When you’re heading to a festival, the last thing you want to consider is that something might go wrong. While most people come away with nothing more than a fuzzy head and a bag of stinky clothes, bad things can happen, even in wonderful places. Taking precautions and using your common sense will go a long way in ensuring you keep your head above the mud and come home with nothing but fun-filled memories. Follow our PAAM event software tips for staying safe at festivals and make sure you’re always a happy camper.
Planning ahead for your festivals
Note down any numbers you may need, such as local taxi firms and your bank’s emergency line in case you lose your card. Make sure you don’t just store them all in your phone, as phones have a tendency to wander off as well. Also check out the festival website for basic information, emergency contacts and the all-important rule book. All festivals have a whole list of dos and don’ts, and they’re not always similar or predictable. If you leave it until the last minute, at least read the small print on the back of your ticket.
If you’re driving to a festival, make sure your car is roadworthy and in good shape before you set off. Also make sure you have plenty of water and festival supplies, as you could be queuing for hours to get on or off site. If you’re going by public transport, book in advance and get a return ticket wherever possible. However much you enjoy the festival, you’ll be dying to get home when it’s all over. You’re likely to have little money to spend on tickets and next-to-no patience to deal with the cattle-herding experience, so make sure you know your escape route.
People tend to let loose at festivals, which can lead to misunderstanding and hostility if everyone doesn’t remember to go with the flow and be patient and tolerant. Drink and drugs lower inhibitions and skew judgement, so if you see a group getting rowdy or aggressive, move away and resist the temptation to rubber-neck. Likewise, keep a check on your own behaviour and try not to attract trouble. If there’s someone in your group who tends to rub people the wrong way, perhaps have a quite word beforehand and ask them to keep it chilled. If things do kick off, find an official and don’t go wading in guns blazing.
Festival security guards are onsite to keep everyone safe, but with long shifts and plenty of chaos, they’re not always feeling the love and peace vibes. Be friendly and polite, and don’t kick up a fuss if they confiscate items that aren’t allowed. They’re simply doing their job, and you’ll probably get in a lot more trouble if you dig your heels in or show too much sass. Remember that they have ultimate power and can eject you from the site, so it pays to be a little humble.
Unless you get aggressive or out of control, it’s unlikely that you’ll have any run-ins with festival staff. If you feel you’ve been mistreated, however, stay calm, take down the member of staff’s name and ID number, and try to get the phone numbers of any witnesses. It’s best to co-operate fully, even if it means you have to leave the festival. If you lose your cool you could end up with a criminal record, so do what you’re told and make a stand afterwards through the proper channels. You can make a complaint to the festival organisers, a specific contractor or even to the police if you feel a crime has been committed against you.
Look after yourself and your friends at festivals
If you need medicine for anything serious, make sure you keep it on your person at all times, take enough for the whole festival, and keep it in its original packaging so people will know what it is and if there are any side effects. If you have a condition that could be dangerous, tell your friends what it is and what to do in an emergency. Wear a medical-alert tag or bracelet if possible.
Make sure you wear high-factor sunscreen (20 or above), even if there’s cloud coverage. Unprotected skin can burn in minutes, and coupled with dehydration, can quickly lead to sunstroke. Make sure you drink plenty of water, and cover up with a hat or move into the shade if you start to get overheated. If you get a headache, feel woozy or experience flu-like symptoms, move out of the sun, hydrate and seek medical assistance if necessary. There should be free drinking water points at every festival, so glug some down every time you pass by.
Even if you manage to keep your mobile charged up, it’s often next-to-impossible to call and text at festivals due to the sheer amount of traffic on the network. It’s therefore a good idea to arrange a place for you and your friends to meet at a couple of set times each day in case you find yourself adrift.
Stay away from secluded areas at night and don’t take any unnecessary risks. The happy-go-lucky, free-love festival vibe makes many feel invincible, but remember there are always a few sharks in the tank. Don’t wander off with someone you’ve only just met, even if you’re convinced that they’re your new BFF, and stop your friends from doing the same. If you’re in a big group with contrasting agendas, split into pairs and be prepared to compromise on your schedule a little so no one is left on their own.
If you hook up with someone onsite, make sure you always use a condom, as an STI is not the kind of lasting memory you want from your festival experience. If you didn’t plan ahead, onsite welfare services will often give out free condoms, and you’ll also be able to buy them from festival convenience stands (for a premium). If it doesn’t quite go to plan, you may be able to buy the Morning After Pill at the Festival Medical Centre, although this will only protect against pregnancy (if taken within the first 72 hours), not STIs or HIV.
Look after your festival stuff
The most common crime at festivals is theft, so the best advice is to bring an absolute minimum of valuables. Even if you’re not the unfortunate victim of festival theft, there is always the mud – almost as bad for robbing personal possessions, so leave anything you don’t desperately need, but will desperately miss, at home.
Unless you plan to spend a lot of time partying at your plot, you won’t need a music player and speakers. Nice jewellery will also weigh you down, and Facebook will not miss you for a weekend. Don’t think a padlock on your tent will be the answer, as it will only invite attention and you hardly need bolt cutters to get into a tent. Most festivals also now have locker facilities, so if you’re in transit or can’t leave home without your gadgets, you can lock them up tight while you party.
