Ireland’s Festivals on the Cheap

Ireland Festival

Stoney-broke, but still want to go to that party? Well before you bust a gut wishing for a fairy godmother or resort to “lending” your brothers sound system to the nearest pawn shop, here are a few helpful tips on how to do it on the cheap:


1. Consider a designated driver

If the gig is within an hour or hour and a half of your home consider, nominating a designated driver. This year my husband went as far as getting me pregnant to ensure it wasn’t him again, but there is no need to go to these lengths – bribery, blackmail or favours usually work as well, but as always, cash is king.

A safety note on this is to ensure that the car used is full of fuel – there was a very unfortunate event on the way home from Oxygen one year where *somebody* forgot to get petrol on the way down and 24hour petrol stations were not a thing yet. The car eventually conked out somewhere in the Kildare hinterland (because we thought a short cut might save some petrol) and we were stranded for about three hours until the AA man (with no teeth and a strong accent) showed up to tow us to the next garage, where we waited (not patiently) until the garage eventually opened the next morning. Lesson learned.

2. Travel in groups

This makes it easier to get a designated driver, you can share responsibilities meaning the person who drives down does not have to drive back, you can have a contingency plan in case the designated driver accidently falls into a vat of beer and gets wasted, and shared petrol money is usually cheaper than a bus/train ticket.

3. Cheap Accommodation

If you have to stay think outside the box in terms of accommodation: consider friends, family and long lost relatives – if you need to sell it to them, say you are trying to get back in touch with your roots, it always works for the Americans.

Plan early and try to find cheap B&Bs in the local area, these can be cheaper than even a camping ticket, but be warned, they book up fast and you need a plan to make it to and from the B&B each day.

If at all possible borrow a caravan – these are pricy to rent but if borrowed are usually so old that the owners won’t notice an extra few dents. Check for field mice before driving off.

4. Consider smaller festivals

Rather than going to the big headline festivals, consider going to the smaller ones instead: not only will you get to go to more festivals for your money, you will also get a totally different experience. Smaller festivals attract a more diverse crowd, many of which can be as entertaining as the paid acts.

5. Look out for Early Bird or Late Deals

With a bit of organisation you can save a lot from Early Bird deals, but if you are not *dying* to go to the gig, consider hanging in there until the week before it’s on to see if you can pick up a ticket from someone who now can’t attend. Ebay and Facebook are great places to hear about this – just make sure you collect the ticket in person, don’t get it posted.

6. Resist the urge to buy a whole new wardrobe in Penny’s

Yes, you want to look hot because you never know who you will bump into and yes, most of the clothes are only 3, 5, or 11 euro, but it still all adds up, so unless you have shares in the company, step away from the impulse buys. Besides after you have been at the festival for an hour and survived your first downpour, most of your clothes are going to be covered in muck anyway, you don’t need new stuff.

7. Bring home your tent

Try to position your tent away from the pathways and put it in a cluster of other (bigger) tents, that way it is less likely to be accidentally trampled or broken and you can bring it home with you, meaning you don’t have to buy yet another one for the next festival. Resist the urge to abandon it just because it’s heavy to carry back to the car. This applies for all your other gear too: sleeping bag, mat, chair etc.

8. Don’t bother with a tent in the first place

If you are planning to stay up all night and party 24hours, or are 90% sure of a possible hook-up, then there really isn’t much point in buying or carrying a tent that you are not going to use. Find a buddy where you can stash your stuff then go forth and befriend the night-people. Just be careful that you don’t slip into the role of prostitute/rent boy in search for somewhere to sleep: have a plan B.

9. When you get there, avoid the gimmicks

T-shirts, hats, ponchos, jewellery, home décor – all so shiny and pretty (especially now that you are half-cut). If you can name it you can buy it somewhere at that festival, but you really don’t need to. Look, touch, try not to break anything and keep your wallet in your pocket. Remember anything you buy you have to carry home, plus money spent on gimmicks cannot be spent on beer.

