There was a time when, if you put the words spa and festival together, I would have laughed. It was somewhere in the 1990s, and I had just scaled a ditch to get into Glastonbury for free. My bezzie and I had a one-man tent and a fiver between us. There would be no showering for three days, let alone a hot tub. True, there were naked people who look like they could be enjoying a mud wrap in the Green Field, but it’s more likely they’d taken too many smiley-face pills and fallen in the cesspit. “We scanned the sky with rainbow eyes” and all that, but we also lost our tent.
Fast forward many, many years and I’m at Latitude Festival, wallowing in a seaweed bath in the forest listening to piped whale music, having just watched Hanif Kureshi in the literary arena and enjoyed a lovely bit of modern ballet on the lake. My kids are doing yoga and meditation sessions in Solar, while my husband is getting his lower back sorted in the spa after the airbed deflated last night. In the old days, a few lagers and a bounce around the dance tent would have sorted him out. How times have changed.
This is a totally different festival experience from that of my youth, and I’m kind of pleased because I am so over roughing it. My parents, who did the Isle of White back in the ‘60s, (way more hardcore than Glasto: it’s unlikely they even took a change of pants), are now off tapping their toes to The Dirty Projectors in the BBC Music Stage. Back then, it was all mud and drugs. Now it’s hot-tubs and halloumi burgers.
And the tents! I thought I was ‘going posh’ with my six-berth Vango in the Family Camping Field, far from the madding teenagers and not too close to the portaloos, but not so much so that you have to wander far with a full bladder. Then I saw the neat enclosures with their rows of perfect white yurts which come with private showers, deluxe(!) toilets, champagne breakfasts and spa treatments. They even have log cabins and a kids’ cinema.
Sadly, for me at least, the luxury camping areas have a hefty added price tag. I imagine they would be full of boring bankers, hedge fund managers, the odd oligarch sipping champagne in his deluxe tree house.
In my youth, when sleep was something that might happen accidentally during an afternoon of Indian drumming in the trance tent, I would probably not have been able to find my way to my luxury yurt, let alone enjoy its comforts. But as festival-goers such as myself mature, we need our memory-foam mattresses, especially after a hardcore afternoon in the poetry arena.
These days, if you said the words spa and festival to me, I would smile rather than laugh. It now seems like the perfect combination. My arguments stands:
Spas are all about mud and getting wet. Tick.
Spa music is often dubious, so this is something festivals can redress.
Festivals have always had a spiritual and global aspect, so the idea of yoga and meditation areas makes perfect sense – also good for grounding if you’ve just been lunged at by someone with whirly eyes.
Ditto head massages, and all massages if you have spent the night raving or sleeping on a slowly deflating airbed.
Outdoor hot tubs totally work when you are at a festival, in a secluded bit of woodland or on a river bank, listening to birdsong, the far-off sounds of good music and people of all ages having fun. It’s probably the most expensive bath you will ever take.