Glastonbury : The ultimate celebration of music, people, hope and humanity
Glastonbury : The ultimate celebration of music, people, hope and humanity
Festival : “An event ordinarily celebrated by a community and centring on some characteristic aspect of that community and its religion or cultures.”
Twenty years ago, I went to my first music festival and was so blown away by what I saw I didn’t just vow to remain an avid festival goer for the rest of my life, I went one step further and decided that I would make a career of it. And that’s what I did. I forged a fifteen-year career in creative festival production and one question I seem to get asked time and time again is “what made you get into that job”. My answer is always the same – I want to be part of the creation of something that people talk about for the rest of their lives, to create memories of experiences that last a lifetime.
Music festivals don’t always get the best rap, especially the newer additions to the roster. Assumed by many that they are just an excuse for people to get f**ked up, listen to loud music and generally do things society doesn’t approve of. A place reserved for hippies and anarchists, unless you go to Latitude or Wilderness and then you’re just a bit posh and uninspired (these are things I have heard, rather than my first-hand opinion, FYI). These assumptions are symptomatic of the fact that we have lost sight of why festivals came to be and what they should stand for - and that is celebration and congregation.
In a world before sponsors and bottom lines these gatherings were just that, a gathering for people to come together in community and celebrate life and all it has to offer through music and song and feasting and love and respect for each other. A melting pot of everything that makes us human.
I once had a discussion with my therapist where I asked “is there something wrong with my relationship when my partner and I have our best nights in a field, listening to music and getting high?” His response? “Yes, if you listen to society’s rules, or perhaps if this was a daily occurrence but the fact that this happens a couple of times a year, where you two end up celebrating love with music and good people and heightening that experience in a way that has been done since the age of time, it actually sounds near perfect to me”. I should state my therapist is a very liberal kind of guy, but having this perspective made me realise how conditioned I had become to thinking there must be something wrong in doing the very thing that humankind has been doing for centuries.
Given my chosen career path I have been to A LOT of festivals, varying sizes, types of music, geographic locations but of course it comes back to one, the mecca, Glastonbury and so after five long years (thanks to fallow years and pandemics) I made the pilgrimage back to Worthy Farm with the intention to really drill in to what it is that makes this place so special and if we can get back to what that’s all about.
I struggle to imagine anyone who hasn’t heard of Glastonbury, but appreciate there may be a fair few who haven’t experienced it – to summarise within this wordcount what it is like is ambitious. But I’ll try my best.
A temporary city that for one-week hosts artists from every walk of life and from all over the world. A place where people come together to share elation and wonder at installations and curations. A cross section of societal subdivisions converging for the same reason, an act that in our ever-polarising society seems to be coming less and less common. And for me, that is the magic of Glastonbury, especially after the last few years. For five days you are held (and I mean held in a comforting, supportive sense, not an against your will sense) in a space where you can shut off the news, you can shut off the outside world, you can be whatever you want to be, do whatever you want to do and share it with people who are there for the same reason.
I approached my Glastonbury experience slightly differently this year, knowing this article was to come out of it, to gain an understanding of what it was that forged this sense of community with everyone there. I remained sober (for at least a day) so I could be sure that what I was witnessing was accurate and not a drug-induced state of blissful loving. Standing at the Truth stage, flanked by billboards and posters stating things such as “You can silence people but their hearts will always be free” and “hate has no home here” watching folk singer Beans on Toast it all became clear. Glastonbury is a celebration of love and a place of hope.
In between songs of political states of affairs and current climates, Jay McAllister stopped to address the crowd “the thing about Glastonbury is it is a beautiful place, a hopeful place, a friendly place, a brilliant place”. He wasn’t wrong. With Greta Thunberg giving a speech on the iconic Pyramid stage, Greenpeace having a huge on-site presence, activists informing and educating at every turn, plant doctors and spiritualists demonstrating alternative healing methods and people from every walk of life uniting, Glastonbury is so much more than a music festival, it is a place where people can believe in a better world, they can get a snapshot of what life could be like if we were all to come together and in this togetherness an energy is shared. A huge collective emotion wanting change and a better world and a better life for future generations, if that isn’t a celebration of life, I don’t know what is.
