Sunday 7 July 2013

Can't make it to the festivals this summer? Then bring the festivals to you!

Glastonbury 2013: Photo by Ed Conway

According to this article in the Daily Telegraph last year, the cost of a typical night out in London is £330. That includes a hotel, though since I live on the outskirts of London I wouldn't need to do that - but even without the hotel, and factoring in the cost of a taxi home, I reckon the tally for a big night out could easily come in at north of £200.

So it's a lot cheaper to stay home and have a big night in, right? Wrong... according to this article in Metro, the cost of hosting a Saturday night in for four people is a whopping £174!

MoneySupermarket has given me £50 to show you how you can have a big night in on a budget. Regular readers will know how much I like theme parties, so I decided to have a big night in - festival style!

V Festival, a few years ago (above and below)
Glastonbury tickets cost £205 this year and sold out in an hour. Bestival is so expensive that you can buy tickets on a five-week payment plan. And with the extra cost for food and drink, and all the camping equipment you'll need to buy (I have it on good authority most things are only good for throwing away at the end), then going to a festival this summer is a really pricey weekend away.

That's before you take into account the good old British weather (so that's rain and mud), the queues for food and drink, the state of the toilets, running out of mobile battery and not being able to find your friends... don't get me wrong, some people live for the festival season and have a fantastic time. But not everyone can afford to go, or fancies the idea of camping - so if you can't get to the festivals this summer, I'm going to show you how to bring the festivals to you!

What's more, I'm going to show you how to do it on a budget, with some ideas for how you can push the boat out if money isn't so much of an issue.

Step one: invite your mates
It's not a big night in without your friends... so invite your BFFs and tell them the dress code is "festival chic". Whether that means Kate Moss-style boho chic or an animal onesie, wear whatever you would wear to a festival. Which means don't forget the wellies!

On a £50 budget? 
  • Hunt around in your wardrobe and throw an outfit together - wellies, shorts, a fringed top and a big belt are a good starting point. Or if you already have an animal onesie... 
  • Use a free online evite to invite your friends, or set up a Facebook group. Don't forget to set it to "friends only" or your big night in might be bigger than you expect!

On a bigger budget?
  • Make or buy invitations and post them to your friends with a festival survival kit. You can put together a really fun goody bag to give them a flavour of the festival theme: you could include a packet of wet wipes, a travel-sized can of dry shampoo, a bottle opener and a cheap disposable plastic poncho for when it rains.
I spent:
Nothing, I used evites and texted friends and wore clothes I already owned.

Step two: sort out the music

The most important part of a festival is the music. Decide what kind of festival you are having: Glastonbury, Woodstock-retro, WOMAD etc and dig out some CDs to fit.

On a £50 budget?
  • See what you have in your own music collection and scour your friends' shelves and iTunes playlists. 
  • Check out the charity shops and don't forget second-hand sellers on the likes of Amazon and
  • As well as festival mixes, you could play anything by artists who have featured at or headlined the major music festivals, which gives you plenty of choice whether your musical taste is more Rolling Stones, Coldplay or Beyonce.
  • If you have a friend who plays the guitar, invite them to come round and jam... or persuade your friends after a few drinks to have a go at karaoke!
Got a bigger budget?  Hire a local band to come and play in your back garden!

I spent: I have plenty of CDs (which shows my age - my music is hard copy rather than digital!) of artists who have headlined festivals. But for me, the festival that really sticks in my mind is Glastonbury 1997. I didn't go, but I had just finished my A-Levels and rented a cottage in Cornwall with some friends. It rained almost all the time, so we spent our days watching Wimbledon and our nights watching Glastonbury. I didn't like Blur or Oasis before that holiday - by the time I came home, I was hooked. 1997 was the height of the Blur/Oasis rivalry and the time of Britpop, so I was thrilled when I found this CD on Amazon. It cost £15.99 new and was also available from a second hand seller and only cost me £1.98 including postage. For the other music, I used CDs I already owned.

