Glasto Day 1: To Glastonbury, and Exploring the Site
Four years out of five, for a springtime week, Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset becomes a hedonistic global capital of art and music. Over 40 stages, almost 200,000 people including staff and revellers, thousands of performances, 3,000 loos, 20,000 bins, its own water supply, hundreds of food stalls and restaurants, bars, clubs, newspapers.. Glastonbury is a city by most definitions. I’d never been. I’d generally open the newspaper around April time every year and read that yet again Glasto tickets had sold out in record time yesterday. Oh well, maybe next year. This year though, with no work commitments, and with a string of terrible weather years meaning that surely, surely this year would be glorious sunshine.. I made sure I booked!
I knew a few people going – Mike Sowa and Pete Derbyshire, whom I used to work with, and Farah – whom I met in Ethiopia. In fact I later discovered through Facebook status updates proclaiming that people had just got back from Glasto that I knew several more people there. It’s not the sort of place you’d accidentally bump into someone! Anyway, Mike and his friends were renting a camper van, so I offered to chip in to use their facilities, and hopefully camp next to them, me being a Glasto virgin and needing some pointers as to how it all works. I coached down – the train is more expensive, less flexible, and involves an annoying transfer from Castle Cary station to get to the site.
The weather forecast was not good, so I’d invested in a beefier tent for the purpose – I figured I’d want some room if I were to be stuck in my tent for any extended period of time. I also had a double inflatable mattress, and all the other usual festival gear. What I didn’t have to do was carry booze – the Campervan was of course the medium for this. For future though, I think the tip of having one of those trolley things (the kind you’d use to move a filing cabinet, but with bigger wheels perhaps) is a very good one – depending on where you arrive and where you’ll stay there is some serious walking to do before you get to pitch camp.
Off the coach and in… how exciting!
I rendez-vous’ed with Mike and his friends Tom and Lisa next to the Pyramid Stage – fairly easy to find being the main stage at Glasto.
We then hiked across, on the way putting up a small tent in a central area to use for daytime storage – as where they were camped was a good 30 minute walk away from “central”! By the time we’d reached the family camping area, which is past Leftfield, out of Gate C, up a hill and then across the site, I was fairly exhausted! The tent was soon erected, and then the relaxing could begin!
The main festival runs Friday to Sunday. This was Wednesday – the gates open in the morning. Why arrive early? Well for starters, if you want the most central camp spots, you have to arrive before lunch on Wednesday. I rolled up in the afternoon and already vast swathes of site were covered in tents. For me, it was also a nice way of getting into the vibe, getting my bearings, and having a potter before the main action kicks off. In future I’d definitely try to arrive on Wednesday again. As it happened, it also gave us time to enjoy the place before it became a mud-bath Thursday evening, but this we were not to know!
Flags in front of Jazz World
So Wednesday there wasn’t much in the way of live music, but most stages were sound checking or playing music. Many of the bars were open, and so I got to sample the traditional ciders from the Somerset Cider Bus and Brothers Bars. A Square Pie, Steak and Cheese, was lunch. We resolved never to have the same food twice – there’s really need – one could eat for weeks without eating at the same place in Glasto!
Pie or Philippino?
Brothers Bar – cider only (for those times when beer seems naughty!)
The thing to do then is to have a wander about the site, pick a spot of grass, have a seat, and relax.
Lisa, Tom and Mike
The main task is of course to work out a plan for the acts you want to see. Only when you understand the scale of the site can you feasibly attempt this. You’re issued with a booklet as you enter which has most of the main stages and their line up – though annoyingly it doesn’t have Leftfield or the Introducing Stages. You look through this booklet and pick out what you want to see.
Then you notice that there are some awful choices to make. For example Amy Winehouse and Jay-Z or Hot Chip and Massive Attack.
Map of the site
Then you notice even worse clashes – where it’s not the timing that’s the issue, but more that you know there is a 40 minute walk between stages and so you’ll never make it. This got me on a few occasions – bands that you’d normally die to see, but they’re just too far away – Franz Ferdinand playing the Park Stage was one I missed because of distance.
Anyway, being an ambitious type, I circled lots of acts and made a vague route between them. Some slots are left TBC, and big bands can turn up at the last minute to play – it’s worth asking around, and also checking the daily newspaper which is produced free, which has gossip, photos, but above all an updated timetable for the day.
The daily rag
Security was tight. On entering one shows the ticket, with photo and hologram. You are then given a wrist-band which has a metal tag so you can’t remove it without damaging it. If you leave the site, you have to show ticket and wrist-band on the way out, and you’re given a “re-entry pass”, and all three items must be shown on the way back in.
Wristband and watch (time is of the essence!)
The security wall around the edge is enormous. In fact, I have to commend the security arrangements – though the perimeter was fearsome, everyone was very friendly and policing was very light-handed. I don’t know what the theft situation was this year, but it felt extremely safe, and despite all the booze no one seemed at all aggressive. It’s a great place to take kids.
We walked up the hill to the Sacred Space, with flags fluttering in the gentle breeze everywhere.
Like a medieval fair
Wicker musicians going up
Flags up on Pennard Hill
From up on the hill there’s a marvellous view over the site, which really does start to reveal the scale of the place. Effectively the entire valley is used, stretching almost as far as one can see in all directions.
Dance Village down below
We headed down into the relatively new Park area. This has been created by Emily Eavis, the daughter of Michael, the farm owner. In addition to a stage playing interesting stuff, it hosts a Silent Disco, where one is issued with headphones on entering that are tuned into the DJ’s equipment – everyone dances in silence!
It also has the BBC Introducing Stage, which I’ll be trying to get to as often as possible, as Huw Stephen’s podcast is one of my favourites, and it’s how I discover lots of new music that I’m now into, like Monkey Swallows the Universe, Emmy the Great etc.
Helter Skelter? Where’s the slide?
There are also opportunities to express yourself! In Green Fields there are lots of arty and craft places where you can apply yourself, but here it’s a simple chalk board. Mike gets a Memory Card Zoo advert up!
We stumble into Bimble Inn, a pretty tented bar with pillows and proper beer, barrels from Otter Brewery. We lounge about and contemplate how this will work if the site turns into a mud-bath! For now, it’s lovely.
Of course, boozing all day, it’s hard to resist the Giant Yorkshire Pud and Sausage stand when we pass it on the way home.
Completely unnecessary. But oh so good!
Getting home is relatively easy as we have a good landmark to look for – the tower next to the Leftfield stage.
The Leftfield Tower
Round here, we pop into the Art Café for a quick one for the road. I need to use the loo (in anger) and have to make do with two sheets, quite a challenge. But at least I’m not Mr Buckaroo!
He wakes up shortly afterwards! We finish the night watching a very talented folk guitarist chap and accompanying girl on the fiddle. It’s been a good day!
Glasto 2008 Blog Index: Wednesday - Thursday - Friday - Saturday - Sunday Monday