Maya Jama is a festival person. She has baby pictures of herself being dragged through mud and tells me about her mum taking her to Glastonbury when she was just 2 years old. "I was one of those children," she laughs. "We used to go to Womad and stuff when we were at school. Literally since I was born, I’ve been going to festivals."
She remembers Secret Garden Party (RIP) as being one of the first festivals she went to in her teen years. I tell Maya that the first time I went to SGP was for a fleeting 24-hour session. I took little more than some white, low-top Converse, a sequinned dress and a cheap (read: not functional) pop-up tent from Argos. It pissed it down with rain the whole time. "No, that’s the worst! We used to laugh at people like that," Maya says.
Though it’s safe to say I’ve learned from my festival faux pas, Maya, who says she prefers a festival to going to a club, is the seasoned pro to my poorly prepared excursions. I feel a little bit better, though, when she tells me about a time it did go horribly wrong. "I can’t remember what year it was but it was boiling hot and I’d prepared for maybe a bit of rain. So after two nights of partying, on the third day when you’re malnourished and dying, I went to wash my hair [with] a big bottle that I thought was water, but actually it was a bottle of vodka." Are you, too, gagging at the thought of being drenched in a bottle of the hard stuff on a two-day hangover? Yeah. To reiterate: "I ended up pouring vodka on my hair on the final day, in a heatwave. It was disgusting."
Hilarity (and horror) of this now years-old incident aside, the Bristol-born presenter knows her way around a festival with as much mastery as she dominates the television and the radio waves. Maya cites Glastonbury as one of the many she’s DJ-ed, and many of us followed her 2019 Coachella adventures on Instagram (so many lewks, you guys) and this year she’ll be hosting her BBC radio show live from Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Middlesbrough. While we're googling how to get through a mid-festival downpour, Maya's already there without the bat of an eyelid, with about 17 layers to survive the storm and look good doing it. "You’ve just got to think of it as one weekend. The moaning can wait, I’ve got to live my best life," she tells me. So before we stumble headfirst into UK festival season, we asked Maya to share some more advice. Whether you want to hide the fact that you haven't slept for days or don't know how to handle day drinking, here are Maya's tips to get you through.
Do you have big plans for what you’ll be up to over Big Weekend?
I’m not actually sure yet. I know I’m doing my show from there on the Saturday, so I’ll be on the radio in the morning. But otherwise I’m seeing people I haven’t ever seen before – they’re at the top of my list of priorities. And Stormzy, obviously I’ll watch him.
That’s a good way to go about it, I never think to prioritise the people that I haven’t seen before.
Yeah. And also, the big ones – if you’ve seen them already before you’ll probably see them around a couple of other festivals. It’s best to get the less likely to perform ones first and then go for the rest.
Do you have anyone who’s high up on your must-see list?
Lewis Capaldi because I haven’t ever seen him live. And obviously he’s only just got really massive, so I’m intrigued to see him.
He’s really high on my list actually, we were talking about it in the office – one of the Refinery29 girls has a huge crush on him.
No way, that is jokes! Yeah he’s funny as well.
What is your favourite part of being at a festival?
I love the feeling of being out and being like right, I’ve got all weekend now, there's a million things I can see, no rush about it, I’m just gonna float and find myself here and have a good time over there. It's like being in a huge playground, basically. Like being in a music playground.
A big aspect of festivals is the boozing and the fun and the silliness. I am not good at day drinking – do you have any golden rules for doing it?
Well, I’ve mastered it now. I’ve been really cocky about my drinking ability recently because I know when to stop. I haven’t had any embarrassing nights recently, I've been on point with the drinking. What I tend to do is have a massive breakfast, and even if you don’t have much time to eat a proper lunch, have a couple of snacks throughout the day and water in between. It seems so simple but also, rule number one, don’t mix your drinks if you’re not good at drinking.
I completely agree with you but it always sounds really boring, especially when you’re at a festival and there’s so much on offer.
I feel like you can mix shots with beer and cider, or maybe a couple of shots with mixer drinks but once you go past two it’s going to be game over in the daytime, especially if it’s sunny as well. Find shade, sit down, have little moments of calm in between your partying.
What would you advise for people who want to look on point for the duration of a festival? The shower situation alone is stress.
One of the tricks is put glitter underneath your eyes. When I’m looking a bit knackered, I put the glitter on my bags so you can’t actually see the bags. And that’s usually the second or third day – on the first one you're usually alright, but the second to third the glitter comes out. If not, sunglasses. Just keep your sunglasses on. I’m quite a strong sunglasses wearer in the daytime, especially if I’ve been boozing. You could use all the makeup tricks in the world, but I feel like sunglasses, a hat and some glitter – brand new.
How do you manage going to a festival with a group of mates because I find that it’s hard to keep everyone together. Should you really be worried about people going off on their own, and so on?
I’m usually the annoying one. I’m the one who gets lost and goes off and talks to everyone and my friends are like, "We’re supposed to stay together". I think always have a meet-up point – each day establishing where if you do get lost, let's link up at this place so once you realise you’ve lost your friend you can be like oh let's just go there, they’ll come here eventually, then you have a bar or an area where you can always find somebody if you’re in a massive friendship group. Or neon clothes, a standout outfit so they can see you from a distance, something loud.
Have you ever completely lost everyone?
Those would be back in my proper festival days but then I’d just go and find another friend somewhere and be like oh, look here we go, and then just find a different crew of people to hang around with.
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