Even though Michael Eavis confirmed that this year’s Glastonbury 2016 festival was the muddiest ever and said he hadn’t seen anything like it in the whole 46 year history, I have now got the Glastonbury Blues.
The Glastonbury Bubble, followed by the Glastonbury Blues seems to be an actual thing and at a time of extreme political and idealogical divisiveness, the love and camaraderie that we were surrounded by, hour by hour, day after day made me feel inspired, proud and grateful to be a member of the human race. So the shock of waking up to find that we’d voted to turn our backs on Europe was even more appalling than ever.
It was apparently the torrential rain that hit the site in the weeks before the festival that Michael Eavis blamed on Climate Change that caused the worst mud ever and the only solution was to embrace not only the mud, but the rain, even though there were times when I literally couldn’t lift my foot out of the hole my (daughter’s) Wellington Boot had created. We had all sorts of different types of mud – sticky, slushy, heavy, gloopy, runny…and having been a mud virgin up until that point, I suddenly had to become a mud aficionado and accustomed to the different sorts of mud we experienced on account of the baptism of fire. It was worse than a Tough Mudder course – walking miles every day through thick or slushy mud added hours to the journeys and meant you had to have your body in full on brace position using core strength and quad muscles I didn’t have before. Oh and the toes and ankles had to work quite hard too. Thus, even on day four of my return home I am struggling to walk without it all hurting. In addition, once you got to your desired destination, ready to see a band (who had probably already started owing to your late arrival) you couldn’t sit down anywhere and had to stand for the duration (which I know is normal) and dance in the mud (dangerous) and then walk to your next destination, where again you couldn’t sit down anywhere, unless you were prepared to buy something at a stall that had seats.
The entire festival was far more middle aged than I thought, so a good place to be for people our age because it makes us feel young! Apart from the wading through the mud – far more difficult for those with dodgy feet, knees and back there were lots of older people and clearly a favourite festival for those my age. Those with children were struggling although I’d love to go with my children, even though I’m not sure it would be good to see my children at a festival like that, but we certainly don’t feel old or out of place – everyone very embracing and you meet lots of new people. You could even go for 4 days on your own and no one think would think it was strange, but I wouldn’t fancy that.
It’s a bit like skiing – only you’re wearing wellies instead of ski’s and given the weather it would have been good to have had cable cars to gets us from A to B. Apart from the wellies, there is all manner of wonderful clothing – literally anything goes.
Anyway, luckily for me, thanks to my well connected friend, we had access to the VIP section in the middle which was an oasis of clean loos and places to sit. Total luxury.
We all had the best time ever and I would definitely go again – nothing I have ever experienced could describe the atmosphere – 180,000 happy people all loving, accepting, embracing and not judging their fellow humans. This was obviously helped by the fact that the entire farm had an unusual smell or haze about – a strange combination of cow dung mixed with some other sorts of more fruity weeds. As a result of the big love-in, crime is low and everyone is feeling the love and I was surprised that I only saw a smattering of totally wasted people – otherwise it was all completely peaceful. The security is mega high to get in, but once you’re there you don’t see many policemen – possibly there are a lot there undercover, but they don’t get involved unless they have to.
So we were staying just off site at a wonderful farm where we arrived and pitched our tents and I was pleased to see that there were loos close enough to not have to poo in my tent. I did get bitten by something horrible though on my leg. Probably a snake. It caused a blister and an angry red ring and a lot of swelling until I compared it to the other knee and realised that my other knee had just the same swelling and that was just what my knees look like these days.
Some of us arrived on the Thursday evening so the music hadn’t officially started so not many bands playing, just a lot of dance music to be had and sights to be seen. We hit the club scene which I found a bit scary as I’d only just arrived – dystopian scenery and a fuck load of people.
On the Friday morning we waited almost an extra hour in a queue for the official start of the show and for Michael Eavis to cut the red ribbon – the ground was still to wet and slushy for them to let us in so we watched vast lorries appearing, delivering clearly the entire supply of woodchip from the area. That meant a great vantage point for me to watch “James” who opened the show at the Other Stage as I was on the top of the woodchip hill.
James, the lead singer of which had aged a bit since I last saw him and whilst it was a great set – love his dancing I do think they made a massive error not playing their anthem and signature song “Sit Down” – mainly on account of the fact that this should have kicked off the feeling of solidarity we all felt with Europe, so everyone went of singing that song even though they didn’t play it. Odd choice.
I really wanted to see Christine and The Queens who were coming on shortly afterwards, but our other friends were arriving so I went back to the campsite to meet them instead and then we all went back in together and watched Ezra Furman, lots of others and then Muse.
