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What it was like to wake up to Brexit as a young person at Glastonbury

The morning after the night before. Niall Flynn describes waking up at Glastonbury to the EU referendum result.


I’m awoken by my friend’s brother-in-law, stumbling back to his tent after an evening in Shangri-La. My head hurts. ‘We’re out of fucking Europe’ he cries, in a tone that is emotionally uninterpretable, before I hear him collapse into his tent. I think I’m dreaming.

I’m not dreaming.

I’m fully awake now, and what I thought could have been an honest mistake, or even worse, a joke, is copiously occupying reality. We left. David Cameron is standing down. Boris, hunched and smirking, is waiting in the shadows, stroking a photo of the Number 10 door and whispering ‘my precious’. I don’t really know how to feel. This is a lie, I do know how to feel. Fucking gutted. Confused. Sad. Outside, groups are gathered around their tents. It’s a dreary morning, weather-wise, and the bleakness of the cloudy sky maunders in conjunction with the mood of the field I’m camped in. What is usually a never-sleeping hub of boozy hedonism is limp and lifeless.

The discussions begin. People are getting angry. I open a can of Fosters, which despite the lack of summer climate is lukewarm and flat. It’s incredibly difficult to describe the atmosphere – people don’t really know how to behave. A man camped next to me laughs out loud and immediately seems sorry for it.

I never tend to turn my phone on at Glastonbury. Perhaps I’m overly romantic, but I like to be cut off from the outside world – forget that there is one, if you like. Not this morning. This morning, the outside world has entered the dream sphere. Invaded. Conquered. BBC News is awash with images of Nigel Farage smiling. He’s calling it a ‘New Dawn´ for Britain. I’m sure that I’ve heard this quote before in a history seminar, but my 4G is down and I can’t confirm any of my suspicions. I write some angry tweets.

I have paella for breakfast, to make a point. Glastonbury is prided for its activism.

Skepta is performing on the Pyramid Stage. ‘That’s not me’ he roars. My hometown is the 11th highest Leave constituency. You’re right Skepta, this isn’t me.

Two Door Cinema Club are playing. None of the acts have mentioned Brexit yet. Have they been briefed? And what’s happened to that big, neon ‘IN’ sign that Michael and Emily Eavis had constructed? Is there a conspiracy? This would make much more sense. Maybe, this isn’t really happening.

This is definitely really happening.

Two men walk through the crowd with a giant, orange ‘LEAVE’ flag. Some people boo them. Other people shout worse. You can’t help but fear for their safety – though you get the feeling that there’s a distinct element of prankishness to the stunt, as they chuckle away, malevolently. It’s probably art.

This is all very strange. People are completely baffled as to how they’re supposed to be behaving. Glastonbury is the summerly stomping ground for left-leaning, progressive politics, so the confused disillusionment is all but universal. I’ve been drinking all day, so I’m pretty much pissed by now. Others are following suit. I think Farage might be an onomatopoeia.

Foals are playing the Pyramid. If I was pretty much pissed an hour ago, I’m now well on my way to entering the holy realms of fucked. Yannis from Foals says something about the result in-between songs, but I miss it because I’ve struck up conversation with a German lady. She doesn’t shower me with pity, nor does she refer to me as part of Britain as a collective. Rather, she illustrates that although it’s sad, I’ll find my way, regardless of the decision my country of birth has made. ‘It’s this kind of international solidarity I’m going to miss’, I tell her. She laughs. I think I’ve just made a joke. Yep, that was almost definitely a joke. I think the tide is turning.

Remember the film Independence Day? The alien ships arrive hovering over all of the world’s largest cities, so people start having end-of-the-world parties on top of huge skyscrapers underneath them. This is kind of what’s happening now. We all seem to know that something fundamentally shitty is on its way (especially for my generation), but we’ve managed to find ourselves in an environment where this inherent realisation can be placed to one side, and the consumption of wild, reckless positivity can take centre stage. I know I’m going to mourn the result of this referendum for a long time, but, in this magical, crazy place, I’m bloody well going to party like it’s the end of the world. Because it kind of is. But it doesn’t have to be.


Words by Niall Flynn

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