Things Can Only Get Better-The Myth of Gentrification

This is the story of how gentrification of Stokes Croft in Bristol hasn’t made things better, and hasn’t rescued the working class established community of the area from the poverty that they were in, and that gentrification was supposed to save them from.

First, a wee bit of background…..

Stokes Croft is a street in Bristol, though the name is now used to define an area which stretches from the Bearpit, a name commonly used for the St. James Barton subway and you can quickly see why it picked up this nickname from looking at it.

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I first saw the place in an piece on the late lamented Snub TV back in the 80’s during an item about Crusties and how to recognise them! Oh those crazy days! The sort of person that inhabits the Bearpit now tends to be the Trustifarian hippy, along with of course many people with drink and drug problems.

This is better than Crusties begging, or drunks falling around the place isn’t it?

No, actually it’s not. The problem is that since the area began it’s gentrification around a decade ago, it’s gained additional problems in that the previously established community has been usurped so that what actually, attracted people to the Stokes Croft area (the multicultural mix, the Bristolian culture, the cheapness of the area) has been replaced with horrible monsters like Shambarber.  After all the world needs a fusion between house music and  cutting hair….

If all this sounds cynical, then you’re entirely right but the point is that the Afro-Caribbean community is being pushed out. The working class in the area are being pushed out to be replaced by the affluent, and semi-affluent Hipsters who make area’s like Shoreditch in London such a chore to pass though.

I’m not saying that bringing money into an area is bad. but when an area like Stokes Croft is gentrified, then something honest is lost as the cracks are pasted in, and the undesirables are shunted off elsewhere to be dealt with in poorer areas. Gentrification distorts property prices, (an example in Peckham here) so local people of all races, colours and creeds are forced out to be replaced by the sort of bland mass of Hipsters and students which means you might get a nice craft beer, or a home baked pizza with truffles on it, but schools, libraries, and places where the community meet and mix are replaced by endless amounts of pubs, cafes, and bars which then create a new set of problems.

This of course leaves the people who lived there the choice to somehow afford to live where in some cases, they may have lived there all their lives, or more commonly move somewhere cheaper, which means that the ‘development’ of an area is often more like social displacement as people who’ve invested in an area are replaced often by people who come from a wealthier background who are buying the ‘authentic’ nature of an area but not wanting to actually go through the horrible messiness of living in actual poverty, or near anyone who isn’t like them.

Now if this all sounds bitter, twisted and just a tad hypocritical you’d be probably quite right. I am of course one of those people who in the early 90’s and 2000’s was part of the gentrification in my own wee way and of course, places like Bristol have always been places where people come and go so there’s a constant flux of what an area is like.

There is of course a fine difference between coming to an area and integrating with the established community and helping price and drive that community out. Organisations like the PRSC don’t help either when they clearly encourage the sort of development that drives people out, while at the same time pretending to be ‘working for the community’ when really they work for a small number of people, many of whom don’t even live in the area. There’s also the farcical No to Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign which although they weren’t directly responsible for the riots in 2011 were highly influential in the depressing romanticisation of them in parts of the media. Considering that the area is supposed to have a stand against corporate culture, there was barely a murmur when the American chain Papa John’s recently opened an outlet recently even though their business practises are even worse than Tesco’s. I won’t even talk about the complete blank the PRSC and it’s supporters made when a new ‘massage parlor’ opened up in Stokes Croft, but I heard some insane defences of the place from people who were happily protesting a supermarket, alibet one which is swamping areas everywhere.

The point is that I’m trying to make in this long, rambling rant is that some change is good. Regeneration is good. Public art is good. New blood in an area is good. What isn’t good is social engineering and shifting out the poor so capitalist hippies can move in under the guises of ‘redevelopment’ to cleanse an area. It’s the tedious monotony of money and wealth winning over everything else.

We should question the motives behind gentrification and we should hold the people on all sides accountable while ensuring the established community isn’t left behind, or more commonly shunted off elsewhere so the newcomers don’t have to deal with them.

