Alice-Azania Jarvis: 'Surviving festivals on a budget is my speciality'

In The Red
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The Independent Online

And so, and so. I'm on my way. By the time you read this I will, at least, have pitched a tent. Hopefully, it won't be raining. Yep, that's right. I'm at Reading Festival. Well not, technically, at it right now, since today is Wednesday and due to the peculiar nature of deadlines I'm living in a world two days younger than yours. But I'm going to Reading Festival. Soon: On Saturday. In other words: your today. And I will not – I repeat I will not – be spending too much. Not this year. No way.

It's totally possible to do festivals on a budget, no matter how commercialised, advertised and inflated they may have become. I'm lucky of course: Reading is one of the few music events not plastered with billboards boasting logos so big that they overpower the event's name, let alone purpose. That's why, so far, it has remained unchallenged as my favourite.

The first time I went to a festival I spent a fortune. I didn't expect to. In fact, the weekend in a field had been chosen as a cheap alternative to a summer holiday, the proper week-by-the-seaside version of which I couldn't afford. But what I didn't realise was that "festival economics" requires more than a little practice – and more than a few rules.

First there is the food. Rule number one: take as much as you possibly can. It's only a weekend; it's not that hard. Currently on my packing list: cereal bars, cheese squares, apples, nuts and tins. Lots of tins. Buying food at the festival is fun, what with all the exotic-looking stands, but if you do that all of the time, you will come back with an overdraft so big it makes your extra-large falafel burger look dainty.

And then there's the drink. Rule number two: take as much as you possibly can. I've always thought cider the best option, but this year I'm going for spirits. More potent, less to carry. (Let me just assure you that I'll be taking plenty of water too. In fact, that's important: festival water is expensive. Take your own.)

And then there are the clothes. Rule number three: take as much as you possibly can. By which I mean don't assume hot pants and a halterneck will be sufficient attire come midnight. Take a raincoat, and a very warm jumper. And wellies and a water-proof hat and plenty of layers. Heck, take a thermal vest. Just don't wait until you get there to buy one.

a.jarvis@independent.co.uk

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