Shaun’s Story: going sober at Glastonbury Festival 

It’s been over a week since Stormzy flexed his pecs on the Pyramid, yet some of the 200,000 Glastonbury revellers may still be feeling the effects of the world’s greatest knees-up. Not our mate Shaun Lloyd, who managed a sober trip to Somerset for the second time in two years. In 2015 – with his […]

Shaun’s Story: going sober at Glastonbury Festival 

By Ste Turton

It’s been over a week since Stormzy flexed his pecs on the Pyramid, yet some of the 200,000 Glastonbury revellers may still be feeling the effects of the world’s greatest knees-up. Not our mate Shaun Lloyd, who managed a sober trip to Somerset for the second time in two years.

In 2015 – with his drinking problematic at the time – the enjoyment of Shaun’s first Glastonbury was heavily impacted, after a cocktail of substances wiped him out on the Wednesday. The incident has played a major roll in his sobriety, which he’s managed to sustain since 2017.

Five nights on a campsite synonymous with debauchery might seem a strange bedfellow for someone looking to remain on top of their relationship with drink. Yet research suggests 30% of young people (16-24) are now teetotal, hinting that the British festival experience may be evolving. Shaun spoke to us about his grog-less Glasto, staying sober, and how events traditionally linked with drink can be just as fun without…

Tell us about that first festival, back in ‘15…

We got there the Wednesday, setup camp, started on the cans. Once the tent was up, we got onto whatever else we had. We’d met up with a girl friend and her mates who were like ‘we’ve got some mushrooms here, if you want them?’. Had a few of them, sound. Started taking a little affect, and you’re thinking – these are alright these, don’t mind them. Never had them before, give us another one. The girls were showing us around some of the areas towards the dance tent, Block9 and whatever, and I just remember saying to my mate ‘is there anywhere here I can be sick, lad?’. He said he pointed at a bin and by the time I got over to it, I looked like I’d been shot by a sniper. I just went down. I was tripping on the deck, which felt fine. Then you start seeing your mate asking if you’re alright, followed by all these people around, wondering if everything’s ok. It wasn’t. I remember some old fella, bit of a hippy, come over to me and ask, ‘first Glastonbury? The next day people were like, ’the Wednesday’s just for chilling, you know?’.

Reports this week suggest alcohol sales at festivals are the lowest they’ve been in years. Did you get a sense of that?

Yeah, I think so. The heat played its part, but the big kick on Glastonbury this year was the environment. No plastics, none of this, none of that.

People were just more mindful of what they were doing. More people seemed to be filling up on water, taking a few cans with them, not as much ‘lets neck this bottle here’.

Did the younger crowd in attendance almost lead the way?

People have been raised on Instagram from an early age, haven’t they? They’re watching shows like The Only Way is Essex, showing people preened and pristine. They’re not as inclined to let loose. When we were that age, ten years ago, the poster boys were Pete Doherty, Julian Casablancas. Looking a bit of a scruff was the bollocks. Dirty trabs, messy barnet. When you get older you realise a bit, you sympathise a bit more. I think people are just having the conversations more now, when they’re under the weather.

The camping side of things can be testing. How was that aspect?

When we went in 2017 and I’d just got sober it was a breeze. Put it this way, it’s a lot easier to put up and find at the end of the night when you’ve not been drinking. We’d just seen Tame Impala this year on the Friday and everyone was heading back to base to get a change of clobber, get some cans and go back out. I had a little sit on my fishing chair and was just like -I’m gonna call it a night. So I got a little wet wipe down, got sorted, got in the sleeping bag. Next thing, Arcadia’s going with the fire balls, so there was no real point in me going to bed. It was just to avoid whatever could have happened.

What could have happened? Was there a bit more temptation on the drink front for you this year, compared to 2017’s easier effort?

When you’re here at home (Liverpool), at a party, someone’s birthday or whatever, it gets to a certain point and you think – I’m not on the same level of conversation here, and I can just say, ‘lads, I’m gonna shoot’ and walk back to mine. Whereas there, you’re away, you’re a half an hour walk back from the tent, it ain’t comfortable and people are gonna be pouring in at all hours anyway.

But you managed to avoid it?

Yeah. It passed. In 2017 it got to the last day without a drink and I was happy with myself. I thought – I might just have a pint, just because they look nice, for a little reward, you know? I’d ummed and ahhed on it for five minutes and thought – nah, I don’t want five pints, and one won’t be enough. When I got home I was like – am I being a bit daft here? I was only three months sober at the time and didn’t know how long I was going to take it. Then I remembered the weekend that had properly started the run. I’d gone out on the Friday, big night, blackout all that. Saturday had a go. Six or seven pints on the Sunday, which was conservative for me. At least I’d got home.

