The “Sober Fest” has long been a goal of mine. The seed was planted as a result of my having to come to terms with the fact that I could never again attend a music festival whilst being sober. This realisation came about after attending the “Isle of Wight” festival sober along with a group of long time friends.
This is my story:
“Attending a festival for the first time is a magical experience. The tents, the lights, the buzz and the music all stay with you forever, but there are also other aspects of it which are unforgettable – but for all the wrong reasons. Many of the festivals which I have been to in my life, I have attended being either high or drunk, but let’s face it, who doesn’t get wasted at a festival? And this is all well and good providing that the people around you are totally wasted as well. Together you can all scream, shout, talk nonsense and stumble back to your half-built tent together… but what about the sober ones of the group? Where do they fit into all of this? Well, fast forward a few years to now.
After visiting the Isle of Wight festival whilst a few months into my first year of sobriety, I was horrified to see the bitter truth. The truth that the whole experience changes dramatically when being intoxicated is taken out of the equation. My two favourite places, including the white isle of Ibiza itself (where I had to attend a stag weekend around the same time as attending the Isle of Wight festival was another horrific experience for me – but that is another story) went from being my happy place, to my “get me the hell out of here” place within a couple of hours of arriving there.
So there I was, arriving at my first festival being completely abstinent. My friends and I were all in high spirits with good conversation and good energies flowing. It felt the same as every other festival that I had ever attended over the years. Everything was positive and I felt that the weekend was going to be a great one and that being sober would not make much a difference – how naive I really was.
Before the sun had even set things began to take a turn for the worst. I began to feel very uncomfortable with the behaviour of my drunken friends and with the antics of the people around me. I took it all light heartedly to begin with, but eventually the streaking, the urinating, the aggression and the noise just got too much for me. I watched as continuous advances (sometimes worse) were made upon girls who just wanted to be left alone. I heard empty and meaningless conversations between strangers who were all so smashed that they could not even see the other one speak, and I missed many of the bands which I had gone to see because as I soon found out, the sober friend, becomes the groups permanent peace keeper and baby sitter – something I wish that I had known beforehand.
There were brief moments where good conversation or genuine encounters appeared before me, but they disappeared just as fast as they came. I quickly realised that almost every person that I spoke to either repeated themselves, called me the wrong name or completely forgot everything which was said in the sentence moments before. The longer the night went on, the less and less everybody around me knew what they were doing and the more isolated that I became. When this happened one time, I took the opportunity to go for a walk around the festival, I grabbed a drink and searched for the toilet but only to find one of the most disgusting things that I have ever seen. I saw bare footed festival goer’s dancing six inches deep in the sewage, which was surrounding the twelve port a loo’s, made available for the five thousand people there. Maybe I would have overlooked the sewage situation and perhaps joined in if I were drunk as well? Luckily, I wasn’t. It seems that the boundaries of what’s fun and what’s acceptable slowly begin to dissipate once a certain amount of alcohol is consumed.
Many people who attend festivals sober will also unwillingly adopt another position of responsibility… that of the good Samaritan. This entails propping people up, taking them to their tents, reuniting them with their friends or buying them water, but honestly, the whole experience becomes a chore half way through the night. What makes it worse is that you are not going home at the end of it all. Instead, you must face the facts that you have to sleep in a potentially water-logged tent surrounded by hundreds of drunken and wasted people. These are hundreds of strangers who would happily crawl past your tent until 6 am rather than admit defeat to the arch enemy of all festival highs …… sleep!!! Thank god that I had Enya on my phone to play quietly and to assist me in pretending that I was somewhere else.
Upon awakening the next morning, the experience was not over. I awoke to the calmness after the chaos, with my friends and other festival goers, now really miserable and hungover feeling sorry for themselves. Others were talking nonsense as they had now been awake for three days, apologising for hurling abuse at one another only three hours before. There were others searching for lost items, others searching for lost friends, and to top it off, I was left to take the tents down because everyone else just wanted to hit the road. After that, I found the drive home, and the whole day actually, to be as unfulfilling as the conversations I had been subjected to the night before.
I used to love these festivals. The change is phenomenal from a drunken perspective to a sober one. I am not judging people who get high or smashed at festivals, it’s all part of the experience, and I did it for many many years, but what about now? What about the minority of us who now wish to remain sober at festivals? What about the ones who wish to listen to music and have good conversations without having to worry about bottles of urine being thrown around? As I have never been able to find such an event – where all the people attending are interesting, respectable and sober – I decided to create my own and as a result the concept of the #SoberFestUK was born. Whilst the days of attending mainstream festivals may well be over for me as my definition of “having fun” is very different these days. But for me and many others the days of attending festivals are no longer out of bounds – as one chapter in my life has closed, another one has opened. ”
Read more about the festival here