Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Festival First Timer

As a parent, you need to adapt quickly as your teenager transforms into a young adult who wants to stay out late and party.  They may have saved up the £200 or so required to experience a big summer music festival, such as Reading Festival (attended by 90,000 people).   For some kids, a summer festival has become a rite of passage after their GCSEs.  The group I drove to Reading were one school year older, possibly a better age to appreciate the whole experience.

Here are a few tips following Reading 2013 in mother/son Q & A format

Budget/spending money
This depends massively on how you choose to live.  Some people lived on next to nothing, taking everything they needed with them, another friend of mine was there with his dad who had paid for a comfortable hotel in Reading town centre every night.  Having only been to one festival, I couldn't confidently recommend exactly how much to bring.  I ate a couple of cereal bars for breakfast each day and bought the rest of my food and drink from stalls at the festival.  I spent £90 over four days, some of which I made by charging friends who were arriving a day later than me £5 each to take in their tents and put them up.  It cost £2 to withdraw cash from a cash point at the festival, a rip-off, but I did this as I didn't want to carry too much cash around with me.

I bought a tent from Tesco for £12.50.  The £8.50 tents had all sold out.  The advice I would give is to practice putting it up at home a couple of times.  Imagine putting up your tent in a howling gale and pouring rain.  Happily for me, the sun shone on the day.

Take a cheap pay as you go phone and back-up battery.  Several of my friends lost expensive phones at the festival.

Don't underestimate your wellies, even if the weather is perfect as you leave home.  Expect the worst and be prepared for it.  I persuaded my brother to lend me one of his white T-shirts, which has never been the same since.

Again, it's up to you and your budget, as well as space when packing.  Do bear in mind that the price of food and drink at festivals is extortionate and not always great quality.  I ate a Mexican meal that went straight through me.  A few of my friends walked to a nearby all day breakfast cafĂ© for a luxury sit down meal and the novelty of a clean toilet.

They lived up to their reputation.  I did consider taking the emergency pack of Imodium my mum gave me before the festival to avoid going.

Bin liners and baby wipes
Bin liners help to keep your living space cleaner and more organised.  You can imagine what the baby wipes are for.

I like my sleep, but didn't get much at Reading.  4am was the average bed time.  For four days I felt as if I was living in a foreign country with its own time zone.  The time zone was determined by noise and the quietest hours were probably between 5am and 6am.  Most of us came back with festival flu and took a few days to recover.

What were the best bits?
For me, seeing some of my favourite artists (Green Day and Eminem); also some hilarious people watching.  Of course you will come home with many a tale to tell your jealous friends and perhaps jealous parents.

What were the worst bits?
The toilets, but they're part of the experience.

Would you do it again?
Yes.  I'd like to go to a festival in Europe.

What would you do differently?
I wish I'd made more of the opportunity to discover new artists: with over a hundred artists performing, try something different if you happen to be passing by an active looking stage.

Parents' main concerns about their festival going offspring will be alcohol and drugs.  Can you comment on any of these?
Honestly, with 90,000 people there, we were surrounded by alcohol and drugs.  It was up to us to be responsible or not.  The police did what they could with anyone who was out of control.  It's best to go in a group and to keep an eye out for one another.  I don't think parents need to worry as much as they do.


Parents naturally worry - it's our job.  I drove four of them to Reading, as there was so much kit to take and it was cheaper than them taking the train.  Festivals aren't for the faint hearted and essentially if your child is spending all that money, they need to have a love of live music and not merely approach the festival as a large social gathering.  The tent didn’t make it back and was abandoned in a sea of thousands of tents.  I feel that the organisers should offer more of an incentive to people to take their tents with them when they leave.  

When I picked them up, the festival goers were grubby, tired and run down (but not as smelly as I expected them to be).  Apart from one passenger coping with a nose bleed in the back of the car, they were all fast asleep before we left the car park.

The NHS Festival Survival Guide is worth looking at. 
Mumsnet threads about Reading Festival.


  1. There are so many really lovely festivals teenagers can experience. I'm not saying don't let teenagers go to places like Reading Festival but it's a completely different vibe to other places so think about the options. If you are worried, then pick a festival you can all go to together and perhaps let them take a friend for their first experience. You are still there if they need you but they have freedom to explore. At least if they come back completely smashed you can deal with it.
    I've been to so many festivals and seen young teenagers in all sorts of problems with drink and drugs. Thankfully, we pick family festivals so there is an element of safety with people looking after each other.
    My kids are young and I know they may grow up to want to go to so sort of events I'd rather they avoided. Hopefully I can equip them with a bit of sense to stay safe.

    1. Teenagers do have to have their wits about them when going to the big festivals, but if they enjoy and survive the experience it can teach them so many things. Going to a family friendly festival together as a family when they are younger is a good idea and something we didn't do.

  2. This is really useful. It's a few years until my kids go to a festival, but I'm sure lots of readers of the Britmums teen and tween round-up will really appreciate the advice. Thanks.

    1. I hope it will be useful. There are some great posts in the round-up!