Well, it’s Glastonbury time again and time once more for slews of articles and TV reports of the weather and what it will mean for those at the festival. It is strange that the allure of Glasto is such that these articles are considered newsworthy when, for example, last weekend’s Isle of Wight festival was heavily affected by rain but was only really commented on by those who were there.
I don’t quite understand why people who aren’t at Glasto and don’t want to go there are so bothered about it. Of the 100,000 people there, of course there will be lots of those who will fit into pretty much any category of hate you want: crusties – check, hippies – check, pampered teens celebrating their A levels – check, 30-something lawyers – check, parents (some single!), children, old people who ought to be doing something more sensible – check, check, check. Too rich, too poor, too counter-cultural, too establishment – it’s all there.
I didn’t manage to get a ticket this year but have been five times over the last 15 years. If you like music, don’t mind camping, can bear not having a shower for a few days, don’t need pristine toilets and don’t consider the weather to be a personal affront, it is a fun thing to do. Tiring – one year I took a step counter and worked out that I walked a good 10-12 miles a day, mainly through ankle-deep mud and a bit overwhelming at times – I don’t quite see how it is something a sub-teen child could enjoy but hundreds of parents disagree. But, fun. Like all sorts of holidays which are completely different from your home life, you really feel that you have taken a break from the everyday (unlike say, the Reading Festival where many pop into the town centre to use the toilets at McDonalds and to stock up on normally priced food and booze in a supermarket). Even though it is much more commercial these days than it probably was in its infancy, there is enough resistance to letting big business take over to make it so that it never feels like a corporate event in the way that, say, the V Festivals do.
The only uniformly sunny Glasto I went to was my first in 1995. It was great in many ways – probably the best line up I have seen and a set by Pulp (in place of the Stone Roses, who I don’t think anyone really ever believed would turn up) which sounded as good now when shown recently on BBC4 as it did then. But, it was also the only year when one of my party had their tent stolen and the relentless sunshine meant that the slightest breeze turned the site into a dustbowl. The rainy Glastonbury years are usually more memorable whatever the line up. Not necessarily for the best reasons (sheer exhaustion meant that in 2005 I stayed at the Pyramid Stage and had to endure Coldplay rather than meeting up with friends and seeing LCD Soundsystem what seemed like miles away in the mud and rain) but the experience, good or ill is a bigger part of going to Glasto than the mere music. It probably happens less these days when the chances of hurdling the security or winning the broadband connection speed lottery on ticketing day are low than in the more chaotic older times, but I have known several people who went annually to the festival without making any particular effort to see any bands at all. It is why they can usually sell out before any acts are confirmed.
So, if you’re watching at home on tv, no need to be too smug or dismissive of those who are there if it isn’t something you’d like to do yourself. And if it is something you like, just quietly enjoy the comfort of your living room rather than making a big song and dance about it.