How many friends have I tried to persuade to give the festival experience a go with the sole reason for a refusal being the fear of the dreaded festival toilet facilities. Urban myth or shitty reality? Here's an honest view of the most dreaded aspect of festival going...
Let's face it. Most of us have tried not to use the loos for a 3 or 4 day period but as much as dodgy burgers and chips stop the metabolic process it is only a question of time before nature knocks on your tent door and you know you no longer have a choice. There are various different forms of facility on a festival site broadly falling into the following categories;
photo by David James
The Rolls Royce option (we are talking relatively here!) and if, yes it's a big if, they have been treated with respect by the hundreds of people who have shared each one preceding you. They are private and lockable, and for the ladies this is a godsend given the boys tendency to not bother looking before barging into a cubicle. Sometimes they flush too which helps keep the environment relatively pleasant. The drawbacks are; you are confined by four walls and hence the stench can be unforgiving, if the weather is warm you will not want to finish the entire Sunday paper as it gets very stifling in there, they are dark at night (and you want to be very sure where you sitting!), the queues are much longer than for other forms of facility and they are more difficult to hover (see below) over successfully. There is one other drawback but I would have thought the chances of anyone suffering its consequences are remote, thank god, and that is they are independently moveable.
"Once when innocently queuing for a number 2, I was startled to see emerge from over a small hill a punk looking man running as fast as his legs would carry him, eyes fixed on his target, a portaloo. When he was approximately 6 feet from it he launched himself into the air and attacked the portaloo about two thirds of the way up with a well executed kung-fu kick. The portaloo put up no resistance and fell flat on its side. Stunned silence for a few seconds before a faint stoned voice could be heard from within the cubicle 'help! I'm covered in shit' at which point the punk and some of his mates were rolling around the floor laughing hysterically (he was an acquaintance of theirs). Harsh as it may seem we all joined in."
These are large metal frames, which are placed strategically over a large slurry pit dug in the ground. They contain about 20 cubicles in each frame. Basic as they sound they provide some of the most hygienic of all the facilities. The cubicles have small doors, which don't lock (which leads to lots of unintentional intrusions - you would be amazed at some of the contortions some people are capable of), they have no roof (a mixed blessing if it's peeing with rain geddit!!) and consist of a raised platform with a hole in it covered with a small seat. Due to the low level of the seat these are better for hovering (see below). Benefits of these 'slurry pits' are; usually few if any queues as they are not somewhere you want to hang around and read Hello magazine, they are open air and subsequently kinder on the nose and they are lit. Drawbacks are; Intrusions, open to the elements, they're knackered and old, the dangers of the structure collapsing (god forbid!), the risk of dropping stuff down the hole (as a member of the efestivals crew can testify this year - an expensive digicam!) and the view if you do look down which I don't have to describe!). They have a bad reputation, which leads to talk of dodgy loos in general, but although you might find the odd mishap (?!) they are often preferable to most portaloos. The slurry pits are emptied everyday or so using affectionately termed 'shit trucks' and a giant hoover so if your timing is good it could be a more pleasant experience than normal.
"At a recent Glastonbury Festival a member of one of the shit truck teams found himself literally 'in the shit' by making a simple but very serious mistake of pushing the pump out button instead of the pump in button on his 'shit wagon'. Unfortunately this resulted in covering the floor of the dance tent with the previous days excrement that had just been hoovered up from a nearby facility. The dance tent was subsequently closed for several hours as a clean up operation ensued. 'Shit truck' employees now possess 2 independent keys, akin to the US nuclear trigger, that are needed to press the pump out button. The DJ playing at the time was very depressed at seeing the masses running from the tent until someone explained."
Some hovering advice
Let's face it you don't really want to sit at all hence the necessity of hovering. Many a sight of white-knuckle grips betray the fact that most people hover at festivals and besides it's good for toning the thighs. So how's it done?Â Â
- The wall grab - This involves assuming a star position and gripping the top of the metal walls on either side thus supporting your hover.
- The door grab - A little more risky but less likely to lead to muscle strain this involves gripping the bottom of the cubicle door. Beware someone opening it regardless - most embarrassing!
- The squat - Involves squatting on the platform. Be careful not to slip.
- The expert skiers gamble - For those with very strong thighs only, this is a no-frills hover. You have been warned.
The Water Aid cubicles
Peculiar to Glastonbury these are the 'continental' type holes in the ground with footprints either side. Possibly the most pleasant and definitely the most hygienic, these are often raved about as they have buckets of water and brushes available for destroying any evidence or removing any unwanted spillages (which after a few pints and whatever else are a distinct likelihood). You must take a torch when using these after dark as there is no light and you wouldn't want to put a foot wrong (so to speak)! Read more about Water Aid and their aims here.
For those blessed with the ability to relieve themselves standing up then there are plenty of urinals that come in various forms. Usually they are a copy of the French pissoir, much to the amusement of passers by that can watch various facial expressions invariably result. At T in the Park they are formed in a square that results in a very communal pee and you can have a conversation with someone opposite to relieve any boredom as well as bladders. Hedges should not be an option as after 3 days the consequences are clear not to mention the local wildlife's objections. Tempting as it is, please don't.
the sweetest smelling.
Don't let the toilet facilities put you off. They are no different to any outdoor event in this country and can at times be more practical. Decent toilet facilities can always be found somewhere; try the facilities away from the main camping areas. We don't want to hear any excuses as it is not much to have to put up with for a few days. Believe me there are a thousand reasons to go to a festival and if this is the only reason you can think of not to go then you are missing out.
Next time you go or if it's your first time - HAVE A GOOD ONE!!!!!!!!