Despite my youthful appearance, insistence on wearing creepers and tendency to say the word “sick” a lot, I’m actually quite old. I know 26 isn’t old in the grand scheme of things, but in party years, it’s ancient. Hangovers now last three days. I see 18-year-olds in the club and it feels like staring down the barrel of my own mortality. I have been known to shout across the decks “put on Girls Aloud!! ‘Sound of the Underground’!!” only for the DJ to stare back at me, youthful and blank-faced, before mouthing “who?”
That said, while the rapid passing of time has its downsides, I have learned some invaluable lessons. Most of these lessons can been neatly summed up in the lyrics to “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree. But I’ve also learned how to go to a festival without fucking it up completely. I’ve spent enough summers having forgotten wellies, or bought dodgy drugs, or the wrong sort of food (bagged watercress is a bad idea), to know what is required for a comfortable festival experience. I’m not going to call myself a festival guru, but if you want to call me that, I'll take it.
Festival season begins now. If you’re going to Glastonbury next month, you’re probably already thinking about what you need and don’t need. And if you’re going to one of those festivals which is basically just a circle of tents around a hog roast in a forest, or that requires three ferries and a plane, then you should definitely be planning by now. Luckily, I have pooled the wisdom of myself and my colleagues and done most of the work for you. Here's everything you need to know ahead of festival season:
If you're going to buy drugs, don't do so off some random person at the festival
One moment you’re having the time of your life, fist-pumping to a Dua Lipa mash up in the dance tent at 3AM and repeatedly winking at your new best friend Sara. The next you’ve taken what some bloke by the portaloos told you was MDMA, but is actually speed mixed with laxatives, and now you’re gurning really aggressively and have the shits. Sara doesn’t want to be your friend anymore, and I don't blame her.
Don’t make this mistake. If you’re someone who likes doing drugs at festivals, buy them in advance from a dealer you trust. If you're at a festival offering on-site drug testing courtesy of amazing non-profit organisation The Loop, get in the queue to find out the contents of what you're planning on taking – a good sesh is a safe sesh. Finally, don't buy them too far in advance if there's a possibility you'll end up taking them during a lesser event, where you can't get them tested.
That said, don't take psychedelics if you haven't taken them before
There are lots of great places to embark on your first acid trip. A patch of grass by a lake, for example, or the beach on a sunny day. Being in the middle of a heaving crowd of 20,000 hot faces screaming “All My Life” by Foo Fighters at Reading? Not so much.
Invest in a decent double blow-up bed
It’s easy to assume, from the comfort of your own bed, that you’ll be fine sleeping on a thin yoga mat for five days, using your T-shirts as cushions. You won't be fine. By day two you’ll feel as though your back belongs to an 85-year-old and you'll want to die when it reaches that really cold part of the night right before the sun comes up. Just get a double air bed. They’re only £20 from Argos – a small price to pay for comfort and sanity.
Never camp at the bottom of a hill
Google "Glastonbury" "rain" and "tent" if you need any reminders about why.
Pack a shit ton of baby wipes, extra tent pegs, bottles of fresh water, and socks in a Ziploc bag
I'm including these in the same section because they're things you will probably forget, but definitely need. You know those cheap cucumber wipes? Bring two or three packs, for shits and showers. Fresh bottled water is also a must – you can't live off £5 lagers. And you always need more socks than you think you will, which you should keep in a zip lock bag to avoid them getting covered in mud. For advice on what food you should bring, we've already published this handy guide.
Bring an assortment of hats
Festivals are the only place hats make people look better. Showing up to the pub in a straw fedora, or a fluorescent backwards cap, will make you lose friends. Showing up to Bestival in one of those is considered acceptable – good, even. Plus, it will probably be sunny, and your hair will probably be greasy. So bring some hats.
Don’t bother making solid plans with people who aren’t the people you’re going with
What do you think? That you're just going to rock up to the festival, WhatsApp a few friends to meet you "at the side of the main stage", then all agree to cheesy chips followed by Tame Impala? Doesn't work like that mate. Nobody's phone will have signal at the same time. Festival maps make no logistical sense. One person's Fat White Family is another person's Sheryl Crow. Your best bet is to see people if they're nearby, but otherwise stick with your group. You'll only end up red-faced and sober after trudging across Shangri-La for three hours shouting into your phone which is now on two percent battery "I CAN'T HEAR YOU! I CAN'T- MEET YOU BY THE GIANT SPIDER!”
Also forget about shagging
Festival romances can be fun and exciting. Who knows where they're from! You might never see them again! It's a novelty that you inexplicably fancy a man who is barefoot and playing trumpet! But also, having sex at festivals is rank. Why would you voluntarily choose to invite a stranger who hasn't showered in five days to jizz on your sleeping bag in the dark? Nah, honestly just forget about trying to pull, and if it happens then good, but if it doesn't then thank god.
Try not to have a period?
I'm pretty sure I was on my period for the majority of Glastonbury 2015, and everything was under control up until a certain point in the night, when I was probably just, like, free-bleeding? If that's your vibe then go for it, but also, take back-to-back pills if you are someone who takes pills. I'm sure that's not medically advisable, but neither is the stress induced by bleeding on your last pair of clean denim hot pants during Stefflon Don.
Give yourself a day or two buffer before going back to work
Two years ago, upon coming back from a five-day music festival, I remember running the entire length of Dalston High Street, paranoid that someone was following me. They weren't. I just wasn't in my right mind. And you won't be either. I recommend booking a day or two off work following the festival to decompress and replenish. Going back too soon will only result in you doing something weird, like crying in the morning meeting or curling up in the stock room because you keep getting brain zaps.
Stock your flat with delicious food for the week you get back
When you get back you're not going to want to leave your flat, with its working shower, actual bed with a duvet and oven that cooks things. So to save yourself the pain of having to drag your body through the big Tesco with a face like a stale pastry, make sure you stock your cupboards / freezer beforehand. Hobnobs. Chicken nuggs. Those pre-made pho kits. Whatever you like, just make sure it's no less than ten steps from your bedroom. Then you can just throw things in the microwave, power up Netflix and go.