From solar-powered chalets to yurts with iPod docks a new breed of chic festival digs offer an alternative to the humble tent
Thursday 11 June 2009
Anybody who's spent a weekend in a field sipping warm lager and leaping about to The Verve will be only too familiar with the downside of festivals. The tent. If it's sunny outside, it's clammy inside. If it rains, leaks are guaranteed. Smears of mud, spilled bottles of Magners and and poisonous sleeping bags can turn the average nylon shelter into a no-go area.
With rock dinosaurs like Bruce Springsteen, Paul Weller and Status Quo headlining many of this year's biggest events, and even small festival tickets costing £100 or more, can the modern breed of mature and well-heeled music fan stay in something just a little more comfortable?
The answer is an emphatic Yes. So banish memories of cheap nylon domes and instead choose from fashionable tipis, large yurts, trendy beach huts or even lavishly upholstered double decker buses hired as homes for a few days of music indulgence.
"There's a change in festival-goer demographics. They used to be a wild crowd but now the people who've been going for 20 years want some home comforts and the younger visitors seem to have plenty of money, so expect something special," explains Alan Wenham of the Albion Canvas Co (www.albioncanvas.co.uk).
"They want a place to stay that's comfortable and secure, eco-friendly, British-made and ideally a bit spacious," he says. His tipis costing over £2,000 each ("They're for the more stylish festival-goer, but remember the hole in the roof to allow smoke out also lets rain in") while his yurts - portable wood-framed canvas-covered homes - can accomodate for four to 30 people and cost from £3,000 to £11,500.
If buying is too expensive and hiring more realistic, either go direct to a specialist supplier or see if festival organisers have pre-erected homes to rent for the duration.
Matt Boysons of Yurtopia (www.yurtopia.co.uk) hires out his yurts at Womad, V-Fest and Beachdown festivals and can be used by traders as well as fans.
"They have frames made from coppice or planks so are a bit too involved for individuals to put up. But you can stand up in them, store things and be much more secure than in a tent," says Boysons.
For those attracted to the cosier qualities of camping, but want something edgier than an old-fashioned tent, try a Myhab. Made from tough recycled plastic and waterproof cardboard, they are essentially two-person pods - and they are reusable, light to carry and very small, so you get to know your co-habitee well by the end of the festival.
Myhab creator James Dunlop sold out his stock for this year's T In The Park festival in just five minutes. "People are still spending their money on live music and luxury products," he says (www.myhab.com).
If you don't want to bring your own home in your rucksack, or the hassle of liaising with festival organisers to ensure your supplier can get in to erect it for you, a new option is to see if the festival itself has "boutique" camping for hire on site.
Standon Calling, a festival on the grounds of a 16th-century country estate in Hertfordshire at the end of July, offers a range of beach huts (suitable for two people and complete with an mp3 docking station) for £350, and a four-berth Ships Cabin (ocean- liner style rooms, best for two couples) at £500 (www.standon-calling.com).
Bestival, held on the Isle of Wight in September, offers Podpads, pre-erected weatherproof and solar-powered homes complete with windows, curtains and electricity, costing £395 for the weekend (www.podpads.com and www.bestival.net).
Glastonbury still assumes most festival-goers will bring traditional tents but organisers will this year give free bio-degradeable tent pegs to prevent metal ones being left behind and hurting the cows. There is also a pre-erected tipi village for the more adventurous - each one houses six and costs £800 to hire for the duration (www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk).
So what's it like to forsake the tent and stay in a tastefully appointed festival property? Advertising executive Juliet Cromwell admits she had been "roughing it" at over a dozen festivals until she discovered a posh alternative at the Cornbury music event near Oxford - a bus, converted into upmarket sleeping areas.
"It was well done. You get a double bedroom, totally private. There's a double or twin beds, a bedside table and a place to make a cup of tea. Best of all there's a toilet," she says.
Purists will carp that too much luxury is inauthentic. Back in 1968 many fans who saw Jimi Hendrix at Woburn Abbey spent the night sleeping under their trenchcoats in the park; in Beckenham, Kent, in summer 1969, the local press complained that fans pitched tents in the parks after seeing up-and-coming performer called David Bowie.
These days, the festivals present other challenges. Numerous event websites warn against visiting 4x4s churning up fields and longer estate cars 'beaching' on bumps, while Bestival's manicure services and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall tent suggest our outdoor music events have gone up in the world – and from this summer there's no excuse for a home that's low on style.
Have you had any festival camping nightmares? Can you offer tips or ideas for this summer? Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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