Behold! Music festival season is upon us: Topshop are strategically positioning their denim hot pants with fringed crop tops at the front of the stores and ‘Highlights of Bastille at Isle of Wight’ is the current must watch programme to tune in to on a Saturday night (if you’re not – you know – having one of those ”social lives” or whatever). For many, these annual signs will be the total norm. For others, it is the total unknown.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I joined 30,000 other festival goers at Radio 1’s Big Weekend – the only place that could bring Miley Cyrus and Charlie XCX together for a grinding session on a stage, in a field, situated precisely in the heart of Middlesborough.
Now, seen as though my best friend Kat was there covering for ASOS – I was extra extra lucky in the fact that I was able to tag along and get a taste of the backstage action. Whilst I am very much aware that any festivals I go to in the future will be nowhere near as luxurious as the experience we had at Big Weekend – I’d say it was a fairly good place for me to ‘ease’ myself in to the entire music festival experience, if you will.
Oh yes. I, Sophie Bradshaw, 24 years old – was a festival virgin up until this year. I will never forget May 25th 2019, when my cherry was finally popped by all the love Big Weekend had to give. And you know what? I’m not usually one for bliss and tell – but I can confirm that it was most DEFINITELY everything that I could have ever hoped for, and so much more.
That’s not say I didn’t have my anxieties before hand though. As Kat and I cruised on to the A19 armed with cereal bars and a couple of extra jumpers (we thought that would cover us for the ‘evening chill.’ Cute.) the thoughts that were curdling in my head the whole week started to stir around in the anxiety cup once again. Whilst I don’t suffer from anxiety as a condition, it is in my nature to get easily anxious – and it’s usually the unknown that sets me off on a course of worry.
Totally ridiculous thoughts, of course.
Like, ‘What if the toilets don’t have handwash?’ I can explain. As someone who likes to maintain a certain level of hygeine (this comes from a delightful stint of parasitic infections, but that’s a whole other story), this was quite a concern.
‘And what if the queues are so long I won’t be able to get my 3 meals a day?’ was another. Like I said, ridiculous. Get over it, Soph. But I suppose that when you’re trying to base your life on having a set meal plan in order to consistently gain weight, these things do become pretty important.
Another thing was that it was raining. A lot. I am laughing at my past self – because Kat and I spent many a coffee shop conversations envisioning rose tinted images in our head of us prancing around wearing sleeveless floral dresses whilst Lewis Capaldi serenaded the field with sufficient amounts of his heartfelt tunez. Oh, how wrong we were.
But HEY! Like many new situations in life, it was all a learning curve. I went in with absolutely zero idea what to expect. I was just an innocent girl in for what was going to be one hell of a heavy weekend. And *puts fist up in the air to connote victory* I came out a WOMAN! A woman with truly valuable wisdom, knowledge…. and a bank balance that reads the same as you would if checking the Arctic weather temperature. Good halloumi doesn’t come cheap, you know?
If you happen to be new to festivals too (and I say this because I am hoping I really am not the only one – and a supportive show of hands will suddenly appear somewhere from the back of the room), then perhaps what I learned during the weekend will equip you with some handy tac-tics come your long anticipated ‘first time’.
These are the 5 simple rules I wish I could tell my anxious AF self the week leading up to the event…
Now. I know I probably don’t need to tell you this – but please, oh please, dress according to the weather forecast.
As much as I hoped that suddenly the Met Office would flick from rain clouds to sunshines in a matter of miliseconds, it just was NAT gonna happen. I spent much of the week leading up the festival ‘umm-ing and ahh-ing’ about which slinky summer dress to wear with my trainers, when really once I got there all I wanted to sport was an oversized Radio 1 hoodie in a delightful shade of banana (#GIFTED) and a solid pair of jeans with waterproofs. Sexy.
The thing is is that nobody will care what you’re wearing because they’ll be having too much fun just loving the music and at the atmosphere. I know that it’s fun to get your photos and to look back thinking ‘Damn, I looked good!’, but afterwards it’s purely about being comfortable – and more to the point – warm. Should it happen to be a particularly warm day for England? By all means – GO for that pair of shorts… Just be sure to have something in your bag to fall back on should the clouds start to merge over.
DO NOT STRESS ABOUT ANYTHING, OK? Just base your day around seeing the artists you really love. We would look at the days music schedule, and say for example if Sean Paul was on at 4 we’d then plan to get dinner just after so that we’re back in time for Zara Larsson. That way you’re having an interlude to relax, refuel and reset before heading back to continue your drunken thrusting.
Sophie, because of your advantage for this one off opportunity – there is a chance you might see Greg James. Do not fuck it up.
Now, if you did happen to get the chance to meet your idol, you better damn well grab that opportunity by the horns. Tell them whatever you want to say and don’t be afraid of the reaction, because otherwise you’ll be kicking yourself for the rest of your existence.
The first day I couldn’t even articulate a sentence to Greg James. Nada. It was a though my brain froze and my mouth was sealed with the zip from one of Little Mix’s combat trousers. I was so bloody disappointed in myself that I couldn’t have just said something, like, remotely cool (even an ‘Are you well? I thought you were!’ comment) and it was nagging at me the rest of the day. So the second day when I saw him again – you bet your ass I grabbed those horns. And I am so glad I did, because he was even more brilliant than he is on the radio.
And if you see your friends getting a picture with Matty Healy, what the hell! Get in on the shot. YOLO and that. Even if you do look like such an outsider you appear to have been stuck on the end on Photoshop.
Be open to making new friends, even if you have already come with your a group of your own. Whilst seeing the artists perform live is a huge part of the whole festival experience – I found that it really was the people I met who made the whole weekend.
And honestly – you never know who you might meet. It could be a Coronation Street actress. It could be a Grazia journalist. We’re still in touch with everyone we met – and have full intentions to reunite again in London and York.
Big up Lucy Fallon and her boyfriend Tom, who have given me a new appreciation for Catfish and The Bottlemen and fried chicken. And of course Bonnie – quite possibly the most gorgeous human with a dress sense that puts Katy Perry to shame. <3
My last lesson is simple: Just make sure to most of every single minute. Admittedly, there were a few times when I felt so overwhelmed by the vast amounts of people and the freezing temperatures – plus there are only so many times you can see people squatting next to you to relieve themselves of alcohol infused urine before you feel like you want your home luxuries again.
But in all honesty – I am so bloody glad I burst that safety bubble and took it all in for what it was: an unforgettable opportunity to join people from all across the UK who were all there for exact same reason. To see the world’s biggest artists, with their favourite people. It certainly gave me a little taste of how delicious life can be when you step outside of your norm and take a big ass bite of the bait that is forever waiting right outside your door. Or in Middlesborough. Either works.
Now for a chicken parmo, any one?
All I can say is a big thank you to Radio 1. I have listened to that station every day for as long as I can remember, so to be part of their annual Big Weekend makes me feel so #blessed.
Be sure to let me know if you’re going to any festivals this year in the comments!