Friday, 6 July 2012

Mud, Sweat and Tears: Isle of Wight 2012

by Lucy Cole

After the stress and exhaustion of my recent AS level exams, I really wanted to do something spontaneous, out of the ordinary and, above all, enjoyable (not a possibility when trapped in the guilt of not revising). This something came in the form of cut-price tickets for the Isle of Wight Festival, spotted by an equally desperate friend searching for ideas. After briefly contemplating whether there was any chance that we would be ready in time for the weekend, we purchased the tickets on the Tuesday night, subsequently leading to the contents of my wardrobe being scattered about my room, surrounded by torches and baby wipes and other such necessities essential to festival survival.

Despite my having been to Reading Festival in the summer of 2011, nothing could have prepared me for the sight we arrived to on Friday evening; in the words of Flanders and Swann – ‘Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud’ (fine if you’re a hippo!). Although our time of arrival meant we missed the many hour long queues caused by the terrible organisation, the mud, the rain and the sheer number of people, we definitely had our fair share of drama, instigated by one friend in particular (not mentioning any names). After arriving at the hover port she discovered she had messed up her booking and didn’t have a hover ticket, almost leading to our missing the ferry. She then proceeded to discover she had lost her actual festival ticket… I have no idea how we got her in, but eventually we were inside, and began our search for the camping spot saved for us by friends who had arrived earlier that day.

Finally we entered our campsite, fittingly labelled ‘Teenage Wasteland’. Not a good omen. However, it did prepare us for what was to follow; the challenge of erecting a tent in what can be described as nothing other than a swamp. But in customary festival spirit we managed to rope in some helpers, and in spite of the Force 8 billion gale, we managed – eventually – to put together what could pass for a half decent shelter.
In high spirits we set off, half splodging half carrying each other through the mud to get to the main arena where Example was currently playing. Despite our best efforts at ‘speed-walking’ through the shin-deep slurry, we arrived at the arena just as he was saying his last goodbyes. However we refused to be down-heartened, and set off in search of further amusement. Of this in particular, the festival had plenty to offer; bizarre stands selling equally bizarre clothing were to be found in every corner of every field, peddling everything from jumpers and dresses to jewellery and of course the Grecian style flowery headbands, to be found on the head of every festival going teenage girl (guilty). The festival also offered every kind of food stall, from noodles to breakfast smoothies (my favourite being the Italian food stand which sold fresh pasta and pizza, welcome after the prospect of two days eating nothing but chips, noodles and cake). However, my biggest entertainment lay in the phone charging shop, where to create the electricity you had to cycle for hours while the entire festival stood watching you. Vastly amusing for them, not so much for you.

Another side to festivals that is sure to always keep you diverted is the extraordinary fashion. A festival is something of a catwalk; it is the only place on earth where you can push the boundaries of fashion beyond acceptable limits without being judged for it. Presumably because everyone is too wet/cold/tired/enjoying themselves to care. This is another thing that never ceases to amaze me. No matter the weather or the technical problems or the lack of sleep that is suffered, a continued feeling of excitement is present and spirits always stay high. I believe that this is due to an acceptance that everyone reaches before embarking on a festival; you are going to a festival, you will get wet, you will get cold and you will (most probably) have nowhere to sleep by the last night. It was a miracle and a great achievement that I managed to salvage my tent from beneath the mud and drag it home to be power hosed.

Saturday was no doubt the best day of the weekend for me, not only due to the vastly improved weather (until the torrential downpour of the evening) but also the music. In the morning we managed to find a nice dry bench, and sat for an hour or two, drinking coffee and basking in the early morning sunshine as we solar- recharged our batteries after little sleep, watching the mud-covered people pass by, stepping over the remnants of wellies abandoned in the sludge. After spending the middle part of the day wandering around the festival, looking for people we knew, we ambled (once again) towards the main stage in the hope of actually arriving in time to watch some acts. As 6 o’ clock approached we pushed through the crushed jumble of the crowds in an attempt to get nearer to the front, and, finally, Labrinth came onto the stage to deafening cheers from the vast audience.  Despite being a relative newcomer to the music industry Labrinth did not disappoint. As the crowd sang along to ‘Let the Sun Shine’, swaying their hands in time to the music, the sun did indeed shine, adding to the surreal atmosphere of the evening. Next came Jessie-J who proved that it was her voice, not her songwriter, which had made her famous. The sound of over 20,000 people singing and dancing in unison is not one you forget easily; one of the many wonders of a festival. Tinie Tempah and Professor Green also gave fantastic performances, their requests for the audience to ‘jump’ literally leading to my being lifted off the ground by those around me because of how packed the crowds were.

All in all, I loved almost every second of it (I say "almost" due to the weather on Saturday night, and, of course, the toilets which I won’t go in to for your sake (think Slumdog Millionaire)) and would seriously recommend adding a festival to your list of must-do activities before you die. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is completely out of the ordinary and a complete escape from the conventionalities of normal life. One piece of advice before I finish, though: when your mum tells you to take an anorak, I suggest you do it. If you don’t you will regret it, believe me.

Read Anne Stephenson's alternative account of the Isle of Wight Festival 2012 here.

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