Glastonbury sunset by Maxnot

Happy 50th birthday Glastonbury Festival

Or #whatWorthyFarmmeanstome

Spinning around on an empty ballroom dancefloor I noticed someone had joined me. As I spun faster, she spun faster.

Her friend was watching from one side and my friend also looked on. I was wearing a green and blue horizontal striped raincoat borrowed from my mum, one she had bought 20 years or so before – from either Tesco or Sainsbury’s. She wore some kind of raingear but a bit more glamorous.

She was Peaches Geldof and I was me. It wasn’t a dream but it was Glastonbury.

The Glastonbury Festival site goes on for miles
The Glastonbury Festival site goes on for miles ( Glastonbury 2010 by Russ Garrett is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )
The Glastonbury sign
If there was no COVID-19 this year’s Glastonbury sign would probably say Glastonbury 50. Fancy that! ( Glastonbury sign by Russ Garrett is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )
Cows by MojoBaron
Glastonbury takes place on the Eavis family’s dairy farm. I’m not sure this is it though ( “Glastonbury 2010” by MojoBaron is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 )
Some of Glastonbury's characters
The woman in the middle wouldn’t look out of place on a day at the races

In the fourteen or so years since it happened (it might have been 2005 or it might have been 2006) people have asked why there aren’t any photos.

Truth be told there aren’t many photos of many of the memorable parts of Glastonbury.

It’s four or five days in the (mostly, in my experience) mud so I don’t want to carry (and don’t have) an expensive camera and would just use, what is now largely known as, a burner phone from Argos for texts.

And, in a flashback to the days when you had to be sparing about what you photographed – one or two disposable cameras. (I still have an undeveloped one from Glastonbury a few years back and it’s now past its develop-by date – I must get it developed one day!)

One exception to the rule . . . One year there was a crash on the motorway so all the National Express coaches were delayed and so everyone on my coach got dropped off at a service station about an hour from the site and then got cabs.

The people my friend and I shared with were very friendly and there was a lot of singing and a lot of vodka consumed – and a lot of photos taken on someone’s cameraphone.

It was definitely a great start to the festival, although drunkenly putting up the tent in the dark was a tricky endeavour!

Unshaven at Glastonbury
A few days at Glastonbury used to be the most unshaven I would be – until the coronavirus pandemic came along
Welly-wanging and ball throwing at Glastonbury
Hardcore welly wanging and ball throwing action. I can’t remember if there was a prize
Stilt walker at Glastonbury
All kinds of performers are out and about when the weather is dry at Glastonbury
The Cockmill site at Glastonbury
It’s a bit of fun . . . and also the name of one of the camping areas at Glastonbury Festival ( The Cockmill by MojoBaron is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 )

The 50th anniversary

With this year being the 50th anniversary and watching Jo Whiley and Mark Radcliffe chatting to Emily Eavis during the BBC’s coverage over the weekend I realised I do miss it.

I was never one to go religiously every year (after my first time in 1998 I didn’t go back for quite a few years) and hadn’t gone in recent years – but thought about going last year and was thinking about going this year after last year’s coverage was so amazing on the TV.

The reason I was thinking about going wasn’t due to the bands – don’t get me wrong, there is nothing better than getting a drinking from the cider bus and singing along to your favourite song with hundreds of thousands of people.

I was thinking about going because of the things that happen when the bands aren’t on – the secret areas you discover, dancing in woodlands, crawling through ‘tunnels’ in a space age world, walking up to the Stone Circle and having the equivalent of a spiritual awakening – the equivalent because the feeling was just immense joy at seeing a patch of grass for the first time in five days.

Although – obvs – what happens at Glastonbury stays at Glastonbury, the experiences from a long weekend/ almost a week (depending on when you arrive) stay with you and enrich you throughout your lifetime.

Arcadia by Russ Garrett
Glastonbury after dark is like another world ( Arcadia by Russ Garrett is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )
Arcadia 2009 by Russ Garrett
As you’ll know by now (if you have read past ‘episodes’ of Fiskal Policy) I love a fire show ( Arcadia 2009 by Russ Garrett is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )
Shangri-La by Russ Garrett
Shangri-La wouldn’t be out of place in Blade Runner ( Shangri-La by Russ Garrett is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )
Discovering the secret plans to Shangri-La
Discovering the secret plans to Shangri-La was a cause for celebration

I remember my friend getting back to our tent fairly early on the Friday morning in 1998 announcing ‘well, that’s the last of my dry clothes gone’. When she went to the medical tent later on in the day she said most of the people there were suffering from trenchfoot.

