Naive And Claustrophobic 16 Year-Old Vs. Reading Festival 2012
This is not a rant. I’m just not really built for festivals.
Did I enjoy Reading Festival? I’m not sure. But it was certainly an experience.
In our great haste to be organised and prepared, my friends and I jumped at the chance to buy our timetables from a guy we passed as we lugged all our gear from the car park to the queue. Unfortunately, we were not quite prepared enough to know that anything sold by a dodgy-looking guy on the side of a road was probably going to be a fake. So, armed with our inaccurate timetables and bin liners filled with free Diet Coke, we set off towards the festival grounds.
People had told me it would be big, that it would be muddy, that it would be dirty and smelly, but I don’t think I was really prepared for what I was confronted with as I hauled my bag through the entrance. I’d heard that some of the campsites were quite far away from the main stage, but I’d sort of assumed that people were exaggerating and that ‘quite far away’ meant a bit of a trek through a couple of fields. I was somewhat surprised when the tents and flags and people seemed to extend off into the distant horizon. And as for fields, I’m not sure if it even were any fields. There was certainly no grass anywhere to be seen, although perhaps it was somewhere beneath the MILLIONS of tents. The campsites I was used to were family holiday destinations in rural France, where each pitch was neatly sectioned off and people would respectfully put up wind-shields to create a little privacy. Obviously I wasn’t crazy enough to think it would be like that at a music festival, but I had expected to be able to see the ground.
As most of my group of friends had Earlybird tickets and had arrived a few days earlier, they’d thankfully already found a space and had set up our tent for us. Stupidly, I expected to get to our campsite and see our brand new tent ready and waiting for us, all lovely and clean. Instead, we unzipped it to find that it was already cluttered with sleeping bags, rubbish, clothes, empty bottles etc, as a few of the boys had decided to hijack it and make themselves feel right at home in the process. My outrage didn’t last long, as I soon realised that there is no such thing as ‘our tent’ at Reading…
Despite having been warned about the toilets by pretty much everyone I’d ever spoken to, their descriptions didn’t quite do justice to the smell. Having heard all the horror stories, I half expected to be squatting over an open sewage pit and, to be fair, I wasn’t too far off! I think the worst thing about it (apart from the smell) was that if you happened to accidently look down the hole, you could see whatever was coming out of the person in the cubicle next door. Also, once when I was in there just minding my own business, the people around me decided that it would be a good idea to stand on the shelving and look over the partitioning wall and have a little chat amongst themselves. Fab. Don’t mind me. I’ll just carry on with what I was doing, shall I?
Apart from the fact that I don’t like being watched whilst on the toilet, I also discovered something else about myself during my weekend at Reading: I’m claustrophobic. That’s right, apparently I can’t do big crowds and small, tightly packed spaces. So perhaps a music festival isn’t exactly my natural habitat. Of course, you can still enjoy the music without being right in the thick of it, but you can’t really drag your mosh-pit-loving friends away from all the fun to stand awkwardly at the back with you. On the last night, I did try to man-up and just follow my friends towards the front during Two Door Cinema Club, but after a couple of minutes I panicked and ended up spending the majority of the night on my own, trying to find some people that I knew. I definitely wasn’t the type of person who just embraced being on their own. I was that awkward girl looking lost.
It may seem as though I had a terrible time, but I’m actually so glad that I went. Although it was a bit of a shock to the system, I still think of it as a good weekend and, while I probably wouldn’t go again, I think going to a festival is just something that everyone should do at some point (Having said that I wouldn’t go again, I’d probably go just for the Silent Disco.) I also really enjoyed some of the main stage performances. Thankfully, if an act were playing on the main stage, there were places to stand that weren’t quite so packed, but were still close enough to feel part of the crowd. My highlights on this stage were probably You Me At Six, who I was (and still am) in love with, and Florence, whose set was a wash-out and made all the more amazing because of it. I’m definitely a fan of dancing crazily in the rain.
What was your first festival experience like?