If you are reading this and haven’t yet registered to buy Glastonbury tickets this weekend, forget it. No tricks or tips articles are going to help you now. You have to be registered to buy, and registration ended weeks ago.
But take heart, this is not a festival you are meant to get into easily – it hasn’t been like that since its earliest incarnations. From the moment your Glastonbury experience begins, you commit to a physical and mental assault course. And this, just as much as the music, is why it is worth every penny you spend.
Where else do you bring your own accommodation, have nowhere to pee and spend a fortune on food and beer, while wading through mud and then wake up Sunday morning your mouth a desert, your tent a puddle, with some drunk bloke taking a slash right by your head. And pay £350 for the pleasure?
There is nothing sanitised about Glastonbury, whatever the moaning about how middle class it has become (the original hippies were middle class). The hell begins with getting a ticket. The first batch of these Willy Wonka golden tickets went in 25 minutes on Thursday.
On Sunday morning at 9am, the largest chunk will disappear even faster, while teams of friends frantically battle with their keyboard, shouting in frustration, as they get locked out, but inexplicably their best friend wins theirs. Social media will be awash with gloating winners of the “sorry, not sorry” sort. (Note: you deserve to become social pariahs for such behaviour. While the rest of us will return to ferreting around for access, whichever way we can.)
I have been- to Glasto more times than I can recall. The very first, aged 18, I tried to climb the fence. I got stuck at the top – it was 20 feet up – Alsatian guard dogs barking one side and a frightening drop the other. It was like Escape from Alcatraz. My exasperated friend eventually tugged me down and I narrowly missed snapping my leg. I do not recommend this route and that fence is positively terrifying now.
There followed days of no sleep, no tent, no water and no friends. This was the era of brick mobiles (yes, there was a time before i-Phones took over our lives), and no mobile masts existed in Glastonbury. We lost our gang within hours and never found them again. They had our food, tents, clothes… I hated nearly of it. And the very next year, I couldn’t wait to return.
The very essence of Glastonbury is to put yourself through hell for days – music is almost the side line. It’s the Tough Mudder for people who only do Lycra when it is hot pink with glittery bits.
Our everyday lives are revoltingly convenient: Uber here, Wizz Air there; home deliveries for absolutely everything – you don’t have to negotiate the supermarket queue, or commute (the Central Line from 5pm is truly a vision from Dante’s Inferno), as we can work from the cosiness of home. But this is not what we are built for. Humans thrive on adversity.
Why else would do we spend our weekends taking on ever more challenging sporting activities? You can’t even move in the countryside without being run over by middle-aged men tearing up the lanes in bikes that cost more than cars. Ben Nevis is wrapped in cagoules. Glastonbury is about the joy... but most of all the pain.
Wet, cold, hungover, I’ve waded through waist-high mud until my feet turned white. I’ve slept in a tent meant for six – with 20. Split up with a boyfriend, mid-festival, when the fields of Glasto revealed the inescapable dividing lines of our personalities. (I left him standing mournfully in the rain, in front of Radiohead in 1997.)
You walk for miles, with heavy sacks on your bag, dragging soggy tents while some parents – and I will never understand this – are mad enough to bring their toddlers! Every visit to the portacabin is an assault on the olfactory senses (never mind your sphincter has one peak inside those cabins and shuts shop in protest). Each visit to Somerset, both epic and awful.
But also, every year I’ve gone remains etched in my mind. On stage with The Orb, while they played “Little Fluffy Clouds” in the sunshine; backstage – watching as Nile Rodgers performed “Let’s Dance”; standing beneath the stars, under the famous oak tree while The White Stripes did the performance of their lifetime (no one could forget Meg White’s drum solo that night – it was musical history).
My biggest lifetime regret? That I let my girlfriend insist we quit before David Bowie’s legendary Sunday night Glastonbury gig in the year 2000. I’ve never forgiven her.
My only advice to Emily Eavis: don’t change one iota of Glasto, certainly don’t add any millennial comforts. But maybe consider having two Glastonburys a year...?