Glastonbury Festival 2017
Wednesday 21st June – Sunday 25th June 2017
@ Worthy Farm
We’ve all taken a look at this year’s Glastonbury clashfinder, slumped to the ground with our fist in the air shouting “WHY EAVIS, WHY?” when we saw the unholy clash between Radiohead and Flaming Lips, but spare a thought for those of us who have to worry about clashes with a band we must see vs Mr Bloom, Basil Brush or the Frozen singalong!
We may kid ourselves that we’ll be able to go and see that band. We concede that there will be tough negotiations, no doubt involving trips to the ice-cream van. We think it will be easy to get the necessary advantage to get our own way. But in your heart of hearts, you know that before long your ears will be ringing to a roomful of kids belting out “Let it go” at the top of their lungs, and you’ll still have been stung for the ice cream!
That’s the reality of taking kids to Glastonbury – But it’s Glastonbury so we’ll still have an amazing time!
Initially I thought about pretending that this is the first time we’ve taken our child to Glastonbury, kind of “ooh, what’s he letting himself in for”, build a bit of suspense – but this isn’t a Murdoch red-top, so full disclosure – we took him last year aged 2, and we all had a great time! Indeed when we dismantled his travel cot on the last day, he didn’t want to leave!
It’s obviously a very different kind of Glastonbury – you’re likely to spend more time in the kids field than watching bands for example, you’ll be firmly at the back of the Pyramid stage audience after about mid-afternoon, the late night areas are out of the question – but it’s Glastonbury and it’s never too early to share the magic with your kids! (Well I say that, but often there are children born at Glastonbury – I think you have to be a certain type of super-parent to cope with that! But on the other hand, fallow year’s aside, they have the best birthday party in the world!)
Thinking of taking a young child to Glastonbury?
I would however urge caution If you’ve never been to Glastonbury and are thinking of doing your first with a very young child.
Glastonbury is pretty amazing, so by the time you get home you forget all about for example, the grueling hour long walk from the car to the campsite over rough, possibly muddy terrain, loaded down with tents, sleeping bags and essentials such as 300 cans of cider! It can be hard going and you really need to have experienced it before and be sure you really want to go, to ensure you are ready for it.
Though of course in many ways it’s like any other holiday – most start with a long car journey, or going to airports at unholy hours. If the holiday is good you don’t remember any of that stuff.
If you’ve never been it can be hard to get into the spirit when faced with adversity. For example, on my first Glastonbury it had been beautiful sunny weather for weeks. The BBC forecast “possible showers”. We arrived on the Thursday night (rookie error – bands don’t start until Friday so why bother getting there any earlier, or so we thought!) Setting up our tents in blistering heat.
That night we experienced flooding of biblical proportions. I woke early to a quagmire. I didn’t want to wake my mate (and I’m not even sure how you knock on a tent!) so I wandered off to one of the stages. The first band were delayed and there were rumours that the whole thing was going to be cancelled. I wanted to return to my tent but there were thousands of tents and I’d no idea where I’d camped! I said to the guides “It’s a blue Halfords tent” but strangely they’d no idea where it was!
I couldn’t get a phone signal, I hadn’t bothered with wellies so my sandals were sinking into the mud, and I had a sinking feeling in general and just wanted to go home!
Fortunately, I eventually managed to get a phone signal, found my mate, found my tent, the bands started, and by the end of the Sunday night I had a sinking feeling again – this time because the following year was a fallow year so I knew it was at least 2 years before I’d be back, and I might not even be able to get tickets!
It can be a baptism of fire! But once you’ve experienced it, not going simply isn’t an option!
Knowledge of the festival is key!
If you are going for the first time with kids, make sure you are at least going with people who know the festival. I’ve actually seen people take pushchairs down the front of the pyramid in the evening!
In the afternoon the pyramid stage tends to be relatively quiet – people who were up to the wee small hours partying are either sleeping, chilling at their tents or exploring. So if it’s a nice day people tend to be out on the grass with their picnic rugs and it’s all very family friendly. However, come early evening it can quickly become very busy. The last thing you want is to be stuck at the front with 100,000 people behind you! It takes a while getting through the crowd even on your own!
Knowing the dynamics of the festival, or having someone on hand who does is key!
I’m aware of how heavy going Glastonbury can be so although lots of people express an interest in going to me, I never push them into going, they have to be keen enough to keep pestering me.
For example, one year I got a phone call out of the blue from an old school friend who was watching it on telly saying “this looks pretty amazing – we should go next year”, I replied “I’m here!”.
Come the following year, I mentioned tickets were going on sale and he hummed and hawed “Hmmm it’s a lot of money, what if I don’t like the lineup, what if it rains, I’d need to camp, I can’t shower, the toilets stink…”. Sat at the Cider bus he rang me again whilst watching it on telly, and he regretted it! That was about 7 or 8 years ago and he’s still never been!
It takes a certain kind of determination to do Glastonbury, I know lightweights who’ve gone home at the first sign of rain, once you’ve done it a few times and understand the ups and downs and what you are letting yourself in for, you can make an informed decision on whether you and your child(ren) are ready!
I always like going round with someone in the gang who’s going for the first time because when you see them wandering around wide-eyed taking it all in, it reminds you of your own first time. You want to be free to wander, and that’s going to be tough if you’re doing it with a young child, unless you have someone who can take them for a bit.