Step three: Create the atmosphere
You want people to realise they are stepping through your doorway and into a festival! So it's important to create the decor and get into the spirit of things.
  • If you have a friend who has a tent, ask them to pitch it in your garden - or even in the middle of your living room (if it's the child's pop-up kind that doesn't need pegs). You can dance around it and pretend you are at a festival - and crawl inside for a swift 40 winks when it all gets a bit too much.
  • Bunting is always fun and you can either buy it or make your own. Think about lighting for atmosphere too.
  • When people arrive, give them a wristband and a lanyard, and if you want to go one step further, create your own festival programme.
  • And to truly recreate the atmosphere of a festival, make your friends queue for an hour to use the loo and encourage them to roll in the mud! (Maybe not).
Pack of 5 wristbands from Ebay

On a £50 budget?
  • Borrow a tent from a friend, or sign up to your local Freecycle group and see if you can get- or even borrow- one. I joined my local Freecycle group, explained I wanted to borrow a tent for use at home and would return it in good condition, and within five minutes I had an offer of a tent... and within a couple of days I had half a dozen offers!
  • Alternatively look on Ebay - there are a lot of tents with 99p starting prices if you are able to collect them yourself. 
  • Make your own bunting, either from fabric offcuts, coloured paper, or if you have children, getting them to colour in and draw pictures on triangles of paper that you then thread together with string. 
  • Put some tea light candles in jam jars around your garden or patio or leading up to your front door.
  • Put up some posters of your favourite bands around the house.
  • Pop to one of the "everything for a pound" shops or a car boot sale and see what you can find.
Paper lanterns (not the kind that float up into the air)

On a bigger budget?
  • Buy a tent - Tesco actually has some very reasonably-priced ones, starting from just £8 at the time of writing, or if you think you might actually go camping, invest in a better quality one from an outdoor shop. 
  • Buy bunting - as much as possible. 
  • I also found some tie-dye festival themed party ware on that looked pretty cool, but buying paper plates, cups and napkins printed with a pattern - and paying the £3.95 postage - wasn't quite within my £50 budget.
  • This fake campfire is pricy but would be a great focal point!
This tent is only £8 at Tesco

 I spent: I was offered a tent (well, several) on Freecycle for free, which was fantastic. If I had a big enough garden I could have put them all up with signs calling them "Pyramid stage", "Food tent", "Chill-out area" etc.
I bought some bunting for 99p from 99p Stores and also got a pack of three paper lanterns from the same shop. These are not intended for indoor use, so I put them along my path leading up to my front door. Finally, I bought a Leeds Festival 2013 poster from Ebay for 99p plus 25p postage which I put up on the wall. If only I had all my old posters from Smash Hits magazine as well!

Step four: hand out some festival essentials

Silly hats, glo-sticks, whistles and the like are de-rigeur at festivals and will add to the atmosphere at your party.
On a £50 budget?  Shop around on the internet, Ebay and in pound shops to pick up whistles, glow sticks, neon bracelets, etc.

Got a bigger budget?  Provide a whole fancy dress box. If your festival theme is taking its cue from Bestival, then you can go all-out on the animal costumes. Otherwise why not provide rock'n'roll wigs, Kanye West style shutter shade sunglasses, inflatable guitars - just use your imagination!
I spent: Packet of Glo-Sticks from Amazon: £1.62 including postage. Pack of neon whistles: £3.25 (I got a multi-pack so more than I needed but this was the cheapest option). Bubble wand for blowing giant bubbles: 99p from 99p Stores.

Step five: Feed the masses

Festivals these days are quite gourmet affairs, with foods from all around the world on offer, as well as many organic and vegan options. Depending on how many guests are coming and what kind of food they prefer you could make a couple of different choices: perhaps burgers and a noodle dish. And don't forget something sweet for dessert! To make it really authentic, serve the food on paper plates or in polystyrene boxes. To drink, festival favourites include cans of cider and beer and Pimms and lemonade served in plastic pint glasses (and often served warm!). Don't forget soft drinks and plenty of water - bottled water for the festival feel.

On a £50 budget? Use some store cupboard staples and buy food that will stretch a long way - so Wagyu burgers are probably out. Noodle dishes are cheap and filling and a shoulder of pork goes a long way - slow cook it and shred to make pulled pork, which you can serve in buns. Also see what your local supermarket or butcher has on offer and plan your menu around that. In terms of drinks, get your friends to bring a bottle- it's quite common for people to turn up at festivals pushing wheelbarrows filled with beer. You can often save money by seeing what is on offer in the local supermarket, and buying 2 litre bottles of cider rather than cans.

