So, you’re coming to London in the Summer?
Anyone you speak to about the UK will tell you what to expect - the red buses, the rain, the tea… but until I actually moved to the UK, I had only vaguely understood the concept of Festivals. Yeah, sure, in South Africa we have ‘festivals’…there’s Oppikoppi and Rocking the Daisies… but the UK…well. I don’t know about Canada, but in the UK, festivals are SACRED.
There are people in this country who are serial Festivalists. My first year in the UK I attended five, back to back. My kidneys have not forgiven me since. Expect vast amounts of vodka and porta-loos. But that’s another story, for another blog post. The main thing to remember is these can be ‘one day’ affairs, allowing you to go back to your hotel in the evenings, if you prefer a less radical approach - or you can go all out, and spend a week revelling in mud and swimming in noise.
Here are some important things to consider before trekking all the way across the ocean to attend a British Festival:
Stuff to bring
There are two ways of tackling the festival situation. You can buy tents and tent pegs and those giant rubber tent mallets (they are the most effective way of making friends when camping)…and canned goods, and bottled water, and bring spare pairs of underwear and LOTS of bog-roll (british toilet paper, certified by the Queen)…
OR, you can just bring a lot of cash, and a backpack with some wet-wipes and maybe a swimming costume. Trust me on the wet-wipes. Wellington boots are always recommended too. And plasters. From experience, the best choice of footwear is the kind you don’t mind leaving behind. Unless you’re going to Download. Then I would highly recommend Doc Martens.
You can go with friends. It’s always more fun with friends. Or, you can go on your own, and meet up with some NEW, fun, English people! I once made some friends walking past a guy eating a soft-serve ice cream on my way home from a festival. He tripped, and fell, and managed to keep the ice-cream above ground. I was so impressed I applauded (all the while Finley Quaye could be heard faintly in the background, playing on the main-stage). The lads gave me a lift back to London, and I’m friends with them to this day. Contrary to whatever anyone else has told you, English people are a lovely bunch, once you get a few pints in them.
The great thing about the UK is that it’s very, very accessible. Everything is travelling distance - by bus, by train, ferry or car. Most festivals will have all this information on their websites, so you just need to know which one to go to (download the PDF below, which has all the links included), which brings us to…
There’s so much choice. SO MUCH. We’ve narrowed down to a 'best-of' list for you guys, highlighting some of the best festivals. In our opinion the smaller festivals are still better - less time walking between stages, less packing, and less time to wait between showers! Over the coming months we'll try to bring you coverage of some of these too...