For most people who love live music, Glastonbury is the pinnacle of the festival world, and growing up I was desperate to experience it for myself. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to buy tickets, I finally got lucky a few years ago, and my eyes were opened to the magic of Glasto. Despite the stress, frustration and uncertainty of ticket day, I now can’t imagine not going every year. In fact, after failing to secure tickets last October, I still managed to get in this year as an Oxfam volunteer – there’s always a way.
If you’re wondering why people get so emotional over Glastonbury (“it’s only a festival?!”), here are a few things that make it so special to me – though everyone’s experience of this insane place is completely different!
The Line Up
For most festivals this is the selling point, but for Glasto it barely matters, hence why the tickets sell out months before any acts are even announced. That said, I’ve seen some of the best live performances I’ve ever seen there – Florence headlining in 2015, The Killers surprise set in 2017, and Kate Tempest just generally being amazing every year, to name but a few. But it’s not all about the big acts, with over 100 stages showcasing the most obscure talent in every genre from drum and bass to death metal. You honestly never know what you’re going to come across!
The sheer size of Glastonbury alone sets it apart from every other festival in this country – but as they say, it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that counts, and Glasto performs on both fronts! Each area of the festival is so unique and distinct from each other, and the massive production effort and amazing detail in every corner absolutely overwhelmed me the first time I saw it all. For example, the hippy haven of the Green Fields, filled with vegan cafes, yoga classes and healing centres, couldn’t be more different from the totem poles, temples and caves full of ravers in The Common. And the chaos and crowds of the main stages couldn’t be further from the punk haven of Strummerville, where bands play around a cosy campfire, hidden up on the hill behind the tipis. There’s so many different parts of Glasto to see that your legs almost forgive the hour’s walk back to your tent at the end of the night…
The Night Times
After years of going to Reading Festival it’s fair to say my mind was BLOWN after my first Glasto, where the festival really does go 24 hours a day. You can pretty much watch a band or find a packed out bar to dance in at any time of day or night. The most famous place to go after hours is Shangri-La. Between midnight and 5am it’s probably the biggest party on site and it’s absolutely mental. It’s hard to describe what it’s like in Shangri-La, but I’ve definitely woken up the next day wondering if some of the things I saw down there could have actually happened. The rest of the South East Corner is equally popular and just as crazy; there’s the massive LGBT area of Block 9, complete with drag queen disco in a replica meat packing factory, or my own favourite, The Unfairground, a creepy sideshow of crooked carnival games and questionable people.
The South East Corner is incredible, but it does get absolutely rammed, so exploring some of the other late night hotspots is a good way to beat the crowds. Arcadia, the huge, mechanical, fire spitting spider that houses DJ’s in its body every night is a spectacle not to miss. Silver Hayes is also a great spot for dance music lovers and has a much more chilled out vibe than the SE Corner. The best thing to do is just walk about and try and see a bit of everything; you could end up sipping cocktails in a treetop bar or watching a play at 3am, so staying in one place is a waste of time!
Food is such a huge part of the Glastonbury experience that I’ve dedicated a whole post to it, which you can read here.
The community of Glasto goers is something that no other festival has, and I love it. People are literally obsessed with it – more than I am!. There are Facebook forums and countless Twitter accounts dedicated to all things Glastonbury; someone even runs a countdown clock account that tweets every hour leading up to the festival – as I type this there’s only 670 days and 12 hours until the next one! Then there’s the hippies and the die hards who have been coming religiously since the seventies, and those who travel down to Somerset to camp out a week early for the summer solstice, hardcore! Glasto even has its own newspaper that circulates the festival with news of the previous day’s events – The Glastonbury Free Press.
Glastonbury has a long history of politics and activism, and although it would be a lie to say it isn’t commercialised at all, it has much more of a soul than any other major festival! It started off as the Glastonbury CND Festival (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), and it’s commitment to peace and the environment has lasted over 40 years. It also gives a huge percentage of its profits every year to charity; its three main causes are Oxfam, Greenpeace and WaterAid.
The Unpredictability – Anything Goes!
Overall, this is the best thing about Glasto for me. Absolutely anything goes, from the costumes you want to wear to the substances you wish to consume. Everyone does what they like and trust me when I say anything can happen. This year, when we were crawling through the tunnel to get to the Rabbit Hole (a ‘hidden’ Alice in Wonderland themed club in The Park), me and my boyfriend were separated. He continued through the tunnel… I, however, was taken to a side room by a man in a fur coat; who proceeded to dress me as a playing card, teach me a dance routine and lead me on stage in the Rabbit Hole to perform it with three strangers – just another day at Glastonbury!