Festival fit

Fri, Feb 15, 2013, 00:00

Three festivals every week for a year. MARK GRAHAMsuggests checking the bags for booze

VERY LATE at night/early one morning, while at a large festival in a field, myself and a mate visited some friends in their tent to make sure they couldn’t go asleep, because that’s what friends do. They might have missed something.

Seven of us were in the tent talking all kinds of ráiméis when a stranger zipped open the door, stepped in with a big smiley head on him and unceremoniously plonked himself down amongst us. After a couple of minutes of awkward silence the young fella asked, “Are yous my friends?”. We didn’t know him but that didn’t necessarily preclude us from becoming friends. When we expressed this, he got more confused and asked, “Do I know yis?”.

It wouldn’t have taken a specialist consultant to diagnose the lad with a severe case of “outta yer bin”.

His name was Rob and he was a volunteer at Life Festival outside Mullingar. He had been working in “artist management” but was relieved of his post when he successfully managed to lose his artists, his reason and several essential motor functions.

Rob is one of an army of festival-goers who have discovered the joys of volunteering at festivals. Some volunteer positions are built to suit buzzers a little better than Rob’s. The forest folk of Body and Soul need skilled volunteers before the event starts, to help put together the weird and wonderful constructions that keep revellers wide-eyed in the woods.

The smaller the festival, the more unified the family of crew seem to be. Sea Sessions in Donegal has a tidy unit of volunteers who play as hard as they work; I spotted some of them strolling down the road, singing, arm in arm with the Young Blood Brass Band at all hours of the morning.

Checking bags for booze at a gate for six hours in the lashing rain is not fun, but the bond-in-adversity you form with your co-volunteers will make you all bosom buddies before the night is out. It’s not for everyone, but it’s certainly worth considering, especially when funds are low.

If you’re interested, check the relevant festival’s volunteer web-page. Another option is practising your high jump and cross-country running. I met two lads at Valentia Isle Festival who successfully snuck into 11 festivals last summer. They’d put in a fair bit of training though.


Now is the time to be thinking about bang for buck. Oxegen is back for two days over the August bank holiday weekend, and although ticket prices haven’t been announced, Castlepalooza and Indiependence, both running the same weekend, will be competitively priced. Early bird for Castlepalooza is some value at €59 for three days of choons and camping. An extra €11 for the Indiependence version. Knockanstockan release their timely feathered deals any day now.

The bargain buys for Camden Crawl sold out in jig time; trying to get your hands on one was like trying to buy a pint at the busy city- centre festival. Weekend passes are a steal at €40 up to the end of the month, but expect crowds and thirst. The same weekend sees Vantastival rolling out an airier, more chilled but more exposed shindig, with full tickets for €70 until next week. The bad news is that early birds for Body and Soul have sold out, and with Electric Picnic’s announcement later than a Dáil vote on promissory notes, I’d be betting on the bash at Ballinlough selling out even earlier this year.

There are too many festivals and not all of them will survive to see next year. The difficulty we face is balancing headliners with goodtimers. What’s the best buzz you’ve ever had at a festival? Was it watching Fiddy singing into a gold microphone or the buzz you had with your mates and the selection box of randomers around you? Choose wisely – they’re depending on you.

Safe travels, don’t die.


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