On a bigger budget? Anything you fancy - and you can afford to give your guests the choice between different kinds of food. And if money really is no onject, you can hire a food van to park outside and serve your guests! To drink, buy bottles of Pimms, plus beer, cider, wine - whatever your friends like (but remember to drink responsibly). 

I spent: I decided to make pulled pork and potato wedges, and churros - a kind of deep fried doughnut that I've seen before at outdoor events - for dessert. For me, festival drinks always has to be Strongbow and/or Pimms. I found an offer at Tesco for two four-packs of Strongbow (large cans) for £7 and two bottles of wine for £5. I also was lucky enough to find Pimms on special offer at Tesco, so I got a 1 litre bottle for £12. I had some ingredients already in the cupboard that I needed for the food so in total I spent £33.35 on food and drink, but could have cut that by buying less booze and asking my guests to bring a bottle if I wanted. If you want to recreate my menu yourself, here are the recipes:

Pulled Pork

I made this in my slow cooker; it's also possible to cook in the oven and there are plenty of recipes online. Here's what I did.
You need:
1 onion, cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, whole
400ml chicken stock
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
large boneless pork shoulder
to serve:
bread rolls
barbecue sauce

Mix the brown sugar, chilli powder, salt, cumin, coriander and cinnamon in a bowl and rub into the pork.

Chop the onion and place in the slow cooker with the garlic and pork shoulder then pour the chicken stock and any of the leftover seasoning over the top.

The wonderful thing about slow cookers is that you can put them on in the morning and come home to a ready-cooked meal: in this case, a beautiful slow cooked pork shoulder.

Simply shred the pork - this is why it is called "pulled"

Serve in a bun with plenty of rocket and barbecue sauce (can of cider optional!)

Potato Wedges

These go really well with the pulled pork and are also the sort of food you might find at a fair or festival (and they make a nice change from chips). They are very easy to make:

Slice potatoes into wedges

Spray with BBQ Fry Light for a lower-fat option. Alternatively, drizzle with oil and sprinkle over cayenne pepper.

These take about an hour in the oven; turn once or twice.

Churros and Chocolate Sauce

I had churros at a fair once and they are definitely the sort of food you find served from stalls at festivals. I had no idea they were so easy to make, though you do need to be careful with the frying.

You need:
350ml boiling water
50g melted butter
1 tsp vanilla flavouring or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
about half a litre of sunflower oil
100g plain chocolate
60ml double cream
2 tbsp golden syrup

Mix the boiling water, melted butter and vanilla flavouring

Put the flour and baking powder in a bowl, make a well and gradually stir in the liquid until you have a dough. Leave to stand while you make the chocolate sauce.

To make the chocolate sauce, place the chocolate (broken up into chunks) and the cream in a saucepan, and stir over a medium heat until the chocolate is melted. Then stir in the golden syrup so you have a thick, glossy sauce.

Put the churros mixture into a piping bag fitted with a wide star nozzle. Pour about half a litre of oil in a deep saucepan and bring to the boil. Very carefully pipe out sections of the dough to about 4-5 inches in length, and snip off with a pair of scissors. I did this straight into the pan of boiling oil; I didn't get splashed at all but you do need to be careful.  As soon the dough hits the oil it will start to bubble and froth.

I did about three pieces in the pan at once - try to make sure they don't touch when you pipe them in, or they will stay attached as they cook. They only need about 30 seconds until they are cooked. Carefully lift out with a slotted spoon and repeat until you have used up all the dough.

For the uninitiated, churros taste a lot like doughnuts - they are nice simply sprinkled with sugar and eaten hot.

 They are also great dipped in chocolate or, as you can see here, with the chocolate sauce poured over the top. A great festival-style dessert that is sure to go down well with your guests - and they are really cheap to make!

Step six: Play some games

There are always times at festivals where you are sitting down waiting for the band you like to come on, or sitting around your campfire or disposable barbecue eating and drinking. Now, it wouldn't be particularly responsible of me to suggest you play drinking games... and you probably have your own ideas of what you do to chill out or fill the down time at festivals anyway. But if you are having a festival-themed Big Night In, here are a few fun ideas that cost very little and can be a lot of fun.