So there it is. I think the point I was making is we can all live together……

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The Rise and Fall of the Reading Festival part five

Part one. Part two. Part three. Part four. 

After last time at Reading in 2001 I was unsure whether  to go back as I was single, fed up and couldn’t be arsed, however the lineup was a cracking one.

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I was prepared to go by myself but I’d gotten to know a few people from an online forum I was part of at the time, and in particular I’d gotten to know a girl by the name of Nat pretty well so to cut a long story short (and a long story probably for another time) we’d arranged to camp together at the festival as we were getting on well considering there was a largish age difference (she was 19 and I was 35) and she was in Welwyn Garden City and I was in Bristol.

Regardless we’d made a plan to meet at Reading train station on the Thursday afternoon with myself turning up early to grab a good camping spot while she struggled to get through London. This meant I turned up amazingly early but found the site was already heaving, so as I got into the site I headed as quickly as I could to find a good place but the campsites were full from the arena outwards, and I didn’t want to go too far out as Nat wanted to be close to the arena so I found a good place near a corner of one campsite that would fit her tent as well. After pitching up my tent and asking my neighbour to try to keep a space, I headed to the train station to meet Nat in a sate of being still amazingly sober.

At the station I walked back into the crowd of people pouring into Reading for the festival and spent the next half hour waiting for Nat to pop up in the crowd, when I got a text from her saying she was on the next train and would be in. Thankfully there is a bar next to the station, so I slipped a beer down my neck quickly and before I knew it I waited no longer as she finally managed to get to Reading. After we met up we considered nipping into town to stock up on beers but the priority was getting her tent set up in a very, very full festival. We threw her tent up quickly once we got to our campsite and we didn’t fancy going into town, so we went to get her wristband when Nat noticed there was a Carling stall selling cases of Carling, a crap beer but it’d save a walk into the Sainsbury’s in the centre of Reading, so we got a couple of cases, headed back to our tents and proceeded to neck as much as possible while wandering around the site.

Here’s the thing about this year. The site was rammed even though it’d split into two with another leg in Leeds with Guns And Roses playing exclusively in Leeds, so it actually had a stronger lineup than the parent leg of the festival but Reading was utterly rammed with a crowd much, much younger than even the previous year and much rowdier, and even though there’d been a rape in 2001 not far from where I camped, the feeling of insecurity in some parts of the site on that wander in 2002 was scary, especially since I was supposed to be sort of looking after Nat, even though she was perfectly able to look after herself. The festival however was in a state of flux as it was moving from a festival full of kids to adults wanting to indulge in music one last time in that summer, to one where lots and lots of very middle class kids wanted to turn up and make themselves very ill while smashing a load of things up. The atmosphere in parts of the site was dark, and even being a veteran of raves 12 years earlier, or those early Glastonbury’s I did which were still edgy, this was different and somewhat scarier at times. Still, where we’d camped seemed ok and Nat and myself were getting on well, so that first night we got horribly, horribly drunk and talking bollocks before ending up in the same tent together.

Next morning we got up in a very, very hungover state to sort ourselves out and wander off to get some breakfast in Reading, so we ended up getting some food, drinking more and staggering (and I mean staggering) back to the festival and into the arena to plant ourselves by the beer tent to drinking heavily and generally muck around while watching the White Stripes. After this we wandered round the arena for a few hours drinking heavily while waiting for Pulp to come on and seeing as we both adored them, this was our main thing to watch on the first night. Sadly it was also the last gig they played for nearly a decade, but it was a spectacular gig we both loved in our by now amazing pissed states. After Pulp, we legged it across the site to watch the Aphex Twin play a set which to be honest I don’t remember much of apart from the fact by now we were hammered and falling over each other. After that we staggered back to our tents to crash out in a heap.