I’ve been going for long enough to realise that it doesn’t change much from year to year, I don’t need to run from stage to stage scared that I’ll miss something, I can have a great time anywhere in the festival, so if we don’t make it to the stone circle or the cider bus or something then it’s no big deal. Also I don’t get hammered like I used to. We only saw about 5 bands last year, yet it was still a vintage year and the highlight of our year!
Before bringing our child for the first time, I observed and spoke to other parents – seeing the kids happy faces, having the time of their lives help convince me it was the right decision to take him, and I didn’t regret it!
It’s hard to explain the appeal if you’ve never been. I remember when a friend wanted me to go I thought it was all just hype. I couldn’t see the appeal of a muddy field, watching bands on a video screen as the wind plays havoc with the acoustics! The lineup drew me in, the festival brings me back, and to be honest this year’s lineup is relatively bland, albeit I’ve shortlisted 147 acts I’d happily see (well to be honest that includes the Frozen singalong!) so I don’t think we need to take a book to read.
Of course some parents at Glastonbury make this parenting lark look like a doddle! I still remember my first Glastonbury and a mother breastfeeding her few day old baby at the pyramid stage!
I thought about going to see Dolly Parton a few years ago. I’m not a big fan of country music, but these cheesy legend acts can be very entertaining. For example, I went to see Shirley Bassey a few years ago, someone I’d never normally consider going to see, but that’s the beauty of a big festival -seeing acts you’d never normally consider.
The Arctic Monkeys had played the Friday night and she mentioned that those “nice young boys” had played “Hey Big Spender”. She sounded humbled that young lads performed her old song. She proceeded to do a storming rendition, and ended up by shaking her ass to the side and in full Diva mode “That’s how it SHOULD be done boys!” she won Glastonbury!
Anyway, the problem with the legends slot is that it gets very busy and as a lot of people are there out of curiosity there is a lot of pushing and shoving as people come and go. Not having a young child with me that year I’d overdone it somewhat and decided to go to see Public Service Broadcasting on the Other Stage.
It wasn’t very busy and I was pretty close to the front. I noticed a child who turned out to be about 7 on her own. I asked if she’d misplaced her parents, and she explained that her parents had gone to see Dolly, she preferred Public Service Broadcasting so they told her to go and see them, and would join her after a few songs.
Sure enough, her mum joined her about 3 or 4 songs in.
It’s impressive that one so young has such good taste! On the other hand, I was reluctant to let my 14 year old go off on her own!
Don’t get me wrong, Glastonbury is a very safe place, it’s not like there are quiet back alleys or rough areas, security is very tight, police are never far away, and there’s a good age range, it’s not full of gangs of youths causing mayhem. It’s busy enough with enough people mature enough to help if a child got into difficulty.
But, I wouldn’t be surprised if my son says to me one day “Awww Dad, I want to go and be with me mates, I’m 24 after all”. Well they get up to all sorts up in that naughty corner! He should be back in the tent with a cocoa and an early night 😉 Actually, I might be turning into my parents!
As always, everyone has their own way of experiencing Glastonbury. I know one guy who goes every year and never bothers to watch a band or political debate, some people spend all weekend in the Dance Village (Silver Hayes), some spend all weekend in the Acoustic Village, some spend all their time in the Greenpeace area, some spend most of their time at the pyramid, and most wander around and sample a bit of everything.
There’s no “right way” to do Glastonbury, it’s whatever suits you.
Look out for Updates
Will we see any bands? Will we learn to love the film Frozen? Will Theresa May make a surprise appearance with Billy Bragg? Will our house-sitter drink all my Jeremy Corbyn wine I’ve set aside for the next election?
I’m hoping to going to try and post updates from the festival – technology, elements and stamina permitting!
Otherwise a full round-up of all the fun and games next week!
One of the problems of having a festival on a dairy farm in the middle of nowhere is that roads designed for the odd horse has to cope with 175,000 people arriving from all over the country and indeed world.
Whilst the festival itself has a massive phone mast thanks to EE’s sponsorship, on the small roads leading to the festival you are often lucky to get a G data signal nevermind 4g.
Nevertheless technology can be a wonferful thing. Last year we were stuck in a massive tailback because 1 campervan had broken down. when i finally connected to google maps i spotted a turn off that amazingly wasnt red! We were skeptical but managed to whizz down to the festival gates in a few minutes, saving us literally hours sittimg in traffic. Try doing that with a paper map!
This year the oracle (google maps, not teletext) told us the roads were quiet. We were sceptical but it turned out to be true.
There was one little hiccup where the AA sign said Glastonbury festival straight on but google maps and GPS both told us to turn right.
Split second decision. Did the technology know a sneaky route avoiding the traffic?
After the third round of AA signs saying no access to Glastonbury festival / recalculating, we turned back and traffic was fine.
Another technological marvel is a kindle packed with childrens shows to keep the little one amused!
In my day I had to wait for the summer holidays to catch my favourite show (Top Cat) but kids growing up with on demand get used to watching what they want when they want!
Unfortunately he can neither reach the tablet on the headrest nor read the list of titles as he can’t read yet! So we had a couple of stops at services to change show!
I had looked at all sorts of solutions so that I could change show from the front, from running a monitor from the kindle in the front to using team viewer, but each ran into problems.
