I don’t go to festivals in fields but I have a friend who does

In a tent, everyone can hear you scream

In a tent, everyone can hear you scream - Credit: Archant

If you have ever been trapped in a public toilet cubicle with a billy witch, you will be part way to understanding why I am not and never will be a festival person.

Small places – particular tents, chemical toilets, mobile shower rooms are fraught with peril.

This is not an age thing. I have always been a reluctant camper... “I know, darling, let’s leave our comfy bed, pack every kind of clothing into the car around the children, buy basic provisions for a week (cornflakes, Marmite and medications) and live in a field for a week.”

“Put like that, my love, how can I resist?”

My friend Judith who, granted, lives in Sheffield and thus knows about weather extremes, is a regular at Latitude and Glastonbury. Importantly two months younger than me, Judith introduced me to Muse, bringing a rare post-70s addition to my record collection which is otherwise a testament to the classical canon with the exception of The Beatles, The Kinks, Carol King, Neil Young, Van Morrison and other artists who might now be termed neo-classical. Do you know, suddenly, I feel an urge to put on a Kaftan.


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Travelling along the A14, last week, I passed a fleet of festival-bound toilets, showers and food concessions. Shudder.

This year, I have read way too many newspaper features about the festival season; often a list of the top 20 tips for enjoying it or, as I prefer to think of it, a list of reasons to stay away.

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I daresay I have mentioned Barsham Faire (1976, I think) which was a weekend of medieval revelry during which we camped in a tent in a field. Someone brought their donkey which brayed at 6am and woke everyone up. I didn’t have a proper wash for two days and my husband (then my fiancé) lost his car keys which eventually turned up in the glowing embers of the camp fire... oh, and the calor gas canister caught fire.

The evidence of this weekend (not the donkey or the camp fire) is preserved for posterity in that incredible free resource, the East Anglian Film Archive. I was amazed at the really rather good memories it brought back – all those grubby people with posh accents.

People are generally divided into two camps. Well, one is a camp the other is a hotel bedroom. To find out which one you are in, answer one simple question: Would you be prepared to sit in mud to watch your favourite band live? If the answer is “yes”, those newspaper festival supplements are for you.

But don’t forget:

The weather: It will be cold, wet or hot. This is not a conspiracy; this is British weather. You run the risk of sunburn, pneumonia or trench foot. Choose a pitch near the medical tent. However warm it is, you will need wellies for visits to...

The bathroom: No matter how many cleansing wipes you take, it does not make up for plumbing and then there’s the...

Smell: And this will not only be near the toilet block. You could well find yourself standing among thousands of people, in hot weather, waving their arms over their heads. This means hurricane Armpit is about to strike.

Things that bite and fly about at night: So we come back to the billy witch, or cockchafer. These are big beetles with hard wing cases and unsophisticated navigational techniques. They will fly about, hitting surfaces and scaring you half to death. Meanwhile you will be bitten by gnats and midges. You can use insect repellent but they’ll find somewhere you missed.

Son et lumiere: A light inside a tent at night makes for an excellent shadow display. Fine if you’re reading a book... but... er, well, you know.

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