Saturday came as a shock, and we took it easier on this day mainly because we’d broken ourselves the day previously and we wanted to make it to Ash and Muse.We both loved Ash, but whereas Nat wanted to see Muse, I wasn’t convinced but fuck it, I was having a great time so I went with the flow as we were getting on like the proverbial house on fire and then some, so we had an amazing time watching Ash who played probably the best set I’ve seen them play, and as the rain came down I was more convinced about Muse, but to this day I’m still dubious of them as they still remind me of those prog bands from the 70’s who went on and on and on and on…

The Saturday night was closed by Foo Fighters who played a good show but seemed like they were clocking on for a days graft rather than anything else, so we decided to go back to the tents to drink vodka and fall over, which we did and by now we were sharing the same tent and using Nat’s tent to store beer. As it was we were running low, so we made a good night of it and that Saturday night was one of the best days/night at a festival I’ve ever experienced. Next morning was about getting up early, having a wander into town and getting breakfast before heading back into the arena for a quietish day of music.

There’s not a lot I remember about the Sunday apart from noticing that suddenly we seemed to be the tallest people in the field as kiddie Slipknot fans poured into the arena to see them play. Later on we decided to leave after watching the Prodigy try to capture old glories but fail horribly, so we wandered by to our tents to finish off our beer and discuss what we were going to do next in our lives. Monday morning came, we woke up, packed up our tents after a cracking weekend, walked to the train station where she stood on the London-bound platform and I was on the westbound platform looking at each other being quite miserable we were splitting up. A few weeks later Nat moved to Bristol and this started an odd few years.

In 2003 Reading rolled round, and Nat had moved back home, but we were going to go to Reading together as again, it was a good line-up.

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We were both by this time utterly obsessed with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and if you squint we’re in this video somewhere, but again this year was a blur, though I did watch a great set from the Polyphonic Spree, Scissor Sisters and FC Kahuna. We both watched the Libertines collapse and Blur go through the motions, but we did join in with building a mountain of rubbish on one of the many casualties Reading throws up each year.

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That sadly, is the only picture I can find that we took from that year and we took loads, but all seem to be lost, though I do have a load of floppy discs with pictures on them but sadly no way of reading the discs!

Oh progress…

Anyhow, 2003 ended with me being very, very, very drunk on the Monday morning fighting my way back to Bristol smelling like a tramp, before staggering into my bed for 12 hours sleep and a vow never to go back to Reading. The reason being things had changed. It was no longer a music festival per say, but rather another box for teenagers to tick before starting university, which festivals kind of had been but with working class kids mainly priced out the festival was pitched towards the sort of person the festival previously wouldn’t have allowed near the site.

2004 though saw myself buy a ticket more out of habit than anything, so did Nat, but I wasn’t working full time at this point as I’d decided to make my money from low-level dealing of comics and mushrooms, which was actually more profitable than it sounds. We’d done Glastonbury together that year, but Reading was something we really wanted to do out of habit as this year the line up was iffy to say the least.

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It was an ok lineup, with Friday standing out, but Sunday was awful, but hey! It was Reading!

August came that year and for those who can’t remember it started raining at the start of August and didn’t finish til September, which seeing as the Reading site is right next to a river then this means that you should expect serious flooding and we got serious flooding. In fact up til the Thursday morning when the gates opened they were still pumping water out of the campsites around the arena, so when I arrived on site I struggled to find a dryish bit to camp our tents on. Eventually I found a reasonably dry bit though it was not too far from what was a swamp. I just had to wait for Nat to show up and she  was stuck trying to get through the swamps which were now the carparks. Eventually she turned up and we struggled to be cheery in a what were conditions which were dry, but were threatening rain and next morning on our way into the centre to get stocked up it rained, and rained, and rained.

We stopped at a pub to get a breakfast, not to mention tidy up a bit before heading back into the swamp. The barmaid took sympathy at us as we must have made a pitiful pair sitting there dripping wet covered in mud. She kept bringing us tea and tried to cheer us up but that couldn’t last all day so once the rain died down a bit we headed back to the festival site hoping it’d not been washed away.

We tried to have fun. Really we did. We found the mushroom stall that had served us so well a few months earlier at Glastonbury to supplement my mushroom supply. Once ingested, we proceeded to enjoy another cracking performance from Ash, letch over The Distillers before Nat went off to see Graham Coxon and I laughed at The Darkness who were, briefly, the biggest band in the world for around a fortnight.

