My new novel The last weekend in wonderland centres around two music festivals forty three years apart. The infamous Weeley rock festival in 1971 was the last non stop 24 hour festival allowed in this country , with the music starting at midnight on Friday and continuing round the clock to 4am on Monday! Due to the violence and general mayhem the government of the day brought in laws demanding curfews from 11 pm to mid day. 

So what are the big differences between those early festivals and what has become the huge worldwide event industry today.

Tickets for Weeley cost £1.25 ! I’ve just paid £200 for a ticket for this years Isle of Wight festival.

Tents took an hour to put up , now a pop up tent takes five seconds!

Catering back in the day was virtually non existent, a bacon bap was as good as it could get. Nowadays the choice of food and drink is brought to you by Waitrose on tour! Music/ foodie festivals are now all the rage with celebrity chefs now headline instead of Guitar Gods!

At the Weeley festival the security was in the hands of a local Hells Angel chapter but a fall out with caterers from Bermondsey caused a war with disastrous consequences as my book details. Fences surrounding the festival sites were flimsy and most festivals in the seventies quickly became free festivals as the marauding hordes simply bashed the fences down. Nowadays concrete walls patrolled by security firms with dogs makes sure only festival goers with tickets and wrist bands get in.

It’s true to say the mobile phone has changed every facet of society and obviously it’s had its effect on the festival experience. Back in my teenage days the festival experience was greatly enhanced by having absolutely no communication with our parents! Nowadays youngsters at their first festivals , probably Reading/ Leeds , have to check in with  their parents every hour which is a nuisance when they are off their faces with ‘MDMA’!. Then there’s the endless photos and videos on social media. There’s very little footage of the Weeley festival which has added to its mystique. 

Probably the biggest difference between then and now  are the toilet and shower facilities! Quite simply back in 1971 there wasn’t any! For blokes there was simply a long ditch for number ones and a small  canvass covered corridor with 2 lines of buckets ( see photo) for number twos. Toilet paper was as scarce as it was in supermarkets in March 2020!! The ladies could enjoy the men’s number two facilities for both one and twos ! From my memory there were far fewer females in attendance back then?

Nowadays there are still those who say” I’d love to try a festival but I couldn’t cope with the loos” ! Quite simply there are two types of people in this world. Those who have crapped on a festival loo and those who have not!! Today we have plastic urinals and Porter loos a plenty. And you can for few quid upgrade to more luxurious facilities. For example there are companies that charge £4 a dump . For three times the ticket cost of the aforementioned Weeley festival you get twenty uninterrupted minutes , a bucket of pot puri to smother the previous efforts and a guaranteed SOFT  bog roll!!

One trick of the trade I’ve tried is to print and laminate a few A4 notices with the festival logo proclaiming “PRIORITY TOILET’ and stick them to a few strategic toilet doors around the festival site. Given the British respect for signage this can buy you a few hours of an untouched toilet seat! My record is around 24 hours !!

One last tip is regards to the showers. Once again you can upgrade to personal showers from the basic communal blocks but there will still be fixed  shower heads with a very erratic flow and  an even more erratic temperature. So I’d advise spending a few weeks before the festival practicing handstands so you can get some water pressure on the bits and bobs that really need a wash!!!?

If you are one the people that would rather not experience the delights of festival facilities yourselves you can enjoy the experience without having to sample  the sights and smells by reading about them in The last weekend in wonderland! Buy Now

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