Festivals at 40: What to know


We decided to be retro this summer and go to a festival without our children. The last time we did this was in the previous century, to V97, when going to a festival staged by Richard Branson didn’t seem at all weird. We tarted around in the VIP area, where lesser members of the forgettable indie band Space talked to us for a full six minutes. When the photos came back from Boots, the pictures showed us having our boobs felt by really ugly men.

So, although concerned that we are now officially too old for festival toilets and glo sticks, we felt confident that things could only get better this time around. We chose Wilderness, because the line-up promised intellectual debates, performance art and wild swimming, and we are all about that shit these days. Here’s what we learnt:

1. You catch the train there so you don’t have to drive home hungover. This is deeply sensible, well done you. Until you have to go home on the train, hungover. You learn that Sunday trains with festival luggage and hangovers are in no way funny.

 2. It costs £25 to charge your phone and £5 for a small can of warm lager. When you remark on the steep prices to the barman, he laughs and says, ‘Yeah, I know. Me and my mates call it Rinse Fest.’ Oh good.

3. Luckily, after staying up later than you have for a decade on the first night, you are able to avoid spending hundreds of pounds on warm lager by sleeping straight through the next day. In your hot, airless tent.

4. An inflatable tent is every bit as difficult to put up as a normal tent. And those self-inflating foam mattresses are not as comfortable as an airbed. They’re not even as comfortable as the ground.

5. Out in the field, you ask all the young men you meet to guess how old you are. ‘Go on, have a guess!’ You do not pull.

FullSizeRender (3)

Apart from him.

6. Gold, gold, sequins, gold, glitter, gold, feathers, gold.

7. The food is much better than it was in 1997, when it was either chips or a CJD burger.

8. But you struggle to remember: what did food vendors use before they had vintage vans/Airstreams/double-decker buses?

9. The only act on the line-up you’ve heard of is the ironic Lionel Richie/Dolly Parton slot, a nod to your oh-so-eclectic musical tastes. It doesn’t make much difference to you though, as you’re asleep when they come on.

10. Mark Hix loves us.


11. A lot of men look surprisingly good in gold leggings. Hello you. Yes, you in the leggings. With the massive gold cock.

12. Everyone you meet knows someone you know. You are so target market here, you briefly wish you’d gone to Reading instead. Briefly.

13. Jemima Khan has really good hair. We want Jemima’s ponytail. Give. It. To. Us.

14. Turns out you are still partial to a bit of hands-in-the-air at 3am. Yeah girl, you’ve still got the love. But wild horses in gold leggings couldn’t make you do it two nights in a row any more.

15. You do not swim naked in a lake. You do not participate in a piece of public performance art. You do not salute the sun, weave a mindfulness basket or receive any kind of healing touch. You don’t do anything good for you at all. You do drink organic prosecco though, and smoke those skinny menthol cigarettes, which are so thin and minty, they’re actually nutritious.

16. You’re glad you haven’t brought the children, since they would require looking after. But you notice that everyone else who hasn’t brought their children hasn’t actually had any yet.

17. You feel evil and treacherous for not bringing the children, and proceed to obliterate your remorse the only way you know how, with prosecco and minty cigarettes.

18. You will bring the children next time. That way you might actually see some stuff.