After hours of queueing in the beating sun, I found myself tramping across a field of long grass carrying enough worldly possessions to set me up for life. Sweating under the ridiculous amount of layers I’d thought it appropriate to put on that morning, I finally threw myself and my encumbering luggage down on the grass and let out a loud sigh of relief. My shoulders ached, my fingers had lost all circulation, and I was certain I’d pulled a muscle in my back. However, none of that seemed relevant as I looked up at the blue sky and revelled in arriving at my first ever Glastonbury Festival.
Glastonbury is a magical place. It’s a place where the rest of the world simply ceases to exist for five days and instead you’re encouraged to live purely in the moment as you experience all of the delights and oddities that come with sharing a farm with nearly two hundred thousand other people. Whether you’re a chief executive or a cleaner, nobody at Glastonbury cares who you are or what you do in the ‘real world’. All that matters is that you’ve given yourself up to the festival way of life, embraced the spirit of Glastonbury and are having a damn good time.
Hovering perilously in front of a compost toilet, I actually began to get the jitters. I’d be pre-warned about the inevitably horrendous toilet situation and was fully expecting a cubical of fecal horror to greet me upon opening the door to my first ever festival toilet experience. Shewee in hand, I bravely stepped up to face my impending fate for the next five days. Well, thank goodness I’d been told so many dreadful stories because what greeted me was completely manageable in comparison. The introduction of mostly smell-free compost toilets at Glastonbury this year was an absolute revelation and, with not a portaloo in sight, the toilet experience was much the nicer for it. Unfortunately, the Shewee was an absolute write off from day one as my fear of weeing in the festival toilets, coupled with the pressure of a queue outside and the weirdness of peeing standing up meant I got stage fright on every occasion. More practice required.
All of us Glastonbury virgins, we got well and truly stuck into the playground that is Glastonbury Festival, taking in as many sights, sounds and experiences as our bodies would allow. We ate lemon drizzle cake outside a tent playing music powered by bicycles, we were unwittingly roped into a Glastonbury version of the Hokey-Cokey featuring people dressed in togas, we got lost in Shangri-la amongst the frenzy of bass beats and dancing drunks, we karaoke’d with people competing to win a cuddly toy, we slipped in the mud, we stood in a huddle against the driving rain, we watched lightning fork across the sky from underneath our dripping ponchos, we ate, we drank, we laughed, we sang, we danced.
In short, we had an absolute ball.
Being typical first time tourists, we tried to cram in as much as humanly possible throughout our trip which, by Saturday night, left me feeling like I’d run twenty marathons. Some aspects of Glastonbury can be a struggle at times and it is emotionally and physically draining. Living in a tent, being out in the elements all day every day, the constant beating of music and DJ patter, the mud, the incessant walking, the packed walkways, the inability to have a proper wash – all things that start to become difficult towards the end of the week. Especially as a tee-total, I definitely felt like I needed to be perked up on a couple of occasions. In saying that, it’s really easy to power through because you’re surrounded by such a cacophony of madness and fascinating experiences that it doesn’t take long to get yourself back into the swing of things.
On Wednesday and Thursday we wandered around in the brilliant sunshine as the stages and installations started to creep into action. Like a cheeky peek of your Christmas presents before they are properly unveiled on Christmas morning, watching Glastonbury come to life in front of your eyes is a joy. Endless mental notes were made as we glimpsed hints of constructions and tents being put into place; “oh we must come back and see this!” or “I definitely want to spend an evening here!” Of course, you never truly get around to seeing everything because the festival is so vast that you could wander for two weeks and still find something new.
On Friday morning I awoke crumpled at the bottom of a boiling hot tent (that’s what happens when you pitch on an incline but it turned out to an invaluable decision when a storm struck). After dousing my hair with enough dry shampoo to dry up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, I had a baby-wipe shower, adorned myself with flowers and glitter and declared myself ready for the day. There was a buzz of anticipation in the air as the first day of properly scheduled music was due to begin. We’d caught a surprise, impromptu performance from the 1975 on Wednesday and we were now ready for three days packed full of noise, comedy, and dancing. A few of the acts we caught: Elbow, Arcade Fire, Beautiful South, Jake Bugg, The War On Drugs, Hozier, Nick Mulvey, Kaiser Chiefs, Josh Widdecombe, Bombay Bicycle Club (and lots more). A personal highlight was seeing the sun break through after the mother of all thunderstorms and surveying the sunkissed crowd singing along to Elbow’s One Day Like This. Beautiful!
I spent five blissful days having the time of my life; dancing to Frank Sinatra’s New York in the middle of a field, sitting on a bench pretending to be enjoying Kasabian, holding up a broken toilet door for each other just so we could skip the queues, watching two high best friends dancing in the light of the sunset, flirting with a security guard so he’d tell us where the secret Rabbit Hole was, daily discussions about bowel movements, cheering as people tried to shimmy their way around a table without falling off, fighting to remove damp wellingtons in the dark, high fiving and hugging complete strangers, sharing a moment of eye contact with somebody who loves a song as much as I do, and spending time with some of the best company I could hope for.
Good work Glastonbury, hope to see you again next year.
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