At the beginning of this year, my best friend and I agreed that we really wanted to go to a music festival. Sure enough, we got googling, and it wasn’t long before we stumbled across a festival in the UK with tickets still available and a line-up we both liked: Park Life.
And so, just a few weeks ago, we made the mammoth trip from the Forest of Dean to Manchester for a fun-filled weekend, featuring an eclectic mix of live music, tasty food for even the most inconvenient foodies – that’s us – and a whole lot of mud!
Unlike a lot of other major festivals, camping isn’t allowed at Park Life. Instead, guests from further afield are asked to find another place to stay overnight, be it a friend’s sofa or a nearby hotel. We booked a double room at Innside Manchester Hotel, located in the heart of the city and about 20 minutes away from Heaton Park, the festival site.
The hotel was super contemporary, had a fancy spa, evening entertainment and an elaborate breakfast buffet. Honestly, it was amazing – and way over the top for what we needed! It was a complete steal on booking.com, however, and the location was perfect. Plus, coming back to such a nice hotel after a long and muddy day in the rain felt ridiculously good, even if it was cheating.
On the first day of the festival, we woke up feeling excited and (naively) optimistic about the weather. We left our wellies in our suitcases and laced up our converse, ready to catch the 135 bus from the city centre to Heaton Park.
Of course, it started to rain as soon as we arrived and the two of us quickly realised that we’d be going home with some very battered pairs of converse, if we even made it home with them at all!
We got a couple of beers and walked around the park to become familiar with where the different stages were and, more importantly, where we wanted to eat.
Now, I’m an IBS-ridden veggie and my friend is vegan so you can imagine how worried we were about being able to even feed ourselves over the weekend, but we were pleasantly surprised. The organisers had ensured there was something to satisfy all appetites and dietary requirements.
We stayed at the Big Top for almost all of the first day. The Big Top was the festival’s second main stage, I guess. Early acts included Anne-Marie, Submotion Orchestra and Fat White Family, all of which were new to us but nevertheless fun to watch.
The final four acts on stage, however, were four of my favourites: Blossoms, Jack Garratt, Wolf Alice and Bastille. Every single one put on a fantastic performance and made the entire crowd come to life, dancing and singing along carelessly.
We did dip out of Wolf Alice’s set for a bit of food and another drink, and to catch a snippet of Ice Cube performing on the Main Stage. I’d say he’s definitely still got it but it’s Ice Cube – did he ever really lose it?
We left the park a little bit early on the first day, conscious of how hectic trying to get home with the rest of the crowd would be. But everybody seemed to have the same idea. We were among the lucky ones who were let on to one of the last 135 buses back to the city centre that night.
Others either had to hitchhike or pay for a taxi back to the city centre because the buses, already filled to the brim, wouldn’t let them on.
We had planned to go out that night, but the long and stuffy bus ride back to the hotel finished us off. Both of us were absolutely shattered, and just wanted to put our feet up and enjoy a nice cup of tea before getting some rest ahead of the second day. And, that’s exactly what we did.
The second day started much in the same way as the first, although this time weren’t going to be caught out by the weather and had put our feet firmly into our wellies.
Again, once we arrived, we moved around the park. Neither of us are big dance or dubstep fans but we visited a couple of the smaller stages playing this kind of music and got involved.
Later, we split our time a lot more between the Big Top and the Main Stage, and managed to catch 99 Souls; SG Lewis; Katy B; Jess Glynne; Annie Mac; Skepta; and, Major Lazer. We left halfway through Major Lazer, Park Life’s closing act, simply because they’d already played the only songs we knew.
Our early exit made for a much calmer bus ride back to the hotel, where we enjoyed a drink at the bar before heading to bed.