That was the year you would see people standing on the pathways selling cans of lager and tins of food. It was also the year my tent got raided.

At the time I was still happy because I’d just seen Blur headline the Pyramid Stage (probably the last time when I was there when I especially cared about the headliners on that stage – obviously last year I would have seen Stormzy) but it made it expensive because they had taken my rucksack containing my clothes and food.

It was also the year I wore plastic bags inside my wellies because – I found out – they weren’t waterproof. (They had belonged to my dad’s dad and he died years before I was born so god knows how old they were!)

That year I went off on my own on the final night to watch Ruby Throat play at some vegetarian food place which seemed to have a stage and a dancefloor. It seemed a good idea when I set off but I got stuck in the mud and had to shout for help for what seemed like for ever until two men came and lifted me out.

Glastonbury has always been a place where rumours and fake news can spread very quickly – from people making up who is playing a secret set to others trying to tell real news but who aren’t believed.

Welly Henge by Giles Moss
10 out of 10 for creativity in the Glastonbury mud ( “Welly Henge” by MrGiles is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )
Glastonbury Flags by Chain of Wolves
There was rarely time to admire the lines of flags at Glastonbury because you had to be focused on where you were walking in the thick mud ( “Glastonbury 2005 – Objects 09” by Chain of Wolves is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )
Saturday Mud by Auntie P
By the Saturday I’d be dreaming of being able to sit down on the grass ( “Glastonbury 2007 – Saturday – Mud” by Auntie P is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

I was there on the day it was announced Michael Jackson had died but not many people had ‘smartphones’ back then so no-one quite believed it until they got home and saw it on the news.

Glastonbury has also been the best open air pub for me on the days when they would show England’s progress in football tournaments.

I cannot remember who we were playing but have happy memories one year of drinking a lot of supermarket own brand cider from a 3l plastic bottle while watching the action.

It has also made me feel old when compared to now I was still relatively young.

Red wine for breakfast

One year Glastonbury came amidst a redundancy consultation process at work.

My boss phoned me on the Friday morning and I ignored the call – saying the signal was bad but really it was because I’d had a lot of red wine for breakfast.

Later on when we chatted I was pleased to have been told I still had a job, just a slightly different one to the one I had been doing.

But on the Sunday afternooon a teenager asked me what had been my festival highlight. When I told him it was finding out I still had a job he said I was “so corporate”.

Glastonbury has also always been a place where people have believed change is possible – from singing about Gordon Brown dropping the debt to painting their faces blue to help build toilets in Africa. It’s a place for education and debate but also for folding your arms and standing in front of the DJ box when Alan McGee plays one too many Oasis records (I did this).

Like many things that have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, it will be back next year and undoubtedly the organisers will want it back bigger and better than ever before.

Orbital by Russ Garrett
I love Orbital so am not sure why I wasn’t there for this ( Orbital by Russ Garrett is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )
Glastonbury sunset by Maxnot
Sunset is always a special time at Glastonbury ( “Glastonbury sunset” by Maxnot is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 )
Sunday night at Glastonbury Festival by Russ Garrett
A view from the top of the Stone Circle on a Sunday night, looking out across the Glastonbury Festival site ( “Sunday Night at Glastonbury Festival” by Russ Garrett is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

But this will not be able to happen unless the Government provides financial assistance to the Arts this year.

It has given funding to many different sectors during the crisis and questions need to be asked about why the Culture Secretary (he went to my school – fact fans) seems to have come up with nothing concrete, just a so-called ‘roadmap’.

Without a proper rescue plan for the Arts the line-up for many of the stages at Glastonbury next year will be much smaller because comedians won’t be able to afford to continue, circus troupes will have to find other jobs, dancers will have to stop dancing, theatrical groups will have to stop acting and record labels will cut their smaller acts to save money.

And even the cinema tent will be affected if filmmakers cannot afford to make their movies.

If you want a two day Glastonbury then it’s fine to sit back and do nothing. But if you want to pitch your tent on Wednesday afternoon and not leave until you’re dragged kicking and screaming on Monday afternoon then – in a true Glastonbury stylee – you should probably sign this petition.

Stay safe for another week!