I went to see a band on Saturday night - a rarity these days! Echo and the Bunnymen at the O2 Academy in Oxford. I felt like the youngest person in the audience, being one of only six people under 40.
The last time I saw Echo & The Bunnymen was at Reading Festival circa 4 BC (4 years Before Children). Then I felt that, at over 25, I was one of the oldest people in the audience. That was my only experience of Reading Festival, having been to Glastonbury Festival several times as a teenager it gave me the urge to re-try Glastonbury the following year.
My first festival experience was when I was 18, the day I left school. My friends and I returned our books to the sixth form centre and officially left full time education. We left with an air of anticipation and bussed our way first to Oxford, then Bristol, Shepton Mallet and on to the shuttle bus to the festival site. We met up with friends who had travelled variously from Cambridge and London at the entrance to the main camping field and found our pitches - not too near the toilets, half way up the field on a relatively level patch of ground. We pitched five tents - four to house us and an ancient Force 10 to stash our kit in. The space between tents was astonishing compared to festivals now - as my photo shows (Matt will kill me for posting that one but you can;t see the tents in my other pictures!). We then reccied the camping field, acquired fire wood (to be stored in the Force 10) and set off to find beer. It was a baking hot weekend and many an hour was spent watching the circus performances, dancing badly to the Orb and visiting Joe Bananas Blanket stall on the way to see a late night showing of Bladerunner at the outdoor cinema (that was just a bit cold).
My festival kit, all packed badly in to my bright purple rucksack, included my Dad's old army sleeping bag - it was cosy but weighed more than I did, my tent - a cheap two man tent from Millets, shampoo and deoderent, clean underwear and a bucket to wash in - standards are to be maintained at all times, as you can see Matt even shaved every morning!.
It was with idillic memories that I booked my ticket for Glastonbury in 3 BC (3 years Before Children). I knew I wasn't going to be able to rough it as I had ten years before so packed my gloriously warm and light Marmot sleeping bag, Vaude self inflating sleeping mat, enough clothes to see me through any weather conditions, food and camping stove, baby wipes, and anything else I thought I might need.
This time we drove to the site, parked and tried to call friends we were meeting on our mobiles - the entire network was, of course, over loaded so we made our way, along with 17 million other people to the camping field.
Chaos is the only way I can describe it. We found enough space to pitch two tents and got one of them up. Then searched for our friends, who had pitched their tent in a swamp in the next field. Now we learned the beauty of a dome tent - we unpegged it and between three of us lifted it over our heads and carried it through the crowds to repitch it next to my tent. The way the tents were packed in, practically on top of each other worried me, it was nearly impossible to get from tent to path without tripping on guy ropes or standing on somebody's tent.
Glastonbury Festival had changed a lot in 10 years; queueing was now the main order for the weekend. Toilets, queues, beer. queues, music, queues, even the circus tent had a queue! It just seemed as if there were about ten thousand too many people on site. My first festival experiences were lazy days in the sun, my last was hectic, full on and claustrophobic.
I have decided I'm just too old for big festivals. I might try one of the smaller ones with my kids in a couple of years, but until then I'm sticking to quiet family camp sites for my canvas trips.