my feet from seeking revenge on me after the festival I have some leather biker boots. They withstand rain, they’re comfortable, I can wear them all year round and they make me feel like a scamping, adventuring action woman. Stick a cheap pair of flip flops in along side and you’re good to go. Add in some sports insoles and you got yourself some real luxury!
- Make a light-stick
Stick with me – pun intended. Your phone battery will die approximately four hours after you step onto that field so it’s time to seek creative alternatives to finding each other in crowds. Take a long stick and wrap battery powered fairy lights around it – remember to pack spare batteries – I recommend at least two sets. Attach something whimsical on the top, just for style. Then when one of your friends heads to the toilet while the rest of you stay at the main stage, you put those lights on, hold the stick in the air and they will always find their way back to you. Me and my friends normally make two sticks. One group takes one, the other takes the other and we walk around with it lit up until reunited which ALWAYS happens. We haven’t lost anyone yet. Check out footage of The Who at Glastonbury to see my green light stick in all its glowing glory. Warning: lights sticks do attract new friends like moths, and after dark actual moths. You may not want to keep either.
- Remember the essentials
Toilet paper, hand sanitiser, waterproof jacket, ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper, warm clothes, folding chair, bin bags and a torch. Some would say glitter, face paints, and eccentric hats are optional. I would disagree.
- Broaden your horizons
Experience things you wouldn’t normally do. Try out that drumming workshop. Join in (and win!) the Kate Bush dance contest. Listen to a challenging speaker. This is your time to be silly, learn and experience. I think the phrase ‘dance like no-one is watching’ was made for festivals.
- Talk to people
A whole new community has been created just for a few days and you’re part of it! So greet the people you’re standing next to at the main stage, say hello to the person you sit next to in that talk – no heckling, ideally – because you’re about to have a great experience together. This is one of the many things I love about Greenbelt, everyone talks to each other and it’s a great reminder of how good people are.
- Don’t stick to your plan
Everyone enjoys festivals differently – some people’s programmes look like an A Level textbook just before an exam – but make sure you leave room for spontaneity. I like to have a few things that I am desperate to see and then the rest of the time I am left to discover things.
- Appreciate the creativity
Remember that festivals are curated and each event in that field is handpicked by a programmer who spends their whole year finding the most exciting, innovative, and interesting events, speakers, artists and musicians to put in front of you. Find a festival you like and trust in the work they have done. They want you to have a brilliant time.
- Don’t be afraid to be still
Enjoy where you are. Sit down and take in your surroundings. Treat yourself to a fresh coconut, stick a straw in and watch the beautiful world go by. Sometimes a moment of reflection, contemplation, prayer, or thoughtfulness will give you as much as anything programmed.
- Be open minded
The best festivals bring together diverse people, all sorts of artists & an array of activities so stay open to conversations, ideas, and connections. Try a ukulele workshop, go to a poetry masterclass, even join a headlining band! Expand yourself and your experiences. A festival is a perfect location to listen, learn and explore.
Even after all this, you may think festivals aren’t your thing, and that’s OK, but I would urge you to experience at least one in your lifetime. There’s so much choice! If you like great music, performing arts, talks and spirituality then come to Greenbelt – I can highly recommend it – and in my unbiased opinion it’s the best out there. If not, then find one that fits: inner city festivals, food festivals, dance festivals, family festivals, faith festivals, the list goes on but there’s no escaping: festivals are now a great British institution. They support local traders, artists, thinkers and voices and give us access to the weirdest and wonderful things on offer from all over the globe. Why would you want to miss that? So, see you there?