Put yourself in my shoes (or wellies, to be specific):
It’s the third morning of Reading Festival and my feet are hurting, my head is banging, my eyes are pretty much closing because I’m so bloody tired and I can’t even buy a cup of coffee because all of my money disappeared on the first night. I have a grazed knee from where I tripped and fell and it’s probably infected because we were too drunk to get first aid. My neck aches and my shoulder hurts from sleeping funny because I lost my roll mat, and my eyes are sore because I couldn’t find my face wipes last night to remove my makeup. All I want to do is get changed and freshen up but the tent is like a sauna and it definitely doesn’t smell like essential oils so I’ll most likely suffocate in the process. My toothbrush was left outside so there is mud ground in between the bristles, we’re out of cereal bars, and to top it off, I really really really need a wee but my stomach is far too delicate to face the long drop this early in the morning.
Who in their right mind would pay £192.50 (plus booking fee) for a weekend ticket to be tortured in this way?
Well, 75,000 people, to be precise. But why? There are just so many horrible things about going to a festival.
Horrible thing number one: You can’t wash your hair. Or rather, you won’t wash your hair, because although there are showers and you could get up ridiculously early to get in the queue to use one, you just won’t. My 16-year-old festival virgin self was very convinced that there was no way on earth that I would be able to go for four whole nights and five whole days without washing my hair. I was one hundred percent certain that I would get up early to queue for the showers (which, did I mention, are £5 a time and they’re communal!) or, failing that, fill a bucket with water and do the deed with that. And so I packed two big bottles of the nicest smelling shampoo and conditioner I could find. They were never used. You will not wash your hair. I repeat: you will absolutely not wash your hair. Not a chance in hell. On day two you will tell yourself that you don’t need to wash it yet, and on day three you will tell yourself that it’s pretty much the end now anyway. After an entire day of standing and dancing and watching music, and an entire evening of dancing and being drunk and whatever frolicking may occur following a combination of the dancing and being drunk, you will not want to wake up at 7 am the next morning to queue in the cold and (most likely) rain to have a shower. Especially when one of the friends who promised she’d queue with you has disappeared into a tent that isn’t yours and the other friend who promised she’d queue with you is busy throwing her guts up. Not going to happen.
Flicking through magazines in the run up to festival season, there are endless spreads entitled “festival fun” or similar showing pages of not-very-muddy welly boots on the ends of the clean-shaven legs of girls whose non-tangled tresses are free of UV paint and have certainly not been surviving without real shampoo! This is not the reality. The best you can do is try to cover up the tangled mess with the hat you will undoubtedly somehow acquire over the course of the weekend (always happens) or disguise the grease and dirt with a good old can of dry shampoo and kid yourself that it’s clean.
Horrible thing number two: Everything is stupidly expensive. So expensive that by the end of the weekend you will be picking up dropped coins even if they are lying on the toilet floor and collecting paper cups because you can get pennies back for them to buy your next drink. Seriously though, a portion of chips can cost £4.50 and they’re not even anything special. Unless you’re prepared to live off canned sweet corn, cereal bars, Kit Kats and Tesco vodka (transferred into plastic water bottles because you’re not allowed glass) for the duration of the weekend then make sure you take plenty of money!
Think how much you’d spend eating out on an ordinary day. Double it. Divide it into three. Put one third in your purse or wallet and keep this on you. Hide the second at the bottom of your bag or in a shoe / secret pocket. Give the final third to a responsible friend who will not get drunk on the first day, take a £20 note to the funfair, go on £6-a-go ride and then lose all the change. Alternatively, take as much money as you need and don’t leave it by the door of your tent when you go out and expect it to be there when you get back.
Also, take your card because however much money you think you’re going to need, you will need more. T-shirts, programmes and other merchandise are ridiculously priced, and if you want to use a nice toilet then sure, go and find a clean café nearby but don’t expect to use the facilities unless you buy a very expensive cup of coffee / pay a couple of pounds for the privilege. At the end of it all, it’s too much money. Your parents were right. Once you’ve tallied up the cost of the ticket, transport, merchandise and silly things such as UV paint, novelty hats, flower headbands, henna tattoos (or real tattoos…) and funfair rides you have a significant amount that could have gone towards something genuinely worth paying for, like driving lessons or university. Or a coffee maker. Or a desk. You get the idea.
Horrible thing number three: In reality, festivals are depressing. The friendly crowds, lively atmosphere, fantastic music, free hugs and attractive people all combine to result in an environment that contrasts starkly with the drudgery of real life. You will arrive home feeling deflated, miserable and on a massive come-down. A single weekend will make you question your entire routine; normality will become much more of a drag and you will find yourself wishing to be back in a place that exists only temporarily. It will be torturous to return to work and education and the people you find yourself in the midst of will be boring compared to the free-huggers and naked crowd-surfers that surrounded you previously. I’m telling you, it’s not worth it.
Horrible thing number four: There’s a lot of mud and you will get muddy. If it rains then the mud will seep into your tent, over the top of your wellies and somehow end up on your pillow.
At the end of it all, I think that these ‘really good reasons not to go to a festival’ cover every aspect of festival-life and why you definitely shouldn’t attempt it. Don’t think that I’m trying to work the magic of reverse psychology here! Seriously, why would you pay loads of money to stand in massive crowd in the pouring rain where you will most certainly get crushed feet and elbowed in the face, when you could sit at home in the comfort of your bed in your pyjamas with a cup of tea and real food (for cheap!) and watch it all on the BBC iPlayer? Sure, the atmosphere is electric, the company is amazing and the music is incredible, but it’s pretty much the same thing, anyway. Right?