How I survived a festival with a Chronic Illness

How I survived a festival with a Chronic Illness

23rd August 2018 1 By cara mccall

This summer I went along to Mad Cool Festival in Madrid with my boyfriend and two of my best friends. This was the first festival I’ve been to where I’d class myself as disabled and it was difficult, to put it nicely but so much fun.

We flew out on the Thursday afternoon and the festival started Thursday evening which was not the best idea my boyfriend and I have ever had. We got ready quickly after checking in at the hotel and made our way to the festival. So my first tip would be to make sure you put some recovery time for travelling at the start and at the end if you can. We managed to squeeze in a day at the end of the festival so we could relax by the pool and so I could sleep if necessary and this made the world of difference for travelling home on the Monday.

The organisation of this year’s Mad Cool was awful, we queued for 2.5 hours in the 30 degrees heat without water. Luckily my friend and I found a bench to sit on whilst the others queued so it wasn’t 2.5 hours of standing for us. A walking stick with a seat attachment would be perfect for this situation and for the long queues that come along with festivals.

When we got into the festival I had to queue again for another 30 mins to get my wristband which wasn’t ideal but when I got into the festival it was great.

There was so much walking involved at this festival which I had totally taken for granted before when I had been to festivals being more able bodied. I would recommend investing in good shoes, for example I took my Birkenstock Arizona Magic sandals with me and by goodness they saved my feet so much. Another pair I took with me were my Old Skool Vans which are my day to day favourite shoes. Both pairs in rotation really helped me swerve achy feet.

I decided before the festival that I was going to stop drinking alcohol and I found that this really helped my experience of the festival as I wasn’t hungover during the days and didn’t have to deal with unnecessary flare ups related to alcohol. I swapped my cups of Sangria for bottles of water to keep me hydrated and despite the frequent toilet trips, it did pay off. I made sure to keep myself well topped up with food as food = energy. Making many excuses to try out the wonderful street food at the festival definitely went in my favour as I could keep my energy levels up and try the good grub.


During the weekend watching the acts I spent most of my time on the artificial grass nearer the back of the crowds, this suited me just fine as I didn’t have to stand about for an hour or so watching the performances. If this isn’t an option due to mud try getting in contact with the festival about disabled access, they often have platforms for wheelchairs and disabled festival goers. One thing I wish I had invested in for Mad Cool was a VIP wristband as that gave you entry to the seated podium right in the middle of the crowd.

We were super lucky that the festival wasn’t a camping festival and that it had hotels nearby to stay at. Staying at a hotel instead of camping really made the experience so much better, I felt that getting a good sleep really helped me face the next day. The hotel even had a pool and wellness centre with a hot tub and steam room which was so good for Post Exertional Malaise.

The full weekend I felt my body running off of pure adrenaline because I was in a new place and I was having so much fun so it really did leave me exhausted beyond belief but it was 100% worth it.

Cara ximg_5340-1