Ian Clayton: Festival rite of passage

Fans enjoy Leeds festival.
Fans enjoy Leeds festival.

Our Eddie went to the Leeds Festival with his mate Henry.

They bought a tent from one of those bargain shops that seem to be in every town these days, packed wellingtons, de rigeur for the well-equipped festival-goer and off they went to Leeds to catch the shuttle bus.

bob dylan

bob dylan

I nattered for four weeks before he went and for all four days he was there, he got so fed up of me phoning him on his mobile that he started switching it off and I left what must have sounded like a series of forlorn messages.

“Just checking to see if you’re eating properly” “Is that cheap tent standing up to the rain?” and “What were the Kaiser Chiefs like?”

I had packed him a load of Scottish short bread biscuits, dozens of high energy muesli bars, bags of cheese and onion crisps and more water than the average well digger’s daughter could carry on a yoke. His own preference for “some hot cross buns from Marks and Spencer” seemed a trifle bizarre, but I got him some and he told me later that they were delicious toasted in the morning over the embers of the previous night’s campfire.

Eddie and his mate Henry are sensible, practical lads, so I don’t know why I got myself into a tizzy, but then I remembered what I’d been like at festivals in my youth and what I’d got up to and it made me worse. Boy, was I glad to see him home. He got in, told me he needed a shower, had one and crawled off to bed.

Before he went to sleep I asked him who he saw. He asked if he could tell me about it in the morning, I said go on, I’m interested to know.

He said Of Monsters and Men from Iceland were “mint” and The Eagles of Death Metal were just about the craziest band he had ever seen. He might has well have been talking in Serbo-Croat for all I understood. Then he said: “Oh and the toilets were horrifying!” That I did understand.

I have been a festival goer ever since I was Eddie’s age. I have seen the cream of British folk in Whitby, the blues greats in the Mississippi Delta, giants of jazz at the North Sea festival in Holland, sea shanty singers in Hull even a festival of classical raga in India. I love the atmosphere of festivals, the togetherness, the sharing of food and ideas.

I like the camping, the friendship and meeting people from all over the place. I still maintain friendships with people I went to see Bob Dylan with more than 30 years ago. Now that was a festival, I saw Bob Dylan with Eric Clapton and Joan Armatrading at Blackbushe, an old airfield in Hampshire. Many years later, at another festival in Cambridge, I got into conversation with Joan Armatrading. I told her that the last time I saw her had been at Blackbushe with Dylan. She reminded me that it was the biggest one day festival ever held, over a quarter of a million people came together that day to celebrate and there was barely a hint of bother.

The only consternation for most was caused by a derailment on the local train line, which meant a lot of people got home a day later than they should have done. I didn’t sleep for two days, I stunk like a goat when I got home and I was ravenously hungry. I remember my dear old gran saying: “He got home and ate fish and chips three times and went to bed and slept the clock round.” She later added: “Our Ian went to see Bob Dylan and he’s never been the same lad since!”

I made it a mission to continue with festivals when Heather and me started our family. Our favourites for years have been Cambridge Folk Festival and The Musicport Festival of World Music, so in many ways, because he has been going to them since he was just out of nappies, our Eddie is an experienced festival type.

I’m sure his first festival experience without his parents will bring lovely memories in years to come, festivals are one of the great rites of passage. I asked him if he’d like to go again next year. He’d better start saving up because though the music, the friendship, the joy and yep, those awful toilets, don’t change much, the prices certainly do.

I paid a fiver to see Dylan back in the day, you’re looking at £200 plus now for a ticket and a fiver will just about get you one of those inedible festival burgers. Oh, and he’ll have to buy another tent, because him and Henry left theirs behind, why do kids these days do that? Happy days!