The relatively smooth drive wasn’t matched by the trip from car park to camp site! A 20kg tent, 14kg of chairs etc etc etc were too much for out trolley even though it claims it can handle 150kg. It kept toppling over and the axels bent.
But we were luckier than many with the same trolley who’s wheels came off all together.
After 4hrs of stopping and starting we finally reached the welcome sight of the camp site!
When I came on my own I threw my tent open, pinned it down and I was good to go! Taking it down was another story.
Big family tents are of course less easy! How do you put up a tent which needs 2 people to erect whilst keeping a 3 year old amused on the hottest day of the year after a 4 hour slog? With great difficulty that’s how!
When I was a kid and I was thirsty I’d eat a digestive biscuit or pack of salty crisps to make myself even thirstier so that I’d enjoy my cup of tea even more!
Likewise after a gruelling few hours, the simple pleasure of our regular meet at the cider bus, catching up with friends from across the country and beyond who we haven’t seen since last year, and a drink in your hand becomes a monumental pleasure!
We also got a good tip, where usually I’d go to the stone circle to watch fireworks, turns out from the back of the pyramid you can see all 3 sets of fireworks! I didn’t even know there were other fireworks!
The wee man was full of beans, after much running around we got a rather nice pizza and back to the tent!
The gruelling afternoon nearly forgotten, and my Sunday it will be but a distant memory!
Thursday is often my favourite day at Glastonbury. Wednesday is all about getting here, setting up and recovering. Friday to Sunday the main stages are active, so it’s nice to have a whole day to wander around without the distraction of bands you want to see.
The day got off to a cracking start as we properly met our tent neighbours. On one side there is an elderly couple who first came in 1971, continued through the 70s and 80s, came back for Springsteen and back this year.
In front of us we’re privileged to have the king of Glastonbury! He’s been to every one since 1984 and a couple of years ago a journalist did a story on him titled King of Glastonbury and the name stuck. He even wears a cardboard crown on his hat!
He says to keep an eye out for tom jones because he always looks in on him! I think he’s exaggerating but who knows!
It was much later in the day I thought it might be an idea to get a photo of him for the blog. Lo and behold I spotted him in the theatre and caberet area, and he was happy to pose!
It’s always fun to make plans at Glastonbury, but very often they don’t come off for one reason or another, yet you always end up doing something at least as good!
My camping group were having their 10th birthday party at 2pm which sounded plausible and being themed on kids birthday parties we thought the little one would like it.
We got to the general area about 3pm, but getting to their gazebo past tightly packed tents juggling a 3 year old, pushchair, chairs and rucksacks was never going to be easy.
Reluctantly we gave up. But whilst walking through the glade area the wee one spotted a balcony of the funky little treehouse cocktail bar! He had a dance to Amber collective and mum and dad had a nice cocktail! Everyone was happy!
Later on when he fell asleep we thought about trying to see the smyths from outside Williams green, but even outside there were massive crowds so we headed towards theatre area and watched some of the entertainment.
We got talking to a woman from stoke who’s travelled the world and lead an interesting life!
She described Glastonbury as 175000 people determined to enjoy themselves despite adversity!
Quite a good description! Often in our lives we focus on the things that make us miserable rather than the stuff that makes us happy.
You could spend the day thinking about the toilets (actually some aren’t bad if you look around) or you could look for things that make you smile, and they are around every corner here!
We finished the night at the brothers bar! I used to look forward to my pear cider all year, but of course you can buy it anywhere now so lost its novelty factor, but they always have top cheesy tunes on leading to a party atmosphere! Our little one was certainly tapping his foot!
A nice end to a great day!
Friday is the big day when all the main stages become active!
For the choice of opening act, my missus wanted to see hacienda classical on the pyramid whilst I quite fancied the pretenders and I’ve never seen them. She keeps telling me she’s always right, and on this occasion she was indeed!
I kind of imagined it as hacienda tunes played in the style of classical music, bit of a novelty but not my cup of tea.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong! The classics all sounded great and ride on time and blue Monday performed by Peter hook were particular highlights.
We thought we’d best get down the kidz field to keep the little one entertained, he nodded his head and smiled occasionally but you could tell he was thinking “dad, what is this old music?” Possibly!
Andy’s dinosaur raps with Andy day the CBeebies presenter seemed like a good idea, as he’s into dinosaurs at the moment and likes songs.
As soon as he saw him “mum, that bloke is off the telly!” with a mixture of excitement and confusion as to what he was doing there when he should be on the telly!
Initially a bit shy and bemused, he warned to it and danced for a bit, but on the way to the toilet he spotted the big castle so that was that!
There is loads for kids to do in the kidz field, giant sand pit, soft play area, roundabouts, a big pirate ship and the big top where they have shows featuring CBeebies and milkshake presenters.
In many ways he was easier as a 2 year old, he’s at a stubborn stage where if he’s not happy about something you can offer him all the things he likes but will refuse with a definitive NO!
He’s also got into a habit where he’ll ask for an orange lolly, you go to the ice cream van hoping they haven’t run out, handing over your £2.50 only to present it to him “I don’t want that. I wanted the lemonade one!”
You try and eat the orange one “that’s mine!” Do you want it? “NO!”
So you give in and get him the lemonade one.
Wouldn’t swap him for the world, but they can’t half try your patience! Worth it though when you see him running around with a big smile on his face!