You have a little booklet and a map to refer to – there is so so much choice that you can’t see all you want – bit like choosing from a menu and then getting food envy when your friends food arrives – but you just have to accept you won’t get to see everything and lots will clash
Celebrities we spotted included Alexa Chung, Mark Ronson, Ferne Cotton and Jesse Wood, can’t remember who else…obviously a very cool crowd and I felt that I had underplayed the festival look and was hugely keen to embrace the glitter next and get a beautiful sparkly flower or butterfly across my face like all the gorgeous girls had. But I was advised by my sensible friends that I should wait until the last day in case I got an eye infection or my face blew up. Spontaneity is a little bit difficult to do at my age when we are armed with the knowledge of what can go wrong…
The following day after a better night in the tent than I envisaged although it was cold and damp we ventured back in after breakfast, backpacks and waterproofs at the ready. We saw Squeeze, John Grant, Fatboy Slim, LOADS more and then Adele.
Adele won everyone over on the Pyramid stage. She looked incredible and the dress she wore was a total winner – really looked great on her. She totally nailed it by being completely normal – the disconnect between her speaking voice and singing voice is so extreme that it adds to the enchantment. She started with “Hello”, then had to go straight in to the second song because “I don’t know what to say to you yet” and then she asked who had done a piss at the front…and who had done a shit? She laughed her dirty laugh and then sang Skyfall….just unexpectedly wonderful, even though she doesn’t do much other than stand, chat and sing, but that was more than enough – her enthusiasm and excitement was palpable – she’s got one of those character’s that makes you want to be her friend – funny and engaging and with a voice that is so pitch perfect and spine tingling that there were a lot of tears. It even made me cry which is unheard of and even worse, I hugged my friend and told her I loved her. Which meant that I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that a few people had got engaged during the concert. You just feel the love…even as she apologised for most of her songs being miserable and about people she didn’t like anymore. She told us that she was a Glasto girl where she’d had the best times of her life on a Saturday night and as she was eating Chinese last night at home on the sofa and watching Muse she couldn’t believe she was going to be there on the main stage. “I’ll try my best not to fuck it up” she announced as she launched into “Rolling in the Deep”….”OMG I just burped” she admits as she chatted with a young girl she’d invited on stage – “must be that Dirty Burger I had earlier”…”this is the best moment of my life” she said and we all believed her.
Back to the tent eventually via a number of bars – not easy to zip yourself in and out of the tent, PJ’s, hoody zipped to the top, add the earplugs and eye mask, socks, blankets and locate the torch only to realise that you need a wee and need to unzip yourself all over again…
Coldplay were also excellent as the finale. It was the 4th time they’ve played at Glastonbury and they did a lovely tribute to Viola Beach, the young band who were killed in a car crash earlier in the year – we watched their video and then they joined in the song “creating an alternative future for them” – how must their families have all been feeling at that moment.
Barry Gibb came on stage and sang “To Love Somebody” and “Staying Alive” followed by Michael Eavis singing “My Way” – not that well, but nobody cared – it was a very special moment.
They put on a spectacular show and for that moment in time I could quite understand what the point of Coldplay was – even his kids were singing enthusiastically on stage up at a little mike stand designed just for their height. “It’s our favourite place in the world” said a very agile Chris Martin, with that yoga practice clearly paying off. He introduced the band and himself as Chris de Burgh – an unassuming and confident, relentlessly enthusiastic frontman, so if a little off key from time to time nobody cared. Especially when all our flashing wristbands lit up and as far as the eye can see is an incredible sea of stars and 10’s of 1000’s of people are singing – it’s corny but incredibly effective so who cares about the constant drizzle.
I become adept at donning a hideous green cagoule that goes over my backpack so that I become a hunchback but I don’t care. Nobody cares. We all look ridiculous. But we’re dry and happy and on a positive note, it’s great because you can fart loudly to your hearts content and nobody can hear you…and you can flap it out of the sides quickly before it emerges around your face. We all had such a laugh together, with everyone being very welcoming and happy, happy, happy….can’t think why. One man even paid for some of my drink when I didn’t hand over enough.
On account of our fear that it was going to take six months to get home we left immediately after Coldplay and drove through the night, arriving back in London at 3am – NOT BAD – no additional traffic, although I know people who left at 10am and it took them 9 hours to get back.
All the lovely young things that staff the event do it for free in return for a ticket – I can quite see why. Apparently they only have to do a couple of shifts and then they’re free to enjoy the festival. Fab. 400 – 500 volunteers to pick up the rubbish – Must offer them free tickets for next year I guess. Miniature laughing gas canisters out of the grass which I assume might give the cows more gas than they already have.
This year there is the first live album of it’s kind from Glastonbury in conjunction with Oxfam and called “Stand As One” with people forced to flee. Dedicated to the memory of Jo Cox MP and you can pre-order it here: http://stand.oxfam.org.uk/?cid=rdt_stand
More photos to follow!