Reading Festival — A review
Well we appear to have survived. My first ever festival and I might say, my last.
So there was mud. Everybody knows there will be mud at festivals. It’s the law, isn’t it? And as our campsite was the furthest from the main arena we saw our fair share of it.
From the outset I have to say that Reading Festival is fabulously organised and appears to run like clockwork.
We arrived at about 8pm on Thursday night, following numerous AA signs directing us from the outskirts of Reading to our “White Carpark”. Let me tell you now, there is nothing white about car parks at Reading Festival. There might be for ten minutes as you park but after that, forget it. We were stopped at a check point, tickets exchanged and wristbands attached. Weekend wristbands are essential for access to the camp sites and also the boat.
Yes the boat from our campsite to the entrance. You might think that given that you are camping AT the Festival you are close, but you are, in actual fact, 45 minutes walk away. Through mud. The boat isnt necessarily any quicker in terms of time but it means you are not traipsing through mud. Flash your wristband and you get on for free. A ten minute sail down the Thames is a lovely way to arrive. The juxtaposition between £1M+ houses on one side of the Thames and a concrete barrier on the other, housing Berkshire’s largest mud bath is fantastic.
There is another boat that goes down to Tescos, too. Which is great. I am not sure if the rumour of a sheep dip being built outside is true but it wouldn’t surprise me!
We did walk and not get the boat on the first day and I had to resist my inner urge to just tidy up other people’s camps. Groups of friends had set up tents around a small space for a camp fire each night and had strewn cans and litter everywhere. I just wanted to get in there and clear it up!
A note on litter though. Reading have a great scheme with the bars in the main arena. For your first pint you pay 10p for the paper cup. Bring the paper cup for a refill and you don’t pay 10p again. Find a cup, pick it up and take it back to the bar and you get 10p. We saw a lot of teenagers wandering around with a tower of about 60 cups. Mr B overheard one teenage girl say “we ran out of money yesterday so this means we can get more beer”. Not food you note. A great way of keeping the litter down. Collect a recycling bag of rubbish too and you got a free beer.
Don’t get me wrong. There is rubbish. But it is not as bad as you think it might be.
Reading though is about the music. Three days of music on six stages, with around 60 different bands on each day. That is almost 200 bands over the weekend. The problem is you recognise the Headline acts and have no idea who a lot of the smaller bands are. Well I didn’t but then maybe I am just old. Yet you feel compelled to see them all.
If I could give you any advice. Don’t even try. You can’t see them all and could end up trying to micro-plan your weekend running backwards and forwards between stages trying to fit them all in. The stages are, indeed, close together, but you can’t see them all. Pace yourselves. You don’t have to get your money’s worth out of your ticket and see them all.
Do buy the lanyard and programme (£10) as the lanyard is a great, handy way of finding out who is on when.
Further advice would be:
- Do not even think about wearing anything other than wellies. Yes, it says you can wear walking boots. Just don’t. Your jeans will be ruined and sometimes the mud is higher than the tops of the walking boots. Just wear wellies
- If you are taking small children (and there is no reason, with planning, why you shouldn’t) be prepared to cover their ears. Not because of the loud music but because of the stories you will hear and the language used to describe that story. We were followed by two lads who thought it appropriate to describe in detail how to hold two pints whilst peeing in the middle of a crowd. Except they didnt use the word “Peeing”.
- Learn to breathe through your mouth. Both around smokers (ahem) and also around the loos. Enough on this subject
- Do take a body belt, not a hand bag. I saw alot of people with hand bags and it just looked a prime target for thieves. Much safer to have a “bum bag” style belt, in my opinion
- Take a folding chair. There is a lot of waiting around, and being able to sit down is bliss. The bands on the main stage during the day are far from packed to capacity and you can have just as much fun sitting at the back on a chair for a few hours. Especially if the sun shines like it did for us.
- Club together and hire a camper van. I cannot tell you how pleased I am we did this. Yes it cost another few hundred Pounds but iw as worth every penny. Knowing all our stuff was safe whilst we were out, and being warm at night (lots of stories of people in tents being cold) was priceless. And it was a much more civillised experience all round.
- Duck if you see anything remotely liquid being thrown.
- Chat to people in the next tent / camper van. A great way to meet people but also you get to know who should be around your site and who might be looking to steal stuff. Let’s face it, there is going to be crime in a crowd of 80,000, regardless of where you are.
- Take a moment to notice things like this
Finally my biggest piece of advice is to do the Festival you want to do. Don’t feel you have “do” a Festival in all it’s grotty glory. You really don’t. You should do what you want to do and take from it what you think will give you the best experience.
I dipped out of the larger Headline acts because a) I don’t like huge crowds; and b) I was worried about it being dark when we left and I was in charge of getting E and J back to the camper van safely.
Did this mean I missed out? No, not at all. I had a ball. We watched it on BBC3 and sat around a camp fire chatting. We don’t get a lot of time at home to just “be” so this was lovely. J was in charge of the fire and did a grand job with it.
Highlights? Definitely Noah and the Whale, the Vaccines, Ed Sheeran, Miles Kane and Two Door Cinema Club. Have to say I was disappointed by Madness. Sorry Suggs, I am a big fan but you just didn’t “get it”. This is a Festival and you are one band on a stage with nine others that day. You need to engage with the crowd, get them whipped up, play your old stuff. Not make in jokes with one girl down the front, and play a lot of your new album. It is not your chance at promoting your album. You were there to entertain us before Elbow and Muse. And, in my opinion, you failed.
Reading Festival in a phrase “you smashed it”. Great organisation, great atmosphere and we had a fantastic time. Will I be back next year? No. I can safely say I have done Reading Festival. And feel no need to return. From now on my live music viewing will be bands appearing one at a time in a venue with a roof and fixed seating that I can get home to in the evening.
And now if you will excuse me, I am off to use a knife and fork. Four days without using one really means I have some catching up to do.