My missus wanted to see ride at 6pm, I quite fancied jah wobble about the same time, so we decided I’d go and catch the correspondents at 3 while they were in the kidz field, then all go to see ride.
The correspondents play energetic tunes of a 1920s speakeasy style, and songs with contemporary subject matter such as the demise of soho (you had to go to make way for a new Tesco!) and a lead singer with energetic dance moves.
The word seems to have spread since the last time I saw them since the glade was absolutely rammed! I still managed to bump into a friend in the crowd though!
I wasn’t in the mood to push my way into the crowd and I needed a quick exit so I left before the end and caught a bit of billy Bragg and Zoe West on the leftfield stage on the way past, both were on fine form!
“Do you want to go and explore the John Peel stage now?” I asked him hoping that sounded interesting to him, of course he replied “nah, kidz field!”
Nevertheless, we managed to get there in good time, and with the new location being a bit out of the way it wasn’t too busy.
Ride put on a good show but to be honest tiredness and hay fever were getting the better of me by then. Taking chairs and rucksacks everywhere does get tiring!
The wee one didn’t seem too keen, but we had his trusty kindle for him to watch.
As we were about to leave he fell asleep and we thought it was his night time sleep. But it turned out to be a power nap. 15 mins later he was awake and full of beans!
On our own we’d have probably tried to squeeze in a couple more bands before the headliner but decided to take our time – 2 hours sounds a lot but on a massive site it can take a while to get around.
So the time had come – Radiohead or flaming lips?
In a straight choice between the two we would have gone for the latter, but even when the pyramid is busy there is usually room at the back, we weren’t so sure about the park stage.
Radiohead had a long set and started an hour before flaming lips so normally we’d have seen a bit of Radiohead then scooted up to the park if they weren’t grabbing us, but weighed down by stuff and a child we weren’t able to scoot anywhere!
The wee one loves pepperoni pizza at the moment and we spotted a food stall selling it between the john peel and pyramid.
Sadly the pepperoni wasn’t round like a normal pizza, it was odd shaped bits instead – so he refused to try it!
The only thing he took an interest in was my beef chilli nachos, so I had to wolf down the jalapeños before he got any ideas. Let’s just say I regretted the jalapeños this morning!
There were loads of small kids where we were and he enjoyed running around but he got a bit tired and grumpy.
He fought it as long as he could but finally fell asleep.
To be honest I’ve never been a huge Radiohead fan. I liked the bends but not fussed on a lot of their other stuff.
I thought it would be a good idea to leave before the end to bear the crowds just in case he woke up.
Just before we left they played street spirit (fade out) which is probably my favourite Radiohead song. Finally I was enjoying them but it still seemed a better bet to leave early.
Looking out from the tent across the massive site with lights and flames it was tempting to sit outside with a drink, but tiredness got the better of us!
On Saturday morning we thought the Bootleg Beatles on the Pyramid stage might be fun.
However, they started around 10.30am and on the Friday having been up and out to catch the first act of the festival we were half asleep by the time Radiohead came around. There is so much going on at Glastonbury that it can wear you out at the best of times, and when you add a demanding, uncompromising (aka stubborn) 3 year old to the mix, it makes sense to take your time, so we chilled at the tent for a while, chatted with our fab tent neighbours, I wrote up Friday’s round-up – and we decided to make British Sea Power our first act of the day around 1.15pm. By the headline slot we felt much more awake as a result.
It was funny to watch a photographer on our travels taking photos of litter, trying desperately to get the best angle to make it look as bad as possible, no doubt for the media’s annual “Ooh look at this, a festival full of eco-warriors and just look at that mess!”.
The media are of course giving people what they want, people love to fill the void in their lives by getting outraged about things which aren’t necessarily true or representative, and often don’t even affect them! Most of the site was relatively clean considering the number of people, but they take the extreme, the very worst area they can find, and present it as the norm.
It used to be that Glastonbury was dismissed as a “field full of smelly hippies”, today that’s been updated to “Middle class, eco-warriors driving their parents land-rover”.
The reality is of course that with nearly 200,000 people attending Glastonbury there is a very broadchurch with people from all walks of life, backgrounds and incomes.
At one extreme Brad Pitt, Tylda Swinton and both Jon Snow’s (CH4 Newsreader and Game of Thrones) amongst many other celebrities were spotted watching bands.
At the other, even around our campsite, the elderly couple who had attended the first Glastonbury and came throughout the 70s and 80s had a nice tent but it was given to them by a friend who was upgrading. They couldn’t afford a trolley to bring stuff from the car so we lent them ours.
The 4 young student girls from Hull in the next tent had volunteered, working to get a free ticket as around 20,000 people a year do. Even the King of Glastonbury himself didn’t bring his old Bedford Dormobile campervan because he couldn’t afford the extra £100 for a campervan pass!
Some people are relatively well off and will leave a £300 brand new tent behind because they can’t be bothered packing it up, others rely on free food from the Hare Krishna tent and sleep in communal areas. Most are just ordinary working people or students who save up for it like you would for any holiday. Tickets seem expensive, but when you consider you get 5 days of entertainment it works out at less than £50 a day. When you look at what it costs to go and see bands these days it’s actually a bargain, even if you only watch a handful of bands all weekend.
