V Festival

By R-Katz  //  Festivals  //  1 Comment

V Festival has been running since 1996 and although originally started out as a rock festival, it now hosts a variety of arenas, with a much more musically diverse roster, including a lot of pop acts and some DJs. It has always been split into two locations, with the same artists playing at each venue on alternate nights. With a total of 180,000 tickets being allocated for general sale in 2010, V is just ahead of Glastonbury as the biggest UK festival, with the individual locations each having a capacity similar to Leeds or Reading. Tickets sold out once again this year within the first couple of hours of going on sale, despite the hefty £175 price tag, so I was seriously interested to see what made this weekend so special.

Normally I wouldn’t have chosen to go to a festival that is so focused around its rock and indie genres, but the combination of curiosity and the fact that I had an awesome group of mates going, meant that I found myself clicking ‘refresh’ every 5 seconds on that painful morning that tickets go on sale, frantically typing card details and being held in an online queue on 4 different sites. The sites all crashed or froze on my computer, leaving me convinced that I had failed to secure myself a ticket, but after an hour or so my email account began informing me that I was in fact the proud owner of not one, but four, tickets to the Weston Park (Staffordshire) event.

The festival is quite nicely scheduled for the penultimate weekend in August so it was something to look forward to throughout the summer. It is a three night affair with the campsite opening early on the Friday morning, so after a small amount of hassle trying to squeeze a 12-man tent, all the food and drink, wellies, bags of clothes, folding chairs, and three medium to large sized chaps into my rather modestly sized Polo, we were on our way.

The journey from London is deceivingly painless for the first couple of hours until you hit the exit from the motorway. Then you can expect to spend a couple of hours in a queue, waiting to slowly inch your car closer and closer to the location, where you will be directed to one of the many car parks surrounding the campsites and arena. We learnt the hard way that if you are in two groups planning to meet at the venue (remember I had a few of the others’ tickets), it is entirely possible to end up at complete opposite ends of the site, and you can expect a good 20 minute walk carrying all of your belongings, trying to navigate your way around and find your mates. Of course being in a field with 90,000 other people, the mobile phone reception is a joke, and not being able to call or text makes this challenge all the more frustrating.

The next issue was finding a spot for the tent. I will grant you that a 12-man tent is never going to be the easiest to pitch, but we managed absolutely fine at three other festivals this summer. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for V. After walking for what seemed like five days but was probably about an hour, we found a spot right at the back of the furthest campsite from both the car and arena. It wasn’t ideal, but by this point I was happy that I wasn’t going to have to sleep on the grass.

An hour later however, the tent was up, the mattresses were inflated (oh yes, we didn’t slum it), the folding chairs were unfolded, and the portable speakers were all hooked up. It always amuses me how quickly you can go from super stressed to completely chilled at a festival. Once everything is sorted with the tent and everyone has found each other, it finally hits you that the weekend is about to begin, and it’s a great moment.

There was no music until the following day, so Friday night was spent listening to our own music and drinking. That’s really all there is to do but I’m not complaining, it was a fun time and a nice little warm up to the rest of the weekend. Don’t plan on getting too much sleep though, turns out 90,000 people can make a fair bit of noise if they want to. Especially when Kumbaya starts being sung on repeat around the various campsites.

We woke on Saturday morning around 9.30am and I was soon introduced to the next major issue of V Festival. The toilet, or should I say portaloo, situation is far from perfected. I realise that with the sheer volume of people, there might not be a total solution, but queuing for about 40 minutes that first morning in a line of some seriously irritated looking people, all clutching a roll of toilet paper, felt unnecessary, and after 14 years of operation you would have thought they would have developed a better system somehow.

Unpleasantries out of the way, we got some food in us, which of course required another long queue, and headed into the arena. The twenty minute walk from our tent, combined with the remains of a bacon sarnie which had now formed a small, dry, salty ball in my throat, left me needing some hydration. After clearing security and picking up the pace to get to the nearest bar, I was met with yet another annoyance. In order to be served any drinks at the bar, you had to first queue to get tokens, which you could later exchange at any of the bars around the arena. The system is ridiculous for several reasons. Firstly, the initial queue for tokens is far longer than the total time you would have spent queuing at the bars. Secondly, it meant you had to change up all your money in one go to avoid having to queue again the next day, but to decide then and their exactly how many drinks I was planning to consume over a two day period was nearly impossible. And thirdly, the only time you could get a refund for any unused tokens was for an hour after the arena closed each night. Basically the organisers were being greedy and capitalised on the fact that so many tokens were bound to be wasted. Talking of greedy, a program with the music line up and set times costs a tenner and is the only way of finding out who is on where, which is extortionate.

