Festiv-hell: From the Eyes of a Steward

(This is a piece that I wrote right at the beginning of term, meant to use it for my writing media assignment but never did. If people enjoy this i will share more personal accounts of my time as a steward last year. So let me know in the comments what you think and if you want to see more of these).

I’m shivering. I’m soaked right through, surrounded by people I don’t know and I can’t hear anything due to my perforated ear drums. I find myself wondering how people get any enjoyment out of this? Why do people pay obscene amounts to attend these events? At least I didn’t pay for the ‘privilege’ to be here. I’m getting paid to suffer through this ordeal.

The poor, paying public have paid anything between £90 and £400 to attend one of Britain’s amazing music festivals. Be it Download, V Fest, T in the Park or Creamfields – after spending this summer working as a steward, I can honestly say anyone who attends these events, and leaves as happy as they arrived, seriously needs to consider that they may be a masochist.

Most festival goers are usually are steaming drunk, or high on some form of illegal substance. They bounce around wild-eyed from venue to venue, not really taking in what’s happening around them. You may find one of them having a deep meaningful conversation with a lamp-post by the end of the night. These are the guys who come up to you belching, staggering, and asking for directions. After you’ve argued with them black and blue that where they want to go either doesn’t exist or is in a complete opposite direction. Eventually they stumble away, turning around only to tell you to “fuck off back to Wales!”, and to call you a “sheep-shagger!”. Seconds later, you see them fall to the floor face first and you laugh, before radioing in for first aiders.

These festivals have ‘strict underage drinking rules’, and are also ‘anti-drugs’. If these rules had been upheld, the venue would have probably been empty. I was watching groups of young’uns going to the bar and hoping that they were going to come away with a 50p mix up each. Instead they come away with two shots of some neon green liquid and three pints! Maybe its shots of limeade and the pints are for their parents? As this thought goes through my head, it is quickly dashed as they proceed to down the drinks like alcoholism has become an Olympic sport. I watched them go back and forth until they passed out in a nearby haystack. At least they can’t drink anymore there.

As for drugs, it was more shocking to find someone who wasn’t high at these festivals than find someone who was. Imagine spending 12 hours each day talking to people who are clearly not only on another planet to you, but are pretty much in a different solar system. Their pupils look like pin-pricks. Their jaw is trying to leave the rest of their face behind, and wants to break free as badly as Freddy Mercury. You get someone to search them, pat their pockets down, can’t find anything. You and your colleague know exactly where they have stashed their drugs. But which one of you fancies donning the latex glove? “Cough please sir”.

I understand why they feel the need to ‘get off it’ as the conditions at these festivals are inhumane. The floor starts off sturdy, but once rain hits and thousands of people stampede over it, it soon becomes a quicksand where people lose shoes, bags, and in some cases, even children. Every bit of food or drink is overpriced to the point that it would be cheaper to catch a bus to your local supermarket back home, buy it there and then travel back. One time I bought a burger – your normal run of the mill, single, no cheese, just 25% real beef, burger in a small dry bun. When they told me the price I contemplated just becoming indebted to them for my life instead.

Do you like to stay on top of your personal hygiene? Well if you do, you are better off using wet wipes and plenty of deodorant because the showers are uninhabitable. For some reason when a punter enters a shower they completely lose all traces of humanity. They smear dirt up the walls; leave their sweaty, stained clothes all around the cubicle and for reasons unknown to anyone but themselves, they defecate down the drain hole.

What about the music I hear you ask? The music would be good if it wasn’t so loud that it hurts to listen to and eventually just makes you deaf. Also most the time the artists are just miming so you’ve paid all that money to watch them lip sync your favourite CD’s at you.

But unlike the punters, I’m getting paid, so where will I be next year?

I’ll be freezing, soaked right through, surrounded by people I don’t know, with my newly perforated ear drums, wondering the exact same thing as this year.

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