How to play a festival when you cannot touch a drink

How to play a festival when you cannot touch a drink


norman lebrecht

July 07, 2016

Rachael Lander is a cellist and a recovering alcoholic. Summer, when everyone stays out late, can be the hardest time to resist a drink.

Rachael has posted a brave and self-unsparing account of her struggle, accompanied with practical advice for fellow-musicians on how to stay clean and sober through the summer.

It’s a must-read.


In the my first year of sobriety, I got booked to play at Glastonbury, and then unbooked. There were too many cellos, so I got the chop. As the rest of the quartet I was a member of headlined the Park Stage with a brilliant band, I was waitressing in a burger joint on the Kings Road. I was about 8 months sober. The sense of rejection, isolation and injustice was profound. I cleaned bottles of condiments and served burgers to the red trousered people of Chelsea, weeping on the inside. In desperation I rang my sponsor who said, “You’ll hate me for saying this. But rejection is protection. You’re not ready.” I wanted to lob the phone at the wall, but as usual, she was right. I could not have got on a tour bus full of free booze and not drank at that point of my sobriety. I was still suffering huge amounts of anxiety, which peaked when I had to perform.

If you’re not ready, do a Nancy Reagan and Just Say No. We tend to struggle with that, particularly in the competitive freelance game we’re in. Contrary to what our heads can tell us, saying “no” does not herald the end of your career in music or mean that you will never be well enough in the future to work a festival again. There is a saying that anything you put ahead of your recovery, you’ll lose anyway. Looking after yourself first is always the right thing, no matter how alien it feels.


rachael lander

Read the full article here.


  • Bruce says:

    Having been a festival musician who (at times) doesn’t care to drink because of a performance/ rehearsal/ day off, and noticing how it immediately isolates you from your peers, I can only imagine how hard it must be when you (a) cannot let yourself participate, and (b) need to be connected to others maybe even more than normal.

    P.S. “Read the full article here” does not include a link.