10 Do’s and Don’ts for C2C First-timers [UPDATED 2018]

You will always remember your first time. For Judi it was the smell of pulled pork and the sound of The Shires. For me, it was feeling a bit embarrassed leaving my house in East London in cowboy boots, but then feeling completely at home as the Jubilee line crept closer to the O2 Arena and anyone not in cowboy boots looked like the weirdo on the tube. These tips are for any UK based country fans who haven’t been to the Country 2 Country Festival  (London branch) before.

Perhaps so far in life you’ve had to make do with the occasional country infiltration of Glastonbury alongside a load of drunks who only want Dolly to sing 9-5. Or perhaps you’ve pretended not to know any of of the early Taylor Swift songs like Teardrops On My Guitar. Well, welcome to the family. Think of C2C as your coming-out party and, based on our five years of experience at the London event, here’s how to make the most of it.c2c-town-square

First, some basics about tickets:
Your C2C ticket (the bit with all the headliners inside the main arena) will get you access to all the extra stages too, except for Bluebird Cafe and the Aftershow Parties, for which tickets are for sale separately on a first come, first served basis.

As well as the main arena evening shows there are ‘pop-up’ festival stages dotted outside the main entrance and throughout the 02 in walkways and bars. Anyone with or without a ticket can watch free live music at The Big Entrance stage, Club WM (inside the Water Margin restaurant) and in the Town Square which is a hub now found just outside the dome’s main entrance. To get into the other festival stages such as the Radio 2 stage in the mini arena ‘Indigo’, non-ticket holders can buy a wristband online or from the O2 box office on site if there’s availability. These cost £10 and will be valid for all three days giving access to big names like High Valley and Lanco. (Note the Spotlight stage isn’t a pop up festival stage, it’s inside the main evening arena).

So, now all that’s out of the way…

DO get there as early as you can:

There is a LOT going on before the main arena shows; shopping, eating and first rate performances around the O2. Plus with long waits for many of the sit-down restaurants (especially any with American themed menus) it’s best not to be rushed. The schedule is available on the app (see below) but as a guide it all kicks off from 14:00 on Friday then 10:30 on Saturday and Sunday.

DON’T bring the kitchen sink:

Added security measures at the O2 mean strict bag size restrictions. Check on their site before you travel but at the moment (the month before C2C 2018) “Only handbags and other small bags no larger than 35cm x 40cm x 19cm will be allowed into the arena.” If you can fit a portable phone battery pack in your small bag, bring it – there’ll be a lot of photo opportunities before the arena shows. If you really must bring a larger bag there’s a luggage room in Car Park 1 but it’s £10 per item. It’s also worth noting the official stance that small personal cameras allowed but not larger SLR ‘professional’ cameras. 

DON’T peak too early:

Such is the novelty of seeing country stars on billboards here in the UK that in our first year at C2C we spent an age posing in front of a huge poster of Carrie Underwood’s face just as we came out of the London Underground. When we finally rounded the corner to actually enter the O2 arena, we were confronted by a poster about twice the size and couldn’t resist getting snap-happy all over again. Every year we’ve managed to fall into the same trap.Billboard posers

DO plan your pop-ups:

Winging it is a great way to discover your next favourite band, but if there’s anyone in particular you’d like to hear from the mammoth list of this year’s pop-up ‘Festival Stages’, advance planning – or cloning – is essential. You can download the C2C app from Apple or GooglePlay to get the schedules for the 12 stages, plus notifications about bonus events like secret gigs during the festival. This year we’ll definitely be sneaking to the front to hear The Wandering Hearts, Mo Pitney, Jillian Jacqueline and Willie’s son Lukas Nelson. We’re also curious to discover just how country girlband survivors Liz McClarnon [Atomic Kitten] and Una Healy [The Saturdays] have gone. Previous years’ freebie performers like Sam Hunt and The Shires prove that today’s pop-ups are tomorrow’s headliners.AD49EE4C-E698-4CCE-A0E0-7713E6A4A2FE

DO keep your plan flexible:

We were on the way to get a hotdog (priorities) and then see the next pop-up band on our stringent schedule when the harmonies of then unknown duo The Shires called out across the crowd and pulled us off track. Nashville Grey Skies became the anthem of that early C2C festival.

