To mark the announcement of our Festival tour this year, Kirstie Wilson (BFLF Scotland co-manager with her husband Liam) tells us about some of her festival experiences). See you all in a field somewhere soon! Hannah BFLF xx
It’s been a fair few years since I’ve been at a festival, I have to admit. Having always felt like a novice at parenting, it made me somewhat reluctant to being a novice AND trying to navigate a completely different world, so I didn’t contemplate it. Plus, it always seemed like a heck of a lot of money on a part time shoestring, never mind that ‘Glastonbury was only £60 when I went don’t you know’.
This year, we’re lucky enough to be taking Big Fish Little Fish to two festivals in Scotland – Kelburn Garden Party and Belladrum. Now that the kids are a bit older (Leo, 8 and Sadie, 5), I’m feeling really excited about introducing them to the festival world, and it’s led me to reminisce about the first few times I went as a teenager.
My first experience of a festival was also my first ever solo trip abroad, I can’t actually believe as a parent now, that my parents were quite so cool with it all. I was 16 when I to Dynamo Metal Fest near, and had started as a probably drunken group agreement that about 20 of us were going to go and have this mad weekend in Holland. Unfortunately, everyone pulled out and I ended up being me stuck with my best friend’s boyfriend of the time, and a bunch of fairly arrogant metalheads we met on a bus. I wasn’t even all that metal if I’m honest, I don’t really know how I ended up there.
I spent about 10 hours on a minibus, 4 on a ferry, and several more on the continent stuck with said fairly arrogant metalheads, being too shy to speak loudly enough to be heard. We arrived onsite and were greeted by a sea of hair (like so much hair, that I pitied their mother’s plugholes), and a whaft of fresh weed. After pitching tents, I was pretty much ditched whilst the boys went off to be boys, and I was happy to explore this little self contained festival world that seemed to have everything you could ever wish for. I mean, they had music, chips, beer, dodgems, plus loads and loads of weed. The only other English conversation I heard all weekend came from a group of boys who were really, really excited to see me wearing a Gin Goblins t-shirt which I’d been gifted by the lovely, late John Duncan.
Scattered around the site were military ‘medical’ tents you could walk into and buy bags of weed or the most perfectly rolled spliffs, and this was the first purchase I made with my guilders. Now, as a 16 year old from Scotland, I possibly overestimated my tolerance levels, but suffice to say I didn’t feel very well that weekend. I recall a moment of lying in my tent with the inner door rolled up so I could still see outside. I could hear the fairground generators running, and see people walking past the window, managing to convince myself that my tent was some kind of horizontal spinning cup ride. I just smiled to myself.
One thing I now know about UK festivals, is that it’s not standard to be chucking around massive, terrifying flares in the middle of a busy crowd, crazy stuff! I think I felt pretty metalled out by the last day, so decided to pop to Eindhoven to have a mooch around and get some essential souvenirs, I think I even made use of a REAL toilet too – the worst thing about festivals. I ended up in a café for a few hours, and came home with a beautiful selection of random tiny china items that I have little recollection of buying.
Next up later that summer and not so far from home T In The Park, with an absolutely stellar lineup including Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Goldie, Bukem, and Dogstar made an appears to get every woman in Scotland’s knickers in a twist over ‘KEEEAAAANNNUUU’.
TITP was definitely more up my street. I’d recently discovered how wonderful dance music was, and the electronic lineup was absolutely phenomenal – even now, I think it’d make a belter of a festival! But what else made this festival was the Scots, we’re awesome really aren’t we?? From the guy dancing to Prodigy on top of the ice cream van, to the comedians who pushed their pal over in a weekend-full portaloo – we simply know how to have fun. We even put together the ‘Fruitang Clan’ in our campsite. We ain’t nothin’ to fuck with. Even when we smeared Philadelphia on some moany arsehole’s tent to prove just this point (though, I still have no idea who out of bunch of 16 year olds brought such a snack to a festival).
