It is Saturday just after 11 pm and the first day of Parklife is almost over. Outside The Woodthorpe pub on Bury Old Road, a boy in John Lennon glasses and shorts approaches a buyer.
“Would you like to walk to Salford?” the officer asks. “It’s quite a long road,” he adds with typical Mancunian understatement.
The frenzy to get home after Parklife is almost as much a tradition as the bucket hats and bikini tops that are a favorite of festival-goers. And this year is no different.
With Ed Sheeran at The Etihad, Alicia Keys at the AO Arena and The Killers at Emirates Old Trafford, it was a very, very busy day. More than 80,000 revelers poured through the gates of Heaton Park on Saturday morning.
After a day of revelry, they all have to go home – one way or another.
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There are reports of people queuing for nearly an hour at pick-up points by midnight. The queue “hasn’t moved an inch,” says one person.
Those who don’t have a lift have three options: the tram, a taxi or Shanks’ pony. Heaton Park station will be closed from 8pm, so those wishing to make it to the Met are directed to Bowker Vale, where a flight attendant with a megaphone points passengers to the platform.
Officially there are two taxi ranks – outside the Woodthorpe and on Blackley New Road – but in reality it’s kind of free. Every free patch of pavement is taken up by private rental cabins, waiting to pick up their rates, or in some cases looking for business.
“I do one or two jobs and then I go home,” says a taxi driver. “How much are you going to earn, bro? 500, 600?” another driver yells. It’s hard to tell if he’s kidding or not.
A boy in a hat and sunglasses asks me the way to Sainsbury’s. He gets a ride to Wigan from his mom, but his phone has only 3 percent battery left.
“I’ve had enough size,” he says. “I left my friends there. I’m going home and watching Love Island.”
Back outside the Woodthorpe, the rows pile up at the row. Groups of tired friends sit on the curb by the wheelie bins, waiting for a lift.
“I could just lay down and fall asleep,” one girl says, taking a sip from a can of Sprite. Her mate stands up and knocks on a taxi driver’s window.
“How much for Fallowfield mate?” she asks. “Are you fucking crazy?” she replies a second or two later, after being awarded a prize.
It has been a long day and for many the journey home will seem just as long. Still, it’s probably been worth it. Will I see you again tomorrow at the same time?