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Parklife 2023 worst

Inside Parklife 2023, a festival experience that felt like trying to survive an apocalypse

Not being dramatic but it was the worst day of my life

Ah, Parklife. The festival of my youth. The festival of being a bright eyed and bushy tailed 17 year old heading off into Heaton Park for a sneaky dose of carnage before you were really old enough to be indulging in such antics. I say my youth, but what I mean of course is the youth of people far cooler than me. I spent my sixth form years sucked way too deep into the toe-curlingly cringe world of musical theatre. Whilst I was belting out Les Mis, my peers went to Parklife and belted out Work by Iggy Azalea. You must forgive them for that, it was 2013 after all. 10 years later, I get a last minute press invite to Parklife 2023. With The 1975 headlining and my inner 17 year old yearning out to sample what I never got to a decade ago, how could I refuse? Little did I know that all the rumours were true – Parklike 2023 was the worst festival experience I’ve ever had and one of the most dismal days of my life. Enjoy!


My day started off beautifully: A sniffer dog came right over to me and I got pulled into a tent for a drugs search. Not sure if it needs to be said seen as though that I was attending Parklife as part of my job, but I did not have any drugs on my person. The naughtiest it was getting was my watermelon pomegranate Elf Bar. I didn’t bother explaining to the searchers the context of why I was there because I just thought I’d look more suspicious, nor did I mention the fact the sniffer dog might have been distracted by the whiffs of my two dogs who’d been on my lap about an hour ago.

So searched I was. It’s weird how much they make you feel like you’re lying when you aren’t? After the fourth time I was asked to confess my drug smuggling and put my non-existent gear in an amnesty box, I started to wonder if I had been a mule all along. I got the all clear and went in feeling a bit sweatier and more suspicious than I had on arrival.

A scorching start

— Harrison Brocklehurst (@harrisonjbrock) June 11, 2023

The day started with the most boiling hot I’ve ever been. Standing on scorched grass, it was time for FLO. I love FLO. They’re superstars, and they sounded next level tight on all harmonies – it’s a joy to watch them gain confidence with every performance too and they’re just blossoming as this slick trio killing the girl band game. As FLO came to a close, so did my joy and happiness. Clouds circled. Trouble was afoot.

The apocalypse

At first, things began slowly. As we stood under a tree in VIP sipping a Bacardi cocktail from a surprisingly well realised Cuban style bar to get some shade, it began to rain. Hot, sweaty rain. It looked manageable. The general mood from the Parklife 2023 camp was this too shall pass – but we were nowhere near the worst of it. The heavens opened. Thunder rumbled. All music ceased, all acts left stages. A booming announcement declared that Parklife would be stopping the shows until further notice.

The rain pelted down menacingly. I walked near a flag pole at one point and a panicked Parklife staff member told me to get away from it and from anything metal in case we got struck by lightening. Doomsday was here. Nobody knew what to do or where to go. My pal and I sort of shuffled towards VIP, but before we could get there hobbled by a fence and under a tree. In the space of two minutes, my t-shirt was streaked in mud. Somehow, the rain at Parklife was filthy. I looked like I’d fallen into a puddle. I felt like scum of the earth, and I’d been there barely more than an hour.

85 quid t-shirt covered in mud from RAIN? Get me home

An hour passed of tropical and torrential terror. We ambled to the main stage – I was hoping Confidence Man, whose set time was within the storm, would be on but delayed. We gathered in a mass of wet 18 year olds in silence. A screen displayed a message that things would be back on soon. Some joker kept typing extra bits on it to try and make everyone laugh, like a question mark or a “<3 MCR”.

At one point we decided we wanted a Jägermeister bucket hat – considering 30 per cent of attendees seemed to be wearing one. we got shuttled into a tent area with a Jäger bar that was quite honestly hotter than the sun, and more humid than the Amazon. I could taste people’s sweat like I was in a steam room. Panicked and bought two Jäger and lemonades thinking I’d get passed some free merch but the bar girly told me they’d run out. Had to sheepishly sip an aniseedy lemon bev and pretend I was enjoying myself for the next 40 minutes.

Get on with it then please dorlin!

Nobody can help the weather of course, but it was evil. I don’t think something can recover from the scorch, the rain and the sludge. And a muddy t-shirt.

Erm, why is Becky Hill swearing at me?

To my utter horror, Confidence Man had been binned off and to make up the time from the rain delay we were straight on to professional rent a gob, Becky Hill. Admittedly, I’m not a massive fan of the endless churn of samey songs The Hill cranks out on a what feels like a monthly basis, but after being starved of any music whatsoever and fearing that I might be electrocuted to death I was ready to become a convert. Unfortunately, she just swore a million times and sang the top 40. I’ll allow Overdrive, though. Credit where credit’s due to her, it does slap.

Parklife 2023 was one of the worst festival experiences I’ve ever had, but I can’t blame the acts for that damning declaration. Self Esteem was amazing, Wu Tang Clan and Nas shut it down (not really my type of music, but it’s my best pal’s fave and she was having a hoot of a time) and seeing The 1975 was a religious experience as a huge fan who sheepishly admits Matty Healy is his problematic fave.

The weather halted trams, which meant exiting was Bedlam. To get to a road where cars could pick you up, you had to walk for 45 minutes. It felt like an evacuation. People were flogging waters from baskets for 50p like it was doomsday. All you could hear for the whole walk were teenagers huffing balloons. GET ME OUT.

I think the reason why Parklife 2023 was one of the worst times I’ve ever had was because the vibes were in the absolute trenches. Never has the mood of a place been so overwhelmingly bad. The below video is a prime example. My friend actually just informed me that one of the lads in the fight we ended up speaking to before rent a gob Becky Hill came on. 19 years old and they were flirting with my friend with confidence anyone could only dream of. “I’ve got a boyfriend,” said my pal. “You don’t have a boyfriend at Parklife,” was the response.

All day, scraps felt inevitable. There was just something nasty in the air yesterday. Last weekend, I spent two days at Mighty Hoopla in London and if attending Parklife has taught me anything it’s that I will never take for granted how much nicer queer spaces are. The love and euphoria surrounding Hoopla was worlds away from Parklife.

But perhaps the biggest takeaway I have from all this is perhaps not to romanticise something that was for you 10 years ago. Let the dream die. Just because something is free doesn’t mean you have to take it. Some restraint, some peace and some adult time needed methinks. Parklife 2023 was just the worst. The absolute pits. Never again.


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