noun: wallflower; plural noun: wallflowers
A shy or excluded person at a dance or party, especially a girl without a partner.
“I felt like a miserable wallflower at a boisterous party”
It’s coming up to that time of the year again. You can almost smell it in the air. There are emails going around – “get your tickets now because they will sell out by the time you’ve read this sentence”. Posters are appearing all over London with line-ups where you only recognise two of the bands.
Welcome to the festival season. An exciting time for those who enjoy hanging out in muddy feels, being too hot or too cold and drinking heavily. A slightly frightening time if you’re like me.
I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to camping, festivals and outdoorsy stuff. I’ve done five festivals in my life. Three of them in Finland. Two of those was in my teens when I’d decided to be contrary and not drink any alcohol. I didn’t have a good time. I’ve been to two festivals in the UK. One sunny Bestival with a couple of new friends during my first summer in the country. One rainy, muddy Glastonbury with Gerry and friends. I had fun, but it also felt a bit like being in one of those reality survival shows on TV.
Would I do a festival again? Probably, but I would do it differently.
Sleeping arrangements are important
Personally I’m not a big fan of sleeping in tents. I can count the nights I spent in tents on two hands and the ones where I slept well on one hand. The ground is too cold, the air somehow a bit damp and stuffy. Crawling in and out of a sleeping bag always feels a bit undignified.
But if I find myself going to a festival again I will prepare for it.
- I’d get a good air mattress and invest in a large tent – it is worth it, plus there is a greater chance you’ll actually pack it down and take it home at the end of the festival. If it’s not too expensive I would rent a yurt or hut or look at the other posher sleeping options on offer.
- I’d make sure I have a good supply of ear plugs.
- If I was really fussy I would also bring a pillow, some lavender oil and an eye-mask.
- Try not to put your tent close to puddles of water or anywhere were there might be puddles of water if it starts raining. This is a difficult one. Look for high ground. Stay away from paths where people can fall into your tent. This is one of the reasons I might look into getting a yurt or a big tent, which would possibly be sturdier and properly water tight if the weather turns out to be unfavourable. At Glastonbury I saw tents submerged in mud and water. You don’t want to be the person coming home to a tent like that.
- Camp relatively closely to the loos, you don’t want to walk for ages in the night for a pee, but don’t camp too closely to them. I’ve heard horror stories where they’ve started overflowing in the rain. You don’t want to be too near that.
Even though it’s important to bring with you things that will make the experience more comfortable, it’s better to pack on the light side.
You will normally have to queue before you get to the festival and you’ll have to walk for ages to get to a campsite. You’ll be tired, grumpy and hungry before it’s even time to put up the tent (or perhaps that’s just me).
The less you have to carry the happier you’ll be. Especially since you’ll have to carry everything home with you as well.
Dress for rain, scorching sun and everything else in-between
The summer weather in the UK is unpredictable. Anyone will tell you this. It is in fact a popular conversation to have with Brits in the summer. If you’re at a festival expect some rain, some sun and lots and lots of mud. So even though it’s worth not packing too much, bring some sunscreen, wellies, a warm jumper, several pairs of socks, disposable water proof ponchos and a hat.
Also remember that everything will get muddy. Everything.
You will get dirty – suck it up
Yes you’ll spend three or four days without being able to wash your hair properly. You’ll keep washing your hands with alcoholic hand-wash instead of water which will make you feel grubby and sticky. This will annoy you. There’ll be dirt underneath your fingernails. You will smell. Remember, everyone else is equally dirty and smelly so it really doesn’t matter that much.
Bring a scarf to cover your hair with. Bring wet wipes for your hands and face. Try to shower if you can. It will be one of the best showers you’ve ever had in your life.
Keep drinking – but not too much
At Glastonbury someone told me the only way to get through the whole experience was to keep downing lagers. A steady supply of beer did make the experience a lot better, but festivals aren’t the sort of places where you should get irresponsibly drunk. Stay close to your friends, look after each other, don’t do anything stupid.
Since you’re a wallflower I probably don’t have to tell you any of these things because you’ll be careful and responsible by default. So let me contradict myself and tell you this instead. Let go a little bit, have fun, get drunk, dance crazily and sing along. Lay down on the grass and try not to care about bugs crawling all over you or straw getting in your hair. Forget yourself for a little bit, that’s what festivals are for.
Stay topped up on water, vegetarian food (best not to touch the meat) and buy fresh juice if there’s a juice stall at the festival. The vitamins will do you good.
Also bring some of your own food. Noodles, nuts, porridge and other things you can prepare and eat in your tent. Bring a small camping stove and a pot. These things will keep you happy.
Bring enough cash to last you through the whole thing
It might feel slightly irresponsible to bring a couple of hundred pounds with you to a place like a festival, but you really don’t want to walk for several miles to find a cash machine only to find that they’ve all run out of money. Bring the cash you’ll need. You’ll probably only spend it on food and drinks.
Finally – go to a festival in a city, not in a field
If you really don’t enjoy the whole camping experience, but still want to go to a festival, there are plenty of festivals in cities to choose between. Lots of them are held in London every summer. There is Field Day in Victoria Park, Meltdown at the Southbank centre, Lovebox, Wireless and many more.
Another good one is electronic festival Flow, which is held in a an old power plant in Helsinki. That would be my festival of choice this year, since I can recognise more than three of the headlining acts (Yay!).
Bonus – it’s not always what you expect
More often than not the most fun you’ll have will be totally unexpected and the best acts you’ll see will be people you’ve never heard of before. Let go and enjoy the randomness.