After a long year of yearning, preparing and training for the occasion, Glastonbury 2017 rolled around. this time, it was wokest it has ever been.
‘Woke’ – in the context of the modern millennial patois – is a term to denote political awareness or greater political conscientiousness. This is particularly relevant considering the dire state of British politics between last year’s Brexit vote and this year’s Wheatgate and subsequent demolition of the conservative majority. Now, this article runs the distinct risk of becoming yet another clickbait socialist rave about the power of Glastonbury as a beacon of hope, love etc. however, this year’s festival, this humble writer’s 4th, was particularly relevant for its distinct political undertone.
Last year’s festival felt like an aftershock, a devastating hole left in the very ethos of this cosmopolitan festival. Nonetheless, 2017 was surely and strongly in the thrall of the cult of corbyn. The leader of the opposition, whom made his much anticipated and highly popular speech before rap duo run the jewels, was a deified presence in the complex network of tents. The chants of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ became spontaneously, the rallying cry at every tent, disco or bar. At any point one could expect this chant to break out, at the toilets there was a particular resonance with the huddled masses. Yet, what made this Glastonbury so particularly woke (at least to the extent more politically charged than in previous years) was that the clear majority of people were speaking of politics, of the system that governs us and irrevocably of the bipartisan nature of britain’s electoral spectrum. Indeed, the sheer number of Nike swoosh t-shirts with corbyn’s name, the vast quantities of wheat related jokes and of course, the omniscient and ever present scent of ed balls is testament to this fact.
Balls aside, many acts sought to tap into the political zeitgeist. The national addressed the devolving state of the US political system by ignoring, in their words, “Ronald mcfuckface” and focusing on the halting of the Healthcare bill which threatens to leave millions without healthcare in the US. Similarly, Lorde fashioned a couple of wry statements of the whole hit and miss nature of british politics and most surprisingly, the foo fighters talked of the messed-up state of the modern world. Importantly, all around, politics, the middle class and the current hero status of corbyn were being discussed. To this end, it is odd to think of Glastonbury as never having been a space for politics. It’s very creative ethos stems from a desire to believe in a better world, espoused in the campaigns for CND (Nuclear disarmament) on the pyramid stage or the various conversations overheard in the green future’s or healing fields. Discussing Brexit whilst receiving a massage is an interesting exercise in the overall leave or remain debate.
Ostensibly, this heightened political climate is not an indictment of the previous years or to dub them apolitical. More often than not, certain tabloids assume to portray the millennial generation as politically disinterested, apathetic or lazy when it comes to real politics. Ignoring this pathetic generalisation, instead one can surmise that the youth, the 18-30 year olds who make up the vast majority of Glastonbury goers are in reality, the most politically vociferous.
Indeed, whilst this article shall avoid becoming politically aligned, one thing is undeniable. At Glastonbury, the people who go there, the younger scions of the sesh, prefer Labour. They like Corbyn. They like his message “to build bridges, not walls.” It is inscribed on the very boudnaries which surround the vastness of this music mecca.
Over the last 4 years, Glastonbury offers up a different vibe for each occasion. The last two years of these trips have been politically charged affairs. Yet this year feels akin to less of the sense of outrage which greeted the referendum result. Rather, it was a sense of awakening. A sentiment that in 2017, a young man or woman can make their voice heard above the din. A din which for years has been a space for centrist politics which appeal to the homeowners in their small villages and their secure triple-locked pensions.
At Glastonbury, a place of sheer enjoyment, abandon and hedonistic invigoration, an atmosphere brewed. An atmosphere of socially and politically relevant consciousness that spread from tent to tent like wildfire. this is not to glorify a left-leaning festival or to embrace the flower-power ambience of it, rather it must be appreciated that this festival stands as a testament to a younger generation living without security, without stable employment and uncertainty. That, ultimately, at Glastonbury they are not alone. everyone at Glastonbury 2017 engaged with the dilemmas and questions of our ambiguous times. Yet, it is and was a place of conversation where everyone could speak.
To quote a certain Nile Rodgers: Glastonbury is a place where everybody can dance.
Words by James Hill