In three decades plus of festival going there’s only one festival that really beat me and that is Glastonbury 1998. I’ve written in detail about it previously, but upon looking at the BBC’s coverage from 1998 which is on YouTube, the main thing that strikes me is how fucking wet and miserable everything looks because, well, it was.
Like 1997 it rained turning Worthy Farm into a mudbath. Unlike 97 it didn’t stop on the Friday but carried on and on and on with even hippies who’d been to every Glastonbury and free festival you can and can’t think of, admitting this was the worst year for the weather they’d had. Excuse the pun but it was a perfect storm of the largest attendance ever, with a great lineup (including Pulp, Blur, Tony Bennett, Catatonia, Portishead, Bob Dylan, Foo Fighters, Robbie Williams and err, Rolf Harris who makes an appearance in the first of the videos below) but at that point Michael Eavis hadn’t installed the drainage systems the farm has today. It was in fact this year that prompted the installation of the drainage.
But it was the rain that killed it for me. It started raining on the Friday morning and didn’t stop til the early hours of Saturday morning. It was already muddy when we arrived on the Thursday but this rain didn’t stop dropping then historic volumes of water on the farm and with nowhere to go, vast swathes of the farm was just muddy puddles.
So these recordings of the BBC coverage captures some of the misery of that year as 100k tried hard to have fun in knee-high wet mud as centimetres of rain drop from the sky. The second part onwards captures it the best as all the presenters, barring a stoic John Peel, grow increasingly fed up, then angry, then depressed about the weather ruining what should have been a classic year. Sadly I don’t think too many people count 98 as one of their best years, especially those who used the dance tent after it was cleaned of shit after a farmyard worker mistook blow for suck while trying to drain the water out the tent.
There were wet years after 98 but thanks to the lessons learned then they’ve not been as intolerable so here’s the complete BBC weekend coverage of 1998’s Glastonbury Festival. This time I can enjoy Catatonia without having every part of me battered by the wind and the rain…