What do Art Garfunkel, ZZ Top, Earth, Wind and Fire, a British physicist and a hand puppet shaped like a fox have in common?
They’re all playing Glastonbury Festival 2016, of course.
It’s a bit of a local phenomenon, old Glasto.
What happens is the Wednesday before Glastonbury weekend, half of the population of under 30s in Bristol pack Wellington boots, tents, sleeping rolls, bikinis, sun cream, sun hats, body glitter, lighters, baby wipes, giant flags and inflatable crocodiles in their back packs, tie scarves, beads, feathers and anything else vaguely ethnic or sparkly in their hair and head, backs bent but hearts high, for the train station.
They don’t bother to pack food, as there are several dozen food outlets selling scrumptious if pricey samosas and tofu burgers on site, though they might pack toilet roll as the plumbing at Glastonbury is legendary in the sense that only wading knee deep in mud and human effluent can become legendary. Though, this overflowing of all things brown only happens in the years when the Somerset weather is particularly rainy, which in light of global warming and as we’re on the West of the country, bravely facing the long, open sweep of the Atlantic Ocean, is only once every two or three years.
I’m reliably informed seasoned festival goers don’t waste time queuing for the showers when they could be watching giant metal spiders breath fire or leviathans of the music industry pelt out their hits during a thunderstorm – hence the baby wipes. After all, a wipe’s as a good as a wash when everyone else smells too.
And if you’re wondering why the happy campers of Bristol and so many other towns near and far arrive at the site days before ZZ Top have even shampooed their beards or Earth, Wind and Fire have dusted off their leotards and replaced their missing sequins, then it’s because an encampment the size of a town is established in the grounds of Worthy Farm for the week and the earlier you set up camp, the closer you’ll be to the stages.
If you’ve ever had to walk home from the pub after downing a yard of ale, a jar of pickled eggs and ten tequila slammers, then you’ll appreciate why cutting down staggering time is so important.
The stampede for tickets takes place months before and always before any of the acts have been confirmed, which only adds to the notion that the festival is more about the experience, man – good and stinking – rather than the music.
It’s a far cry from Glastonbury’s origins.
comes from the Old English, Glestingabyrig – byrig meaning stronghold, inga meaning of the people and Glaston, possibly meaning woad place, woad being a plant from which troublemakers like Braveheart Mel Gibson – err, sorry, William Wallace – were keen to extract the blue dye and smear it over their presumably (being Scots) pallid bodies.
So, a fort of the people of the woad place has become a camp for the children beloved of body glitter, which is as close as rural Somerset is likely to get to Braveheart these days.
A bass amp’s throw from the Glastonbury site is Glastonbury Tor, centre of religious activity for a few thousand years. Not only is it the picturesque setting for a small parish church, it also has mysterious terracing running round the mound, rumoured to be an ancient labyrinth and is supposedly the Isle of Avalon, the mythic resting place of England’s Once and Future King – Arthur.
King Arthur – yes, that one, the husband of that cheating minx Guinevere, founder of the Round Table and hunter of the Holy Grail – is supposed to have been buried there, to return at a time of when the country is in great peril. Many have questioned why he didn’t pop up during the Norman Invasion of 1066, during the wars with Napoleon or the Blitz, when bombs rained on the heads of his subjects and the Nazis were one hop across the Channel away from invasion.
But then, considering he’s had a really long nap and he might need to wake up a little before leaping into action, may I suggest he opens with something smaller.
Handing out rain hats and galoshes as the Somerset rain pelts festival goers could be a great place to start.
With thanks to Kat, founder of W4W.