Rave Level 5/5
Family Friendly 5/5
Location: Somerset, England
Vibe: every vibe you can imaging depending on where you are in the festival
What to wear: wellies, waterproofs, something distinctive at night (perhaps luminous) in case you get lost in the crowds.
Activities: watching massive bands, sitting up on the hill watching the sunset, long distance walking!
Glastonbury is without a doubt the mother ship of British festivals. Yes, countless smaller festivals appear easier and less of a major life decision, but the magic of Glastonbury is that it represents a whole world rather than a mere continent, or country. Catering to the vast spectrum of human tastes and needs, Glasto highlights the commonality that unites us, which will always be so much greater than the illusion that divides us. Mud, rain, Kanye - whatever the weather you still have to go; go as another pair of eyes of the Universe if only to say 'this is how I see it'. And witness the immense power of a group of happy people bent on enjoying, rather than destroying each other.
There is no question that Glastonbury represses; security is as tight as it comes, the walls are high, and Glastogoers must jump through hoops to go, registering almost a year in advance for tickets that sell out in minutes. But this is all a crucial part of the enjoyment, as we all know there is no loss without gain, there is nothing like a graft to make a party. The idea of Glastonbury must also be surmounted; you may have muddied your boots at most festivals, even that one in the desert, but still feel that Glastonbury is somehow too much. So many people, how will they arrange themselves? You envisage grid-lock, a post-apocalyptic scene with a cloying mix of mud and porta-loo the substrate for a William Golding sequel. Of course you will discover, as everyone does, that a river knows how to go around a rock. And then what sweet relief to find yourself in a pleasant flow, charged by the vastness, rather than depleted and drained.
As for the main event, the psychedelic to our souls, the music, it doesn’t disappoint. This is the only festival where you will find yourself casually wandering past James Blake to maybe stop and be drawn into the earnestness of what is being presented to you in that moment, or where you might realise the guy in the shaggy wig is Suggs. It is a lesson in accepting that you will miss things and being present, though you will undoubtedly be torn between different aspects of yourself as Coldplay and Earth, Wind and Fire, Christine and the Queens and Skepta, and Foals and Bastille are pitted against each other. Do you opt for the curious sea warmth of the main stage mosh-pit or support a fresh debut at the Other Stage? Somehow it is always something that you didn’t expect that will stay with you, such as Floating Points’ positively transcendental climaxes at the Park Stage as a double rainbow synchronizes with the rainbow swirled viewing tower, or witnessing the sheer energy one man can muster through Stormzy at Wow! Glastonbury undoubtedly sorts the artists from the egos; it is those who are so engrossed in their play you might as well not be there that transfix you. Don’t avoid the Pyramid stage completely because you don’t like the headliners, it is always an epic experience in itself and even if you don’t like Adele’s music, you will be drawn to her humanity, while most girls will probably have a tear in their eye about that asshole that broke their heart and made them real in spite of themselves. Likewise with Coldplay, sometimes it is good to put your judgement aside and let the anthemic music play and uplift you.
Electronic music continues to burgeon, so you wont be short of a dance; last year Disclosure, New Order and LCD Soundsystem headlined at the Other Stage. And be sure to find your warrenous way to NYC Downlow in Block 9 for an 80’s warehouse experience of deep-house, disco and funk with Roger Sanchez, Chez Damier and The Black Madonna, or leather-clad your way to their second dance-floor The Meat Rack for Eats Everything. You don’t want to get too stuck in the Rabbit Hole, but The Egg is never a bad late-night call; they have been doing it since before most of us wore a welly.
There are a host of food stalls to choose from, so try to swerve some garish piece of pizza simply because you have run out of fuel and it’s the nearest stall. You can’t beat a fish finger sarnie, which seems fairly ubiquitous at most festivals now, or a Caribbean inspired Boom Burger on the hill with bacon jam. Buddha Bowls with grilled haloumi are a delicious and hearty mass, perfect for the epic walks that are always so much farther and harder than you remembered, but which, like childbirth, are forgotten in an instant so you can do it all again.
The Sabbath was indeed made for man, and is often the best day, rather than too rest-oriented. Follow the single file slip-stream towards Shangri-La in the furthest corner of the festival, when it feels the entire herd is heading the opposite way, to encounter a cacophony of art and Mexican, carnivally vibes by day, something snug in the Rocket Lounge by night. This mini immersive city always has something to say, or is somewhere to say something, so try not to miss it if you aren’t enjoying a sensory overload elsewhere at Arcadia. The healing fields are an oasis calm if Heaven and Hell get a bit much, or you can postpone your collapse for the Stone Circle at sunrise, where there is a gentle backdrop of people singing, rapping and playing their own tunes. There is a bittersweet taste to that last plume of smoke that this momentous event is over for another year, but most will leave a little altered and inspired, if knackered. You would have to be pointedly defending yourself to not let the sense of quiet optimism in humanity, of possibility, seep in with the sunsets and sounds. Glastonbury is giving; the ego has been broken down by Saturday night from sheer exhaustion, leaving souls and hearts wide open. It is a big gathering, and it is powerful, reminding us of the energy that human beings can drum up when we get together as a whole, instead of splitting hairs. It is about connection.
Whatever anyone says it is fine throwing a pop-up in with the masses, if you don’t have VIP. It can be awkward if you arrive late and have to pop-up in the middle of a circle of tents opening towards you. But people understand. Ti pis are advisable, but expensive, and VIP offers a host of options including pods if you don’t like sleeping under tarpaulin. Pennard Orchard is fairly paradise-like as options go; yes there is a steep hike up a hill every night home, but it is a sanctuary with some space and respite from the masses when you get there. There are tip-is there to rent, or you can fling a tent under an apple tree in an orchard. It feels fairly blessed to have a shower, a bloody mary and eggs before heading back in each day; there might also be a moment of enlightenment when you unzip your tent one morning to behold the dew on the grass being the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.
Don’t forget your rucksack or a willing mule to facilitate your freedom; it may be miles to your tent, so you’ll need warmer clothes for the evening, most likely waterproofs, and maybe a Bounce ball over oatcakes for ease of mastication. Try to avoid staying out of the festival at a friend’s or a hotel as you will miss being caught by the inspiration, circling with the seagulls like a ravenous bird of prey.
Watching massive bands, sitting up on the hill watching the sunset, long distance walking!
Festibel Contributor: Connie Alfrey
For Tickets: www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk