Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

After sunburn, inebriated eejits and swarms of wasps I vowed never to go to another music festival... so why am I stocking up on wet wipes again?

By Kerry McLean

I have a real passion for live music. Right up there on my list of special moments in life, following on from my wedding day and the birth of my babies, are some incredible concerts I was lucky enough to attend. Music speaks to my soul day and daily, but there's something about seeing your favourite artists perform right there in front of your eyes that turns that voice from a whisper to a shout. I change from being a 40-plus sensible (allegedly) mum-of-three, to being a teenager again, bubbling over with excitement and the urge to dance and scream along at the top of my lungs.

I've caught some great, era-defining acts - Paul Simon, Van Morrison, The Stones, U2, Prince, David Bowie and, of course, the one man who could give my darling husband a run for his money in terms of a place in my heart, Bruce Springsteen. Oh, the memories of watching him belt out Thunder Road on stage in Kilkenny, stripped to the waist and singing in the rain… sigh… there really is nothing like singing along with your heroes, raising your voice up with thousands of other like-minded fans and feeling that drum beat vibrate right through your bones, from head to toe.

So, you'd think I'd be delighted each year, when summer hits and the festival season kicks off in earnest, wouldn't you? A chance for me to get my ticket, camp out and catch not just one but tonnes of great names, one after another, filling the air with endless hours of brilliant live music and yet... I've always tried my hardest to avoid these jamborees, certainly for anything more than an hour or two.

Why? Well, I can trace it back to my first experience of a festival back in the mid-Nineties. I was a wee slip of a thing, in my late teens, living and working in Glasgow when my friends began talking about this new event, T In The Park, which seemed to be hosting all the top artists of the time. Up until that point the closest I'd got to a festival was watching reports from Glastonbury on the news. I'd laze about on the sofa, in the warm, dry comfort of my mum and dad's house, gazing at miserable looking images of rain-sodden, mud-splattered youngsters, squelching their way from tent to stage and back again without so much as a moment's desire to try it out for myself.

But peer pressure is a powerful thing when you're young and I found myself agreeing to go. The summer that year, much like now, was boiling hot and I thought maybe I had struck lucky, avoiding the mud and days of continual damp socks. Instead, what I experienced were three days of sunburn, of dealing with inebriated eejits, of no sleep in the oven-like conditions in my tent, of endless swarms of insects, flies and wasps, attracted not only by the dirt and stench of Glasgow's unwashed youth, but also the permanently overflowing, no doubt plague-infested portable toilets. All this, plus the few decent possessions I had brought with me, were stolen from my tent within an hour of arriving on site. It was horrendous and worst of all, I had paid through the nose for the experience.

Since then my festival visits have been few and far between, but it seems that I'm in the minority. Last year almost £1.5bn was spent on tickets, transport and accommodation and that figure is only going to grow as every year seems to see more festivals pop up like teenage pimples, offering something for everyone - jazz, indie, rock or folk, there's a carnival of music to suit every taste.

We even have homegrown events that have a specifically family-friendly, multi-generational appeal. I know this because my mother and daughter have joined forces to convince me to go with them and experience one later this summer. Despite my previous encounter, I am determined to go with an open mind… an open mind and a bag packed with wet wipes, disinfectant and fly spray.

Wish me luck!

Belfast Telegraph

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