How One Writer Lost Her Festival Virginity Aged 29

There was glitter everywhere


I just popped my festival cherry.

I wanted to wait until I was ready and, the week before my 30th birthday, I finally did it.

I prepared myself with protection of course: rubber wellies; a wipe-clean rain mac and the one top I own that has to be worn sans bra (believe me, going braless at 30 feels like a genuine achievement).

And I was ready.

Ready to party gif

The conditions were perfect: the Great British summer had finally arrived; my oldest friend Abby and I had a pair of tickets to the world's poshest festival, Wilderness; and our camo-print tent was  just about on trend enough to make us feel like we were nailing it before we had even stepped foot in a field.

We spent our journey to the oppressively perfect village of Chipping Norton (home of former Prime Minister David Cameron and the phone hacking gang's cosy Christmases if you remember) near to where the festival is held, congratulating ourselves on how well we were 'doing Wilderness', because we had remembered to buy breakfast bars and bananas (#grownups).


For some reason, our friends kept assuring Abby and I that putting our tent up would be 'hilarious' and so we smugly bumped our paper cups of red wine together at 9pm after its methodical erection and only googling, 'What is a guyline?' once.

We weren't so smug the next morning when we discovered we had drunk our entire collection of outside (i.e. normally priced) alcohol on the first night. Fail.

To be fair, this only consisted of a bottle of wine and a veeeeeery small vodka.

We're not animals… though I do have a patchy memory of straight vodka burning the inside of my mouth (it looks mighty similar to water at 3am).

Later that day a chirpy twenty-four year old would tell us this is a regular occurrence at festivals. I feel old.

Tamsin and Abby outside their tent at Wilderness

We didn't care for long: the first full day of Wilderness was upon us and we were eager to discover what this festival shiz was all about.

By 10.30am we were confused.


We had already spent what felt like £100 on beverages and breakfast, watched a talk in the 'Literary Tent' about how to get a book published (which tbh I'm none the wiser about as I spent the entire time watching hundreds of spiders crawl all over the people in front of me *shivers*) and wandering around trying to ascertain the size and vibe of this random collection of people.

Golden moments... #magic #wildernessfestival #finedining #feasts #banquets

A photo posted by wildernesshq (@wildernesshq) on

There were gorgeous hippy families crafting flower headdresses on the grass, men in polo shirts drinking beer, gangs of fourteen-year-old girls dressed identically and SO. MUCH. GLITTER that, instead of the festival frippery being a genuine expression of creativity, everyone merged into a homogenous feather mess. Each to their own.

But everyone appeared to be having a perfectly lovely time.

Abby and I on the other hand wandered around what felt like a village fete confusedly muttering, 'Where's the rave?'.

Patience, 30-year-olds, for the rave will come. (What can I say? I don't get out much).


At the cash point an incredibly posh boy wearing acid yellow and obligatory sparkly eye makeup asked us if there was a limit on withdrawals, to which we uttered a polite, 'A hundred…?'

As we watched him saunter off with £400 in his back pocket we contemplated our budget.

I had thought, naively, back in the dream days of my early-twenties that money would magically sort itself out by the time I was thirty.

I had imagined that writing one column a month would see me happily ensconced in a flat of my own filled with designer shoes and cocktail glasses (thanks SATC you LIARS).

Turns out you can burn through £50 an hour, not a day, at one of these things.


Am I the only one who didn't know this!?

After a thimble of espresso martini (at £8 a pop), we decided getting drunk just simply wasn't a viable financial option for us.

Nor was opting for the #eatclean #yogaeverydamnday vibe offered at Wilderness.

It was a no to Deliciously Ella's 'yoga brunch', consisting of jugs of lemon water and £30 energy balls made of seeds. And a no to the Neil's Yard aromatherapy massage or champagne in a hot-tub. 

But a giant YES PLEASE to swimming in the lake - wild swimming is free ya'll!

Hello I'm poor gif

A low point arrived on Saturday morning.

Having essentially maxed out our cards the previous day and feeling a wee bit irritable after four hours sleep, wandering from one tobacco kiosk to another being ID'd by 18-year-olds got real old, real fast.

Clearly, it was time for an introvert intervention.

An isolated spot by the lake where Abby and I could talk about our feelings and current relationships with our mothers was much needed and revitalised us for THE RAVE.

The Club House ❤️

A photo posted by wildernesshq (@wildernesshq) on


Turns out, it's hard to stay motivated to rave when you're old and haven't had your 8 hours in a couple of days.

Word on the grass was that The Valley was where the party was at (finally!) and we weren't disappointed.

Abby and I danced our repression out like wild women.

Fifteen-year-old girls looked at us nervously when we asked to borrow a lighter, an older one finally reassuring them: 'It's ok, give it to them'.

Needless to say, we felt pretty damn cool in this crowd.

By Sunday we had completely run out of cash and energy and, frankly, I was starting to smell.

My hair was no longer doing that cool, free-spirited flicky thing it does after leaving it between washes and it was now standing straight up on end in greasy curls.

Two nights of raving, going to sleep in the freezing cold and waking in the baking sun to the sound of the cheese toastie van still going at 7am and we were broken women.

The thought of leaving our campsite and actually entering the festival ground to be relieved of £100 was too much to bear.

As our tent collapsed around us and the sun beat down on our already burnt skin, we lolled around on the grass laughing like only friends who've known each other since that very first hangover can do.

Did I want an almond croissant and a Monmouth coffee from the patisserie beside our tent? Yes, I did.

Did I have any cash with which to buy it? No, I did not.

Seven almonds and yet another breakfast bar later, we dragged our bedraggled asses off the campsite and headed back to London.

As we heaved bags that seemed to weigh far more than when we arrived, feeling glad of the lack of mirrors, we spotted it: an ATM mere meters from our tent. Yes, I really am 30.

On the train home we reached a sophisticated conclusion about festivals: they are expensive and friends can have fun doing literally anything.

You don't need to spend a grand on tickets, camping gear, yoga classes and £6 cheese toasties.

But you can't put a price on the joy of feeling like a carefree teenager for three days in the company of your best friend with no responsibilities or distractions.

As we get older there's just less time to hang out.

There's too much reality.

Escaping to a fantasy world in which we can be eighteen again is worth any money. 

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