How to do Glastonbury (the right way)
I totally appreciate that general camping at Glastonbury (or any festival) is not for the faint hearted. Even for a seasoned festival goer like myself, trekking wheelbarrows of stuff through hilly fields, queuing for hours for toilets that could cause another pandemic and playing the game of temperature regulation in a tent that either becomes a sweat box in the sun or an ice box in a cool breeze with no in-between is not fun so this year I took one for the team and after some extensive research as to the best boutique camping provider at Glastonbury, I landed on the wonderful Hotel Ziggu and I am here to tell you my research paid off.
As we crossed the border into Somerset I waited for my Google maps to turn red and another day be added on to our journey as we joined the throngs of cars but to my surprise, it never came. Using some very accurate directions we seemed to bypass the quarter of a million people and slipped around the back into our paradise without so much as going into first gear. This was a GREAT start.
Into the private car park and met instantly by a golf buggy to lug our kit to our tent with not so much as an eye of judgement at my numerous outfit choices and full-length mirror.
On arrival at our bell tent we were greeted by two ice cold champagne cocktails for us to sip as we did the obligatory mattress check on our REAL double bed – I can confirm the mattress was deliciously comfortable and any worries of not sleeping were instantly removed.
After a long drive we decided to hole up at the campsite so we could hit the festival fresh in the morning and dine at the onsite restaurant before whiling the night away with more cocktails in a chill out area complete with hammocks and sofas.
The next day, with slightly more sore heads than intended (those pesky cocktails were just too damn good) we made the most of the breakfast spread and a Bloody Mary in the wood-fired hot tub, which I can now confirm is the absolute only way to start the day. Once refuelled and refreshed we hopped on the shuttle bus to the festival that took a mere five minutes and were ready to go.
I didn’t think Glastonbury could get much better but the team at Hotel Ziggu and the offering they provide really does take this from a ten to an eleven and I could not recommend them enough. I will most certainly be back next year. And every year after that.
Need to know
A bell tent for two people starts at £3,000 for the festival period
The other players – I get it, Glastonbury isn’t for everyone. I will silently judge you but I get it – the crowds, the price, the commitment, it is a lot. If you want to ease yourself into the world of festivals gently or are looking for something smaller but a similar vibe below are my recommendations.
Set in the heart of the Brecon Beacons, this family-friendly independent festival is a very close second to Glasto in my ‘top festivals of all time’ poll. It is fantastic for music (big acts and upcoming) comedy and talks as well as the most beautiful art installations you have ever seen. I would go as far as to say it is the most polite and friendly festival I have been to and perfect for those wanting the full experience without a crowded, oversubscribed vibe.
Where to stay
Hotel Bell Tent are the OGs when it comes to boutique camping and their offering at Green Man is quite honestly stunning. Set on the banks of the River Usk - you are a less than a five minute walk from the main festival but distanced enough away that it is blissfully peaceful.
The camp includes a pamper tent, phone charging station, high end toilets and showers.
I stumbled up on this festival by accident and whilst the music offering may not be for everyone (Country, Blues and Americana) it is great for people looking for a smaller show where the kids can run around without fear of getting lost (it’s that small) whilst the adults can just have a jolly good time kicking around in cowboy boots. I dragged my partner, who has been to more shows than I and categorically hates Country, and he is still claiming it is one of the best he’s been to. Where else can you eat Brisket, drink whiskey, throw axes and watch wannabe cowboys?
Where to stay
Ok I know this goes against everything I have written BUT Red Rooster is one of the few shows where the general campsite is actually nicer than a lot of the boutique camp sites I have been in. Because of the small numbers there is oodles of space, it is flat, you can drive your car very close to your tent and you are a stone’s throw from the arena. What’s not to love?
MasterChef quarter finalist, food and travel writer and mental health muser Hannah Gregory is always on a quest for her next adventure. Happiest with a glass full of wine, a belly full of food and sun on her skin, she is constantly on the hunt for food led travel destinations.