A few years ago I headed to Valencia and Benicassim Festival with some friends for a long weekend. Valencia is a gorgeous Spanish city. Beautiful buildings, sculptures and beaches. We wandered around exploring the city, caught the tour bus, spent the day at the beach, ate paella and spent the evenings watching flamenco and visiting bars. After a couple of days in Valencia we caught the train to Benicassim festival where we camped and partied for a long weekend. It is a fantastic festival where you spend the days at the beach and the evenings watching bands and dancing until the early hours. The camping was rough... the ground was hard and rocky and after not much sleep you were woken up early with the heat... but it didn't seem to matter too much when you were having fun. If I went again I would certainly consider a villa (I'm getting old now!)... but I wouldn't say no to another festival of beach days and hot evenings dancing the night away...
This year is 10 years since my first festival; V Festival in 2007! I went with a group of close friends (one of who is now married with three children to a friend she got together with after this festival!) We were totally unprepared, queued in traffic for hours and arrived at about 2am. We then had to walk miles in the dark and rain with way too much luggage and 5L bottles of water while we tried to find a spot to camp. We eventually found somewhere (in the centre meeting area of a circle of tents) and set up about setting up our tents... my friend Hayley had brought her dads old school tent with metal poles that you have to put together, which she had never set up before... it was hilarious and a memory we still talk about now!
V Festival was very mainstream and quite different to festivals I might choose now, but the music was brilliant. I got to see more big bands and live music than I could have dreamed of and this fuelled my love of live music from then onwards. I'm so glad the rain and toilets never put me off! Here's to many more rainy, muddy festivals shared with friends in the years to come! :-)
It is festival season... I love festival season, but am not going to any big festivals this year, so thought I'd share the last festival I went to. Our weekend at Somersault started with putting our tents up in the drizzle and drinking cans of cider in our tent porch. Through the night the rain poured non-stop. We woke up to still pouring rain in the morning, even heavier than it was the night before, it was crazy! I do love a good festival but constant rain is definitely not as fun as basking in the sunshine through the day... we eventually decided to brave it and walked from our tents along the straw covered path (that a tractor had been covering all morning to try and control the mud situation) into the festival and found a chai tent for a warm mug of spicy tea!
Luckily for us the weather drastically improved and we did end up basking in the sunshine in the afternoon! Somersault is a lovely small family festival in North Devon with only 2 stages and a forest party. It was all very civilised with some seriously good food stalls serving garlic mushrooms, crepes, homemade pizzas, posh hotdogs. There was even a sit down banquet four course meal that you could have pre-booked each day hosted by River cottage, Fifteen Cornwall and Valentine Warner. As well as the amazing food on offer they had a raft of outdoor activities that you could sign up for including surfing, coasteering, paddle boarding, mountain biking, rock climbing, yoga classes, wild swimming and archery.
The music was amazing too! We got to see Laura Marling, Imelda May, The Shires, Passenger, Lucy Rose, Bombay Bicycle Club (who are one of Chris and my all-time favourite bands and were amazing!!!) and Jeremy Loops, who I had never heard of but turned out to be a brilliant act from Cape Town and is now one of my favourite bands! There were a whole bunch of smaller bands I had never heard of who turned out to be really good... one of my favourite things about festivals is finding new music you haven't heard before!
On the Sunday it poured with rain again which was such a shame! We packed up our tent in the rain, watched a bit of passenger, had some food and headed home exhausted and totally ready for a shower and clean bed!
Somersault have had a break but look like they are returning again next year! If you fancy a small family friendly festival with amazing food, stalls with fresh handmade flower crowns and a party in a forest check it out!
I've been to a few festivals now and Glastonbury is by far the absolute best festival. It is amazing and there is good reason it is nearly impossible to get tickets now. I'm lucky to have been a few times with my old job where we worked from Tuesday to Friday morning handing out little cards with the car park number to everyone arriving as they parked in exchange for a free festival ticket. We could enjoy the days the festival before Friday on our free shifts and then from about Friday lunchtime once everyone had arrived and the festival really kicked off we were free to do as we pleased. As I have tried and failed every year to get tickets this was an amazing deal! Unfortunately I'm not going this year, but as Glastonbury is next week I thought I'd share a few tips I have learned...
What to pack:
You are going to have to carry whatever you pack a really long way, so you absolutely only want to take what you need! My friend Nicola has written a hilarious post on what not to pack, and it is totally true. Once you get there and realise just how big it all is you are going to regret every unnecessary thing you packed!
