Festivals can be a lot of fun, but the heady combination of alcohol, sleep deprivation and the elements can make them pretty risky too.
As well as being a solicitor I'm also a keen festival goer. Over the years I have enjoyed many festivals including Glastonbury, V and Reading as well as much smaller local festivals and during this time have seen many people fall victim to mishaps from poor safety planning. It may seem overly serious but far from stopping you having a great time, protecting yourself with a little safety planning can make for an even better time at the festival.
Pack for (almost) every eventuality
I have seen too many people fall foul of the 'sunglasses, wallet and watch' approach to packing for festivals.
Even if it's blisteringly hot when you set off, make sure to take some warm clothing layers. You can tie them round your waist during the day and the just put them on as the evening gets colder.
Pack some warm bedding. Make sure you have a good sleeping bag and blankets are brilliant as you can sit on them to watch the bands during the day and then wrap yourself up in them at night. Even in the height of summer it can get cold in a tent at night, which could ruin your festival experience as well as leaving your body more susceptible to illness.
Likewise, even if it's raining when you leave the house make sure you have some light clothes and sun cream packed, and always stay hydrated. Although a lot of festivals charge extortionate prices for food and drink, water should always be available for free, so keep topped up.
Falling ill with sunstroke or heat exhaustion is no joke, and no-one wants to spend their festival in the first aid tent or waking up on the local hospital and missing all the fun.
Travel insurance: not just for the Algarve
Most large festivals involve some kind of travel and an overnight stay, so you should make sure you are covered with suitable travel insurance.
It's a good idea to treat attending a festival just the same as if you were travelling abroad on holiday. The right insurance can cover you for travel cancellations and delays as well as loss of your personal belongings.
If you have existing or annual travel insurance then its worth checking the details of this, as there can be exclusions affecting UK travel, such as the distance from home or minimum number of nights away.
When you add up the cost of travel, tickets and personal items, attending a festival can cost the same as a week in Portugal, so insurance may be well worth the investment!
If you don't have travel insurance, check your home insurance policy. You may be covered for items away from the home, but either way it is worth checking your level of cover and any restrictions on your policy before you go.
Leave valuables at home
Generally everyone at a festival is there to have a great time, but unfortunately you may encounter some 'festival opportunists'.
The best thing to do is not to take any valuables with you and just make sure you keep the essential ones (money, mobile phone etc) safe.
Leave the fancy camera at home, take a cheap/disposable and make sure you have a secure bag to carry your stuff in while you're out and about.
Rather than taking your expensive smart phone, consider taking an old phone or a buying a cheap pay as you go from the supermarket. However always make sure you add important/emergency numbers and the numbers of all your friends attending the festival with you so you can keep in touch if you get separated.
It's virtually impossible to secure a tent. If someone wants to get in, a padlock is unlikely to stop them, but avoid leaving it unzipped as this will just entice thieves. One year at Glastonbury my brother had is jeans stolen from inside his tent whilst he was sleeping; unfortunately his wallet was still inside and ruined the rest of his festival.
Make sure you spread your valuables about. If there is a security tent, make use of it and leave your cash and any valuables in there, taking only what you need for that day.
Look after your eardrums
For many festivals, music is the most important aspect and everyone is there to enjoy it. However every time you listen to loud music you risk suffering noise induced hearing loss such as tinnitus and this is not something that anyone wants as a result of enjoying the music that they love.
The Action on Hearing Loss has produced guidelines on listening to loud music and how to continue to enjoy this without causing hearing loss. Here are a few of my suggestions:
• Try not to stay too long in the loudest areas of a festival, there is plenty to see so avoid staying in the dance tent all night and enjoy the other areas.
• Don't stand too close to speakers.
• Carry earplugs with you. This will not only help with the load music but will probably make it easier to get some sleep in your tent at night.
• Take care with children, their hearing is much more sensitive than adults and suitable ear protectors should be considered so that everyone can enjoy the music.
Know what you're drinking
You're probably going to drink at a festival, but make sure you're only drinking your own alcohol or that bought from official bars on site. Just like you would tell your kids not to take sweets from a stranger, taking alcohol from a stranger at a festival is just as bad.
Most people are probably just being kind by offering, but risking consuming a spiked drink just isn't worth it.
If you're driving home early on Monday morning, it's also important to keep tabs on what you're drinking the night before; and stay away from booze altogether if possible! Even if you've only had a few drinks, alcohol can stay in your system for hours, and being arrested for drink driving on the way home wouldn't make a good anecdote.
Venue health and safety
Festivals are generally held in rural locations not designed for thousands of people to eat, sleep and be merry in for several days and nights.
Event organisers go to great lengths to ensure the wellbeing of visitors by assessing conceivable risks, developing emergency procedures, cordoning certain areas off and liaising with all local services.
I've personally overseen cases where someone has been injured at a festival, and have been impressed with the level of risk assessments conducted by the site owner to minimise the chance of injury.
Yet no matter how well organised and laid out as festival may be you should always take charge of your own safety:
• Find out where fire assembly points and emergency site exits are
• Ask where first aid or emergency assistance can be obtained from
• Don't stray into cordoned off areas
• Event car parks won't usually have road or bay markings so be extra careful around them
Stay safe and enjoy
There are over 400 music festivals in the UK every year with the largest attracting hundreds of thousands of attendees in just a few days.
With the variety and sheer scale of these festivals I'm surprised we don’t see news reports all summer long about accidents and people being injured. But thankfully the precautions put in place by organisers and the common sense of festival goers work together to keep this figure low. Let's keep it that way!
Do you have any festival going tips that I've missed? Let me know in the comments.
About the author
Amy Smitheringale is a Chartered Legal Executive and Solicitor with more than 16 years experience in civil litigation. Amy is the manager of a team of litigators at Spencers Solicitors who deal with a wide variety of personal injury claims including accidents in public.
Amy's last blog was Welcoming London's first Motorcycle Safety Action Plan.