Saturday was dry, but we were knackered from being soaked the day before, plus the comedown from the shrooms hit us hard, so we tucked into more shrooms to try to make the day better. It was all good fun, but Nat went back to the tent to have a kip as I stayed to watch a Morrissey set vastly better than the one he’d played a few months earlier at Glastonbury. I couldn’t help feel that Reading had changed for me and that all these people burning plastic, or talking over songs they didn’t know weren’t people I wanted to be at a festival with. Maybe it was the comedown mixed with the rubbish weather but I wanted to go home so when I got back to the tents after The White Stripes, I mentioned to Nat that I might go home on the Sunday afternoon to which she said she was thinking the same so we decided to leave it til the morning to decide.

Sunday morning saw Nat decide to go home early afternoon, while I fancied stayed a bit longer after waking up a bit cheerier, so I helped her pack up and walked the long walk to the train station to see her home. After we said our farewells I popped into the pub next to the station to have a couple of beers and watch the Olympics which were on at the time. At this point I really just fancied going back to Bristol to sit down the legendary Cat & Wheel watching the Olympics and drinking from a glass while sitting in a comfy seat.

I headed back, watched the Loose Cannons, wandered round the arena for a bit, before going to my tent, packing up and fucking off before 50 Cent came on. In fact as my train was passing the site on the way home I could see the hail of bottles aimed at him as he was on stage and I partly wished I’d stayed to see it, but that would mean staying to see Green Day who are pish, and staying another night in a swamp. The prospect of a nice pint in a pub after a shower was too attractive.

That was the last Reading I really did for a full weekend.  I’ve been back to do the odd day to see Rage Against the Machine, but there’s nothing to attract me. The crowds are full of joyless, empty kids burning tents and acting like thugs and I can’t be dealing with that acrid smell of burning plastic and faeces as another portaloo goes up in flames.

So here we are and as I write this coverage of Reading 2013 is on BBC Three with a faceless pair of middle class presenters who look like they’ve been genetically bred to be as bland and empty as possible. Bands like The Blackout wander round the main stage throwing empty poses while saying nothing to an audience lapping up the empty words because they fit the current style of the day. Having an opinion or actually saying something is frowned upon now as it’s all about empty statements from empty vessels. A$AP Rocky prances around singing about ‘niggers’ and ‘bitches’ without being pelted off stage for being the prick that he clearly is.

Reading still has the odd shining diamond, but the Indiefication of the festival to become the festival current NME readers deserve is sad to see. I may well return should the right band turn up and of course, should the inclination and finances be there, but the festival is no longer for me, although I do appreciate people and festivals change, seeing Reading become what it has and the carnage left by those attending it is a pity. It deserves better.

Hazy, drug filled loved up summers-One Dove’s White Love

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There was a point back in 1993 when things sounded like they’d come from another world, and the Glasgow band One Dove made that sort of sound, and as I was living in Bristol at the time of this coming out I didn’t realise my home country was capable of making this sort of music.

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It was a revelation to me. It still is every time I hear it. Sadly One Dove seem to have fell into the sort of band a few people remember but it’s worth listening to this to hear what might have been, and indeed, was for just a short time.

This Green and Pleasant Land-Glastonbury 2013

It’s about 10pm on Tuesday the 25th of June 2013 and we leave for Glastonbury Festival 2013 in around seven hours. I’ve been writing a series of blogs about my experiences of the festival since first going in 1992 and am about to head from Bristol to this year’s festival

It promises to be a settled and mainly dry festival. The line up is good, though the Pyramid Stage looks suitably bland. It’s all set and all we have to do is get an immense amount of stuff down on the backs of three people.

Piece of piss…

Some thoughts on this will come but right now sod it, I just want to chill in a field for nearly a week.

Bye….

