Bloodstock Festival 2014 - Gluten Free Review

Embarrassingly, it has been 9 years since I last went to a festival. Download 2005 was a blur of Buffalo boots, bangs, sunburn, blagging free drinks, sharing fags and Slipknot. I don't remember eating. Saying that, 2005 was a year of not eating generally as I'd just moved to London and was living the life of a church mouse. I'm pretty sure that festival food back then was the ubiquitous burger van with a bit of 'Chinese' food for variety. I imagine that a lot of cheesy chips were eaten in disentranced silence.

Our friends go to Download, Sonisphere or both most years but they really found themselves at home at Bloodstock Open Air Festival and after saying "you guys HAVE to come" about 1,000 times, we booked some tickets. Bloodstock sounded like it would be more suited to our needs, we enjoy our home comforts these days and shy away from large crowds, queues and 18 year old head cases.

I didn't think about food until a month before (late in the day for a GFer). I kinda assumed that the festival organisers would have booked a veggie type food van that would have something free from for me to eat. I left Bloodstock a message on Facebook and Twitter to make sure but didn't get a reply on either. Less than 2 weeks to go and I was really panicking. I took to Twitter to ask for advice. I got a link to this blog post ('B's 8 Rules for Gluten Free Festival Goers') and most people advised me to pack as many snacks as possible. I told myself to prepare for the apocalypse (this is pretty standard for me for most things) and we went out and bought a stove, loads of gas, a pan and some Ilumi pouches.

When we got home we managed to scrounge together a brain cell and checked the festival website - no gas of any kind and BBQing only in the BBQ area. My visions of morning cups of tea and beans on toast were shattered. I do not like singling myself out any more than usual so the thought of sloping off to make my meals in a designated area away from our tents held no appeal whatsoever.
I then took the risky decision to go down the cheesy chips route, mainly because I thought we might be trapped at the arena all day and getting back to the tent for meals would be tricky.

* A while later, we went camping again and took our stove and Ilumi meals. We popped them into boiling water and 10 minutes later we had a steaming hot, flavoursome and filling dinner. I definitely recommend!

The one sensible decision I made was to make a batch of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Peanut Butter Booster Bars to have for breakfast. I make these often and I knew they'd be an excellent source of fibre and vitamins. I know how I get with being away from home and my normal diet and these made sure that I was regular as clockwork thus also avoiding the 'bunged up grumps' for the entire weekend.

As it turned out, the campsite is about 5 minutes walk from the arena and we were nipping back and forth between bands to drink our own booze so I could have eaten some pre-prepared food quite easily. The question is, what? If I ever find a gluten free, egg free snack that doesn't require refrigeration and isn't crisps then I will jump for joy. I toyed with the idea of making little pasties or pies with potato pastry, cheese, tomatoes etc but ran out of time to experiment.

What really struck me during all this is how much control festivals have over you, your body and your spending money. No fires, no food or drink in the arena etc. It really leaves you with little option than to spend, spend, spend in the arena. (On that note, a few people had BBQs next to their tents and i'm pretty sure snacks could have been smuggled in the bottom of bags into the arena. I guess it depends on whether you are willing to waste money if you are caught and have to dispose of things.)

In the arena itself, I found a bit of variety, much better than years gone by but I guess I've been spoiled by Bristol's almost weekly food events and it still seemed a little lacklustre. On day 2, I noticed a big queue coming from a van called 'DeliKate' advertising baguettes and paninis. I got in closer to see what the big fuss what about and saw people leaving clasping delicious freshly made goods brimming with interesting ingredients - and they did gluten free! I asked for a GF panini (as advertised on the board) with my choice of fillings (sundried tomatoes, Mexican cheese, smoked ham) and got back a very delicious sandwich made with GF sliced bread. I went and found a corner to eat it in so noone could snaffle any or see how much I was fitting into my mouth in one go.

What a brilliant find and Kate herself (I'm pretty sure it was her) was chatty and lovely and seemed genuinely happy to be serving good veggie and GF food. A while later I noticed that the little tea and coffee van next door was also run by Delikate and I had a very good coffee with soya milk from there!

Other GF finds of the festival included an enormous plate of nachos and all the trimmings from 'Vegetarian and Vegan' van and a very hearty melange of refried beans, spicy wedges and jalapenos from a Mexican food van. I didn't once resort to cheesy chips.

I had found enough to eat by being savvy and asking the right questions and being lucky enough for cross contamination etc not to be an issue. However, we found it very expensive to eat in the arena, with each portion of food ranging from £7-£9. Which for 2 meals a day for 4 days is £112-£144 per couple!

I'm really interested to know how many people like myself have wanted to go to a festival but have been put off by a) the lack of safe GF food in the arenas, b) the inability to bring your own food and drink into the arenas/cook your own food in the campsite and c) the toilet facilities...

Bloodstock is a little home from home for metal heads and we had a brilliant time. Memories of helicopter hair, fire and smoke, ciders in the sunshine, cute viking couples, sheltering from the rain in tents only to discover brilliant bands playing inside, collective steam and wonder during the closing acts and gentlemen in floral frocks - are sure to pull me back next year. Where else can you look around you at a doom metal gig and see a sea of grinning faces?

Bloodstock is a special place and I hope to see you there. Perhaps we could share a flapjack or two?


  1. If you contact bloodstock and provide them with dr's letter confirming you are gluten free they will then send you a letter which you show to the security guy at the arena and he/she will allow you to take GF food into the arena.


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