Parklife 2021: How to do a festival with a Chronic Illness

If you’ve been following my Instagram @livinglifefree__ then you’ll know that a few weeks ago I went to Parklife.

What is Parklife?

Parklife is a music festival in Heaton Park, Manchester. It is one of the UK’s biggest festivals and you’ll find the headliners are always big names. Most of the music is either quite mainstream, with acts like Megan Thee Stallion and Becky Hill headlining, or electronic- with techno being the most common genre.

There are other genres and lesser known acts too playing on the multiple stages throughout the weekend, so make sure you keep an eye on the lineup to find your favourites.

“But Charlotte, you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, how the hell did you manage it?”

Well, I do make a good point! Here is how I did it and the advice I would give to any other spoonie who wants to experience a festival.


Intoxication Station

If there is one thing festival culture is known for, it is the huge amount of drink and drugs that are consumed. This section is not intended in any way to sound preachy- if you want to take anything that is 100% your choice. I can only give advice based off my own experience.

My first piece of advice is to drink smart. Getting drunk at 10am pres with your mates sounds fun in theory, but when that wears off, you’re left tired, fatigued and drunk very early on into your festival experience.

Either space out your drinking throughout the day, making sure you are staying on top of your fatigue levels, or wait until later on in the day before you start. Alternatively you can stay sober! This is all about managing your body so that you can experience festival life to the fullest.

As for drugs, I can’t personally comment on the effects of common festival drugs such as cocaine, MDMA and ketamine but my advice from research would be to avoid them. The boost in energy may relieve the fatigue for a short while but during a comedown you will feel far worse. As for weed, my advice is similar to that of drinking but do bear in mind it might make you feel more tired or put you in a fatigued state.


Rest and Re-Taxation

Being at a festival means that something is constantly going on. When you’re constantly surrounded by crowds and loud noise, it can be both mentally and physically taxing. That is why finding pockets of rest is so important.

Constant stimulation on all fronts is a very common trigger for chronic illness symptom flares. It will be unlikely that you will find a rest spot free of all things that might lead to symptoms, so try to take out one or two variables instead.

For example, on the Saturday around mid-afternoon I was starting to flag. My body was tired and being in a crowd was stressing me out. Since I was enjoying the music, my friends and I stopped dancing in the crowd and went to sit on a nearby hill. Whilst I could still hear the music, it was nowhere near as loud. I did a quick meditation and some deep breathing (imagine how that must have looked to passers by lmao) giving my body and mind a chance to rest. Taking moments like this was integral to my spoonie survival.

Hydrate Feel Great

This one is pretty self explanatory. Whether you are sober or not, you still need to keep hydrated. At Parklife, there were designated areas that you could go to fill up your water bottle for free as well as as bottled water being sold all over the venue. There were even specific soft drink kiosk that you could go to if you just wanted a lemonade so you didn’t have to wait in the stupid long alcohol queues.


Yum Yum In Your Tum

“But eating is cheating!” your 16 year old self cries from behind her bottle of Glenn’s vodka

Erm… hell no,” is the response!

You need to make sure you are eating a festival. Whilst street food may be spenny* as hell, it is worth it to top up your energy levels and to drink safely. Unfortunately, your body won’t suddenly decide to act differently for a weekend so take care of it like any other day.

* slang for expensive


Camper & Campress

Yes the title is a not-so-subtly reference to my more recent short film with Buff Productions (that you should toooootallyyyy check out here: https://youtu.be/XGyGZxgqrfM ) but I do have my reasons!

Parklife is not a camping festival, so I knew I could go home and get a good night’s sleep, but if you are going to a festival such as Glastonbury or Download, not being able to get a restful sleep may negatively impact your day 2 experience.

If you’re one of those people who can sleep anywhere regardless of noise, you will probably be fine (also you’re a wizard and I hate you) but to those awkward sleepers like me, it might be worth booking a place to stay such as a hotel or AirBnB. Get a real bed with some peace and quiet so you can rest fully for another day.


Just Believe!

No dumb pun in this title because this one is no joke. Whilst everyone’s situation is different, a lot of us are so used to being ill that we see a situation like a festival and think “there’s no way I could manage that!”

If there is one piece of info that I have learnt from Dr John Eaton (founder of Reverse Therapy- which I will write about in an upcoming post as well as the person who is currently providing me with treatment, and author of the book Reverse Therapy which I would recommend every spoonie to read) is that my body has the capability within. If you don’t believe you have a reservoir of capability within you, your body wont believe it either. Knowing your limits is so so sooo important but when we are so used to ‘failure’ it’s hard to think that we have the ability to ‘succeed’ within us.

One thing that helped me to get into this mindset- believe me it is not easywas creative a negative scenario contingency plan list. I wrote down all the possible had scenarios I thought might happen and thought about the actions I would take if any of them occurred. By preparing in this way, it took away the fear of the unknown, meaning I could just focus on the positives, whilst still paying attention to the signals my body was sending me.


You’ve Got a Friend In Me

When going to a festival or an event like it, try to go with friends/family you can trust. I’m very lucky to have a wonderful and supportive group of friends who understand that I have my limitations.

Having some members of your support network with you is my biggest recommendation of them all. Plus, isn’t making memories with the people you love the whole point?? (*dies of cringe*)


Quittin’ Time

Whilst this may seem contradictory to previous points, it is in fact their important companion. Managing our illnesses is all about listening to our bodies. When you’ve tried taking time to rest and have really made the effort to believe that you can do it, but your body is still telling you that it isn’t happy, then it is ok to call it a day.

If you can walk away from a situation with no regrets, knowing that you have tried your best and have had an experience- good or bad- that you can look back on, then walking away isn’t giving up, it is a victory that you have created on your own terms.

I left Parklife at 18.30 on Sunday and have absolutely 0 regrets. I saw everyone that I really wanted to see, had such an incredible Saturday (so much so that it has claimed a space in my top few days ever) and had a great time with my friends. I did everything I set out to do so when my body told me that it had had enough, I listened to it and walked away without looking back.


I had the most incredible weekend at Parklife 2021

Realising it was an experience that I was capable of having was such a huge step in learning to manage my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome without limiting what I allow myself to experience. I hope that these tips can help someone like me, and show you that whilst it is not as easy as it is for everyone else, we can do it too!

Let’s live life free ❤

Charlotte x

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