Surviving a festival – a little planning goes a long way

This is the first of a 3 part series on surviving a festival. This one is aimed at someone who hasn’t been to a festival before or maybe they are a nervous about allowing their child to go to their first festival, and is based on our experience over the last 15 years of attending large, medium and small festivals.

Firstly, some definitions – what are small, medium and large festivals?

  • Small festival – a local festival with up to 2000 people expected. It may not have any form of camping facilities, and will probably only sell day tickets
  • Medium Festival. 2,000 to 11,000 people. It will probably have camping facilities, and is a good starter size for people who haven’t been to a festival before.
  • Large Festival – over 11,000 people.

Generally small festivals are relaxed and have very few rules and regulations. They will however have some. If , for instance,you want to take a picnic-hamper and chairs they will probably be allowed, but do check first.

Medium Festivals will have all the restrictions mentioned on this page.

Large Festivals really do need to be planned in detail if you are going to get the best from your expensive ticket. More on that in the second of these blogs.

Surviving a festival is about planning from the beginning to the end!

  • How are you going to get there?
  • Are there any parking restrictions? (The answer is “Yes”! – it just depends on what they are) – plan around them
  • How far do you have to walk from the parking to the site?
  • Walking to a festival is great fun, walking away from one is not – you will be tired – make sure that you aren’t carrying too much with you on the way back.
  • Is there a sitemap on the organisers web-site? It will tell you a lot about how far you will have to walk from the parking to the camping, to the arena
Surviving a festival is a lot about where things are and how far apart they are. Download 2012 festival site map

The Weather

The weather WILL affect you!

The one thing that will make your festival experience great – so that you just don’t survive the festival, but you enjoy every moment is how you cope with the weather

So, the weather forecast says it will be a bright, lovely day. You WILL get sunburn if you don’t slap on lots of suncream. Most of us don’t have skin that is used to being in the sun for 8 hours non-stop.
Even if it is overcast, you will get sunburn
Not only that, but if it’s been dry for some time, the ground will create a fine dust that gets everywhere-particularly your eyes – if you have sensitive eyes take some wipes with you
The weather forecast says “Light rain” – well normally you wouldn’t bother with that. When there is nowhere to dry off, you will end up cold and miserable. Shorts are better than trousers – they dry off quicker

Picking the right footwear is crucial!
Even if it’s only a small festival, and it hasn’t been raining that much , the ground will turn into something which is a fine mix of sticky toffee pudding and baby’s diarrhea.

Take something waterproof!

Take something warm
It may be a lovely day, but by 7 pm the temperature will drop dramatically. Yes, shorts and a tee-shirt are great during the day, it will not be good enough in the evening. We guarantee it!

Mud - get used to it, it's all part of surviving a festival
Sticky toffee pudding

Don’t rely on your phone

We are all so used to having our phone to get directions, text, phone, upload
It probably won’t work reliably at a festival
The reason is that for most of the year, the festival site is a field with a cow called Daisy, a sheep called Minty and farmer Giles. Therefore the phone service company will put up a mast to support that level of usage
Now you have 100,000 people all trying to talk, text and upload selfies, download video and audio tracks
The system WILL collapse from time to time, you cannot rely on it

I have known text messages to take 3 days to come through, and getting e-mails and video’s is more or less impossible
Therefore, if you have buddies with you, pick a meeting place and meeting time – you cannot rely on having a phone signal and being able to phone each other

Not only that, but because your phone is “Trying to be heard” over all the other phones, it will increase it’s power output by up to 100 times, that means that you will chew through your charge really quickly.
I have seen Smartphones that normally last a whole day becoming completely flat in less than an hour!

If it’s worth knicking, don’t take it with you!

Thievery is reasonably low in our experience, however, people losing stuff is incredibly common!

  • Putting your car-keys on a chain
  • Having a wallet that you can chain to your belt
  • Don’t take all your credit cards. Pick one, leave the rest at home
  • Having a “Festival phone” Don’t take your latest shiniest iPhone or Smartphone with you, take that old, knackered phone that’s been in your third drawer for the last 5 years – the battery life will probably be better anyway!

