Are festivals good value? This is the question I went on the radio to answer last week. I was arguing "yes" and I was more than a little under-prepared. But before all that: a word of explanation. I've never done any radio before (let alone television, perish the thought) though it's something newspaper journalists get asked to do quite a lot.
I've always thought my voice was too high and my brain too likely to blank at the slightest hint of nerves, which is why I chose a midnight slot for my first (and probably last) ever appearance. Hopefully no one heard; I sounded like I'd sucked on a helium balloon. Anyway, there you have it. Strengths and weaknesses.
But while I may not be Terry Wogan just yet, I still think my side of the debate was probably the right one. The whole argument stemmed from a column I wrote just under a year ago, complaining that my trip to Reading Festival – chosen as a cheap alternative to a summer holiday – had burned a hole in my pocket so deep that I could have flown to Turkey and back with more change.
But the thing is, that wasn't so much the festival's fault as my own. Had I planned properly, the whole thing probably would have cost no more that £200 – £20 tent, £15 rail fare and £150 cover charge – which isn't bad given that I would get to see half of my favourite bands in concert. But of course, being a relative novice at such things (I'd clocked up plenty of festival experience, just not so much on the camping front) I didn't, which meant I ended up forking out a couple of hundred-odd pounds on the over-priced supplies (something that wasn't helped by the hefty charge on withdrawing cash).
But this year I'll be doing it better. I've already got tickets for V Festival, and I'm hoping to do the same for Reading. I've set myself a strict food budget of £50, which means bringing plenty of tins, plenty of cheap cider, and plenty of water.
True, as one radio-caller pointed out, European festivals are probably even better value-for-money since the cover charge is lower and the bands largely the same. Perhaps that's a possibility for next year, if the pound improves against the Euro.
But the very best value for money – and I'll be clocking up a few of these too – are the one-day affairs that take place all over the country: I've even found a free one, held right at the end of August in East London's George Tavern, organised by a bunch of young bands. And when it comes to value for money, you don't get much better than free, do you?