Shitty tents. As in, these are tents covered in people’s shit.
Until recently, a typical Sunday night in the Reading Festival campsite was like living in a version ofd’Annunzio’s Fiume governed by 50,000 idiots who’d consumed nothing but internet drugs and weak lager for five days straight. Towering bonfires, constant explosions, teenagers ripping the roofs off portaloos and makeshift wrestling arenas made out of large metal fences were commonplace. However, in the last couple of years, festival organisers and the Thames Valley Police have started to crack down on the carnage, leaving nothing to fill the void but regret and – as I would discover – outbreaks of coprophilia.
I went along to see if I could make some new friends.
The first person I bumped into was a guy dressed, with depressing predictability, as Pikachu, who told me he’d met a bunch of Welsh guys who had shit on their own tents so that no one would steal them. What followed was the single most pointless conversation I’ve ever had.
VICE: Hi, what’s going on?
“Kraynam”: My name is Kraynam, I come from Tonypandy and I always fuck on the first date. That’s all you need to know. Why are you following us, you fat slag?
Because I’m intrigued as to why you shit on your own tent?
It was Bowen, it was. You will go on my first whistle. The fuckin’ big bit of ket that was hanging out of my nose, you will go on my second whistle. That’s all I’m going to give you, I’m afraid.
Why did Bowen shit on your tent?
Bowen? ‘Cos he needed a shit. Bowen, you cunt, where are you?
What about you? Can you tell me why you’ve taken a dump on your own tent?
Charlie: ‘Cos it was fun. Everyone did it. Can you not see it everywhere?
Because it was fun? Was there not a more thought-out reason than that?
You’re standing in the shit. There’s shit everywhere. Someone’s done a shit on the floor.
Hey, Steward #1209, what happened to all the fires?
Steward #1209: Campfires are now banned on Sunday nights. It’s our job to put them out.
Have you been here for the Sunday night riots in the past?
Yeah, I’ve been coming for years. They used to be so fucking awesome. Everything was on fire – it was brilliant. It’s been shit since they stopped all that.
Given your sole responsibility is to extinguish campfires, wouldn’t you rather no one started any?
Erm, well, it’s all for fun, isn’t it?
I found this guy walking around with a split lip, crying into his vodka. The only words he could muster were “Limp Bizkit”. I’m not sure whether he’d lodged himself in some disturbing drugs hole, where an image of Fred Durst desperately trying to remain relevant was on a constant loop in his brain, or whether the Twitter rumours going round of their permanent break-up had bummed him out really, really hard. Either way, I let him wander forlornly into the night, because I didn’t want to think about Limp Bizkit any more.
Hey, guys. Who are you and what’s going on?
Adult Baby: I’m Adult Baby, this is Booze-a-Tron, that is Banana and he is called Penguin.
What are you guys doing?
We are looking to eat and fuck and fuck what we eat. Do you work for the local paper?
Something like that.
Tell my mother I said “Hi.”
I’ll be sure to pass it on.
I found this guy eating chips off the floor. The only name he would give me was “Ginger Spice”, which wasn’t too enlightening, but I did find out that he liked to let his genitals do the talking, and they were in the mood to talk to my leg. As much as I enjoy being subjected to mild sexual abuse, I thought it wise to move on.
The thing about not letting people set fire to their rubbish is that you just end up with piles of old tents and camping chairs like this, rather than putrid, toxic smoke and the very real risk of someone burning to death. Which, y’know, is a shame.
Ah, the old toilet paper prank. Classic! A solid rule for Sunday night at Reading is to try your hardest to stay awake, because let me tell you now, the potential for antics is off the scale. Drawing on a sleeping man’s face, pissing in his shoes or placing his exposed leg on the burning embers of a shopping trolley is all fair game, so you’re going to want to stay firmly on the lash if you want a chance at avoiding any of that, mate.
Hi, what’s your name?
What’s with all the drama?
Those guys over there are kicking off because we all jumped on one of their tents and fucked all their shit up.
Why did you do that?
We thought it was funny. Now this girl is screaming at us.
At least you didn’t set anything on fire.
They won’t let us burn anything. We tried, but then the Ghostbusters came and put it out. It’s fucking lame.
Finally, I came across some Sunday night Reading OGs. Southampton fans ready to throw caution to the wind and set fire to a Portsmouth FC flag. There was a girl screaming at them to stop, but that didn’t faze the guy in the yellow T-shirt, who kept shouting, “THIS MEANS SOMETHING TO ME.” A sound justification of arson, if ever I’ve heard one.
The fire started to spread and, sure enough, a security guard ambled up and set about extinguishing the flames with a can of Dutch lager, which is apparently how the Australian authorities are taught to combat forest fires.
At this point, the smell in the campsite would usually be masked by the aroma of gasoline and burning nylon, but much like the sad fate that has blighted this nation’s pubs and nightclubs since the smoking ban was introduced, the air hung heavy with the stench of stale beer, fresh urine and 50,000 sets of broken dreams.
Oh, and human shit. Which you can see smeared all over that tent.