Glastonbury isn’t happening this summer, but you can get your festival fix with Where’s My Welly? Author Matt Everitt’s affectionate look at everybody’s favourite mudfest…
Since the Pilton Pop, Folk & Blues Festival launched in 1970, Glastonbury has grown to become the most eclectic, bizarre, exciting, inclusive and fun festival in the world, attracting legendary musicians and a huge, devoted audience.
It’s now held on a 365-hectare (900-acre) site with a 14-kilometre (8.5-mile) perimeter fence, and plays host to about 175,000 festival-goers, musicians and site workers. These days some 3,000 acts perform around a galaxy of more than 100 stages, tents, bars, discos, circuses, cinemas, puppet theatres, political debates and all-night sound systems spiralling across the fields of Pilton, with the iconic Pyramid Stage at its heart.
Michael Eavis’s (1) daughter Emily Eavis (2) now helps to run the event, and together they keep the spirit of the original Glastonbury alive. Glasto is the place where you can leave the normal world behind for a few days and immerse yourself in anti-establishment ideals of personal freedom, cooperation, environmentalism and tolerance.
Just as the surrounding landscape is steeped in the myths of Arthurian legend, so Glasto has myths of its own that circulate each year. Does the lost property department still have an unclaimed false leg? Did Prince (3) agree to headline, ‘But only in May’? Did the lasers during the show by Orbital (4) blind a 747 pilot flying overhead? Has Lady Gaga (5) gone onstage wearing a dress made of bubbles? Was that Prince Charles (6) wandering across the Pyramid Stage? Did the Dalai Lama (7) give a speech at the Peace Garden? Will Radiohead (8), Pulp (9) or The Libertines (10) play unannounced surprise sets? Did Banksy (11) re-create Stonehenge out of chemical toilets somewhere on site? Did Michael Jackson (12) really die just as the festival started? (For the record, only one of those didn’t happen.)
Then there are the bands. The biggest and greatest live acts in the world have headlined, including David Bowie (13), The Prodigy (14), Oasis (15), Blur (16) (twice), Coldplay (17) (four times), Jay Z (18), Florence + The Machine (19), The White Stripes (20), Paul McCartney (21), Muse (22) (three times), Arctic Monkeys (23), Fatboy Slim (24), Bruce Springsteen (25), Stevie Wonder (26), Beyoncé (27), Metallica (28), Arcade Fire (29), Kanye West (30), The Rolling Stones (31), The Smiths (32) and Adele (33). And that’s barely scratching the surface. They all realise that Glasto crowds are some of the most passionate and dedicated around (tickets always sell out before a single act is confirmed), and a headlining set can be a career-defining moment.
But Glastonbury is all about the audience. Over the years millions of music fans have made Worthy Farm their home for a weekend, and there are a million Glastonbury stories: tales of campfire laughter, cosmic coincidences at the Stone Circle, late-night lunatic adventures, new friends and face-paint tomfoolery, impromptu marriages and misplaced minds, flooded tents and more than a few lost wellies. But rather than me trying to capture a moment of Glastonbury magic, I suggest that you try to get a ticket and experience it for yourself… Next year.