Aug 17th 2018

Keeping the Modern Festival Goer Connected

Last year I wrote a blog around mobile connectivity at Glastonbury and described it as being ‘pretty good’, but how easy is it to stay connected at other events? As we race through summer 2018 I am back with another hot take on how well my phone functioned in a selection of the UK’s finest fields. Strap in!

Gala – 5* festival, 5* connectivity

Gala describes itself as an ‘independent South London day festival celebrating the best of local music, food & drink’ with a focus on house and disco music. It has proven to be a highly successful festival in its three years of existence; initially based in Brockwell Park, the festival moved to Peckham Rye Park for this summer’s edition.

In terms of mobile connectivity, I have no complaints. Calls, WhatsApp messages and texts were all easy enough to send and receive which meant it was easy to coordinate with friends throughout the day-long festival.

In many ways, one day festivals are the events when you want your phone to work the most. Realistically, you will be on the festival site for six or seven hours at the absolute longest, therefore, if you lose your friends early on, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that you could be on your own all day.

Not only was Gala a five-star festival in terms of music, I would also give it five-stars for mobile connectivity. It was helped by the fact that as a fairly heavily populated area, it generally has a good cellular network. On top of that, Gala remains a relatively small festival, meaning that there is less mobile activity to create a strain on the network. But regardless, whatever it was, it worked and I’ll be there next year.

Citadel – 4* festival, 0* connectivity

Unfortunately, Citadel was the worst of the bunch for me. The festival took place in Gunnersbury Park in Hounslow on a baking hot Sunday in July. Headlined by the Aussie powerhouses, Tame Impala, the festival itself was pretty big. The days leading up to Citadel were pretty hectic in Gunnersbury Park with Lovebox taking place on the Friday and Saturday.

Citadel and Lovebox are big festivals, attracting hundreds of thousands of festival-goers through their gates over the course of the weekend. The vast majority of these people, many of whom are millennials, famed for their social media appetite, will be wanting to use their phones to upload videos and images to platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and the like. Venues and festivals generally encourage people to upload images and videos which tag the event, as essentially it is free PR and marketing which can create a very useful buzz. There was no hope of this at Citadel.

I could not even send or receive a WhatsApp message or text from the moment I entered the festival site, let alone upload a photo to social media.

Temporary phone masts are very expensive, but I can’t help but feel that certain large festival organisers are cutting corners by not investing in back-up technology. When attending a festival in a major UK city, I think it is reasonable to expect good quality phone signal. Over the course of the day at Citadel, I saw a lot of people aimlessly running around trying to find friends, which is no fun at all when you’re only at an event so briefly.

Wilderness – 5* festival, 1* connectivity (but it didn’t matter)

My third and final music festival of the summer was Wilderness. Wilderness is described as ‘the multi-award winning four-day festival of live music, theatre, arts and the outdoors’ based in the Cotswolds.

It was the most fun I’ve had at a UK festival outside of Glastonbury. Chic and Nile Rodgers were the musical highlight, but it’s the insanely picturesque location which makes Wilderness so great. Washing away the hangover with a dip in the stunning lake will make it hard to go back to other festivals.

Onto the important bit. Connectivity! Or the lack thereof. The majority of people’s phones seemed to be out of commission for the whole time we were on the site (with the exception of O2 customers). This is less of a big deal when at a weekend-long festival as you can always meet up back at the campsite. It is inconvenient, but you get used to it. You just have to be more disciplined at assigning meeting spots and times.

My conclusion is that having no mobile signal when you’re stranded in paradise is far easier to put up with than when you are just spending one afternoon in West London…

Until next year!