  • Festival Top Trumps: remember Top Trumps, where you have a set of cards featuring different characters and you pick out one of their attributes, challenge an opponent and hope the score on your chosen character's card beats theirs? Over the years there have been all sorts of themed Top Trumps come out, including football teams, Marvel superheroes, and even a royal wedding game set in 2011. I came across Festival Top Trumps on Amazon for the bargain price of £1.99. The cards show different festivals, listing how many people attend, how long the festival has been going for, and it's coolness rating, and there are other cards featuring famous festival goers such as Kate Moss. It's a good way to while away half an hour! 
  • If you were feeling particularly creative and thrifty you could even make your own festival Top Trumps, which would allow you to personalise the cards for festivals you have attended and bands you like.

  • Glastonbury Headliners Quiz - you all probably know that the Rolling Stones were headlining last year, but who was it last year? And which year was Coldplay again? And who were the first headliners back in the day? I put together a quiz (based on information from Wikipedia), listing the acts down one side of the page and the years they headlined down the other side, jumbled up of course. The idea is to draw lines linking the act to the correct year they performed. You can offer a prize for the winner (or closest number of right answers) or a booby prize for the loser. 

If you want to create your own, here is the list of acts and the years they headlined in the correct order.  Don't forget to jumble them up before you print them out!

2013 – Rolling Stones
2011 – Beyonce
2009- Bruce Springsteen
2008- Jay Z
2007 – The Who
2003- REM
2000- David Bowie
1998 – Blur
1995- Oasis
1992- Carter USM
1990 – Happy Mondays

1986 – The Cure
  • Guess the intro gane - it wouldn't be a music festival without a music quiz. Play short snippets of the beginning of tracks - it's easiest to use a compilation album for this - and ask your guests to identify the artist or the song or both.
A prize for the lucky winner!
Step seven: chill out and recover afterwards!

A greasy spoon fry up would be the ideal way for me to cover from a big night out (or in!) but here's another handy idea: I found this Party Pamper Kit for £2 in Primark. It contains a leave-in hair mask, a face mask and relaxing eye pads. Just what you need after a festival!

So in total here's what I spent on my festival-themed Big Night In:
  • CD- Glastonbury Mud for It 97 - secondhand from Amazon - £1.98
  • Patterned bunting from 99p Stores - 99p
  • Paper lanterns from 99p Stores - 99p
  • Glow Sticks - £1.62 from Amazon
  • Neon whistles - £3.25 from Amazon
  • Festival Top Trumps - £1.99 from Amazon
  • Party pamper kit - £2 from Primark
  • Neon wristbands - 99p from Ebay
  • Bubble wand - 99p from 99p Stores
  • Leeds Festival poster - £1.24 from Ebay
  • Pork shoulder from Sainsbury's (all other food and drink from Tesco) - £4
  • Rocket leaves £1
  • Bread rolls £1
  • BBQ sauce £1.25
  • Lemonade (2 bottles) £1.20
  • Strongbow (8 cans) £7
  • White wine (2 bottles) £5
  • For the dessert: double cream 60p
  • Value plain chocolate 30p
  • Pimms (1 litre) £12
  • (other food ingredients were things I already had and that you will most likely have at home - but if you need to purchase more, you can cut back on the booze to save a bit of cash and still come in within your £50 budget).

My festival Big Night In: the final cost £49.39

Thanks to MoneySupermarket for giving me £50 to have a Big Night In - looks like I owe them 61p back! I hope this has given you plenty of ideas and whatever you are doing this summer, and whatever your budget, that you have a great time.


  1. How fantastic is this Caroline. Great post and a what a great night in you must have had. You put so much planning into it, this is definitely the best BNI post I've seen so far. Makes mine look very sedate.

    1. Thanks, very kind of you to say so! I thought if I put in more effort I'd have a decent shot at the £500 prize, though I only realised afterwards it's a random draw! Oh well, it was fun anyway :-)

  2. NIce to read this article and you have really nice posts and i like silicone bracelets cheap
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