If you’re driving to the festival, don’t leave anything in your vehicle and, of course, lock all the doors and windows and set the alarm. Leave your glove compartment empty and open, as it will look like a Pandora’s box to a passing opportunist, and even thieves without a ticket can likely get into the festival’s car park.
It’s a good idea to have some backup money and an emergency card at a festival, but make sure you stash your cash wisely. Keep some of your money on your person and the rest in a few strategic places around your tent, maybe wrapped up in a stinky sock or deep in in your wash bag. Keeping a messy, unpacked living space will also make life harder for thieves looking to grab a bag – the perfect excuse for squalor!
Try to camp in a well-lit area or near the fire tower where the campsite stewards and crew can keep an eye on you and your tent. It never hurts to introduce yourself to the festival staff working in your zone and to your neighbours, who may well look out for your stuff when you’re not around. If you do return to your tent to find someone rummaging through it, don’t put yourself in danger by being a vigilante. Fetch a security guard and stay away until it’s dealt with.
Festival crowd safety
In any crowded place there is the potential for disaster, and although incidents at festivals are extremely rare, the added factors of drugs, alcohol and music mean people are that little but more unpredictable and harder to control. You can get into serious trouble in crowds in just a few minutes, so make sure your safety is your number-one priority and don’t put yourself at risk.
If you’re going to see a band and you want to get a good view, arrive one act before to bag yourself a decent position near the front. Bear in mind, however, that as more and more people crush in behind you, your spot will shrink and you may struggle to get out if you need to. Pick a spot a little to the side of the stage or go a bit further back, where there’s often a better view anyway.
If you arrive late and the crowd is already heaving, only weave your way forward if the space allows it. Squeezing yourself on top of people who are squashed already will only mean you’ll annoy those around you and will probably be uncomfortable for the whole gig. Mosh pits are, of course, pretty rough places, so avoid them completely unless you don’t mind an elbow or two to the face.
Crowd surges do happen and can sometimes be deadly, so it’s best to stay away from the most jam-packed areas. If you insist on being right at the front, however, try to make eye contact with the crowd control staff and look for the nearest exit. Also be aware of the ground conditions, as if it’s particularly muddy underfoot it’ll be all the more difficult to keep on your feet. Crowd surfing is not recommended, but if you find yourself in trouble and you’re blocked in, get someone to lift you up so the pit team can pull you out at the front.
If you want to beat the mass exodus at the end of a gig, leave before the grand finale. Even though it’s often the best bit, you’ll still be able to hear it as you wander away and you’ll avoid the otherwise inevitable crush. If you decide to stay until the end, sit tight for 20 minutes or so until there’s more room to manoeuvre. If you do get stuck in a bottle-neck, relax, take your time and don’t be tempted to start pushing and shoving. Likewise, if someone treads on your toe or jabs an umbrella into your eye, let it slide. Festivals are busy places and personal space is overrated!
Festival drink and drugs
Drinking is, of course, fairly common at festivals, but you by no means need to partake in order to have a good time. The best option for your festival safety is to abstain altogether, but if you do decide to dabble, do so in moderation, be sensible and know your limits.
Never leave your drink unattended, and remember that even soft drinks can be spiked. Avoid accepting open drinks from strangers, even if it just appears to be water. If you’re boozing, make sure you also drink enough water throughout the day so you don’t become dehydrated. Eat before you drink and don’t mix alcohol with drugs (prescription or otherwise), as there could be nasty side effects.
For more advice about festival drinking have a read of our festival drinking and festival alcohol article.
Illegal drugs are, of course, banned from all festival sites, but they usually manage to find their way in. Whenever you take illegal drugs you are putting yourself at risk, as you can never be sure what’s been thrown into the mix. It’s best not to try something for the first time on a festival site, and you should never take anything if you don’t know what it is.
If any of your friends get a bit worse for wear, look out for them and don’t let them wander off. Even if they’re dampening your festival buzz somewhat, it’s nothing compared to how miserable you’d feel if anything happened to them. If someone in your party passes out, lay them on their side in the recovery position, make sure their airways are clear and go and get help. Festival welfare services and medical staff are used to dealing with people who have overdone it on drink or drugs. They won’t judge you, so be honest about what you’ve taken.
Although Herbal Highs are often legally sold at festivals, not a lot is known about the side effects, and recent research suggests that they could be more dangerous than previously thought. If you’re curious, seek information from welfare services or talk to the people at the stalls. Just like illegal drugs, Herbal Highs can make you feel edgy, paranoid and nauseous, so take them at your own risk.
The festival is there to help
With all this talk about festival safety and security, you may be starting to get a bit concerned if heading to a festival is a good idea. Don’t worry; a huge amount of work goes into making sure you’re as safe as possible whilst enjoying your festival. Companies like Hotbox Events have decades of experience running teams of event staff and festival volunteers; all trained to look after you from the moment you arrive in the campsite!