As many of you will know, this year I managed to return to one of my most favourite places in the world – Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts – also known as Glasto!
For those living under a rock, Glastonbury is a music festival – THE music festival, and the place I met my husband Gary 8 years ago. It takes place on a farm site in Somerset which spans about 1000 acres, which is the equivalent of over 500 football pitches, and it’s surrounded by 8 miles of fence. A fence which is actually very pretty when the sun catches it. Anyone who has been to other festivals has only glimpsed a small part of what Glastonbury is like – Glasto is the DADDY of festivals. For example there are over 16 stages/tents which have ever-changing performers over the three days – but there are also other areas with performers and shows and acts also changing over those days. You could probably fit about 8 V Festivals into Glastonbury.
So anyway, enough of my gushing – you can see it’s a BIG festival. Now the festival is notorious for its mud and weather. This was my 3rd Glasto and I’m pleased to say I’ve not had mud at any of them. The first two I went to (2002/2003) had bursts of rain and drizzle, but this year we had a total scorcher. This did make it quite hard because there’s no shade at all, but I did manage to get a tan, which I’ve never had in my life! I did buy some wellies, but they stayed in the hallway of my house for the whole weekend!
So this year I went with my best mate Jody, who had never been to a festival before. I was very excited to see what she’d think about it. It was also my first time taking the National Express to the festival so I was interested to see how it would make a difference. We went up on the Thursday and it seemed that most people had gone down there on the Wednesday – probably to catch the football to be honest – this did mean that the trip was smooth with no traffic and no queue at the gate. It also meant that after 40 minutes trek to where I wanted to camp (in blazing hot sun) we discovered that all the places I wanted to camp were full and ended up putting our tent up right next to gate where we’d originally walked in. Hmph – anyway, once we were set up and changed, we slapped on the sun cream and had a good walk around the site.
There’s something about Glastonbury that makes you feel at home. As soon as you start to walk about you feel any worries or cares kind of drop off your shoulders. You’re in your own little Glasto bubble surrounded by fence and like-minded people all there for the same thing. Plus you’re camping so you’re up with the sun, to bed when you want to and living with nature (minus the wildlife!). We decided to have a look around all the site and made it to the Stone Circle, which is one of the furthest points from where we camped – you can see the whole site from up there, and it’s chilled and relaxed. The festival hadn’t started by then but you could hear music still, wafting in and out on the wind.
The major thing that struck me on this first day, and early on the second, was that there were so many people. I mean I’ve been before so I was expecting the crowds but seriously there were so many people sometimes you couldn’t move. This did ease over Saturday and Sunday but I guess I was just used to a lot less people moving around the site. The other thing I noticed was the amazing work of the Water Aid volunteers who regularly cleaning the toilets. People always hear bad things about the toilets at Glasto, but this year you could even venture to sit down on the seats sometimes. The long drops are the toilets you have to go to – it’s not worth the trauma of going into the portaloos – but these guys were in and out cleaning the seats, spraying with air freshener and all without gagging (or pay) – something I couldn’t do in a million years.
So Friday we decided to go and see the festival open the only way we could – by watching Rolf Harris at the Pyramid Stage. I have never seen a crowd that large for the opening act at the Pyramid. He certainly pulled them all in, and he delivered! It was such great fun to see. The heat was relentless though. We had wanted to go and watch Alice in Wonderland in 3D at the cinema tent but it took us so long to get from one place to another, due to the crowds, that we ended up finding a bit of shade next to a fence and sitting there for about and hour and a half! That was when we decided we needed to buy some umbrellas for shade and some lighter clothing! Glastonbury is very good for shopping too 🙂 The rest of our Friday was taken up with shopping, Willie Nelson and Mumford and Sons before we went back to the tent to change for cooler weather once the sun went down. We trekked to the park stage to see Broken Bells (which had been preceded by a secret gig by Thom Yorke which I still can’t bear to think that I missed…..) and then The Flaming Lips – who were magnificent as always!
Saturday started with Jody and I having breakfast in the golden circle of the Pyramid Stage whilst they set up the stage for The Scissor Sisters later on that date. By 8.50 am it was already amazingly hot. We caught the start of Tinchy Stryder before we made our way to the Other Stage where we spent most of our day. We saw Reef, Coheed and Cambria and Imogen Heap (who was outstanding). Then we made our way to the Pyramid to see Seasick Steve (fab as always) and The Dead Weather (who I really liked – even though we both almost fell asleep – so chilled we were horizontal!) Then we walked back to the Park to see Biffy Clyro’s not so secret gig which was PACKED! We finished our day by watching Muse at the Pyramid. We weren’t as enamoured by them as we’d expected – the BBC coverage definitely did them more justice. And then to bed.
Sunday began with an early start, a walk for breakfast and then a trek to the cinema tent because they were going to screen the first British showing of Toy Story 3 in 3D, and we weren’t going to miss it. We turned up and hour before the screening and there was already a mammoth queue. It was so hot with no shade, that the stewards were handing out factor 50 sunscreen. We were determined to see it though, and when we heard that there were only 1100 spaces in the tent, we didn’t think we’d make it in, but as we neared the entrance, we were told there were 30 spaces left and we knew we’d made it! So pleased as well, because the movie was fantastic and the Pixar short at the start was also amazing. The 3D quality was still brilliant despite having three tent poles right in front of the screen from where I was sitting. After that we caught a little of Norah Jones, and then made it back to the Other Stage where we decided we needed to buy camping chairs because we couldn’t sit on the ground any more – heat rash is a bugger. We plonked ourselves down on the heavenly chairs and watched The Temper Trap and Grizzly Bear. We ended or festival by watching Faithless and Stevie Wonder – what a way to end it. Michael Eavis singing Happy Birthday with Stevie will stay with me for a long time, for many reasons…..
Throughout the Sunday we had seen people packing up and leaving, and you always start to get a little low, realising you have to pack up and go back to reality and the day life you’ve managed to leave behind for 5 long days. It depressing and sad, but all throughout Sunday I was picturing my bath and my bed!
On Monday Jody and I didn’t have to get our coach until after 12, so we got up and wandered down to the Pyramid to find some breakfast. I had a full English whilst we chatted to a local farmer and a local drifter, who had decided he was going to camp over by the Glastonbury Tor for a few days until more money arrived in his bank account. A group behind us chatted about how they’d woken up and wondered what acts they should see that day, before remembering the festival was over. A sad fact. We went back to the tend and packed up. Waiting for the coach took about 45 mins longer than expected in non shaded heat – but they passed out free bottles of water as we waited. And once on the coach we all fell asleep for about 2 hours and woke up seeing signs for Oxford – a short trip home.
The funny thing was we didn’t realise how much we all smelled until we got off the coach at MK coachway and they opened the storage under the coach. Immediately that Glastonbury smell piled out – mmmmm!
It’s been a week since I came back and I’m over the post Glasto depression – but you know next year it’ll come back. Glastonbury will always be a home from home – and if you’ve never been, you won’t know. So you have to experience it at least once. It restores your humanity and makes you feel real, if only for a few days.
You can see some of my photos from the weekend here on my flickr account.
There are many stories and experiences that Jody and I had whilst we were there that would take hours to put in here, so I won’t, but we did have an amazing time. If you went, and have a blog about it, please comment with your link because I’d love to see what your Glastonbury was like!