The media will often describe Glastonbury people as “Rock fans” but some people spend the entire weekend in the Dance area, others spend all their time in the acoustic village. I know people who never go to watch a band! The only thing you can legitimately generalise about people who go to Glastonbury is that they go to Glastonbury (and generally know how to have a good time!)
All the people I know, take great care to clean up all their litter, but inevitably when you have so many people on a field, the relatively small number who drop litter can make a big mess. The Pyramid Stage holds nearly 100,000 people and is active from 10.30am to around midnight with people constantly coming and going. Some people stuck in the middle of the crowd will fold up their empty beer cup and put it in their pocket until they pass a bin, some will just drop it. But then the litter picker volunteers clean it up over night and it’s all recycled. Even human poo is recycled at Glastonbury (via the Compost toilets).
In an ideal world the bars would find a way to dispense drinks into re-usable containers. Liverpool Sound City this year had a £1 deposit on plastic glasses, and that seemed to keep the litter down.
Anyway, getting back to the festival!
British Sea Power
British Sea Power sounded great, a fab start to the day, despite a light shower a few minutes into their set. There is always that sense of dread that perhaps it’s going to rain for the rest of the day, but fortunately it only lasted a few minutes.
Their “special guests” weren’t particularly special or surprising – it was the polar bears they bring out every time they play! But nevertheless an enjoyable set from start to finish and the little one caught some Z’s so we were able to relax!
We caught the start of Wild Beasts who sounded really good, but my missus has been desperate to see The Big Moon for a while, so after a trip to the ice cream van and the toilet we headed over to Williams Green and just managed to catch the last song of their set. She loved it and is now more keen than ever to catch them in Liverpool when they play in October at The Magnet.
It got me thinking that Wild Beasts and The Big Moon both played FestEVOL last month, and whilst the appeal of Glastonbury goes way beyond music, in terms of lineup, FestEVOL, Sound City and Threshold both had far better lineups for me this year. Of course it’s fun seeing acts like The Jacksons and Barry Gibb, but in terms of musical discovery – Anteros, Nils Bech, Be Charlotte, Sleeptalking, Bang Bang Romeo, Generation, AbiChan are all acts I love and were new to me this year (admittedly I’m late to the party in some cases) and I saw them all at festivals in Liverpool, only one of them were playing at Glastonbury. I didn’t discover any new acts this year at Glastonbury, admittedly in part because I wasn’t as free to run around checking bands out with a 3 year old, but also with a site 2.5 miles wide and 1 mile high, you can’t possibly catch everything!
As always I heard lots of scouse voices at Glastonbury – scousers know how to party after all! But I wonder how many of them are missing out on some of the delights closer to home?
After The Big Moon we decided to see a booking who was by far the most popular t-shirt star this year. Jeremy Corbyn!
His t-shirts were so prolific that when I saw a Nike t-shirt I nearly thought “why has he got Nike written above the Corbyn swoosh?”
Whilst Ed Sheeran is of course a controversial choice of headliner – some like the fact that he’s worked hard and writes his own songs, lets face it, he’s had a lot of chart success so a lot of people must like him, for many others including myself we just can’t see the appeal. If he was unknown and I saw him at an Open Mic I’d think he has a lot of talent, but massive superstar? Not my cup of tea, but he makes people happy, the bands I see make me happy, so what’s the point of musical snobbery, or turning into my parents “we had proper music in my day”!
But Corbyn is arguably an even more controversial choice of booking! He polarises opinion like nobody else I can think of. For supporters he can do no wrong, for haters he can do no right!
Never has Britain’s media so viciously and consistently gone after a politician. Even traditionally left-wing papers haven’t always given him a fair hearing.
Of course like I said earlier, people at Glastonbury come from all walks of life and although it’s traditionally a left-wing festival, not everyone who goes is left wing, and not everyone on the left supports Corbyn.
I was later speaking with a frightfully posh bloke in the kidz field who looked at his phone and said “Jeremy Corbyn is speaking again tommorow, can he just not speak at all, ever”. Clearly not a fan!
I’ve seen Corbyn speak before in more intimate venues and even had a selfie with him, so I was in two minds whether to make the trip to the Pyramid stage or not, but I was curious what the turnout would be like, and whether there would be a big singalong!
The Pyramid stage was already packed when we got there – I thought maybe people had just turned up early for Run the Jewels, but no, looking from the back of the field where we were, once he finished a lot of people dispersed.
Michael Eavis himself brought him out and said that Corbyn supports the issues the festival has been campaigning for, for over 40 years.
Like people who attend Glastonbury, people like to pigeon-hole Corbyn supporters, either as communists, naive youngsters who can’t remember the 70s, lazy people looking for handouts, students wanting free education, but the reality is that Corbyn supporters come from all walks of life. From people struggling to get by, to millionaires like Billy Bragg who would pay more tax under him, so fair play to him!
For me personally, for example I saw Conservative grand dame Anne Widdecombe on Andrew Neil’s show a few weeks back, she was ranting like a banshee about the NHS, claiming that it was created at a time when people didn’t live so long, and the population was smaller, and that we can no longer afford it. She reckoned that Corbyn was so unelectable that Theresa May would have at least 10 years and could make the “difficult decisions” regarding the NHS.
A lot of people probably think she’s making sense, after all it’s true that people do live longer and the population is bigger. But I find it frustrating that we just accept this kind of stuff because the other side of that coin is that people are living longer because they are healthier, and they are also working longer so paying tax and NI longer. The Conservatives themselves claim that more people are working than ever before, so why is nobody asking why we can’t afford the NHS?
