Lack of sleep, dancing with a unicorn and ‘dark’ camping life: what it’s like at Leeds Festival in your 30s – Craig Jones

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The Leeds Festival returned after a year of absence and many loved it.

Earlier this week I had seen that one of my colleagues from the south had made a feature film about what it was like to experience the Reading Festival in her 30s, so it felt right to give Leeds the same treatment .

Indeed, of course, traditionally a few thousand people in Leeds and Reading have come to celebrate their GCSE and A-level results and it is often a rite of passage experience of a first festival. I grew up in Manchester and my first Leeds Fest wasn’t until 2017, not because I didn’t get my A-level until I was 28 (I got them when I was 27, although that’s a different story), but just because I was maybe into other things at the time and a little shy.

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This year’s event was my fourth Leeds Fest coupled with a few reads and it’s fair to say it was nice to regain that familiarity.

At 32, it’s fair to say that I’m probably not quite the target audience for the festivities, and yes, it’s a little surprising to feel probably double the age of this crowd, but I would say also that it is such a one-dimensional stereotypical view. Among the thousands of people out there, you will obviously find a pretty large demographic. It depends on what you see and where you are going.

Over the weekend it was a pretty intense balance between work and pleasure, something much better than the rigmarole and the boredom of hearing “you’re on mute, Maureen” during endless calls and outings. Zoom of the last 18 months. It was real, like I was doing my job again, and also normal, that last point probably being a feeling that many of us need in our lives.

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Obviously things were a little different this year with the Covid testing, but everything went well, was communicated well, and got thousands of people back to doing something they love. In addition, having a vaccination tent on site showed a moral responsibility on the part of Festival Republic organizers.

On the main point of age, there were times when you felt like an “experienced activist” perhaps seeing young people go too loud on Fridays or encountering the very familiar sights and sounds and often a little bit. disasters of camping life. . But I wouldn’t blame anyone for those experiences, for being so incredibly cliché, we were all young once.



An article on our Leeds Festival Facebook page summed it up better than I did. It was a proud mother to post a photo of her teenage children with beaming smiles on their faces captioned “Memories that will last a lifetime”. And, it’s true, even as a veteran of around 40 festivals, I still remember the ups and downs of my experiences with those first two festivals being particularly special.

I would say that one noticeable difference I found this year possibly related to aging, sleep deprivation was a more difficult challenge to overcome after returning home. Four or five days later and I still feel pretty tired. And I admit that camping will forever be just a way to end these things but, again, it’s part of the experience. Although, maybe a year of glamping is good …



One of the Leeds Festival 2021 campsites

But while a little indie music is always factored into the bill, I’ll happily keep coming back. I drew a line to go to the Forest Night Raves – I’d say it’s beyond me now. Instead, our group went for the altogether more respectable choice of dancing the night away in the lobby bar and club with DJs playing Kool and The Gang, Chic, Fleetwood Mac and more. . Also, on Saturday night we had the chance to dance with a man in a huge inflatable unicorn outfit. I bet those “pesky kids” didn’t have that in the woods – did they? Really, I don’t have the impression for a second that this is a “them and us”. I say this as someone who has regularly been described as having a bit of a Peter Pan complex.

From a professional standpoint, it was such a great experience to see so many familiar faces there, from colleagues to public relations, and those little characteristics that you come across working in festival press tents. Who knew I could have missed the collective sound of photographers moaning and moaning on the waist of a festival lot as they set off on their final expedition (I would point out that our photographer really never said anything like that) . Or not to quietly celebrate your team’s score, as you glance at your phone out of the corner of your eye while trying to collect countless photo galleries… because your laptop inevitably lets you down. Speaking of football, as a Manchester City fan it was an unexpected treat to stumble upon Jack Grealish as he prepared to join Stormzy on stage. So, thank you also for this Leeds Fest.

I think in general, since it was a regular topic over the weekend, it was just nice to see people doing something they love and having that opportunity. During the sporadic times I took to social media this past weekend, my Instagram timeline was filled with people at festivals – be it Leeds or Reading, Scarborough Open Air Theater, The Piece Hall, Victorious or All Points East. It wasn’t that long ago that everything seemed pretty unimaginable. I think all the credit goes to those who organized these events, under safe circumstances, after seeing the way they operate radically changed.

There are much bigger things in life than festivals, our loved ones were sorely missed during the height of the pandemic and we would have given anything to be with them, but now that these meetings continue to take place. I’m sure all of these events listed above provided a break from what has been a difficult 18 months we have all been through – perhaps complemented by other difficult things that people may have gone through in their lives. .

I think my general feeling would be to forget about age, even just for a little while, and do what you love to do – it’s been a while.

* A little disclaimer in the interest of accuracy, the photo at the top of the article is actually not one of me in my 30s at Leeds Fest but, disappointing to the masses I’m sure no one didn’t want to take a picture of me at Leeds Fest 2021

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