Festivals: A Survival Guide by Jo Hoare. Dog ‘n’ Bone.
It’s that time of the year when one starts planning what festivals to attend this summer. There is a huge choice ranging from the long established Glastonbury and Reading megafests to more modest events like Steelhouse and Linton. The idea of going away for a boozy weekend and seeing a large number of your favourite bands playing live sounds like heaven. Music festivals have been around for a long time with the Newport, Rhode Island jazz festival starting the trend in 1954 followed by the Beaulieu, Hampshire jazz festival in 1956. This jazz festival eventually moved to Reading where it has been the Reading Festival since 1971. The jazz was dropped some years ago but Reading is the UK’s longest established annual rock festival.
Given that festivals have been around for so long it is surprising that there aren’t many books written about them. There have been some sociological studies published and in 2015 radio presenter Edith Bowman wrote Great British Music Festivals which was a guide to the main events. Jo Hoare’s book is a practical “How to” guide about surviving festivals. If you have ever been away for a camping holiday, you probably have picked up a few ideas about what to pack, how to pitch a tent and dealing with wet weather. Jo’s book has expanded on this basic knowledge to try to give a complete guide to festival survival. It is a hardback A5 size illustrated book that could easily be slipped into your backpack.
The book begins with a brief round-up of major American and European festivals. Jo offers tips on how to book and a check-list of essential things to take – water bottle, toilet roll, waterproof jacket and so on. The book is mainly aimed at female readers as it’s written from Jo’s female perspective. The subject of the dreaded festival toilets get a lengthy discourse and there are several other toilet related articles.
Jo is the Style Editor for Heat magazine, so the book really takes off when she starts talking about festival fashion. Fashion “don’ts” include wearing an Onesie (duh), denim hot pants, floral headbands or mini dresses. There are some quite humorous articles on smuggling booze into festivals, having sex in a tent and getting to see all the bands that you really like.
Her best writing comes at the end where she creates 14 beautifully crafted vignettes of festival stereotypes. Amongst this acutely observed promenade are the Dealer, Security guard, Cool parents, Music journalist and Groupie. The book is almost worth buying for this section alone. Her sketches are much funnier and more relevant than Victoria Mather’s social stereotypes column which appears in the Daily Telegraph magazine on Saturdays.
This is the sort of book that a parent might buy for their daughter (or son) who was embarking upon their first festival or a quirky coffee table read. Jo Hoare is a great writer who should try to develop the more comic aspects of her writing where she has considerable potential.