My mum always used to say that you’ve got nothing if you don’t have your health. Healthcare is something we all end up needing sooner or later. What does it say about our priorities as a country when we accept defeat that we can’t afford healthcare for our population, but we can afford so many less important things. The media try to make out that health tourism is the problem, but some basic research shows that only accounts for a tiny proportion of the NHS budget.
Thatcher famously said that the trouble with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money. But let’s think about that for a moment. Where do the super-rich get their money? From employing the non-super-rich to make products or services to sell, generally to the non-super-rich. So if people at the top are making billions, whilst the people who work for them and buy from them aren’t earning enough to pay enough tax to fund the kind of healthcare that people in this country have enjoyed since 1948 then clearly things need to be better balanced. That’s not class warfare or losers being jealous of the successful as the billionaires who own the media want to convince us, that’s just basic fairness and common-sense. And surely a healthy population makes a productive work-force?
I like the kind of thinking that lead Labour to create the NHS in 1948. Our debt was at record levels (circa 250% of GDP iirc compared with around 80% today, though with different ways of measuring it, it’s hard to find accurate figures) after WWII so in today’s thinking many would argue that we couldn’t afford to create the NHS because we need to get the debt down. But it was something that lots of people needed – they couldn’t wait decades for the national debt to come down, by that time they might have been dead – they needed it then. So the money was found, and the country didn’t go bankrupt. Contrast that with the USA where even now, all these years later, apparently 45,000 people die every year through lack of access to affordable healthcare – in the richest country in the world – and many in the Conservative party would seemingly like us to follow their example.
Of course in a global economy it’s a fine juggling act, there are no easy answers, business is needed to finance public services, but life is short and when business is put above people’s needs then something isn’t right.
Do I think Corbyn has all the answers? No, but at least he wants to find them, and after decades of politicians and the media being defeatist and putting money before people, it’s refreshing to find someone with the humanity to want to put people’s well being before money. We have the natural resources, people and skills to look after people, so money is clearly out of step with what it represents!
Many say Corbyn would bankrupt us but I feel that a lot of his policies do make economic sense. For example, take housing. I know people who live on a council estate of identical houses which were built out of the public purse in the 50s. Those who rent as social housing pay around £210 per month. Even on minimum wage it’s theoretically possible for them to pay their rent without state help. But many of the properties were sold off under Thatcher’s right to buy scheme in the 80s for less than they were worth. They are now in the hands of private landlords who charge market rent of around £850 a month, which means anybody on a low wage needs housing benefit to cover at least part of their rent. So basically the council are paying out housing benefit for properties they used to own, and were sold for less than they were worth. On the open market these properties sell for around £80K, meaning for about 8 years of housing benefit the government could buy back these properties, rent them out for an amount people can afford (covering repair costs and possibly even a small profit for the council to use on other things or build more houses), and ultimately bring the housing benefit bill down in 8 years or so. But Conservative ideology won’t allow them to do that.
It would be nice if everyone could afford the Conservatives £250K starter-homes, but the reality is that most big firms are bottom-heavy pyramids, with the CEO at the top raking in millions, various levels of management on good salaries, and the majority of people on the bottom rung earning around minimum wage (or less if made self-employed to get around it). Of course some will move up, but only some ever can, the majority will always be on the bottom rung because you can’t have a dozen managers for 1 employee!
Apparently the Conservatives have borrowed more since 2010 than every Labour government in history. One of the problems with politics is that it is very hard to judge the track record of one party, since policies put in place by one party can cause problems that don’t manifest themselves until another party are in power. For example, the global crash occured on Labour’s watch, but many years prior Thatcher had deregulated the banks, allowing them to indulge in risky behaviour which left us much more exposed to the problems. Equally Blair never reversed the deregulation of the banks, all parties make mistakes and it’s sometimes hard to de-tangle policy from global circumstances to know how good or bad a government has been.
Then take Education. There is a website which shows how much each school in the country was going to lose due to Conservative cuts (which I believe may have been cancelled due to Labour’s increased number of seats in the recent election). The school my 3 year old is likely to go to was set to lose £450 per pupil. His cousin in the Midlands’s school to lose £350 per pupil. To me this is classic Conservative short-termism. Perhaps the cuts wouldn’t affect academic subjects and only subjects such as music and sport would be cut – but these things are, in my opinion, important for a child’s development. And when our children are of working age and competing in a global market with people from countries like those in Scandanavia who really value education and fund it properly, they are going to really struggle, which will ultimately be bad for the economy.
Nobody wants to go back to the days when large groups of workers could hold the country to ransom, but equally few want a situation where workers aren’t valued and can for example be sacked and taken back on less pay and conditions, or made self employed so that they can be paid below minimum wage. One courier firm charges workers £150 a day if they go over their 2 week holiday entitlement! I’m not a courier driver, but if these things go unchecked and we don’t change direction soon then this kind of thinking will affect us all, and our children in the end.
The media try to paint Corbyn as a communist, because people generally don’t like communism even if they don’t really understand it, and communism’s track record isn’t particularly good. Yet, in a way the NHS is quite a communist idea – providing a service based on need rather than ability to pay, yet most of us quite like it! I’m no expert but looking at his policies, it’s a long, long way from full blown, unworkable communism.
