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With that festival season in the air, I was day dreaming of those teenage days when festivals had a sense of freedom. Well it was a while back, between 1986 and 1988, that I went a couple of times to the mythic Glastonbury festival. At that time, there where only 140 000 visitors under tents, tipi's, in their cars, vans, trucks or simply under the starry/cloudy sky. It looked like a valley full of hippies trying to beat Woodstock, apart from the music. Long gone were the days of flower power and easy sex. Glastonbury was a musical orgy with different flavours and tempos from one side of the world to the other.
The first thing that you'll surely notice on arrival to the site (I'm sure this hasn't changed) is the large number of police men trying to organise the thick traffic, followed by the festival stewards who'll ask for such a ridiculous amount of money, that you'll wonder how youth can actually pay for the weekend out.... It was £50 at that time.
Having looked on Internet, you now need to prove your identity with photo to prove your ticket is yours, which you've booked in advance of course, and which now costs a smashing £155 for the three day event, and £10 to park your car or £50 for a camping van! Families can rent a tipi on site. Entrance is free for kids under 12 years of age, with ID proof, of course.
Once your car / van / bus / truck parked in one of the near by fields, you'll start walking... sometimes a couple of kilometres to the "inside" of the festival, which is of course guarded and even barbed wired in places, for those who've decided to jump the gates. If you have your ticket, you're OK! Follow the crowd!
Once inside, it's pretty much the same first impressions than on the outside. The crowd. Be prepared to have close body contact with around ten thousand people by the end of the weekend. In those days we'd get there a few days early, and leave a few days late ... but I'm not sure that is still possible.
So what is so great about this festival? Well, of course, it's the music.
You'll eventually find a program of what's happening where. Pop, rock, punk, rap, jazz, African, rumba, flamenco, samba, classical, Aborigine, country, funk, heavy metal, hip hop, reggae, gospel and hippie music are just some of the styles of music you may come across if you're ready willing and able to walk from stage to stage.
Several "shopping street" like areas are formed by food vans and stalls, expositions, tattoos and piercings (and much more of course). Of an evening, a tipi village around a colossal fire invites people to play instruments and drink tea.... mind those mushrooms... fancy an essential oil massage? no problem... ti-chi? zen meditation?
There are activities for kids, although I wouldn't take mine here, in case I loose them! Labyrinths, face painting, hair plating, juggling lessons and more.
Theatre and shows, artists expose....
My best souvenir? Well I would say without a doubt a digery doo concert with 12 digery doos imitating the sounds of nature... birds, waves, wind and fire... which lasted a couple of hours after midnight... By the end of it, I must have been the only one of 70 persons laid out on the grass, still awake! It was fantastic!
This review comes with a few warnings..
There are a large amount of drugs at Glastonbury, some of which are potentially lethal as they are often "cut" with dodgy substances so that the "dealer" makes more money. Be aware.
Everything is expensive within the festival, so best arrive as equipped as possible. Food, drink and sleeping gear is essential.
Loads of mud... be prepared to trudge through the muddy zones, generally around the main stage and the loos and taps (which often have a huge cue in front of).
Watch your belongings... some festival goers just go to see what they can rip off... the hole in the back of the tent technique is still actual...
As far as I understood, the traditional old bill bonfire is still on... every year at least one police car is burnt ... If you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time you could well end up at the police station....
So why go?
For the diversity of human beings and entertainments... To experience Europe's largest recurring festival.... For the unique surroundings and towns. But mostly, in my case, for the Universal musics.