DON’T go to the toilet:

Well, you’ll need to go to the toilet at some point during the arena shows which last at least 4 hours, but don’t rush off as soon as a set finishes. If you stay in your seat between the main stage acts you’ll be privy to some intimate acoustic sessions from some of Nashville’s finest on The Spotlight Stage.

DO set a budget:

So many boots in so many colours… If like me you’ll look at the rows of whipstitched treats like kids looks at sweets (or, these days, like kids look at iPads) set a spending limit in advance. I still haven’t found a place for the brass “BadAss” plaque I bought at C2C 2015. 

Badas

DON’T fear your fringe:

This is not an “either / or” occasion. For once there is no need to choose between your turquoise angel wing boots and your red fringed leather jacket; subtle, shmuttle… at C2C more is more. Live through the strange looks as you sport your stetson on the number 108 bus to Greenwich knowing you’ll be admired once you arrive. Don’t worry, it’s highly unlikely that your hat or belt-buckle will be the biggest one there. It’s all worth it for the priceless faces of unsuspecting visitors who just thought they’d pop to the 02 to go to the cinema. Especially if another line dance flash mob breaks out.

DO speak to strangers:

It’s generally a friendly crowd at C2C, partly because we all speak the same country fan language, partly because of the Tennessee whiskey cocktails in the town square. At previous festivals we’ve met a Nashville photographer who was over to take backstage shots of Brantley Gilbert and a guy who was carrying Tim McGraw’s guitar. Forget the usual London laws, for one weekend Greenwich is officially a part of Tennessee, so embrace all those American traditions, like eye-contact. If you’re going solo, there are several social media country fan groups  on sites like MeetUp who arrange unofficial meetings throughout the festival.

And finally, DON’T be fooled by a black hat:

There is a theory in country music fan circles (and by circles we mean the very small circle formed by the writers of this blog). The theory has been lazily researched at various gigs and we’ve realised that any man in a black hat (bonus points if it’s a cowboy hat) is instantly 76.9% more attractive. But be warned, not all of them look like Eric Church, Sam Hunt or Tim McGraw when the hats come off.

What are your tips for making the most of the U.K. and Ireland’s biggest country music festival? Let us know in the comment section below, especially if you’ve visited the Dublin branch or Glasgow, which is getting its very own Aftershow parties this year too.

Good luck and if you spot us (CJ or Judi) at the festival please say howdy.

@britsinboots

brits in boots girls

38 thoughts on “10 Do’s and Don’ts for C2C First-timers [UPDATED 2018]

  1. Sherry bowe

    Be open minded. What you may not like on your preferred way of listening, can blow you away live, up close and personal.
    Take in the whole experience, not
    Just the music. Sights, smells, food and great people.
    If you don’t leave buzzing and happy- you really were at the wrong venue!
    Can’t afford to visit the Deep South Stateside? Get a mini taste here on home turf!

  2. Mark

    Good blogg … less the bit about boots and hats. Last year you could count on one hand the number of fans wearing them

    1. BritsInBoots

      Saw you guys in the Water Margin. Great fun show! And we could understand at least 60% of what you said 😉

  3. Anonymous

    Enjoy the music but respect those around you.

    I had a screeching scouser yelling at her mate and some random guy during Brandy Clark’s set a few years ago. Totally ruined it.

  4. Sally Fielden

    We went to Glasgow C2C last year and I was impressed with the fact that wherever your seat was you had a good view. We saw people we had never heard of before and were really impressed. Didn’t like Dwight Yoakham at all but loved Little big Town, Miranda Lambert and the rest. Just wish it was easier to see more Country music in this country. Going to Dublin this year so looking forward to it, not many days to go now!

    1. BritsInBoots

      Sorry! But be sure to tune into BBC Radio 2 Country, the pop up radio station over the weekend from Thursday, to get your fix and all the gossip.

  5. slientstar

    Hi guys. Thanks for the tips very useful. Just checking. So do u need a ticket to get in to the o2 arena. Just to listen to the pop up stages music or is it just for the main arena and the yamaha stage. Many thanks in advance.

    1. Judi

      You need a ticket for the main arena and Yamaha stage but pop ups are free! And totally worth checking out!