10. Don’t bother bringing your own food or drink.

Camping is MILES from the festival action so you invariably end up buying food from the stalls in between gigs and throwing out whatever you brought with you, while carrying drink the whole way up to the campsite weighs SO MUCH that unless you are also bringing a rugby team to carry your stuff it’s just not worth it.

Faking-it as a Festival Fashionista

Cathy at Glastonbury

Unless you’re a member of the Haus of Gaga, live in New York or are a Goth it is considered inappropriate to wear what basically constitutes fancy-dress outside of the bedroom. There are only two exceptions: Halloween and Festivals.

Music festivals offer a chance to experience the catwalk less walked and use your wardrobe to express an uninhibited alter ego. However, be warned, this is not a legitimate opportunity for mutton to dress as lamb; but rather a rare moment in time where reality and taste are temporarily suspended – a little like in Shakespearean plays when young boys are believable as women and old men can be feisty young lovers. That said, no illusion can survive an Irish downpour and only water nymphs and Kate Moss look good half drowned and covered in muck, for the rest of us mortals we need a few tricks up our sleeves, which can be the difference between Boho-chic or Katrina survivor.


Fashionista 1

Wellies should be as mandatory as a ticket for any festival because nothing else can withstand the muck. Unless you have a backstage-pass to the paved paths of celeb-land, ignore the glossy photos in Elle Magazine – that life is not for you – you will be with the great unwashed last seen on a BBC documentary with a David Attenbourgh voiceover.

The quandary of festival dressing has always been the harmonization of the practical rubber lower half with the rock chick upper half without looking like your Mum in old clothes doing the gardening. There are a couple of possible combinations;

  1. Hotpants with tights, knee-socks (hidden or visible) to make the wellies wearable, and a band tee-shirt. Think college-student; avoid anything reminiscent of the Cheeky Girls.
  2. Tight combats, knee-high Doc boots (the only substitute for wellies), and a death rock tee-shirt of choice, preferably with day-go symbols. Do not be tempted by the Army Surplus Store, nothing good can come from it. Look to Pink for inspiration, rock it up with spiky hair and plastic accessories.
  3. Hark back to Woodstock and be 70’s inspired. Pretty dress or folk-frock combined with neutral knee-socks (again the only thing to avoid slap-leg from the rim of the wellie), a cardigan and necklaces. Think Lily Allen and accentuate with hair accessories and colourful makeup. Avoid anything Ugly Betty-esque. (70’s style maxi-dresses in theory are great – but when you pair them with wellies you look ridiculous – consider only if attending festival in the Sahara.)
  4. Stretch skinny jeans tucked into the wellies with a glam-rock tee-shirt will give the perfect Kate Moss inspired outfit. Add a large gold star over your eye with face paints and propel this look into Agness Dynes’ stratosphere.
  5. Actual fancy dress. This is a golden opportunity to dress as Wonder Women in front of people who don’t know you and therefore can’t tell sarcastic stories highlighting the many ways in which you do not have super-powers.


Fashionista Hair

For all the wonders of baby wipes they can do nothing for your hair.

Long hair should be scooped into a ponytail/bun and left there. Pale pasty people should not be tempted by corn rows unless you can compare to Sinead O’Connor with a shaved head or else you will end up looking like white-trash.

For shorter hair try dry shampoo, a Whigfield/Miley inspired up-do, a front quiff with gel-back sides, or accessorise with Alice bands, head bands or even a wig.

Alternatively cheat and get a hat. Try cowboy, beanie, bowler or peaked, one will suit your face shape and hair style, just make sure it also suit’s the rest of the ensemble.


Sunglasses are as essential as the wellies, as is the shoulder bag that can carry a hoody, poncho/raincoat, bog-roll, baby-wipes and black sacks to survive between gigs and the spontaneous rainstorms. A leather jacket should only be considered in drought conditions. With makeup either go naked or Gwen Staffani it – nothing in between will be worth the spots caused by a lax cleaning regime.