Wide Open Spaces-The tale of Glastonbury 2002

Last time round I’d hit the year 2000 in my series of Glastonbury blogs, and I’d left the festival looking forward with some trepidation to my new life in Bristol with my girlfriend Tash. The festival itself was taking a year off in 2001 to regroup and plan ahead after the vast overcrowding of 2000 which meant the future of the festival itself was under threat as the council refused to give it a license unless it did something, and the police advised they wouldn’t be able to deal with another year like 2000 where an estimated 300,000 (possibly more) people were onsite. I’d actually say there were near half a million people onsite, so they’re wasn’t a chance in hell Glastonbury could continue now the festival was mainstream and seen as an alternative to an overseas holiday for a demographic who a decade earlier wouldn’t have been seen dead at a festival full of hippies.

As for myself the first 8 or 9 months in Bristol were great. Relationship was fine. Working at BT and in an office for the first time was more fun than I thought. I loved where we lived, and Bristol is a great city. Then it was announced in early 2001 we were all being made redundant as the operation was being moved to Doncaster to save BT money, and to get rid of the pesky, annoying staff in Bristol who performed but were a pain in the arse for BT as we’d demand workers rights and crazy stuff like that.

This meant getting a job sharpish, but at that point getting back into comics full time wasn’t possible, and I had no urge to get back into the pub trade, so stupidly I took the first job that came along which was working for Direct Line. Now, so did around 40 or us from BT as at that time there wasn’t much around Bristol for people with thin CV’s like we did, which isn’t to say we were all wasters and bums but we were a motley crew so we took the Direct Line jobs.

Within six weeks the 40 or so who’d joined turned into a dozen. During training our trainer said the line ‘we work hard and play hard’ which made me and several others piss ourselves laughing at the self-importance of it all, but at that point I didn’t realise that people were walking out and that I was marked as a ‘communist’ by one of the senior managers because I’d pointed out the sheer nonsense of the environment. I reacted to this by not making a complaint (as I probably should have just to fuck the blighter up) but buying a T-shirt with a hammer & sickle on it and wearing it on dress down days. Oh the looks of horror…..

Anyhow, things were falling slowly apart as the entire situation had driven me into a depression (although I didn’t realise it at the time) which affected my relationship with Tash to a point where were drifted slowly apart.

Things fell apart early in 2002 when she left and I was numbed by it all for a while, and again, I’m sure I was probably nuttier than a New Year’s Day cake by this point, plus the job wasn’t helping as it was making me physically ill by this point. A few friends came round to cheer me up, and I tried hard but I was falling apart slowly, but I still had Glastonbury to look forward to but I didn’t want to camp with anyone. I wanted to do my own thing, so I turned down the offer to camp with Denise and her crowd for the third festival in a row in Big Ground but instead opted to camp by myself in Pennards Hill which seemed like a good idea as it was always a hub of interesting people but far away from the fuss of the Pyramid Stage so I could run away and hide if I wanted to.

As for the festival it’d had a ‘superfence‘ built round the site to keep people out. Now this was a familiar thing for regulars to hear that Eavis had a ‘tough’ fence to get over, but 99% of people laughed and got over it anyhow. Guess what? It worked.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself…

In the year Glastonbury had off some big changes to the festival happened. One of the biggest was the growth of online communities dedicated to festivals and of course, Glastonbury. The main one then was E Festivals. There were others but E Festivals had a link with Glastonbury which is merrily exploited until Michael Eavis pulled the carpet from under them a few years later, but in 2001 it was a closely guarded connection. This meant anyone joining the message boards and questioned simple things of the E Festivals organisers would end up getting stroppy and start throwing around legal threats and kicking people off the site. It was a tyranny, but fuck it. A few of us from that early community went off to form forums of our own or join other forums elsewhere.

There was also a virtual Glastonbury in 2001. It was pretty naff but the idea had be solidified in the culture that Glastonbury was now becoming more and more establishment, but it wasn’t yet the huge cultural event it is today. That was still a few years away, but 2001 was an odd year as of course it was when 9/11 happened and that’s an event which should have mobilised Glastonbury into pushing against the establishment, promoting an anti-war agenda on the main stages televised by the BBC and finding it’s anti-establishment heart again but it didn’t. That side of the festival was being pushed into the Green Fields and away from the main stages that the BBC would show live on BBC 2.

