‘Unchaperoned, unexpected and unknown to my parents’: Guardian readers share teenage festival stories

As a licensing change denies unchaperoned under-18s entry to one of Australia’s biggest festivals, we asked readers to recount their own experience

This week teenagers in Australia learned they would need a chaperone to attend one of the country’s biggest music festivals, Splendour in the Grass, after the festival changed its terms and conditions of entry less than two weeks out from the event.

Guardian Australia staff shared their own stories about being supervised (or not) at music festivals, and we asked readers to share with us their own moments of teenage festival frivolity.

Ben_Mc said he had thebest weekend of my life” at Glastonbury 2005, completely unsupervised, shortly after he finished his GCSEs.

Never before or since have I had such a mix of euphoria and a sense of the whole world ahead of me. The highlight was dancing in the moshpit to Primal Scream and throwing around all the hay that had been laid down to soak up the mud. We were all much better behaved at 16 than later on in our 20s. Said no to drugs and it wasn’t until two years later that I tried my first cigarette. It really makes me sad that this experience is being denied to teens today.

S_Bee_ didn’t just attend a festival on her own as a teen, she went backstage on her own!

Baby Animals were touring their debut album and I was desperate to go! A friend from school felt the same and the best thing was her mum worked for Ticketek, and usually at the box office at Thebarton theatre [in South Australia], so not only did we get to go unsupervised (mostly) but we were let in before the doors opened, so we were front and centre for the whole show. It was where my love of moshpits began!

WordChazer’s second concert (to see Jean-Michel Jarre in London in 1988) was his most memorable. It’s quite a tale:

My dad and I were going to go to the original date (24 September), then that was cancelled and rescheduled for 7 and 8 October. I had just finished freshers’ week at a northern uni, but my new boyfriend and I played hooky and travelled down on the coach for Saturday night. We stayed in a YHA on the Friday evening and then planned to travel back on the overnight coach on Saturday after the concert. On the day it was cold, wet and windy. I had £10 in my purse and had left my credit card in my room back at uni. But we were there. And it was every bit as mind-blowing as I thought it would be. After the concert thousands of people crammed onto the tube and the police were directing people to get onto the next train regardless of where it was going. So we ended up going the wrong way round the Circle line, which cost us time we didn’t have.

Arriving at Victoria station (pre-Coach Station days) we found we’d missed our coach due to the delays getting out of the event. We settled down with several others who had suffered the same fate and slept in turns on the floor of Victoria station concourse, being woken up by the transport police at 6am. By then I had a raging cold and earache, no painkillers and very little money left. We eventually managed to get booked onto a return coach so we could sleep the whole way back up north.

I’ve been to many gigs since, and some of those have been epic, but that one tops it all for the adventure. Unchaperoned, unexpected and unknown to my parents until afterwards.

Pilipilihoho describes himself as a “rebellious and difficult oldest child” growing up in a household where adults acted like children and thought he was “grown up” before his teens.

I was often left in charge of my younger siblings, and also often had the last word when parting and soothing the self-same fighting parents. I also got used to demanding my own way – after all, the parents were distracted by the fighting and also I assume that they may have felt some guilt at the childish behaviours and emotional harm they were heaping on me. However both parents, and particularly my father, lost authority with me and at 15 I lobbied hard to be allowed to go to Reading rock festival on my own. Finally they agreed.

I was dropped off outside the festival and walked in completely alone. It was a hot sunny day in 1979, I walked in behind a woman with the longest, most beautiful blonde hair I had ever seen. When I passed her and looked back I realised it was a biker with a beard to his knees to match. I narrowly missed watching the Dammed as my first band but they were ‘bottled off’, and instead I watched a band called the Purple Hearts. I was unlucky with the Damned, I didn’t manage to see them for another 20 years. That first festival I stood at the front barrier all day each day and watched almost all the bands. I remember seeing Patti Smith and thinking she seemed quite tiny, shockingly I can’t remember the other headliners.

Even though he was unchaperoned, pilipilihoho doesn’t know if he could do the same to his own kids.

Every night at midnight, my visibly anxious parents met me on Caversham Bridge and drove me over an hour home and then back the next day. My ears have still not stopped ringing. And with each of my children, when they were 15 I couldn’t imagine letting them enter a festival alone. Who would ever let their 15-year-old daughter go to Reading rock festival alone?


Guardian readers

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