Volunteering at Leeds Festival – By Poppy Johnson


This time last week I was in a very muddy field with a group of my best friends surrounded by music from some of the best bands and musicians in the world.

Festivals are one of my favourite things and I’ve always said that there’s no reason to enjoy them any less if you’re diabetic – you just need to take a little extra care!

My week started with a lot of camping equipment to lug around in very warm weather. I check my BG and as expected its 4.2, feeling a little shaky. Of course I’d prepared myself with a whole range of hypo cures as I knew there’d be a lot of activity and irregular mealtimes over the weekend. Mini packs of Haribo sweets quickly became my most reliable companions. Not only were they effective in bringing my blood sugars back up but they were small enough to stash pretty much anywhere, including my best friends’ pockets and tent (although he also found them to be a tasty snack when his energy levels were dropping!)

The Wednesday and Thursday were mainly spent socialising with the other volunteers and a handful of friends who had arrived early. A particular low point was my first shift from 1 until 9am on Thursday morning. I spent eight very cold hours patrolling an empty campsite with a handful of friendly fellow volunteers. However it led me to a glorious Thursday day spent relaxing with my friends, on just an hour’s sleep – oops!

The storms on Thursday night had been horrendous but the mud wasn’t going to stop us from our annual tradition of Leeds fest cheesy chips! Not the healthiest of meals but they’re filling, tasty and have a respectable amount of around 55g of carbs. My Friday night shift saw me sat through more storms and relentless poring rain but I was soon ready for Saturday, my full day off and main day for music.

The sludgy thick mud and continuous rain didn’t deter us from seeing a huge range of acts from Peace and Frank Turner to Skrillex and Green Day. Each act I caught were amazing in there own right and I’d almost forgotten how amazing it looks, feels and sounds to be in a crowd of hundreds singing along! Saturday night was a joyful affair with campfire food and a group sing-along with a guitar and some close friends, hilarious and amazing.

An early start on Sunday with my 9-5 shift spent squelching our way through blue campsite talking to and helping out the campers. Because of the thickness of the mud, the bags we carried and the distance we covered it was very strenuous exercise. My teammates were really understanding and we took regular BG checking breaks and refuelled on sandwiches and ice lollies in the sun(!).
Sunday evening allowed me the pleasure of seeing Jake Bugg, Foals, Alt-J and Eminem – yet another mix – before we headed back to the pick up carpark. Extremely muddy and tired, the Haribos helped me and my non-diabetic friends out yet again in getting us home safely.

Ultimately I had a fantastic weekend full of brilliant music and quality time with my friends. I was also happy to realise that my average BG reading over the week was 6.6 – a great success! Being able to balance your diabetes and a festival experience may seen daunting but preparation and some supportive friends make it no more difficult than putting up a tent!

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