Picture the scene:
I’m walking through an English field on a swelteringly hot morning. I’m wearing Lennon sunglasses, a decadently regal faux-fur jacket, and strapped to my back is a camping rucksack stuffed to the brim and ready to explode like a Boxing Day party popper, ejecting paper confetti and dried fruit snacks onto everything in a close proximity. To my left, is a huge wooden structure of a fire-breathing dragon, and to my right, is a middle-aged man dressed head-to-toe in drag, walking on abnormally long stilts. He tips his fedora as he strides past and tells me that he’s ‘really high’, laughing at his pun as he steps languidly into the distance.
There’s only one place on this earth that I could feasibly be. Glastonbury Festival.
That’s right one and all, for that time has come again. Festival season is upon us and the party is ready to start at Worthy Farm. Earlier this week, Glastonbury HQ’s annual reveal of the stage splits and timings were circulated, to the simultaneous joy and heartache of all its loyal attendees.
Now, in my opinion, festivals are great – but, there are two particular things about them that are inherently and fundamentally shitty. The first of these shitty instances is getting yourself in. You’ll queue for hours and hours, usually in an incredibly uncomfortable heat, balancing sun stroke and dehydration along with your tent, blow-up mattress and bottomless crates of alcohol. To call it an emotional roller-coaster would be inaccurate, for that implies that there are high points. There aren’t. It’s simply one devastating plummet. For clarity’s sake, we’ll just refer to it as Hell On Earth.
You’re exhausted, weak, starving, and have decided that you hate the friends that you’ve chosen to attend with, all of whom echo that sentiment about you. In a contemporary age, I imagine it’s the closest we’ll ever get to understanding what it must have felt like to build the Pyramids.
Eventually, Hell On Earth passes and you enter temporary euphoria. You set up camp, unfold your deckchair and crack open a can of lukewarm lager. Bliss. However, just when that Carlsberg-infused false sense of security has lulled you into thinking you’re safe, the friend that you decided you hated the most during Hell On Earth suggests that you begin to plan who you’re going to see tomorrow when the music begins.
Cue shitty instance number two. The clashes.
Oh my god. If you thought you hated your friends earlier, now you’re really about to learn what it’s like to resent somebody you once thought fondly of.
You want to go and see Tame Impala whilst your mates are dying to catch Fatboy Slim’s set at the John Peel. Ever since James Blake dropped The Colour In Anything you’d have given anything to watch him perform live, but now the opportunity has miraculously presented itself you’re going to be dragged kicking-and-screaming to Adele instead. You thought you’d never get the chance to see LCD Soundsystem perform ever again, completely ruling out the prospect of them reforming. Lo and behold, you were wrong, and here they are – but you’re outnumbered 6:1 by people who are rebuking that cherished idea in favour of Coldplay’s headlining Pyramid set. You haven’t even realised that Earth Wind and Fire are playing the West Holts Stage at the same time, too.
Though you never really reach the desperate lows you experienced during Hell On Earth, expect frustrated disappointment nonetheless. Last year, I sulked through the whole of Peace’s brilliant John Peel set because I wanted to be at Run The Jewels. Though you’ll experience this conflict at whichever festival you end up at over the summer, it’s one that is particularly resonant to Glastonbury. Because of the sheer scale of it, the extensive volume of acts and stages dictates that there are bound to be more clashes to tackle. As an attendee of Glastonbury, it’s a cruel life – but one that you have chosen.
And that’s also what makes it the best festival in the world.
Yep, you’ll make some difficult decisions, but nowhere else will you find yourself bypassing Stormzy to go and see an address by Jeremy Corbyn. Under one, magical umbrella, Glastonbury encompasses music, film, politics, performing arts, sport, activism, food, drink, sexuality, philosophy, science and so, so much more. It is gorgeous, eclectic and, to be frank, bloody massive. If you’re one of the lucky people on their way to Somerset this June, expect an experience that borrows from nothing – be prepared to leave what you know to be the world and immerse yourself in an alternative, spellbinding bubble that hovers above normal society.
You’re probably already pissed off that you’re going to have to miss one of your favourite bands, but that will soon pass. Soon, you’ll enter a beautiful, insane little slice of the earth that truly is like nowhere else.
Glastonbury has everything you could ever want – you just might have to make a couple of sacrifices to see all of it.
Words by Niall Flynn