Is it possible to spend a weekend at a festival and not spend any money? We decided to find out…

The van returned from the highly competent vw-interiors in Chirk after having tinted windows in both sides (including a sliding window behind the driver’s seat), tinted windows in the rear barn doors, insulation and carpet on the walls and a tough vinyl floor fitted. We’d planned to do our own self-build but we’re also realistic about our current capabilities so chucked it on the credit card, clapped our hands over our ears and shouted la la LA LA laaa with great gusto. It’s working so far. Seriously though, it’s too scary to contemplate cutting holes in the side of a van you’ve just spent your very last pennies in the world on when you’re not really sure what you’re doing and you don’t have the right equipment.

One of the benefits of being a performance poet is that I get free tickets to the events (and a +1 for Andy), so The Good Life Festival over in Hawarden was our next stop and, now that we’re proper skint, this festival offered a good opportunity to test our newfound frugal lifestyle. The usual faffing (by me), as well as having to go back home for tea bags and the lamp, meant we arrived a good few hours later than planned but just in time to see The Magnetic North and Stealing Sheep on the Caught By The River stage before hitting the sack.

I’m going to bore you a little here by banging on about the virtues of having a proper mattress in a van. Or at least two shit ones piled on top of each other. This works wonders. Two fifteen-year-old shit futon mattresses + a thin duvet over the top of them + Andy and me + a double feather duvet on top, and you have two very warm and comfortable campers. We plan to build our own bed from wood before the next trip in October which will probably have foam blocks for a mattress. We also realise we need to install a leisure battery – the credit card will, at that point, internally combust.

The festival rolled by in waves of colour and sunshine and dogs running riot (ours) and some real highlights that included the mesmerizing Aldous Harding – if you’ve never heard of her don’t worry neither had I, but you will do soon, she is utterly strange and fabulous and original and I hope an album might be out soon – perhaps on vinyl? I will be camped out somewhere to buy it.

Sunday morning I shared the stage with the wonderful Caught By The River poets in residence Martha Sprackland and Will Burns which was a real highlight for me as I’ve followed (stalked) Caught By The River for some years now.

Andy and I are also self-confessed bike nuts so hung around to see Rob Penn. He’s been our hero since we read It’s All About The Bike so it was great to see him on high-energy-entertaining-form enthusing about his latest book The Man Who Made Things Out Of Wood (which we already have a signed copy of).

Kate Carr’s set of live mixed natural soundscapes with subtle bass notes echoing throughout was beautifully sculpted, fluid and circular, while Chris Watson’s talk about the soundscape and landscapes of north Wales, complete with field recordings broadcast through surround-speakers, held the audience until the absolute last note of the festival. I later discovered Chris is a founding member of Cabaret Voltaire – his interest in recording the sounds of nature stems from a time in his youth when, being made to close the doors in winter, he would mic up the bird tables in the garden and play it into the house. Truly one of the most inspiring presentations I’ve seen.

All of these creators are so interesting because they are so interested in their subject – it makes compelling viewing. I felt encouraged, motivated to try harder, create more and be braver in my imaginings.

Back to the day-to-day workings of life in a van – we took all our food and cooked on the camping stove, including making proper fresh coffee every day and cooking up leftovers so in the end we only bought a total of four hot chocolates and a piece of cake which came in at almost £15 for two people for a weekend. That isn’t bad considering we’d usually add at least a nought to that.

A big part of vanlife for us was about stripping back the elements of our capitalist society and figuring out what we can live without. We are totally aware of the irony that we couldn’t do it without the stream of readily available credit on offer to practially anybody these days but, spending a lot more on the van than originally planned right at the beginning is turning out to be a positive – it’s a kind of enforced frugalism, with the payoff being that we’re heading towards the life we want to lead and having a blast in the process.