How to enjoy the festival season
- Credit: PA
... without going to one. Lynne Mortimer looks at the alternatives to summer festivals, beginning by not going to Glastonbury
There are festival people... and then there are people like me.
I fully accept that watching a music set on television cannot compare with seeing it live – the atmosphere of standing in the midst of tens of thousands of slightly niffy people who ill-advisedly raise their arms and sway to a Bee Gees classic or similar, is difficult to recreate in the comfort of one's own sitting room.
My friend, Jude, who is the same age as me by the way, hardly ever misses Glastonbury, loves going to outdoor rock concerts and is a regular at Latitude, the festival that offers music, comedy, ballet, poetry and much more. She is a festival person, unfazed by the prospect if chemical toilets, sunburn and or wind whip and or mud. She packs jeans, wellies and tops and, in the case of this last Glastonbury, a pink wig and heads off to enjoy the music.
We differ in this. I cannot imagine enjoying any act, however fabulous, if I don't feel clean.
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Even at the age of 16, when I might have attended the Weeley Pop Festival, I stayed at home and listened to the Sunday evening chart countdown on Radio Two. I was so law-abiding I didn't even listen to pirate radio stations in case we were raided.
At the age of 10 or 11, I went to a gospel camp organised by the local gospel hall where I went to Bible classes. I had been looking forward to it so much but the reality? We slept in a bell tent, feet to the centre pole, on palliasses - mattresses made from sacking filled with straw. If you need a tiddle in the night, you had to pick your way over the sleeping forms, exit the tent, and make your way in the dark to a rudimentary latrine.
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The grown-ups cooked breakfast and the kids washed up. It was my last gospel camp. I don't think the experience made me any holier.
In 1976, my fiancé and I went to the last Barsham Medieval Faire, in north Suffolk. Entry was free if you attended in costume. I duly dyed an old sheet blue, folded it in half, cut a hole for my head and tied a length of curtain cord around my waist. I was 21 and size 12 so I looked okay. On the campsite we pitched our tent with the local folk club. It was probably the most ethnic I have ever felt in my life, sitting around a campfire, singing Wild Rover to the accompaniment of a dulcimer, a guitar and some distinctly dodgy harmonies.
It was so rustic we were woken up in the morning by a donkey braying.
There was dancing round the maypole (it was July or August I think) masques, music, dancinf=g and all things medieval... including dust. When the bottom of my sheet... I mean dress, got wet, it picked up dirt which dried hard and clung to the cotton, weighing me down.
For those of you who are thinking it couldn't really have been as medieval as all that, I entreat you to look at the East Anglian Film Archive's footage of the event which is on the internet... I didn't see me, though.
While I may imagine I am an old hippie, I am, in fact, nothing of the sort. There is nothing about camping that couldn't be improved by the addition of a comfy chair. And this, I think, is the crux of the matter. I really don't like being uncomfortable, even listening to a Bee Gee or Lionel Richie or, bless his cotton socks, Ed Sheeran. I have tried to think of an artist for whom I would sit in a muddy field and can't. Simon and Garfunkel maybe... but only if there wasn't the option of watching on TV.
What could be lovelier than sitting on the sofa with large gin and tonic, a warm, light breeze billowing the voile curtains, the smell of stocks and petunias wafting in from the garden and the Sound of Silence.
• Headline artists who congregate in one place so that you can see them over a weekend and not have to book concerts throughout the year
• A chance to see new acts and be inspired by their music
• Spending time with like-minded people and making new friends – even if it is just for the weekend
• Being outdoors after spending a whole year cooped up at home, in the office, in school or at college. Fresh air!
• Having time to be yourself and rediscover the joy of life, irrespective of age, dodgy knee joints etc
• Feeling a part of something unique; being part of a special moment; one you will remember always.
• Singing along at the top of your voice and believing you dance as well as you ever did.
• Forgetting where you parked the car and having to wait for everyone else to leave
• Sleeping in a tent next to the naughty substances club whose smoke drifts into your tent and whose members wander unannounced into your tent and attempt to get into your sleeping bag with you.
• Needing a wee in the middle of the night
• Mud, dirt, sunburn, condensation dripping from the top of the tent, no clean clothes left
• The smell of toilets, armpits, hot dogs and wet tents
• Running out of baby wipes (not for the baby, for you)
• Embarrassment after a misjudged crowd-surfing incident
• Feeling sulky because no one chatted you up... and then remembering how old you are