life, music

The World Turned Upside-Down: Another Festival Summer…

Straw Hat, Beating Time

Straw Hat, Beating Time

Well, everyone’s going on about Glastonbury Festival again.  I only have to look at my facebook account to see that every man/woman/dog is heading to Worthy Farm in Somerset to wallow in the mud for a few days.  And I am surprised to find part of myself wishing that I too am Glastonbury bound.

I’m not quite sure why. I went to Glastonbury once.  I hated much of it.  Among many other truly rubbish occurrences, it was one of the wettest Glastonburys on record.  I also got raging tonsillitis and my beautiful rabbit died shortly after I got home, perhaps from some mud-ridden virus.  So no, not the best experience.  But, I still find myself strangely attracted by the whole Glastonbury mess.  Because, when I think of it, there is something addictively special about it.

My memory is taking me back to summer 2007.  Not so long ago…  But, in the scheme of my life, it seems forever ago.  I got a National Express coach(I’m a classy girl!) from Birmingham to the Festival, with massive amounts of rucksack on my back.  I got talking to some Glastonbury veterans.  The best experience ever they told me.  The coach wound around country lanes, following a line of ice-cream-coloured VW camper vans.  “There’s the Tor on the horizon,” the veterans told me.  “Oh, and there are the festival tents poking out of the hills.”  When we arrived, it was massive.  No other festival compares to it.

I remember walking through the tent town – the atmosphere was electric, like carnival.  People were raising flags, singing and cooking.  We went to a random dance tent, where a drum and bass band were playing.  When we emerged later in the evening, the world had changed.  Night had fallen.  People were milling around circus top tents.  Various food smells wafted in the air.  That night, we sat around a camp fire.  I lay on my back and watched the hundreds upon hundreds of twinkle lights, which were strung up along the pathways.  Little lanterns floated in the air.  All night the music continued, festival-goers chatted and laughed and danced.  It was like no other place on earth.  A perfect moment.  (Of course, the following nights were less serene.  The noise of vomiting and sound testing all night is less conducive to sleep.)

When I woke on the Friday morning, I could hear the pattering of rain on my tent.  And the blurry and wet hours that followed were spent watching bands under a dark and stormy sky.  I’ll always remember dancing to Amy Winehouse with a complete stranger, as the sun periodically melted the clouds.  Another perfect moment was watching Arcade Fire play a sunset slot.  It was truly amazing.  Singing and cheering with a sea of people, getting lost amongst them.  Then marching with the same singing crowd towards the Pyramid Stage to watch the Arctic Monkeys headline.

One afternoon, I can’t remember at what point exactly, I had been wandering around the fields on the outskirts of the site.  I saw a queue of people waiting to go home.  “I can’t take any more of this” said one woman.  “This is hell”.  My tent was leaking, all my clothes were wet, I had a pounding head.  So, that night I committed the ultimate festival-goer sin.  I packed some things, turned my back on the Editors, and walked to the ‘advice tent’.  “Where does the bus leave from?” I asked, once I had forsaken my sodden ticket and was outside the site.  “Not that field, not the next field, but the field after that”, the attendant answered.  “And I think you’ve just missed one.”  Oh good.  “Would you like us to lift you back to the main site in our van?” one of the more kindly stewards asked.  No thank you.  The bus was standing in the dark empty field, next to a flashing paramedic ambulance.  The driver asked me to sit on newspaper.  I was a mud woman with pigtails.  From the distance, I saw fireworks crack and scream over the festival, the lanterns glowed in a purple smoke cloud sky.  And later, I sat at home to watch Edith Bowman present the highlights, while everyone else slept in their wet tents.  I was okay with that!

Sunset Over Tent Town

Sunset Over Tent Town

So, why do I still want to be Glastonbury bound?  I guess I hope that it would be sunnier and drier, perhaps I could even purchase a camper van. (Seriously, the fields with the camper vans in, on the outskirts of the site, involve less sound checking, less mud, less of a toilet smell – appealing!)  Festivals are about life – pounding, rebellious, on the outskirts of reality – life.  Like the festivals of our past, life is temporarily turned upside-down, its chaos somehow changes everything else – focuses reality.  Things certainly changed for me later that summer.

So, I hope all Glastonbury-goers have a great time this year!  Maybe I’ll go along in 2011…

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One thought on “The World Turned Upside-Down: Another Festival Summer…

  1. Su says:

    A friend of mine goes to lots of festivals (in a camper van) via Oxfam Stewarding, which means that she gets to festivals cheaply, paying only a refundable deposit and working say three 8-hour shifts at Glastonbury, and gets to help out a deserving cause while she’s at it; maybe that’s an option that might work for you next year?

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