So whilst I’m not sure idolising politicians is a good thing – they are all only human after all (some more than others!) and they all need scrutiny no mater how well-intentioned they sound, it’s nice to see someone advocating a return to putting people first, and around 90,000 people cheering him on!
The wee one was up on my shoulders watching him, and clapping along with everyone else! Unfortunately he was clapping my head which was getting sore in the end!
(Opinions obviously my own and not necessarily of this blog!)
Anyway, enough of the party political broadcast, this is meant to be a review of Glastonbury!
We caught a bit of Run the Jewels who we enjoyed, and would have stayed, but we decided it was high-time we got up to the Kidz Field as it closes at 7pm!
We went straight to see Mr Bloom’s band. Whilst the wee man had been a bit underwhelmed at Andy Day’s show the previous day, It was great to see him down the front, joining in, clapping, dancing, and having a great time watching Mr Bloom! He was trying to get the attention of a little girl who kept blanking him – bless!
We quite enjoyed the show ourselves, particularly his “cover” of Guns N Roses Paradise City! but perhaps when he asked if we wanted one more song, I shouldn’t have held my can of Carlsberg aloft!
We stayed for the next couple of shows before going out to play on the big castle and the sand pit. It really is a magical place the Kidz Field!
It was funny speaking to the aforementioned chap who was frightfully posh, and told me that he lives locally, and had heard all the music and comings and goings so he decided he must come! The way he said it, it was like he’d never heard of Glastonbury but saw something was going on and decided to check it out! Our politics are obviously very different but when we heard “Don’t look back in Anger” we both got excited and started to wonder whether the rumour that Liam and Noel would re-unite for Glastonbury was true, and we were hearing it. So we both excitedly got on our phones to see if social media had an answer. Funny thing was, neither of us were huge Oasis fans, just it would be something special if they reunited and we were listening to it. Presumably they didn’t or we’d have heard by now.
Definitely more that unites us than divides us! A lovely bloke.
The only problem with the kidz field is that when it closes the kids don’t want to leave!
We had a little wander through the Theatre and Circus field before heading to see Alison Moyet at Leftfield, introduced by the wonderful John Robb.
I saw her a couple of years ago at the acoustic tent (even though the Yazoo stuff in particular is very electronic!) and it was very much a surprise highlight of that year.
She has an amazing voice, and fab sense of humour, and of course a brilliant career spanning back catalogue.
Sometimes when an act surprises you how good they are, you build them up in your mind and the next time you see them they are a disappointment, not so here – she was on amazing form, and the little one was up on my shoulders enjoying her set too!
Neither of us are big fans of The Foo Fighters so we decided to go and see the Jacksons at West Holts. West Holts has long been my favourite stage to see headliners. Even when someone as big as The Jacksons are on, it doesn’t get too busy due to the fact that it’s the 3rd stage and a lot of people want to see the main headliners. Whilst the Pyramid can get a bit pushy-shovy as people come and go, West Holts typically has more of a party atmosphere – perhaps due to the location of the Brothers Cider bar there!
They put on a nice crowd pleasing set and after the later start that morning we felt much less tired and more relaxed. I was surprised to spot our tent neighbour The King of Glastonbury! He had a contraption with him made from milk crates to allow him to stand on to get a better view. This, his big green coat and cardboard crown made him easier to spot!
When the Jacksons finished we stayed and soaked up the atmosphere of the West Holts field, whilst a rather good covers band played in the West Holts bar.
Walking back to our tent along Muddy Lane to avoid the crowds we went through the wood which looks truly amazing lit up at night, complete with the Illumaphonium described as ” a gigantic semi-autonomous illuminated music making sculpture – invites the audience to create together; a shared moment of spontaneity immersed in ever changing patterns of light and sound.”
After putting the wee one to bed we sat and enjoyed a drink sitting outside the tent watching across the site full of light and sound, albeit with a heavy feeling that there was only 1 day left of the festival for this year!
Post-Glasto blues is a very real thing. Of course people who didn’t get tickets or don’t see the appeal will say “diddums, at least you got to go” or “at least you’ll get a proper bed and bath” and of course logically they are right, but like many things at Glastonbury it’s very hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it. I’d say 99% of the people I know who go, experience it to some extent.
For me it often starts on the Sunday morning, a combination of 4 days of sensory overload, physical and mental tiredness, and knowing it’s the last day.
Since we wanted to leave on the Sunday night to beat the crowds on Monday morning, we had to pack up the tent and everything in the morning. Having started around 8am, it was well after 1pm before the car was finally packed.
Sods law, first trip to the car without my raincoat and there was a short but heavy downpour. Next trip I take my raincoat and the sun comes out!
My biggest concern was the trolley. It’s a proper garden trolley with pneumatic tyres, which a lot of people swear by, and there were certainly loads on site. But on the way in it kept tipping over before I realised I needed to hold on to the tent bag handles to steady it. The axels were already bent and I saw lots of people trying to move theirs with 3 or less wheels.
Our tent is 21KG – gone are the days of going on my own with a 2 man pop-up Quechua on my back! The thought of carrying it for the 45 minute or so trip to the car was horrifying.
Thankfully, the trolley survived. Whether it will see another festival is another question!
It got me thinking seriously about a Camper Van.
