• Revellers

A Beginner's Guide to Glastonbury

Updated: Jun 23, 2021


Sunset over the Glastonbury pyramid stage 2015

Last week we found ourselves at the Bvlgari, one of our favourite London hotels, discussing how we might develop future partnerships together now that they’ve opened up a number of shiny new event spaces. As we were chatting after the meeting, it transpired that the hotel’s Sales Manager was headed to Glastonbury this year, for the first time. As a Glastonbury devotee and long-timer myself, I admit to having been a little taken aback: not only are the fields of Pilton a far cry from the marbled floors of Knightsbridge, but I was having trouble imagining our very glamorous colleague in a habitat so utterly different to the one we meet her in.

I’m aware that advice-givers can be a dull breed: most of the time we volunteer our information unasked, and quite often as a means of not-so-subtly boasting about our own experiences and ‘superior’ subject knowledge. However, on hearing that our friend was headed to the festival this year, I couldn’t stop myself from giving her a few pointers. They were intended to help debunk a myth or two, and hopefully increase a first-timer’s enjoyment of what will anyway be the most bewildering, boggling, exhausting and exhilarating experience: The 2019 Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.

1. This is not camping…

…it’s surviving in tents. Which isn’t meant to be as off-putting as it sounds. Glastonbury living is a unique activity - so, if you hate camping, this isn’t camping, and if you love camping, this isn’t camping either. It requires a mindset all its own - one of calm, ambivalent survival. Plan for one shower the whole time you’re there (and only then if you’re prepared to queue, or else to shower between the hours of 3am - 6am.) Plan to have no hair plan. Plaits, headscarves and dry shampoo are your friends. Curlers, tongs and hairdryers are not.

2. FOMO? Forget it.

You will not see everything you plan to see. You will not see everything you want to see. You may not even see the ONE thing you know you want to see above all else. Glasto is huge. Trekking the site is exhausting. Sun / rain / mud all add their own challenge factors to any day spent on site. The upshot is that best-laid plans go out the window oh-so easily. Perhaps you’ll oversleep, undersleep, lose your mates, lose yourself, or else stumble across an act in the Circus Tent so brain-bending that you end up staying there for three hours more than you planned (it’s also warm and dark in there - perfect for an afternoon nap.) This is, of course, all part of the experience - a ‘tapas’ style approach that adds up to a much more interesting festival overall than route-marching yourself from one pre-appointed rendezvous to the next. Having said all that, I can thoroughly recommend the independently created clashfinder.com website as an excellent resource in planning what you might want to see / miss.

skinny lister performing glastonbury with crowd surfing
Crowd-surfing with a double bass? Sure.

3. Secret gigs? Underground Piano Bar? Whatevs.

Yes such gigs happen. Yes the secret underground bar exists. My verdict? If you find yourself in the right place at the right time, fantastic. If you don’t, fantastic. Glasto legends and Glasto rumours are all part of the fun, but they’re not worth gearing the whole of your festival around. Making it into the piano bar is like the Instagram of Glastonbury: if you’re doing it for the bragging rights, don’t bother. If you’re doing it because you’ve happily found yourself in the right place at the right time, and you’re loving Michael Eavis crooning My Way over his seventh Scrumpy, then fabulous.

4. The perfect place to experiment.

Whilst the concept of experimentation at Glastonbury doubtless applies in many ways, I’m thinking of one specifically: food. Glasto is the perfect place to go veggie - or even vegan - for the weekend. It’s easy, cheaper, and utterly eye-opening. The predominance of good food (in every sense - for you and the planet) on offer makes the festival a really great place to experiment with a change in your eating habits. Being more mindful in more ways is part of what Glasto’s all about.

5. We’re all very small. Together, we make a big impact - for bad and good.

Glastonbury is a festival with a heart. It’s always worn its socially-conscious agenda prominently on its sleeve, proudly and vociferously supporting a number of humanitarian and environmental charities. Over the course of the weekend, Glastonbury becomes the second-largest ‘city’ in the South-West, second only in size to Bristol. 200,000 people gathered together in one place is a truly remarkable, truly humbling sight to see. ALL those people - of course they make a mess, of course they smell a bit, of course feeding them and clothing them and keeping them safe is an enormous logistical undertaking. I came home from my first Glastonbury festival and began supporting charities geared to aiding those living in refugee camps - for the first time having had a glimpse of the logistics involved. The UN's Refugee Agency UNHCR do amazing work, and I've been supporting them ever since.

The verdict?

Ultimately, Glasto is Marmite. For some people there's so much to love, and for others, lots to hate. Whilst I wouldn't necessarily recommend Glastonbury to everyone, I certainly know which side my bread is buttered.

And it gives me great delight to thing I might bump into the Sales Manager of the Bvlgari Hotel next weekend, both of us high on life and slathered in biodegradable glitter.

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