Written by Esther Harris


How to tell you are too old for a festival

Summertime brings out the 15-year-old in Esther Harris, who can’t resist the thought of a festival – although she thinks maybe it’s time she should. Or does she?

Bestival“Mum is in her summer mood again…” My children edge away from me, sensing danger. I blame the adverts: dreamy colours, stylish fonts and whispered promises transport me to a life I always meant to live. They bring out the dangerous teen in me: the 15-year-old hussy who, given a mood change, a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 or the opening beats of Summertime, could swerve off course at any moment. The Sun-In queen who made a pact with her best friend and cousin that we would live together in London, like forever, and who once had a full-on punch-up over the 3.30pm showing of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade at the ABC in Portsmouth. (It was epic. Someone. Wasn’t. Invited. Cue bloodshed. Straight outta Cosham.)

Yep, there’s something about festivals: the music, the abandonment of real life, the promise of another land, a place where you could be that person you always wanted to be (i.e. not a virgin) that make me go a bit giddy and a bit wannabe disco queen and a bit oh fuck it all.

I’m 39 now and although I’ve given up stalking New Kids on the Block (though if anyone has any ideas how we can make it work around the school run…) festivals still bring out the dreamy teen in me. Only now, instead of yearning to be impregnated by Donnie Wahlberg, I think they can make me the yummy mummy I always wanted to be. You know the one: stylish, still hot, in control, loving parenthood but not totally overwhelmed by it lying face down on the couch. Yeah, that person.

“I can see it now; our decking dramatically backlit, me taking Michael’s place in the Jackson 5 line up. Thrusting hand gestures. Military jackets. More thrusting.”

In my mind, as soon as I’m on the Bestival website, I’m halfway there; I am mentally wearing a fringed skirt and headband, channelling Josie da Bank or Jo Whiley. I am NOT a lactating, depressed, fat Sienna Miller, but a hair-swishing goddess who boogies effortlessly between men and friends for 48 hours, as effortlessly as I boogie between parenthood and ‘being me’, without missing a side step or a disco hand gesture. While wearing a gold jump suit.

If that’s not your dream too, frankly, you’re dead inside. The day artists stopped using hand gestures in songs is the day when austerity really kicked in. Life’s tough now and it’s no coincidence that it got worse when we all stopped doing the YMCA, The Macarena and Saturday Night.

orange tentRedundancy, mortgage problems, hating middle age? I guarantee you’ll feel better if you start the day with the air punch from the start of Can You Feel It?, a moonwalk over to the counter to get the kids breakfast, and a pelvic thrust to the side as you pour the milk.

The kids are proper scared by now but one snag: it’s nearly £500 for a weekend at a festival by the time you add on travel, childcare and tents etc. Not affordable. But wait! Let’s do the homemade version: the staystival if you like. Throw a BBQ in the back garden, turn up the iPod and get our groove on.

If the Jacksons could visit Appledore with Channel 5 then maybe they’d be up for coming to Portsmouth for me? I’m only a 10-minute drive from the Isle of Wight ferry terminal where they’ll be performing anyway. It’s like it was meant to be. I can see it now; our decking dramatically backlit, me taking Michael’s place in the Jackson 5 line up. Thrusting hand gestures. Military jackets. More thrusting.

Terrified, the kids have locked themselves away in their bedrooms. Maybe it’s time for a rethink. Maybe I am too old for disco, festivals, and dance routines. I’m 39 FFS. I’m either too tired or not drunk enough. Just get me a disco ball. I’ll be fine at home. But then I hear the opening beats to Summertime on the radio, and that 15-year-old in me is yearning for a little adventure and my finger is hovering over the ‘buy’ button. Oh fuck it. Tito? Marlon? Jermaine? The other one? I’m on my way.


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Written by Esther Harris

Esther Harris is (still) writing her first novel and tweets @writer29