For those who’ve been to TITP, this was back in the original Strathclyde Country Park site days. I was laying with my head out the tent watching the world go by, when I was approached by STV News and interviewed for the evening show. My mind went completely blank when they asked me who I was there to see, and I ended off reeling a load of shit bands I had no desire to see in a panic. I’d arranged to meet some friends the next day, and was greeted loudly onsite with ‘YOU’RE AFF THE TELLY!’ and realised I’d made it onto the newscut. My friend, that’s still one of my best friends so many years later, was grounded after her parents saw our massive offie haul stacked next to me in the tent!
TITP used to be amazing when I look back to the Strathclyde days, the 96 lineup was gold and I spent much of my time laid in the Dance Tent (this was the final year before Slam took it over and brought a whole new meaning to ‘Which way tae the Slam Tent?’), a while doing some ceilidh reels in some random field that might not actually have existed, some time pretending I was cool watching The Longpigs, Lush, Kula Shaker and The Cardigans in King Tut’s Stage, and then a bit of time at The Main Stage for the highlights. Prodigy were highlights, as always, I enjoyed but was mentally drained after watching Radiohead (see Glastonbury 97), and then left absolutely enraged by Pulp. I never really liked Pulp, and was pulled into the crowd as I was trying to get to another stage. Came out and had lost my favourite top which had been tied onto my bag. Never forgiven you Jarvis, never!
Back in these days, TITP used to have a Signing Tent too, so you could queue up for a signed picture and maybe risk a photo on your 36 spool camera you’d got for the weekend. I only did this once for Goldie and met a rather effeminate boy I knew called Lewis in the queue. I felt a wee bit sorry for the lad when Goldie gave him a hug and signed his photo ‘To Louise’. I told Goldie that I’d see him the following week at Phoenix. He gave not a single fuck….but it takes up onto the next chapter beautifully.
Phoenix was like, the best ever festival experience I’ve ever had in my life, though it might not have felt that way at the time. I travelled with 3 boys – a Nigerian rounded version of Leeroy Thornhill, bit of a liability who left after one night; the somewhat nervous but adorable metalkid that had introduced me to dance music, and an unusual addition friend of his. He was a nice guy, but a bit of a casual who managed to get leathered on the train stank the whole train out with a jobby on our journey there. I still have no idea how anyone could have such pristine clothing at a fucking music festival.
We arrived in Stratford-Upon-Avon and had to hitch a lift in the back of a decorator’s van to the festival. I’m sure we paid about £10 each for this truly awful experience, before having to still walk about 2 miles to get to the actual festival in the sweltering heat. I was full on raging when I could hear waves of Prodigy set rolling across the field.
Again, I spent much of my time in the Megadog Dance Tent which had a belting lineup including Carl Cox, Goldie, Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Bukem, James Lavelle, Andrew Weatherall….it was super (especially Prodigy when you got in!) But I was delighted to be able to say I have seen Bjork, Massive Attack, Ruby, Bowie and Sex Pistols on the Main Stage. As well as Cypress Hill, where a bunch of half naked people painted bright orange were jumping round and smeared themselves on a most disgruntled casual boy.
Another highlight of Phoenix Festival was the nightly screams of ‘BOLLOCKS!’ from all corners of the campsite, followed by pockets of laughter and tuts from the older folk (probably me now). This was a stark contrast to our last night before returning home after the festival, which was on a campsite called The Racecourse – and funnily enough, was on a flat, vast racecourse. My mum had booked us in as our train wasn’t until the next day, but when we arrived, they refused to give us a pitch as we were ‘festival folk’. After a bit of negotiation, they asked us to camp over in a corner of the site out of the view of everyone else. I woke up in the night to flashes of light, and was convinced that they were taking pictures of us, so woke the boys up to find out what was going on. We soon discovered that it was actually lightening, which somewhat terrified the nervous lad in the group, as our pitch was next to a massive line of tall trees – the only ones around this flat, vast racecourse. He decided we needed to go into the middle of the course and lie down to avoid being struck, whilst having an absolute meltdown and trying to convince us we were going to die. We must’ve laid there for about an hour until the storm passed, and I am pleased to say we all lived to tell the tale.
Next time….upsetting Trustfirians and Mormons at Glastonbury, pant flashing at Prodigy and my letter from TV legend, Paul Danan at TITP….