It’s easy to forget what it’s like wakening up in the morning, bursting for the toilet, getting cramp as you try to get your wellies on, walk to the toilet (you don’t want to be camped too close to the toilets, trust me!) only to see a long queue which you have to wait in. Then you’ve got the queue for your coffee.
Wakening up in the morning with a little toilet, kettle, fridge and so on would be heavenly! Not to mention it would give us more time on the Wednesday and Sunday to enjoy ourselves rather than struggling with tents and stuff!
Who says socialists aren’t aspirational 😉
The only little fly in the ointment is that they are damned expensive! Prices rise sharply in Glasto week, costing about £2K to hire.
It would be nice to own one for weekends away, but realistically with work and everything, we probably wouldn’t use it often enough to justify it, even if we could afford one which we can’t!
We’re not particularly mechanical, so buying a banger to do up isn’t really an option.
I’m thinking perhaps if we can get the finance, we could buy one in spring, use it a few weekends including Glasto and sell it on again. Or hook up with people who go to other festivals to club together, or try to finance one to rent out – though of course these things don’t always run smooth when there are problems.
Barring a lottery win though (which is unlikely since we don’t even do it), I suspect I’ll be humping the tent around next time!
Having got everything packed, we sat outside the BBC Introducing tent for a while to see who the special guests were. It turned out to be a band who’d just played on the other stage (can’t quite remember their name now) so wasn’t that special really!
We decided to take a leisurely stroll around to catch Barry Gibb. Though the Bee Gee’s always sounded like their underwear was 2 sizes too small, they have a very consistent back catalogue, and it was the perfect unchallenging soundtrack to a Sunday afternoon with the sun out!
It was nevertheless quite emotional. Googling to see how old Barry Gibb is now (71) I saw articles where he spoke of finding it difficult to sing without his brothers. Then he started talking about how Robin had written one of the songs. Can’t be easy for him.
The wee one was feeling particularly energetic and kept pushing me to the ground and jumping up and down on me. A little girl who looked about 2 was a picture, flipping through the Guardian Guide and looking over as if in disbelief at him being so wild!
Towards the end of his set we decided it was probably time to head towards the Kidz Field for one last play.
The Magic Numbers however sounded particularly good in the Acoustic Tent on the way past, so we paused there for a bit, then I left the missus there and took the wee one to the Kidz Field where he was desperate to play in the sand pit, and from there I could here Chic from the Pyramid stage, so everyone was happy!
When the Kidz Field closed we quite fancied the Cinematic Orchestra on West Holts, but didn’t fancy rushing about so got something to eat before a final wander around the Theatre and Circus field.
The Summerhouse is a particularly nice little stage with deck chairs outside, particularly as it was so sunny, so we stopped to see who it was. I quickly realised it was Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip.
I first caught Mik at Glastonbury 2007 in a venue called The Banyan Tree. I thought his set was hilarious but hadn’t quite caught his name, and with 2,000 performers at Glastonbury I feared I’d never figure out who he was.
But I remembered him taking straws out of his pocket saying “have a pocketful of straws” so when I posted this on a forum lots of people knew who he was.
Every year he plays lots of times on various small stages and it’s amazing how often just randomly wandering around I’ve encountered him.
His act doesn’t change much, but if it ain’t broke and all that!
A quick into the Astroglobe to watch a bizarre act, then we headed towards the car.
As we approached the Pyramid, Biffo Clyro had just finished and Tilda Swinton walked past us. She looks very distinctive and was trying to place her initially, so I didn’t look at the 2 guys she was with.
But the singer from She Drew the Gun posted up a selfie with Tilda Swinton and Brad Pitt. Apparently they were there together to introduce a new movie they are in which was showing at one of the on-site cinemas.
So perhaps we walked past Brad Pitt and didn’t even notice! Which would be a shame, because we could have said “So you think you’re Brad Pitt, that don’t impress me much…” or “How’s your brother Cess?”. I think he’d have found that really funny and nobody ever does that to him 😉
It took us the best part of an hour to get to the car. Funny thing is, someone wrote on one of my posts that the festival should be cancelled because neighbours suffered noise day and night. Yet, standing outside Pedestrian Gate A beyond the fence I couldn’t hear a sound, despite it only being around 10pm and all the stages still active.
So I am a little skeptical that people miles away experience windows shaking and all the rest. Admittedly Arcadia can be really loud and heard across the site, which seems strange because there are strict curfews on live music, yet even though the Pyramid sound travels a long way, nothing near as much as Arcadia which is on in the wee small hours.
So that’s it for another year, it’s funny looking at friends photos realising how little of the site we actually covered this year. We never made it to The Park, Shangri La, Cinemageddon, Field of Avalon, Greenpeace etc etc etc. We did quite fancy the new metal stage, fashioned on a tube carriage, and would have been good to see the Dead Kennedys.
But then with a 3 year old we never really expected to, and I can’t really see how it could have been any better than it already was!
Some of my friends even made it to the legendary underground piano bar this year!
Every year there are areas you don’t make it to, and the key is to focus on the stuff you did do and enjoy rather than wasting time worrying about the stuff you didn’t do!
Next time I think we’ll do more of the Green Field stuff, there is loads for kids around there.
Having experienced a sunny, mud-free Glastonbury hopefully it hasn’t spoiled us for next time!
Originally published in Urbanista Magazine UK
Words + Pictures by John W. King