- Your ticket
- Cash and Bank Card
- Driving Licence (ID)
- Mobile Phone - If you are not that precious if your phone gets wrecked/ lost/ stolen then take your fancy iPhone. If you are precious then definitely take a cheap phone and sim card and a compact camera (with spare battery) and leave your phone at home. You will definitely need a phone for finding people/ emergencies and camera (if you're like me) to capture all those memories, but up to you if you want to risk it!
- Power bank (for charging your phone. There are charging points, but you really don't want to waste festival time standing in queues to charge your phone!)
- Backpack - A travel backpack is the only sensible bag to pack everything in
- Packing cubes - I use packing cubes for all of my travelling, they are so useful for keeping everything organised and finding things when you're living out of a bag
- A few sandwich/ freezer bags or Dry Bags - I have a pack of three dry bags and take them on all my trips as well as a couple of small freezer bags. Keep the small one in your day bag with your phone, toilet roll, money in incase everything gets soaked, use another for wet/ dirty washing and a spare for whatever else you want
- Small day backpack - super useful to carry your drinks/ waterproofs etc
- Tent - keep it small and 100% make sure it is waterproof! I have had my tent and EVERYTHING totally soaked before because my tent wasn't totally waterproof!
- Sleeping bag
- Roll mat (you could take a blow up mattress - I know 5/6 nights is a long time to sleep on the floor, but remember how big and heavy it is to carry!) I have opted for one of those self-inflating mattresses the last few festivals as they are slightly more comfy than one of those old school blue roll-mats and you will be pretty exhausted/ hammered by the time you fall asleep you won't really care
- Pillow - get an inflatable pillow or use your hoodie - don't take a proper pillow!
- A couple of plastic bags for rubbish and antibacterial wet wipes - I'm sure no-one else does this, but I always take a small pack of wet wipes for my tent. I find them useful to try and keep it clean and wipe out any mud/ spilled drink etc
- Head torch - You definitely need one to find your tent at night/ for inside your tent/ for checking out portaloos at night before you decide to go in!
- Festival clothes - Try and take as little as possible but enough to cope if everything gets soaked:
- One pair each of jeans/ leggings (that you can also sleep in)/ shorts or skirt with 5/6 tops is perfect. You may want to have fun and take some crazy stuff for dressing up (as where else can you!) - a tutu, funky leggings, all out fancy dress!
- One pair of pants for each day plus a couple spare
- Lots of socks
- A warm top/ hoodie and beanie - it gets quite cold at night
- A waterproof jacket/ poncho - something that can be folded up really small and is totally waterproof is ideal!
- One pair of wellies and one pair of flip flops/ sandals
- One spare set of clean dry clothes to store separately for going home in (if you are driving keep them in your car)
- Toiletry Bag:
- Wet wipes for face and body (A lot of them!)
- Dry Shampoo (hats and headbands help for dirty hair too!)
- Moisturiser (Small bottle or decant into a travel size jar)
- Lip balm
- Toothbrush and mini-toothpaste
- Make-up - Basic cover up stick and mascara, glitter, face paint and cotton buds
- A compact mirror
- Essentials for surviving the toilets: A toilet roll (to carry with you always as there probably won't be one in the loo). A She-wee (For me this was a life saver - you can go into a portaloo and not touch anything or you can try out the ladies urinals!). Antibacterial hand wash (totally essential - buy yourself a large bottle!)
- Sunglasses and suncream
- A water bottle (there are over 400 drinking taps/ kiosks so just take a bottle that you can refill)
- Ear plugs and eye mask can come in really useful for sleeping especially if you are a light sleeper, you are camping RIGHT NEXT TO other tents!
- Drinks - Glastonbury is one of the only festivals where you are camping in the site and can take your drinks in with you, you just can't take any glass. Remember whatever you take you have to carry. When you turn up you will see everyone has brought trolleys/ wheelbarrows etc with them for carrying all their drinks and gear. Working in the carparks almost every second trolley collapses or the wheels come off from the weight of everything or the bumpy/ muddy road to your camping spot. Don't bother with a granny trolley, it won't last! If you are going to take a trolley, make sure it is totally hardy, can carry a weight and has big wheels that will cope with an uneven muddy surface and a long journey with a massive weight! You will need bungee chords to strap everything in too. If you are going to take beer or cider remember it will be warm! I went with a large group one year who go every year and there are about 20 of them. Between them all they bring cooler boxes (that they carry between them and double up as seats) and a large block of dry ice that they chip away at to keep the drinks cool all week. This is a massive team effort and works amazingly well. If you are not in a big organised group like this, forget the beers and just decant gin/ vodka into plastic bottles and take mixers in plastic bottles, or boxes/ bags of wine work well too. With the latter option remember to take plastic cups too! And then you can just buy yourself the odd nice cold beer at one of the bars!
