The Hidden Village of Aspergers

March 12, 2014

Disco Dolly

Filed under: music — kankurette @ 10:10 am
Tags: , , , ,

Me, I only like my rock and roll
Am I with the right girl, cos I’m all alone
She likes to boogie while I stand at the bar
And I feel like a freak who can’t let go
And I’d like to stand dancing round a pink handbag
But I’ve got no rhythm, I’ve got lead in my shoes…

Originally the ‘Disco Dolly’ post was going to be about clubbing, since I pretty much am the poor guy in the song, but I decided to do a post about music festivals instead. My first music festival was Leeds 2002, as a punter. It was the last festival on that particular site, but thanks to idiots blowing up toilets and the council finally having had enough, it was relocated to Bramham Park, which, as it turns out, is in the arse end of nowhere. Due to some confusion, I applied to work as a steward at the Reading festival the following year, and went on to work at every Reading festival until 2008 (I was going to do the 2009 one, but dropped out due to becoming ill, and I was gutted about this as Radiohead and the Deftones were playing), as well as Glastonbury in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The only other festivals I’ve been to as a punter were Download in 2006 (as Tool were playing and they rarely come to the UK), Latitude in 2010 with my family, and Primavera Sound last year.

In all honesty, I actually prefer stewarding. Having some kind of structure to my day helps. The atmosphere on the campsites is lovely – you’re more likely to see people sitting around a campfire and chilling than getting into fights – and at Reading, the showers and toilets are slightly better than the ones on the normal campsites. You also get meal tickets, although I’d still advise buying your own food outside the site if you’re at Reading, and if you’re lucky, you get to work on a stage where your favourite band might be playing. I got to watch the Manics while working on the Radio 1 Stage in 2008, and Sleater-Kinney while working in the Carling Tent in 2005. On the downside, it also meant I had to watch Test Icicles. At Glastonbury, the only job stewards do is staffing the gates, and you are expected to work overnight, and no matter how sunny it gets, you will freeze your fucking arse off. Some stewards brought duvets and had a kip in the cage when it quietened down.

The biggest downside, besides the crowds, was dealing with drunk, arsey punters. If you get an early morning shift, they’re OK to deal with, but as the festival goes on and the Carling flows, it can get a little nightmarish. I had to call my supervisor over after I had a panic attack, due to one punter yelling at me because something had happened to his ticket. You also have to repeatedly answer the same questions and tell people the same things: no, you cannot piss on that fence, use the toilets. Please do not sit on the barrier around the sound tower. X is on at X hours. Yes, I am afraid we are going to give you this goodie bag when you come in, and insist on checking your passouts and tickets every time you have to go to your car (Glastonbury only – they are somewhat hardcore about ticket checks). No, you cannot come on this platform, it’s for disabled festivalgoers. No, you cannot meet 50 Cent, and it’s not our fault he left early (stewards do not get backstage passes, though a mate of mine did bump into Dave Grohl while wandering around the walkway around the site). It does pay off when you can genuinely help someone, though – I gave my water to a girl who was feeling faint one year, and in 2004, one one day I escorted people to the medical tent, especially during Green Day’s set. Earlier, Ian Watkins (as in the paedophilic Lostprophets singer, not the bloke from Steps) had had the bright idea of getting the crowd to part and then charge into each other, and a lot of people got injured or lost things.

Here are some tips for anyone with Aspergers who is considering going to a music festival. Bear in mind that this is based on my experiences at Download, Primavera, Reading and Glastonbury – if you’re going to V, say, or Bestival or one of the smaller festivals that are springing up around the country, such as Kendal Calling, your experience might differ a bit.

– Familiarise yourself with the site. If you come to the festival before it starts, have a wander around and get to know the place before it gets jampacked with people. Glastonbury, in particular, is massive and there are loads of little areas that have nothing to do with music. Some, such as the Lost Vagueness, are a bugger to find, so get a map / programme if you can. Make sure you know where toilets, water points etc. are. and – I cannot stress this enough – make sure you know how to get back to your campsite from the various stages.

– Drink plenty of water. It can get very hot. Of course, this means you will have to wee a lot, and the toilets are pretty horrible, but it’s better than getting dehydrated.

– Be aware that there will be crowds, especially in between bands when people are moving from one stage to another. Stay near the back if you want to make sure you get to another stage on time. If you’re worried about crushes, stand near one of the sound towers, or off to the side if you’re at the front, as I did for the Pixies in 2005.

– If anyone you know is going, arrange to meet up with them – it helps to have someone who knows the festival, and who can be there to support you if things get too much. Agree on meeting points, as long as they’re specific.

– From a musical point of view, don’t just stick to the Main Stage / Pyramid Stage. Check out the other stages too if you’re not sure who to see. I saw some fantastic sets by smaller bands while working in the Carling Tent at Reading, for instance, and the small stages at Latitude are full of surprises. Glastonbury has loads of speakers in places such as the Left Field or the Green Fields, and most festivals will have film or comedy tents.

– Programmes are your friend, as are those little lanyard things with a list of bands on. It helps to know who’s going to be on and when / where, so you can plan your day accordingly. If you’re stewarding, bear in mind that you might not get to see everyone you want to see, as you won’t find out your shift times till you get on site and they give you your gear.

– If you’re worried about sensory overload, get some earplugs. If you’re stewarding on a stage, your supervisor should have some to hand.

– Be diligent about your valuables. I’d advise against taking iPods to the festival, personally, though you will need your phone, especially if you’re with other people. Don’t take a ridiculous amount of money and make sure it is somewhere safe when you sleep. I’ve never had my money nicked, kina hora, but one woman camping near me at Download did.

– Be careful about drink / drugs. Being off your tits in a large and unfamiliar environment is a bad idea if you have Aspergers, especially when it gets dark and you risk getting lost. I’m not saying you shouldn’t drink at all – I couldn’t when I was on duty, but I did have the odd bevvy when I wasn’t working – but don’t get paralytic. Stay in control. I personally have never done drugs at festivals as I worry about the potential of having a bad trip.

– Be aware that people might go a bit nuts on the last night, especially at Reading and Leeds, and by ‘going nuts’, I mean burning tents, chucking gas canisters on the fire, that sort of thing. If you’re not that arsed about the last headliner, you might want to leave the festival before the end on the Sunday night.

– Make your tent distinctive if you can – put a flag or some balloons or an inflatable sheep or something on it, or make sure it has a fairly distinctive cover, to avoid getting lost in a sea of green. Mine has flowers on it.

– One final piece of advice for stewards: don’t be afraid to disclose your Aspergers, and any problems it may cause for you. Oxfam will try to help if they can.

Hope this helps!

1 Comment »

  1. […] other household things 10. Avenging Angels: relationship with my father 11. The Man: coping at work 12. Disco Dolly: festival tips 13. Fran In Japan: role models outside the family 14. I Am Unlike A Lifeform You’ve Ever Met: […]

    Pingback by An announcement | The Hidden Village of Aspergers — March 12, 2014 @ 10:47 am | Reply

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