At the age of 23, I decided to take early retirement from festivals. I had LOVED going to festivals so it wasn’t a decision I took lightly, but I felt like my hand had been forced. It was Leeds Fest, 2009, and I’d just woken up after a less-than-successful night’s sleep in a mildew-ridden tent. But it wasn’t the smell of damp that woke me, or even an overpriced beer-induced hangover. It was our neighbours.
“So, what did you get in your GCSEs, then?” one male voice squeaked, followed by a cacophony of responses; some gloating, some ‘I’m-too-cool-to-care-about-exams’ nonchalant. GCSEs? What did that make them, FIFTEEN?! No. No, no no. Their chorus droned on and on until they were told to lower their voices by an older-sounding voice. Thank GOD. I peeked my head out of the tent door to see who it was, ready to shake their hand and offer them a beer, but I stopped myself. That older voice didn’t belong to a fellow disgruntled camper, it belonged to one of two chaperones accompanying a group that looked barely old enough to be in high school, let alone sitting GCSEs.
That was it. I was too old for this. Festivals, it seemed, were to be one of those activities that I’d have to admit defeat to, along with wearing crop tops and dancing until 3am. I would always look back at them with fond memories, but they were no longer for me. I was no longer for them.
But things change. Dancing until 3am has made a triumphant comeback in my life, thanks to the ingenious swapping of sticky-floored clubs for my best friend’s kitchen and a fully-stocked fridge of chablis and cava. The crop top has also crept back into my wardrobe, albeit styled more conservatively with a high-waisted, midi 50s-stye skirt and only a slither of midriff on show. And over the last few years, I’ve been forced to reconsider my blanket festival veto after realising that maybe, I’d just been going to the wrong festivals. As I’ve travelled through my 20s at startling speed, I’ve discovered that there are so many other festivals to choose from; festivals that, like my newly demure crop tops and chablis-fuelled 3am dancing, offer a different, varied and more fulfilling experience for my older self than the teen-filled hell that made me swear off festivals for life.
Festivals like Beacons.