My Twitter time line has started filling with links like this, and with both the Isle of Wight and Download this week ahead, it's fair to say, festival season has started. (If you're off to Download, know that I wish I was going with you!) I love festivals. As such, I could devote a whole series of blogs to telling you my best festival experiences (Arcade Fire, Glastonbury 2007, Rage Against the Machine, Reading 2000, Goblet Man, one very giggly night at Glastonbury 2011....), my thoughts on this years line ups, how to survive a festival, and my thoughts on "festival fashion" (why is this a thing?). Festivals tend to be where I really feel at home. I've made the best memories, the best friends, the best times of my life at festivals. I've done the organised hours of trying to get tickets and know all too well the sting of disappointment when it doesn't happen. To me, festival season is a serious business, because it couldn't mean more to me.
They are the places I've found the most immense feeling of community and togetherness. The toilets and the rain are testing, admittedly,, but it can also bring out the best, sometimes silliest in people. I've had men try and teach me how to use a "SheWee" to beat toilet queues. After getting slightly crushed one year, 2 amazing men came to the rescue of a friend and myself, despite our own stupidity. Festivals encourage us to open our minds, our experiences and more. I find it hard to think of any other places I've been too in my life where I can sit on a wooden dragon watching people climb a portaloo Stonehenge at dusk. Or be taught the proper way to dance the YMCA by the actual Village People. And let's not forget the work that festivals do in raising money and awareness for causes, such as The Sophie Lancaster Foundation by Download and Bloodstock, and Glastonbury's ongoing support of Oxfam and Wateraid. I'm a fierce festival advocate. If you've never done it before, I recommend you try it, at least once. You'll surprise yourself and make some incredible memories on the way. And if nothing else, a very wet Friday afternoon watching a very much hyped, but in reality, seriously drab surprise set at Glastonbury in torrential rain is character building (and also makes me even more thankful for Primal Scream, who then saved the day with their headline set, and a chance to warm up by dancing!)
Alongside the fun, however, it's easy to forget oneself. And as much as it saddens me, the last few years have seen reports sexual assaults of women at major festivals. And there was that infamous t-shirt from Cochella last year. It's also striking that the NME and anyone else running 'don't ruin festivals' type articles don't include people committing sexual harassment as "dicks". Festivals are so far from our normal everyday lives. And this is exactly where their success lies. Who doesn't want to trade in the 9-5 for a few days of fun in the summer with an amazing soundtrack? But this doesn't make it acceptable for men to take advantage of women under the guise of it being a different time, place, atmosphere or whatever other excuse comes to mind. I write this in hope that Safe Gigs for Women can come together with festivals, festival goers and local authorities to work together to install a code of best practice for festivals in preventing sexual harassment and assault at all festivals, so that festivals can be safe and fun for all, and continue being the amazing experience that they are.