Music festivals are brilliant, aren’t they? They’re a bit like living inside a shuffled iPod for a weekend, filled with your favourite music… and alcohol.
We’ve come a long way with our audio festivities, in the UK: the first; the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival saw a staggering 600,000 strong crowd (second only to Woodstock in size) witnessing the shining stars of the day. The sound system must have been quite primitive by today’s standards, as I imagine the food on sale must have been too.
Events like that are of course now long gone, to be replaced with slightly smaller events that confuse and frighten cows by transforming their peaceful farmland into makeshift cities, or perhaps more aptly, musical refugee camps.
There are over 350 festivals in the UK each year, now. From punk to classical, bluegrass to rock – and everything in between – they’ve become as much a part of our summer tradition as complaining about the rain.
Along with the evolution of the festivals themselves, there has also been an explosion of options in catering at the events. After all, if you’re going to be dancing for two or three days solid, you need your sustenance.
My first festival was Glastonbury 1981, when I was a young fresh faced 17 year old (eek, showing my age now) but even back in those days, Glastonbury was always leagues ahead when it came to food on the go. I recall sampling my first vegetarian curry whilst stumbling back to my tent from the Pyramid stage at midnight, and it was truly sensational!
But alas, the same could not be said for most of the other festivals in that era, Elephant Fayre, Stonehenge, Phoenix, Reading and the likes…at these, your choice of festival food boiled down to one of the following:
- The British staple – fish and chips – from a greasy man working in a greasy van.
- A badly-cooked burger (from the same man), possibly with a caramelised daddy-long-legs as extra topping.
- Something made of beans, shaped to look like a badly-cooked burger, cooked on the same grease as the meaty version.
- Lentils and granola
- Alternatively, you could bring your own food, such as sandwiches in a Tupperware box, but no matter what filling you put in, after a few hours of sweating they would always taste a little bit like banana.
Now, we’re literally spoiled for choice.
How about Cornish Octopus braised with Fino Sherry, Red Onion & Chickpeas, followed by Braised Wild Rabbit with Bacon Mustard & Crème Fraiche, with 18th Century Peach & Amontillado Sherry Trifle for dessert? That’s available at Glastonbury’s Rocket Restaurant… though it’s advised you book early… about a year early.
Or Moroccan-style meatballs and Thai green curry; one of the options available at the Isle of Wight festival?
Grilled aubergine with cumin, or Cumberland Tattie Pot at Cumbria Solfest’s Miff’s Munchies outlet?
And there are still the burger, fish and chips outlets, but they’ve gone all fancy-pants, catering to their customers from modern, clean, self-contained trailer units, rather than converted Transit vans. You’ll probably even find that the assistant has recently showered.
Then, of course, there’s the option of taking your own food – and again, there’s been a dramatic increase in choice over the past four decades, since the Isle of Wight and Glastonbury first graced our events calendar. A stroll around your local supermarket is all you need to fill a backpack with goodies for your magical, musical weekend (though remember to pay at the till before you leave!)
You may want to limit your provisions to snacks and cold food, though, rather than feel compelled to take half a kitchen to heat it all up. Camping stoves aren’t quite so much fun if it’s raining sideways, and NEVER decide on the option to cook inside your tent. There have been far too many carbon monoxide poisoning deaths on camping sites, in recent years.
It’s also worth pointing out that a young girl died from carbon monoxide poisoning, at a campsite in Cumbria, due to fumes from a barbecue fire outside her tent, so please err on the side of extreme caution when it comes to cooking methods.
And last, but not least, there’s the philosophy that you don’t need to eat at all at a music festival. Simply stay drunk the whole weekend!