Losing your festival virginity at 50

BoardmastersMusic festivals have been rocking for about the same number of years I’ve been tapping my foot, so it’s very shoddy to take me this long to do one properly.

I went to Reading Festival a couple of years ago swanning in for a daytime, to see headliners Muse, beating a retreat after their set back to the comforts of gentile civilisation. It was the same at Victorious Festival in Portsmouth, for Ocean Colour Scene: a single day incursion.

No overnights. No tent ‘hotel’.

Acres of mud, festival toilets, and wet wipe showers had never appealed to me. They still don’t in theory. But last week I discovered I’d been a plonker all these years by avoiding the full experience. Dear festival gods, I repent.

Begrudgingly, I was persuaded by good friends to bop along to the Boardmasters Festival in Cornwall. Colleagues at work had teased me that the average age of people attending this event was 18 to 30, and when I looked at the band line-up on its website I could only recognise a few names.

Was I looking forward to three days of this? Fuck no.

Husband thankfully was embracing the idea and had armed us with a festival trolley and hiking backpacks so we looked the part when we joined the snake of pony-laden partygoers trudging the never-ending mile or so between the car park and entrance.

Once there we found a teeny space for our tiny tent sandwiched among thousands of twenty something’s. We were so packed in the tent guide ropes overlapped.

I had a blast.

Let me say that again. I HAD A BLAST.

My fears about being and looking too old for this sort of thing say more about my own insecurities. We weren’t the most wrinkly and saggy by any means and one of my favourite sights was a guy in his 70s busting some totally awesome dance grooves. Sunglasses, I discovered, hide all evils. I was even asked for proof of age ID at the bar, no doubt for the last time in my life. The chap’s face when I removed my sunnies was priceless.

Yes there were clichés. A soiled festival toilet once seen inside can never be unseen, and I never knew faeces could be used so creatively as wall paint or for constructing pyramids.

Wet wipes are a satisfactory temporary alternative to washing. Soapy water didn’t touch me throughout, and my hands were only sticky from lashings of hypoallergenic hand gel. There was mostly a two-hour queue for the showers, and the irony of watching people standing waiting in the rain made me chuckle. (By the way it took two showers and a bath to feel squeaky again, once back in the real world.)

Rain – the stalwart of festivals. We were lucky there wasn’t enough of it to give birth to quagmires. Shame because by then I was right up for some mud surfing.

I loved the suspended reality of this makeshift community, with its established female uniform of shorts, wellington boots, and sparkly face paint. The chaps were also embracing the sparkling facial look and in some cases suiting them far more.

Sleeping was an acquired talent, with the funfair and camping village club banging on into the early hours. But after walking an average of 16,000 steps each day – helpfully logged by my phone app – utter exhaustion easily outweighed the noise.

All of this paled against the music. That’s the point I’d been missing. It’s a MUSIC festival.

Rock, jazz, pop, disco, folk, rap, soul. I danced, jigged, swayed, threw my hands in the air, sang, and couldn’t get enough of it. Wall to wall, stage to stage, field-to-field music. I kept a band diary of my favourites so I can now find and download them. My musical palate has been energised, educated, and enlarged.

Check out my personal favourites Wolf Alice, Sloes, Lucy Anna, Jamie Lawson, Michael Kiwanuka, Jonahs Lift, White Denim, and Soul II Soul. Sorry Kaiser Chiefs – you were disappointingly plastic.

The location – a cliff top valley next to Newquay with stunning sea and coastline views – was just perfect. And the event was well organised. Thumbs up to the Boardmasters team.

So here’s to next year’s festival season. Bring it on, although we may investigate a cosy B&B nearby or luxury glamping on site. The overnight in a pop-up tent box has now been truly ticked.

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