Festooned, in a field

I had so many potential things to write about this week (Olympics, age-discrimination, Jade Goody, the start of the football season) that I became paralysed thinking about them all, and consequently wrote nothing. Part of the reason for this was that I spent my weekend in a park in Chelmsford.

Chelmsford is a place I've visited for around 3 to 4 days every year, in August. I wouldn't go there for any other reason but the V Festival. I have no idea what the town's like as I never spend any time in it, instead I spend 72ish hours in a park or a hotel bar and a very short time in bed, asleep.

I first went to a festival when I was very young in the early 80's - 1980 to be precise with the very first Monsters Of Rock event, headlined by Rainbow. I graduated to camping events a little later. Thanks to the interweb, I can now clarify this as the 1982 Reading Festival. My abiding memories are of sleeping badly in a small tent and buying home-made cider in 2 litre jerry cans - musically it was all about heavy rock. I can now see that Iron Maiden played it but I don't remember their set. I have clearer memories of Budgie, Diamond Head and the fact that they had two stages - next to each other. I vividly recall Dave Edmunds stopping his set mid-song as the two sets of audience were hurling bottles and toilet roll at each other and obviously not listening to him. He stopped to ask who was winning.

I effectively gave up camping and weekend events after going to Glastonbury in 1985. Wikipedia refers to a very wet event with mud and slurry (liquefied cow dung in fact) in front of the pyramid stage - I have some other recollections. Arriving on the Friday my mate Tony chucked a burger wrapper at me, having not anticipated this act I took no defensive action and it hit me in the eye knocking out one of my contact lenses. As I'd brought no glasses and have very bad eyesight, I spent the rest of the weekend in a bit of a blur.

Consequently I lost my mates on the Saturday night, my only memory of which was hearing The Style Council start their set. I was in the stinking toilets at the top of the hill at this time. I was badly equipped for the rain with no wellies (I have size 14 feet) and not much in the way of waterproofs; I seem to recall we slept in Tony's car.

It was also a real eye-opener (pun intended, sorry) in terms of the quantity of drug use - substances of all kinds were on very open sale. Along the main walkway to the Pyramid stage you could buy anything and I watched as a guy bought a hit from a man burning a lump of cannabis resin - he was holding it in tongs whilst the 'buyer' inhaled through a bottle with the bottom cut out. Since they've more than cleaned up the festival since then I'm aware of how unbelievable this story will sound.

From this point on and for a long time after, I limited my festival-going to one-day events like the Monsters Of Rock festival at Donington Park. This would later become the first festival that I worked on, having started working in live music by then. By the time it ended its first long run in 1996 I had become the show's press officer managing all international press at the event. Those memories may be saved for another day, and I will return very shortly with my thoughts on this year's V - the ones I'd originally intended to write when I sat down today!