Staying safe at festivals –tips and tricks

How many people go to festivals, anyway?

More than a quarter of all British adults went to a music festival in 2019 (according to a poll by Mintel). 

And, while there was a sizeable drop in attendance for a few years (thanks covid), the top 25 British festivals in 2022 hosted about 1.7 million music fans (we’re so back). 

But it’s not just the UK!

Some of the biggest festivals in the world include Coachella (USA), Tomorrowland (Belgium), Rock in Rio (Brazil), Roskilde Festival (Denmark) Fuji Rock Festival (Japan), and Sziget Festival (Hungary). 

So, wherever you hail from, if you’re visiting a festival this year, we want to send you some love and some friendly advice on staying safe.

Why safety matters at festivals

This is not a scare-piece! Most festival-goers (in our experience) are kind, decent and bonded by their love of Midwestern hyperpop, Korean grindcore or Swedish jazz-rap (some of these may not exist).

That being said, safety at festivals is a serious matter. Festivals themselves have gotten a lot better at both providing security and care staff, and at promoting safer cultures, but there are still some actions you can take to create a safe environment for yourself and others. 

Eleven tips for staying safe at festivals

  1. Hydration and shade – Even if you’re sober, dancing in a field on a sunny day for twelve hours can take it out of you. If you’re drinking, or taking drugs, this can be made even worse. Drink water, take breaks, and take time in the shade.

  2. Alcohol – Drinking is so closely linked with festivals that it can be easy to take it for granted. Remember that the days at a festival can be long and, if you want to see that 9 pm headliner, drinking spirits at 11 am might be a mistake! We know it sounds boring but going slow and steady can help you get the most out of your time.

    Oh, and if you drink but someone you’re with is one of the increasingly large proportion of people that don’t, don’t pressure them! Drinking or not drinking is their choice, and festivals have got much better at catering for non-drinkers.

  3. Spiking – Spiking someone’s drink is an awful act that can lead to a prison sentence of up to ten years.

    To those doing the spiking: while the most heinous perpetrators would be unlikely to read this article, if you have ever considered sneakily strengthening someone’s drink with alcohol, DO NOT DO THIS. Alcohol is the most common substance used in spiking and, whatever your reason, this is a criminal and dangerous act. Everyone has a right to know what they are or are not putting in their body.

    For those worried about being spiked: don’t take drinks from people you don’t know, or any drink where you can’t see it being opened/poured. We know the price of a pint at a festival is eye-watering, but it’s honestly a safer move than trusting that plastic bottle filled with vodka that someone snuck in.

    There are also products that you can buy, such as anti-spiking drink scrunchies, which can make that big, open pint cup more closed off. This makes it harder for people to slip something in your drink, and as a bonus, makes it a bit easier to drink in a crowd!

    More than this, look out for other people. If you see someone acting shadily around someone’s drink, take action. And, if someone you know seems like they may have been spiked, act immediately and get help from first aiders.
  4. Drugs – Depending on where you are in the world, different drugs (including alcohol) may have different laws attached to them. So, without getting into legality, we would genuinely advise being careful.

    We know that people like to experiment when at festivals, but you never know what’s in the joint, pill or powder that someone offers you. Even if you use recreational drugs at home, you may find that the strength or composition is different to what you’re used to.

  5. Looking out for each other – One of the great things about festivals is the community spirit. Unfortunately, a small minority seem determined to ruin people’s good times. Whether it’s your first festival or your fiftieth, looking out for your friends, and the people you meet on the way is really important.

    From helping up someone who’s fallen in a moshpit, to getting a glass of water for a friend who’s overdone it, to helping out a stranger who is struggling, we all benefit when people act more communally.

  6. Sexual harassment – there’s nothing wrong with being more adventurous at a festival. Problems come when people (statistically men) see it as an opportunity to harass or grope women. So to all the men, we’d remind you to be decent and respectful. Someone showing skin is not an invitation, and the mosh pit is not an opportunity to grab people without their permission. If you see another guy harassing people, try to intervene in a way that will de-escalate the situation.

    For everyone else, you don’t have to tolerate sexual harassment. If someone is harassing you, call it out and/or remove yourself from the situation.

    Whoever you are, consent should be paramount. In the words of the excellent Festival Safe, “Consent isn’t just about a verbal ‘yes or no’, it is a whole-body experience. It involves being in tune with your partner and paying attention to their physical and emotional cues.” Consent can change at any time, and if someone stops being into it, it can stop at any time.

  7. Contraceptives – If there’s any chance of you hooking up at a festival in a way that could lead to an STI or pregnancy, make sure to bring the appropriate contraceptives! Better to bring something and not need it than to rely on your potential partner.

  8. Getting lost or separated – Getting separated from your friends for a long time can be unnerving and, with so many people, it doesn’t take much to lose each other.

    Using a location-sharing feature from WhatsApp or the Callie Safety App can be really helpful. With Callie, you can set an all-day session (or just when you’re nipping to the bar and back) and share it with your group.

    Also, while it has gotten better over the years, signal can still be spotty at festivals. That’s why it’s also helpful to have technology-free solutions ready: 
    1. Bring something lightweight but identifiable that you can hold up in a crowd if your friend is looking for you (in the past, we’ve used cheap glow-in-the-dark handheld flags and they work a treat)
    2. Set a meeting point and plan for if you get separated. Make it simple but precise, i.e., “If we get separated, we’ll meet after this band outside that pizza stand. If it gets to midnight and we can’t find each other, we’ll meet at the camp”.
    3. If you’re camping, decorate it and remember where it roughly is (“On the fifth path from the entrance” can be good enough).
    4. Travel in pairs. This is sensible advice in general but, if you can, going to the bar/toilets/food vans with at least one other person means you won’t ever be totally by yourself.

  9. Theft – While it is statistically uncommon, thefts do happen. There’s a few things you can do to make it less likely: 
    1. Try not to leave valuables in your tent. If you do, hide them in your sleeping bag or a hidden compartment of your bag.
    2. Embrace zips. If you find a pair of bottoms you like that have actual zip-up pockets; this will be a godsend. Zips make it harder to be pickpocketed and stop your phone from falling out when you’re in a crowd. Now that baggy cargo pants are back in, there’s never been a better time to ditch the bag and pocket everything you need!
    3. Have a backup in case your phone gets stolen (this is a good idea in general). Writing down important contact numbers means, if your phone does go missing, you can still reach out to people and make arrangements.

  10. Clean hands – Whether you’re planning to embrace the mud or go full glamp, you’ll want to make sure your hands are clean. Festival toilets aren’t the hellscape they were twenty years ago, but they’re hardly the Ritz and you don’t want a thousand moshers’ germs to end up on your £10 hotdog. Bring your own hand sanitizer and your stomach will thank you.

  11. Mental health – We meant to end this list at ten, but we didn’t want to go without talking about mental health. Obviously, if you take medication it’s important to stay on top of it, but there may be other things to consider.

    Try to be conscious of your own mental health and ofose around you. If you or your friends are overwhelmed it’s fine to go sit out for a while –you can join back in when you’re ready. Many festivals now have quieter spaces and there will be trained professionals available if you feel you need more serious attention.

    If you know you struggle with big crowds there are many ways to watch your favourite acts at a distance, with less crowding (sometimes being stuck in a crowd is hard to avoid, however). If you’re worried about how you’ll react to your first festival, a day ticket can be a great place to start.

That’s it, that’s our ten eleven tips for staying safe at a festival. If you have any good suggestions of your own, please leave a comment at the bottom of this article.

Otherwise, have fun, stay safe, and subscribe to our newsletter for more helpful tips.