A Students' Guide to Festival Survival

How to survive your first ever festival

Photographer: John Bownas28 May 2009

Getting there
Save money and guarantee your festival ticket by working for it. Oxfam often approach student unions looking for volunteer stewards; otherwise try building fences, pouring pints or burger flipping. If you're a talented writer, video blogger or photographer, try covering the event for Virtual Festivals (see links below for more info).

Don’t pay for over-priced public transport. Advertise around Uni and operate a lift share scheme - there’s almost always some Hooray Henry taking his Dad’s Land Rover to Reading, so blag a lift.

Otherwise, sell off spaces for petrol money in your Vauxhall Nova. If nobody else at Strathclyde Uni is going to Trowbridge Village Pump Festival then sign up to liftshare.com and open your search to the outside world.

Tesco.com does a Value two-person dome tent for £3.99, but if you value (ahem) staying dry then go for the £12 version. An airbed or lilo will stop your sleeping bag absorbing sogginess from the ground beneath, but if that’s too expensive, jumpers for pillows will suffice.

Stinge on the torch, but not the batteries. Falling face-first into someone else’s tent at 4am because you failed to see the guide ropes in the pitch black is never a good idea. Festival organisers rarely think to put Portaloos in a well-lit place, so if you need to spend a penny at night, take the torch with you else you might have close encounters of the turd kind.

Health and Hygiene
Look for deals on, or steal loo roll, wet wipes, industrial-strength deodorant, sun cream and a toothbrush from your mum’s house, as they are all vital. Medical students may want to pack paracetamol and plasters to be on the safe side too.

Don’t queue for festival showers; it will result in you missing your favourite band. If you absolutely need a wash, take a deep breath and opt instead for a cool alfresco douche in your cossie at the nearest tap. Never visit a water point in the morning; human life will have evolved by the time it’s your turn.

Sex, drugs n’ alcohol
Your student days are all about discovering new things and festivals are no exception. Taking your own alcohol will prove cheapest but most events - especially those sponsored by beer companies - won’t let you take it into the main arena.

Drugs are just as illegal at festivals as they are in your local Wetherspoon’s, but if you do experiment there will be welfare and medical staff on hand if it all gets too much. Locate your nearest welfare tent at the beginning and remember; everything in moderation. Apart from sex. Have as much sex as you like, but use a condom.

Clothing and weather

In the UK, wellies are indispensable and if you’re going to Glastonbury, make yours knee-highs. Get these before you go though, as stallholders will happily take a chunk of your beer money in return for a pair onsite.

You’ll also need a waterproof jacket and loads of warm layers as it might be scorching in the afternoon (bring a sun hat), but it won’t be at night (bring a woolly hat).

A bag or secure pockets are essential for carrying around your valuables. The last thing you want to lose is that £10 your Gran gave you to spend on food.

Eating at festivals is not only expensive, but food tastes just as bad as Asda Smart Price tinned curry, even if the stall sign reads: organic, locally-sourced gourmet falafel. Preparation is vital and imperishable foods should be top of your shopping list. Crisps, chocolate, cereal bars and nuts are not only portable, but also inexpensive and will last all three days.

Once you’ve got your snacks sorted, treat yourself to one big, hot, bought meal a day. You’ll probably end up having beer for breakfast, lunch and dinner anyway.


If it has been a rather heavy weekend, make sure your lift home is sober and alert enough to drive back and then start planning for the next year, when you’ll be doing it all over again.

Helpful website for working at festivals:
Virtual Festivals - join our team!
Oxfam volunteers
Workers Beer Company
Green Police
DC Site Services
Festival Samaritans
Lift Share

By Kae Karadelis

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