Again though, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The 2002 festival had arrived and I’d decided to go down on Thursday, and the weather forecast was for a long spell of settled, warm weather so I got a load of beer (as much as I could carry), wandered to the bus station and headed to the festival early on the Thursday afternoon.

Like previous years Bristol bus station was rammed, full of touts and the usual type of people you see at festivals but there was more police than usual, plus lots more security. Also you couldn’t jump on the bus without a ticket. That was new but one of dozens of measures to stop people without tickets getting onsite, or indeed anywhere near the festival site, the village of Pilton or Glastonbury itself. Anyhow, I had a ticket and didn’t mind as the crowds of 2000 would be nice not  to to be repeated.

As the bus pulled itself to the site, the Superfence was shining in the distance and it did indeed form a ring of steel around the festival…

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It wasn’t thought til I got off the bus, and saw it up close that I realised it wasn’t the old type of fence where it was tough but you really could get over it. No, this was tougher, nearly impossible to scale without some serious equipment which isn’t to say people didn’t do it. After the festival I found out a few did, but there was also a security operation which bordered upon the paramilitary, checkpoints and all manner of security to keep people very much out. You didn’t have the Scallys by the gates offering to get you in, you didn’t have the people hanging around waiting for the right moment to get in. You just had a wall of security and steel and if you didn’t have a ticket you were getting nowhere fast.

As I passed through the gates and into the festival itself I noticed how quiet things were in comparison to 2000, which isn’t saying it was deserted but it felt like there were things missing but I didn’t know what yet but my main task now was to walk to Pennards Hill and set up my own little camp there if I could find a space, which I did easily. In fact for a Thursday afternoon, you could camp pretty much wherever you liked so I walked to near the top of the hill, found a nice view, and promptly put my tent up and set up camp with loads and loads of room around me. I needed to get some water so I wandered down to buy a bottle and fill up the watersack I’d brought, and when I got back after about an hour of having a wander, I found I had neighbours setting up, so I said hello and offered some help but ended up not even getting a grunt in exchange however on the other side of my tent were a young student couple who were setting up and perfectly pleasant so I helped out putting up their tent and we had a wee chat as it was their first festival of any kind, and we thought the yuppie snobs next to me were worth ignoring.

That evening I’d arranged to meet Denise and her crew at the Cider Bus, which I did and we then went for a wander around the site after drinking cider and absinthe cocktails.As you can imagine, the rest of that evening is hazy but I do remember waking up in my tent just as the sun had come up wondering how I’d managed to find my tent in the state I was in and what was that agonising pain in my leg?

That pain was a huge gash where I’d obviously fell and split it open on one of the metal walkways. There was remarkably no blood everywhere apart from the pile of blood soaked  toilet paper in the corner of my tent. I’d somehow managed to stagger back, clean myself up, patch myself up with some tape and toilet paper. Taking a closer look I realised the wound probably needed stitches, but it was the Friday of Glastonbury, it was early and the medical tent was the other side of the field so I decided  to make a makeshift bandage and deal with it as and when which meant when the drink and drugs wore off, or Monday. Whatever was quickest.

It was Friday though, so I climbed out of my tent, said hello to the students who said I was in a shocking state the previous night and they had to guide me to bed, and I had also upset the yuppies which was nice.

I’d decided to wander around the site as there was room to breathe and the site had also expanded since 2000, so the site was now huge, but there were vastly less people than 2000 so this created a lot of space, and a vastly less frantic festival than 2000 so you could amble around the festival quite calmly. As I walked by the Pyramid Stage, they were just starting up so I decided to watch the first act who were the Shibusashirazu Orchestra.

They were an act from Japan who nobody had heard of but everyone who saw them that morning fell in love with their insanity, and as it turned out they were due to play another gig at the Jazz Stage later that day which ranks still as one of the best things I’ve ever seen at a festival.

