Festivals: top tips and advice
It’s festival season and millions of people are preparing to spend long summer weekends in grassy fields listening to their favourite music. While this might sound like the dream for some people, we know that attending a festival can be a daunting experience if you’re living with a long-term health condition like arthritis.
But it doesn’t need to be scary. We’ve talked to some of the experts including charity Attitude is Everything and have put together some top tips and advice to help make sure you have the best festival experience you can.
It all comes down to preparation, pacing yourself and a positive mental attitude.
Over a thousand festivals take place across the UK every year, each offering something different. Make sure you consider what’s on offer and carefully select one you think works for you.
You might want to check out Attitude Is Everything’s Charter of Best Practice which includes loads of venues and festivals that have been awarded for their accessibility. Many have been tried and tested by the charity’s very own mystery shoppers who are recruited to attend UK venues and festivals on our behalf, and report back on the accessibility and overall experience. So, they’re a trusted source.
When booking tickets, some festivals have a separate hotline for people with health conditions, but for others, you can buy your festival ticket as normal on the main site. Then use your reference number and proof of disability to apply for a free PA /carer ticket under the two-for-one disabled access ticket scheme. Lots of the major UK music festivals have similar policies, and you can usually find more information on their websites.
Accessing all areas
If mobility is an issue for you, getting organised and applying for access well in advance can take a lot of the pressure off arriving at the venue. You can apply for everything from accessible camping, disabled parking, viewing platforms, to accessible toilets and showers.
It might also be important to find out where the first aid post is, and if possible, set up your tent close to it.
In lots of places there will be volunteers on hand to help you get from a to b so don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
Festivals including Glastonbury also have wheelchair accessible shuttlebus services for any customers in need plus one accompanying person.
Camping and comfortable kit
If camping under the stars isn’t for you, there are other options. Some people prefer to stay off site in an Airbnb, hotel or apartment and this is fine if you have your weekend wrist band for re-entry each morning.
If you are up for pitching a tent and staying on site however, then there’s a few things which might help you to get a comfortable night’s sleep.
Lots of the big festivals have accessible camping, which is a dedicated site for deaf and disabled customers and you just need to register to secure a spot for you, your PA and two additional friends if you’d like. Facilities in the accessible campsite include things like wheelchair accessible toilets and showers, charging facilities for wheelchairs and medical equipment, fridges for the storage of medication and stewards on hand 24/7 offering assistance where necessary.
Other simple steps you might find helpful include taking the right bedding – fold-up raised beds can make getting up and out easier, and mattress toppers and extra pillows can help with height and comfort too. A bigger tent will give you more room and allow you to stretch legs!
If you’re not into the overnight aspect of long weekend festivals, then you might want to consider attending one of the many day festivals on offer instead. These are becoming more and more popular across the country – so why not check out what’s going on in your area.
It’s really important to set your own pace at a festival. They can be extremely busy, crazy places full of people who seem to have endless energy, but everyone needs to rest. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and pick a few things you’d like to get to each day. Give yourself plenty of time to relax and recover in-between. It’s fine to take a nap if you need one!
Keeping a friend close by
It’s advisable to tell at least one person you’re going with about your condition, the limitations it may have on you and the medication you’re on.
Take your mobile with you so you can stay in touch with friends, especially if there’s a chance you might split up for any periods of time. You can take a portable charger along to reboot at night, and lots of festivals also have their own devices or charging points to keep your battery topped up.
If you need to take tablets with you, organise them before you go and take them in a safe container. Lots of festivals provide fridges and storage facilities for medication within accessible camping so look into arranging this before you go if possible.
Be aware that some medicines and conditions make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Always take care when out in the sun and use a high-factor sun cream.
Remember to check your medication recommendations and instruction too. For example, some drugs for arthritis carry warnings to avoid alcohol and unprotected sex, it’s important to consider what’s safe to use.
If your arthritis is bad in the days before the festival, it’s worth contacting your rheumatology team or GP to see if there's any additional therapy which would enable you to go.
Should I drink or not?
Alcohol can be a big part of social life and festivals certainly aren’t an exception.
Be sensible and don’t go mad. If you’re going to have a drink, know your limits. Take it easy and listen to your body.
Everyone responds differently to alcohol and this can be due to many factors, including height, weight, gender and how much sleep you've had recently. If you’re on medication such as methotrexate and steroids this can also lower your tolerance compared to your peers, so don’t feel the pressure to keep up.
We hope this helps, but remember, irrespective of whether you have arthritis or not, festivals are not for everyone. Make sure you feel comfortable and prepared before heading to a festival and enjoy it when you get there!
If you’re attending a festival this summer or you’re thinking about going to your first one – you might also be interested to read: Arthur’s Place full Festival Survival Guide
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If you’re looking for advice or support with your condition, we have a variety of options available and you can just choose what’s best for you.
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