A few words for nervous parents

Going to a festival is a common “Right of Passage” after the GCSE results are in.
It marks (hopefully) a ton of work that your child has done to get those great grades.
It also can be the first time that your children are away from home for a protracted period

This can be a scary thought

Here are a few hints that might help you feel a bit more comfortable

  • If you can, get them to go to a medium sized festival first. This is not always possible, as they may not have the acts that the young person wants to see, but if you can, medium sized festivals are much less scarey experience
  • Get a responsible adult to go to the event. They don’t have to be with the kids, but they are there if anything goes wrong
  • Make sure that the young adults realise that their best bet to make sure that they come to no harm is each other! Drill into them that even if they want to go solo to watch different acts, they come back together at least once every 3 hours, and check that they are all OK
  • They will be exposed to booze for sure and maybe drugs – stop fretting about it, there’s nothing you can do at the festival, BUT YOU CAN DO THINGS BEFOREHAND. Even if they are underage, allow them to try beers and wines before they go. It’s way better to have kids feel what it like in a controlled environment at home, rather than get completely drunk because they have been “Let off the leash” and don’t know what the effects are
  • The festival will have first aiders, and people there to look after young people. They are not judgemental, they won’t give the young person a hard time. They will help, they are very good at their job, and they’ve done it 1000’s of times before. Make sure your kids know about them
  • Don’t expect a phone call every hour! For the reasons given above, they truly may not be able to make a call or even send a text. They are telling the truth!! One hint is that phone usage goes down in the morning as the audience wake up late and nurse their hangovers. If you can’t get through, try making the call before 10 in the morning.
  • If there are any major problems, they tend to cluster around the last night when everyone is using up their last booze and drugs, and getting rid of things that they don’t want to take home.
    If you can, pick them up just after the last act has finished on the last night, you are considerably reducing the possibility of your child being affected by tent burning and the other stupidity that happens that night.(But, don’t freak out by this, security know about this behaviour, and increase the number of patrols, but, nevertheless there is an increased risk)
Security are there to help you survive your festival


Let’s be clear about this – security are there to make sure that you have a really good, happy, safe experience! They aren’t there to piss you off! However, to ensure that you have a safe time, they will enforce certain rules. These rules will slightly vary, but will be on the festival web-site – READ THEM!
However these are general guidelines

  • No glass – that includes things like make-up mirrors, baby’s feeding bottles – filled or not, vintage bottles of champagne, ketchup in a glass bottle or even medicines in glass bottles
  • No knives, or anything that could be used as a knife. Generally, however, plastic , airlines style, blunt knives are allowed in
  • No drugs – and remember the search for drugs can start before you even get to the festival. At Reading and Leeds festivals, for instance, as you get off the train, you will be met by very happy sniffer dogs, not so happy Police, and a custom portacabin to “process” you!!
  • No fireworks, laser pens, toy guns(Even ones that don’t look like guns – sooper soakers are generally banned – camping gas canisters(The last one does vary, check the festival web-site again)

Last word of wisdom. Regardless of whether the security person is a hardened Pro with a registered security official arm-band, or a local volunteer – Treat them with respect. The one thing that will put you at the back of the queue, or go through an “Escalation process” is kicking off, giving them verbal, or not being compliant with their wishes

Security can always help you to survive in style

One area of concern is people being crushed at the front. This chap’s eagle eyes are making sure that no one is in danger, or is distressed

Wheelchair users are welcome, and are helped by security

This wheelchair user has just crowd surfed. Security are helping him over the front barrier to the safety of the photographer’s pit at the front of the stage. He was a big lad! They did well. The “horns” hand sign that you see the crowd and the gentleman doing means “Respect”, or “I like this”

This is part one of a 4 part blog

Part 2 can be found here

Part 3 can be found here

Part 4 is coming soon!

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