In fact most of 2002 was spent seeing bands or in the comedy tent or just watching things, or chilling out at one of the beer tents, and then chilling with mates I bumped into. I saw a series of  great sets from Queens of the Stone Age, Ash, and Garbage on the first day plus all the wonderful stuff you normally see, except there wasn’t the full spread of people. The buskers, punks and crusty bands who would jump the fence and play were gone. A large amount of performers were gone. In fact most of the working class kids were gone. The crowd were a lot more wealthier, a lot more middle class and although still mainly ok, the social nature of the festival had been somewhat lost as people were less willing to mix, ok, I’m not saying it was vast numbers but it was enough to notice a defined split in attitudes from previous years and this was partly because you wouldn’t really notice these sort of people in previous years. With a large chunk of normal festival people gone you suddenly did.

As the Friday drew to a close I had somehow managed to relax and looked forward to the rest of the weekend. It wasn’t a great line-up but the freedom and the relaxation was great as I was starting to feel a bit more human.

Saturday was more wandering, watching acts, drinking and chilling. It was a poor line up but Orbital played on the Saturday night and they made up for a pretty dull selection on a whole but I didn’t really care. I was happy enough but Saturday was a blur which quickly led into Sunday and I’d arranged to hang around with Denise’s lot on the Sunday to see Roger Waters and the probably hilarity of Rod Stewart. Before that though was the sheer genius of Isaac Hayes.

After Hayes I was surprised at how good Waters was as I always thought he and Pink Floyd were insufferable bores, but the weekend was closed by Rod Stewart. Now I like Rod’s early stuff, and he had a great voice but the entire show was hilarious as he rasped through all his old hits and tried to convince the crowd he was still capable of playing live. I remember actually being on my knees after having been doubled over laughing at how awful he was. I was laughing so much I didn’t notice the patchwork job on my knee had split & I was bleeding again. Hey ho, this was worth it as it was funny to see Stewart witter on about ‘our boys in Iraq’ on a stage which used to have the CND logo on it and regularly feature anti war and anti imperialist messages. Glastonbury was now very much engrained within the establishment now when you have artists like Stewart on board, but it’s always funny watching an accident happen in slow motion and it provided a funny end to the festival.

I walked back slowly to my tent and took the last night’s atmosphere in, and eventually got to sleep in my tent in the wee small hours. The next morning I pulled myself together in the sunshine, packed up slowly, and took a stroll through the site to the onsite bus station to head back to Bristol. As i did I noticed how relaxed the people were and how there were still people raving in pockets across the site, so I slowly made my way to the station for a short wait for my bus back to Bristol.

As I got off in Bristol, it was still a lovely sunny day and I grabbed a taxi back to my flat in Clifton and my cat. Things felt good, and I was a bit more positive about things but the next few months would end up being very odd indeed…

As for Glastonbury a message had been sent out that a new order was in place. You weren’t getting in without a ticket. You needed some money to get in. The festival had compartmentalised it’s radical politics away from the BBC cameras and as it was those images selling the festival to a generation of people with the sort of disposable income which made Glastonbury easily affordable then things were going to change even more. the transition to what it is today still had a few more years before it was complete.

Next time in this series of Glastonbury blogs we arrive amazingly at 2003 and even more changes, but you probably expect that by now…..

 

 

 

All good things…. The tale of Glastonbury 2000

Last time round I went through the fun and frolics of Glastonbury in 1999. 

In a move which should surprise nobody used to the Gregorian Calender , this takes us kicking and screaming into the new millennium with my tale of Glastonbury 2000, which still sounds like the sort of 70’s SF film featuring Sean Connery in a shexy red thong.

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Anyhow, 2000 was the festival’s 30th anniversary, the first of the new millennium, the first with the new Pyramid Stage, the first without Jean Eavis’s influence hanging over it (although Jean died before the 1999 festival, it still felt like she was a part of that year’s festival), and the first year where it started to feel like the festival had moved out of alternative culture and started becoming very much part of the mainstream thanks to the involvement of the BBC, the Guardian and it’s other sponsorship deals.