    2. CJ

      Just to clarify, you can get into the dome for free and enjoy 3 free stages – The Big Entrance (right by the door), The Town Square (past the cinema and a great vibe with shops) and The Saloon which I believe will be inside a restaurant.

  6. Janne

    Can’ t wait to be there, only few days. LONDON BABY!!! coming from Finland with mi boots and mi hat😉

  7. Ren

    Don’t take food into the O2 Arena. You will have to eat it all before you go in. We took snacks to save money – as we were broke last year and we were told there was no food or drinks allowed. Previously we’d taken food in but last year weren’t allowed. Or stuff it all in your underwear as we ended up doing…………..lolz.

  8. Ian Westwood

    Before you do go, have a listen to a few of the pop up artists if they have material out on Apple Music, but overall, be open minded.

    I went on the Sunday with view of Kacey Musgraves and Eric Church being awesome (they were by the way!!), but I was completely blown away by Chris Stapleton, never heard the O2 Arena in such a state of hush.

    Oh and one final tip, get a gold/silver marker pen, as I’m sure you might get some autographs along the way.

  9. Paul

    the bit about the cameras is wrong; I’ve taken my cannon DSLR every year and got in with it. What there’re bothered about is the zoom on your lens; which bearing in mind most personal cameras can come with 250mm + nowadays (Which is where they start denying entry!) is utterly pointless. My advice, take it and see; worst that can happen is they ask you to leave it at the desk where it is secure and you get a receipt to reclaim it at the end of the night.

  10. chooselife78

    Charlie Worsham is brilliant live! A tip is that once you get past a certain time you cannot leave and re-enter the main arena. We weren’t fans of Sam Hunt sadly but we couldn’t go anywhere else.
    Definitely do the after-party.

  11. Anonymous

    My daughter and I are newbies fir the Glasgow gigs. We have a 3 day pass. Sooo excited. I don’t think it’ll be as big as London but hopefully this event will continue to grow for us scots cowgirls. 😊😊

  12. Anonymous

    That was so incredibly helpful!! Thank you!!
    We have experienced Calgary Stampede so looking forward to a bit of the same only without the Rodeo!
    Have seen The Shires, ward Thomas, Gary Quinn before they were so well known. Hope they are there again!

    1. BritsInBoots

      Yep – all those three are playing on festival stages this year! Their times and venues are on the app. 🙂

  13. AJ Laidler

    Love your do’s and don’ts guide, it answered a few questions I had, already have boots and hat (although I need to convince the good lady that more boots need to be purchased…and maybe one more hat) almost too giddy to go to work. I will come and say hello if I spot you

  14. Den

    Glasgow 2016 was my first time and there were a few surprises. For example – never have been a huge fan of Dwight Yoakam but loved him live and expected to love Miranda but was a wee bit disappointed live.

    Eric Church had Glasgow rocking in the aisles but big hits for me were Little Big Town, Chris Stapleton and Ashley Monroe.

    Heading for Glasgow again this year filled with anticipation, but this time with a more open mind!

  15. Anonymous

    Do not overdo the cowboy less is more. It is not line dancing. Also with hats remember people are trying to see too., they may be short, or disabled.or both
    Talk to everyone.
    Last year I was in Starbucks and roadies for Miranda Had a really lovely chat and gave tips to young camera /media students.
    My friend is coming this year I dread what she is going to wear I think it’s going to be more like a circus clown. I keep telling her country is more rock.
    Dwight was a disappointment I couldn’t understand him.
    Bring on tomorrow and Brad and Sunday zac brown band , pity Dierks nor Thomas Rhett not returning this year.

  16. Sandra

    How do you get tickets for the after show parties and what goes on there, as you can probably tell it’s my first time at C2C.

  17. Pingback: 12 Ways to Prep for C2C 2018 – Brits in Boots

    1. BritsInBoots

      Hi Marie

      Thanks for your comment! Yup, it’s absolutely a family-friendly environment. It can be a long day if you go to the pop up stages beforehand but if you’re just going for the big arena, it would be fine for a 10 year old. There is alcohol for sale but we’ve never seen anything that you wouldn’t want her to see. You’ll be the favourite mum!

      Enjoy!
      JB

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