Words by Emma Norris
As I am sure is the case for many students right now, I have 21st June marked firmly in my calendar. The prospect of lockdown ending and a return to normality offers such a sense of anticipation, hope and excitement for the future. I have already spent far too much money on my summer 2021 plans and, assuming the government’s roadmap goes to schedule, it is certain to be one of my busiest yet. I have already found myself looking at AirBnbs in Europe, hunting down cheap plane tickets, booking tickets for gigs and planning trips to see my friends across England. Most of all though, I am excited for the return of live music and more specifically, music festivals.
The last time I was at a festival was ‘Reading’ 2019 and I never thought I would get to the point where I am craving overcrowded fields, dirty toilets and overpriced beer. For this festival, instead of attending as a punter, I volunteered with Oxfam, working shifts in the festival in return for free entrance, hot water and somewhere to charge my phone. Working at a festival was such an incredible experience that I would encourage everyone to do as it offered me the chance to enjoy it from a whole new perspective. Don’t get me wrong, at times the work was hard. On the night that Twenty One Pilots performed, I was stationed at a busy water point next to the stage, being left with just a high vis jacket and walkie talkie and told to manage the queue. This may sound simple, but when you’re a 5”2 girl in a sea of people crammed into a small metal cage, it was no easy task.
Despite this though, my experience as a volunteer was incredible. A highlight has to be on the closing night, watching Foo Fighters from the disabled access platform where I was stationed, offering me an unhindered view of the stage. During the festival, we each had to work three 8 hour shifts at varying times in the day, leaving plenty of time to freely enjoy the festival. As well as the obvious perks of free entry, by volunteering with a charity such as Oxfam, the shifts you complete actively contribute to the fundraising efforts of said charity, assisting them in raising vital funds whilst also enjoying the festival experience. I left the weekend very sunburnt, very dirty, very sleep deprived and with some of the best memories and stories. I am naturally very introverted so working at this festival was a massive step out of my comfort zone, especially considering I went with no other friends who were also working. The team I worked with were absolutely incredible and, although it sounds cliché, I left Reading with friends who I am still in contact with today.
This year, my festival of choice is ‘End of the road’, a smaller festival in Dorset, the south-west of England. My girlfriend and I eagerly bought our tickets in November 2020, desperate for an event that we had a degree of confidence would go ahead. It is certainly set to be a different festival experience, with the prospect of pre-entrance testing and the risk that certain social distancing guidelines will still have to be obeyed. Despite this, it is so nice to have an event to look forward to. The festival is relatively small, offering a stark contrast to my experience at some of the biggest festivals in the UK but, despite this, its line-up is a thing of true beauty. Personally, I am most excited to see ‘Perfume Genius’, ‘Pixies’ and ‘Sorry’. More than this though, I am so excited for a return to normality; the atmosphere of festivals (think camping, warm cider and muddy fields!) is something that I absolutely crave.
At my time of writing, summer 2021 appears to be all systems go. Of course, as we have experienced in the last year, this plan could change at any moment and so I am not letting myself get too excited. However, having plans to look forward to is massively aiding my motivation to get through these last few months of lockdown. Although some earlier festivals have now been cancelled, ‘End of the road’ maintain that they fully plan on going ahead, as is the case with many festivals across the country. The music and festival industry has been massively impacted by the pandemic but, with summer 2021 in mind, my hope is that this year will truly mark their comeback.