Not a great way to prep for the working week…

Well the Monday rolled around and before work I done the classic, nearly sick brushing my teeth. It was sad, the thought of not being able to clean myself, without feeling ill. So then I threw up, and it was a bit pink, a bit reddish. I messaged a friend who works in a hospital who said it was either a sign of a bad diet or a sign of drinking too much. It was both for me, back then.

So I was like – alright, start of the week, I’m skint now anyway, payday’s the next weekend after this, so I’ll have a little go. I remember telling a girl in work I’d had six days without a pint. She looked at me as if to say ‘that’s no big deal’, but for me, six days without nipping out for one or two, I was happy with myself. So I got to payday weekend and thought that’s the real test. Managed that, and set the month target without a bevvy. People were telling me I was doing well but we had Glastonbury booked and most were saying ‘see how you get on and you can let yourself go at Glasto’.

That must have been a real crossroads in the process…

In my head I was just thinking- I wanna see if I can do it. Plus, after a couple months off, that’s probably the last place I’d want to lose myself, especially if I wasn’t fighting fit on the bevvies, so to speak. So that first one sober, despite being a bit nervous about it, the goal was lets see it as another challenge. That was a bit easier than this year, the novelty of being sober was still there. Even so I was still asking myself when I got home whether or not it was silly, the whole thing. Then I seen a guy on Twitter who’s very open about his sobriety. He put a post up a week or so after Glastonbury saying something along the lines of ‘ten years today without a drink’ you know… ‘I feel this, I feel that…these things have improved, these things have improved’. I couldn’t tell you it word for word, but I remember sitting there reading it, thinking – I’ve got a feeling of that now, I’ve got a feeling of this now. It had only been three months, but I’d made the right decision.

Did you see elements of the festival you think you wouldn’t have if you’d have been drinking?

For the most part what we watched were communal choices. There was one period when we were going to see the Chemical Brothers, we’d decided get to the front and I could feel people come around me and it get tighter, so I was like ‘listen, I’m gonna have to get off for this’. I’m not great with big crowds. You can go anywhere when you’ve had a few pints but I just dipped to the back for a bit. One of the lads was like ‘I’ll go with you Lloydy, grab something to eat’.

The company you keep sound good, solid, understanding sorts…

That’s the main thing. The mentality of the lads I hang around with is that they’d rather have me there if I’m not drinking, than not there. People respect it. Part of you feels a little bit guilty, you don’t want them worrying about me, how I’m getting on. But then the next thing you’re in the mix watching Tame Impala next to somebody setting a pyro off and you’re thinking – this is why I’m not in ours watching it on the telly, ‘cos you know how upsetting that’d be. I felt like I was there, playing my part.

The worst thing can be to lock yourself away when doing the sober hit…

I’d never go out and eat like we are today when I was a drinker. I’d think- that’s thirty quid I could be spending on pints, there. Everyone my age now prefers going out and getting home earlier, anyway.

Speaking of home. The journey back must have been a little easier…

Well you still get the fear, seeing people taking tents down – ah, it’s over now. It’s over and we’re still here. Let’s get out before there’s nothing left…

I was the first one up on the Monday. Bag packed, grabbed the keys for the van, threw my stuff in before coming back to help the others. And I was able to do that. You’re still worn out; sweating, carrying stuff, trudging that turf. But you’re thinking – this would have only been ten times worse with a hangover. It was still warm the Monday, I’d have probably hit the deck with the heat and the nervous exhaustion of it all. Even in the van on the long way back, I was able to chat to the driver, keep him awake, be handy for the mate who’s doing the slog.

What would you say to anyone reading who may be looking to stay sober, but has a big occasion coming-up? 

The main thing I took from it was, not to feel guilty. The people you’re with, sharing the experiences with, they love you, they want you to enjoy it. I’d just hate to be one of those people who has to say – that looks great, but I don’t drink, so I can’t do it. I don’t have regrets about my past, I wouldn’t be who I am now if I hadn’t put myself through what I have. I wouldn’t know half the people I know who I’ve met through drinking. I loved every second of it, the daftness. But I get more out of an hour conversation like this than I ever did over a ten hour session involving alcohol.

Back next year…

Definitely. 50th year isn’t it? I’ll try my best.

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