Now that looks like a really long list, but if you stick to it and keep things small and light, pack and organise your backpack well, you should be able to carry one backpack on your back and if you opt for a good trolley you can drag that behind you! There are also lots of shops on site where you can buy pretty much anything... from tents to plasters, you will just be paying a premium!
This here is an example of what not to take:
Tip 1: If you drive to Glastonbury, take note of whether you park east or west and which number car park you are in as well as any kind of markers of where in the car park you are. If you are lucky someone will give you a card with this info (check it is correct, add any additional notes and keep it somewhere safe!). There are 63 car parks and all of them are the size of a massive field!
Tip 2: The festival is huge! You will walk a long way from the car park before you even get to one of the pedestrian gates and then you will have a way to walk through the festival before you get to your camping spot. If you are lucky you will have a lovely sunny day. If not, you may be walking miles in slippery mud! Make sure you pack sensibly so you don't have to carry too much, and wear really comfortable shoes/ clothes! Also take note of which pedestrian gate you enter from the carpark so you can find your way back.
Tip 3: Arrive as early as you can to get the best possible camping spot. You don't want to be camping anywhere near the toilets or the pathways. Also as it is a valley and known for rain and mud, the higher up you are the better to avoid your tent being totally washed away. People start arriving on Tuesday night so that they can go in as soon as the gates open on Wednesday morning. If you arrive late on Thursday/ anytime Friday unless friends have saved you a spot you are not going to have much choice! Consider taking a flag pole and unique flag to stick in the ground by your tent or take note of another obvious tent/ flag near yours. When you come back late and night in the dark and there are a sea of tents you are going to struggle to find yours!
Tip 4: Check your wellies twice before you leave home to make sure they don't have any holes and will last the week! Last year where there was more mud than I have ever seen in my entire life and the site was muddy before anyone even arrived I put my wellies on as soon as I arrived and realised they had a hole in them. I had a really long uncomfortable journey with wet feet to one of the shops where I paid a premium for a new pair of wellies! Even if there is no rain forecast take your wellies, as with the number of people 20 mins of rain turns it all to a mudbath and your shoes will be ruined! When the sun comes out it also dries surprisingly quickly, but be prepared!
Tip 5: If you are anything like me, as soon as you see the detailed line-up of who is playing on all the different stages, you are going to want to see all of them! The first time I went I had a print out of the plan with everyone I wanted to see one after the other highlighted in bright yellow. When I got there I realised just how big the place was and with the crowds of people it takes at least half an hour to walk from one stage to another, so be selective about who you really want to see and then just go with the flow for the rest. It is definitely more fun to be with people you know watching someone you don't know than being on your own watching someone you do!
Tip 6: If you are in a group of friends, you will need a plan for finding each other and you can't rely on your phones! Agree meeting at a certain point at a particular time and either all wear something obvious that makes it easy to spot each other (I've seen a whole crowd of people in 'Where's Wally' outfits, simple, but really clever!), or consider carrying around a tall unique flag (like everyone else) or a flashing bike light that you can switch on and off when needed!.
Tip 7: Don't just stick to the two main stages! There are some really awesome acts on some of the smaller stages and in the numerous tents. I have found so many new singers and bands that I now love just wondering around and exploring to see what else is playing or just had fun dancing to an Irish or Salsa band in a random tent. Also listen out for surprise acts, there are always some famous bands or artists doing an acoustic set or performance that is not on the planner!
Tip 8: Be a free spirit! Take some time out to just wander the rest of the site. There is so much cool stuff going on. Walk through the children's field to see the circus, movies, cabaret, comedy, poetry, art classes. Walk through the healing fields. Check out the market stalls. Take a walk up to the where the big Glastonbury sign is - it is really lovely and quiet and you have a view of all of the site. If you want to see Shangri-La go early. Go on Wednesday or Thursday night and try go earlier in the evening. If you go late you won't get in. I have only been once briefly and it is completely mental but definitely worth checking it out.
Tip 9: Eat! The food is amazing! There are more food stalls and variety than you can imagine. Everything from your standard greasy kebab van to sit down sushi restaurants. Every type of cuisine: French, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Indian, Thai. Hot dogs, square pies, buddha bowls, mezze, pizzas, halloumi, crepes, you name it and a lot of it is a pretty high standard. It can cost anything from £5 - £10 for a standard meal, so add this into your budget and choose wisely. When you see and smell it all you will have no interest in your breakfast bar! Be adventurous and try something different.
Tip 10: Don't try and leave on Monday morning... you will sit in a queue of traffic for a very long time. If you want to avoid the queues you will need to leave Sunday evening, which means probably missing the end of the final headliner or wait around and leave Monday afternoon.
Most of all... I hope you have the time of your life! Whatever the weather make the most of it and enjoy!