DJ Edith’s festival fever still going strong at 41

Edith Bowman introducing London Grammar during Radio 1's Big Weekend at Glasgow Green Mark Runnacles /PA
Edith Bowman introducing London Grammar during Radio 1's Big Weekend at Glasgow Green Mark Runnacles /PA

If music festivals conjure images of rank toilets, waterlogged tents and muddy Wellies, then maybe you’re missing the main act.

So says festival veteran and ex-Radio 1 DJ Edith Bowman, who has watched more than 1,500 bands play at more than 80 festivals over the last 20 years - and still gets as excited as ever about them.

“It’s that whole arrival thing, when you can be a mile away from the site and you can start to feel that thud of the music. The air starts to feel a bit different and people, like ants, are making their way towards the site.”

Her children - Rudy and Spike - are a chip off the old block, says the 41-year-old, who is married to Editors frontman Tom Smith.

“It was amazing watching my son watch his dad for the first time at Glastonbury a couple of years ago. You could almost see his little brain working away thinking, ‘Ah, that’s what he does!’ I spent most of the show watching him, rather than watching my husband.

“Rudy’s been to Glastonbury four times, Latitude twice, Hop Farm, Bestival and Big Weekend. He’s done his fair share and he’s only six. Spike’s not been to as many - he’s just turned two - so he’s got a bit of catching up to do.”

She agrees festivals used to be for the hardiest of music lovers.

“You had to be pretty thick-skinned and suffer the consequences of what festivals used to be like, but now it’s a far cry from that. The weather and the loos are our two favourite subjects, but accommodation has changed.

“If the thing that’s putting you off going is the camping, then you can’t use that as an excuse any more. There’s every form of accommodation available. You can stay in a Winnebago, in a B&B near the site, in a human equivalent of a dog kennel, teepees... One of my bugbears is that when people talk about festivals, they always talk about the weather,” she continues. “Listen, the weather in the UK is unpredictable! As soon as you get your head around that, you’ll have the best time.”

This year, Bowman will be working at the Isle of Wight Festival and Latitude in Suffolk, Festival No. 6 in Portmeirion, North Wales, and is hoping to go to Glastonbury, where The Who are headlining.

“Glastonbury always gives something to those stalwart fans who have been going for years. People are really quick to forget how The Who are one of the few surviving bands of an amazing era of British music that really put the UK on the map.”

She has now written Great British Music Festivals, which takes in her festival experiences and backstage observations from over the years, and interviews with bands and artists including Kylie Minogue. Many of the photos in the book were taken by Bowman too. She had time to work on the book - and pursue other projects - after leaving Radio 1 last year, amid a round of budget cuts.

“It was time for me to leave, on both sides. I wasn’t getting anything out of it any more. I’d been there for 10 years and had an amazing time, but I wanted new challenges, the book being one of them.

Away from festival mania, she’s hosting a TV talent show called Guitar Star for Sky Arts, which starts next month, to find a genuine guitar star in the UK. Auditions have already been held in major cities, and the winner will play at Latitude and record with top producer Tony Visconti.

She has an idea for a novel, would like to pursue her photography hobby, has completed a Sky Arts documentary entitled Songs To Have Sex To and frequently covers for her pal Dermot O’Leary on Radio 2 when he’s away.

She’s not worried that, at 41, she’s being hailed a ‘festival veteran’.

“I don’t worry about getting too old for festivals because they’re not ageist. As soon as you step through the gates, you leave everything at the door.”

Edith Bowman’s Great British Music Festivals is published by Blink, priced £16.99 and is available now.