After finally getting all our tokens sorted and stuffed into wallets and pockets, we headed off to the arena where Example was playing. We had already missed about half his set after all the aforementioned queuing fiasco, and there were now stewards surrounding the tent with big patronising signs informing us that the tent was at capacity. Marvellous.

Determined to make the most of things, we headed back to the bar, and several rounds of drinks later everything seemed to matter a lot less and we were at one of the outdoor stages enjoying the sounds of Seasick Steve and then Madness. Things were definitely starting to improve, and as evening came I would even go as far as to say we were all having a pretty damn good time. Despite the majority of acts being predominantly commercial pop and RnB, I found myself actually really enjoying the likes of Jason Derulo and Tinie Tempah, purely for the fun atmosphere they created and the impossible task of resisting singing along to a few of the current classics soon got the better of me. Despite security being needed to stop the tents going over capacity, which caused a stampede of lovestruck, screaming girls to break through the barriers at one point to secure their spot for Mr Derulo, everything else was going swimmingly.

The group split up quite a bit, with the majority wanting to see all the indie and rock acts, but a few of us went to see Chase and Status live, who were absolutely incredible I will add. However one major issue I have with V that I have never witnessed at any other festival is the disgraceful number of people who think it is acceptable to lob glasses of their own piss across the dancefloor into unsuspecting groups of people. I don’t want to go on about it but there is no excuse for it and these people should be treated like football hooligans, ejected from the festival, and banned from ever returning. Simple.

The first night ended for me and one friend in a small bar that was pretty difficult to find, where we had heard Kissy Sell Out would be playing. For some reason he wasn’t even on the listing for the festival, despite in my humble opinion being the biggest name there, but it meant that only a small select group got to enjoy what was without doubt the best bit of the weekend and a great end to a mixed first night. I only say mixed because despite how much fun we had and how great the group of people were that I was with, it felt like the organisers had done everything they could think of to try and make simple tasks like going to the toilet or buying a drink, a massive struggle and hassle. But let’s be honest, you can’t beat a bit of Kissy:

After waking to that familiar festival grimy feeling on the Sunday on account of the baking sun turning the tent into a sauna, we set up the chairs outside the tent entrance, got some music playing, and started to work our way through the crates of beers and ciders we had brought with us. The music starts quite early around midday so after yet another ridiculous queue at the water tap to rehydrate, we made our way back to the arena.

The second night was a different vibe for me. I started by getting a burger and chips, and I apologise for whinging once again but it cost me £8.50 and was yet another example of the daylight robbery us poor festivalers were being subjected to. But I was just happy being with my mates, taking some time to chill out on the grass a few times, observing some of the weird things going on around us, whether it was a group in fancy dress or someone so drunk they had ended their night in a heap in the middle of the field. The music was good but it wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea.

The night ended for me when the inevitable finally happened and my mate took a full pint of piss to the face. It was very difficult not to be filled with a guilty sense of relief at it not being my face, mixed of course with a due amount of sympathy for my friend. He obviously wanted to return to our tent after this moment to sort himself out, and I was getting tired so was more than happy to wonder back with him. After a fairly epic after party back at the tent, involving a lot of massive glow sticks and a group of about 14 of us crammed into the living room area of the big tent, we all finally crashed out.

Leaving a festival is never fun. You are bound to be tired and smelly, the thought of packing everything up and embarking on the long journey home is always a sad one. Of course with the number of people all trying to leave at the same time, we spent about an hour and a half just getting out of the car park, followed by a further six hours making our way back to London. I wouldn’t say it was how I would have chosen to spend that day.

I think in order to love the festival, you have to be a die hard for the acts that are scheduled to perform. It’s not hard to have a great time when you’re surrounded by some of your best mates in a festival atmosphere, and we definitely came back with some brilliant stories and memories. Unfortunately for me, there were so many things that annoyed me about the way it was organised. The over-pricing, drinks token system, non-stop queuing, and piss throwing all did their best to hinder my enjoyment of the weekend and I think collectively they did a little damage. As to whether I’d go back or not, that really depends on what my friends do. If I’m honest, I could happily go with the same group to Global Gathering, Creamfields, Secret Garden Party, or Bestival, and probably enjoy myself even more. To end on a positive note, it is a massive credit to the people I went with that considering all the negatives, I still remember it as a ridiculously fun weekend, and had I not experienced other festivals where things are run so much more efficiently, I would probably have already booked an early bird ticket for 2011.

See you on the dancefloor.

1 Comment to “V Festival”

  • When I went to V back in 2006 I hated the fact there were no signs anywhere, kept missing bands cos I couldn’t find the stages. It’s one of my least favourite festivals actually.