As for me, I was no longer in Leicester, but now on my way back to Bristol after seven years to live again thanks to my then girlfriend Tash, having sneakily got herself a job in Bristol just after that year’s Comics Festival. I’d even managed by sheer luck to get myself a job at BT in their Customer Options department after undergoing the first real, proper interview for a full time job I’d had in my 33 years. Prior to that I got jobs through contacts or being at the right place at the right time, plus I’d never worked in an office before so this was something new and exciting for me! It also meant an end to the two years of being settled and secure.

That excitement and security didn’t last long but moving on…

Thing is the move from Leicester to Bristol could only happen for a variety of reasons (mainly due to Tash having a very fixed start date) the week before Glastonbury, and I didn’t start at BT til the week after, so we worked out between us that Tash would pack in Leicester, and I would unpack in Bristol as I was sitting around doing nowt for a week. This was fine and suited me perfectly, but firstly I had to get some cash together, so I managed to raise about a grand in a week through some very dodgy deals that didn’t involve drugs but let’s say they didn’t involve drugs or selling parts of my body…

Which brings us to the big move. The Saturday before Glastonbury. On what ended up being the hottest day of the year. We did it though, and it wasn’t too traumatic but what was glorious was piling down the M5 with Leicester turning into a distant memory in the background and driving into a convoy of trucks going to Glastonbury. I have to admit to being a bit teary as the emotion of this huge move kicked in tempered by this magnificent site of dozens of vans, cars and trucks driving to a field in Somerset…

I’d arranged to camp with Denise and her friends again after the success of 1999, and again they were in Big Ground but this year we all had mobiles! I had this piece of technology..

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I felt I was in the space age and wondered where my bloody jetpack was.

Anyhow, the fact we had mobiles didn’t negate the fact they actually didn’t really work in a big field with little coverage with 200,000 other people trying to get a signal, so we arranged to meet at the same place on the Thursday night. Tash couldn’t come down til Friday due to work, but I was happy going down with the tent, beer, etc to set things up.

On the Thursday I woke up. Went to Clifton Down shopping centre (did I mention we got a flat in Clifton which felt like the pair of us had gatecrashed a party but it was still Clifton when it was cool and not full of wankers and students), bought a load of beer, and headed to Temple Meads station to get the train down as I’d never taken the train, and let me tell you something else, I never will again.

Temple Meads is a hellish place at the best of times, but when tens of thousands of extra passengers are passing through it’s fucking shite. I did however eventually barge through the crowds to get the train to Castle Carey (the nearest station to the festival), and actually had a nice journey down with two Irish lads who allowed me to share their whiskey, while I let them partake of the Remy Martin I had. It was a hellish, but tolerable journey until we arrived at the station to find we then had to get on a bus to the site. As I waited for the bus, I contacted Doug (a friend from the world of comics fandom) who was also at the festival where he was as I’d invited his crowd to camp with us but they wanted to pitch near the Other Stage to get a prime spot for Nine Inch Nails who were headlining the Friday night. He was onsite already and warning me by text there was rain on the way.

Joy.

Eventually the bus chugged into the site and spewed it’s passengers out to find their way. At this point I noticed that there was an awful, awful, awful lot of people, but I wrote it off as being peak time for when people turn up and struggled my way through the site up to Big Ground in an attempt to find Denise. Problem was the site really was crammed full of people as as it was now getting dark due to the forthcoming rain Doug had warned me about, I could see the lights of cars waiting to get in and it went for miles and miles and miles and miles….

I struggled to the top of Big Ground to see that they’d changed things round from the previous year and the kids field had taken up all the space behind the hedge where we were the previous year, so I stood there in a field, in the rain, with hundreds of people around me looking hopelessly for Denise and her crowd with little or no hope of finding them as I couldn’t get a signal on my mobile.

Then I decided to shout her name loudly (I am very loud) and to my instant surprise, this voice from less than a few feet away shouted my name back! I’d somehow managed to literally trip over her tent, in the twilight while it was raining. I have no idea how, but I dived in her tent while it was raining, and cracked open the first of many beers.

As soon as the rain stopped Denise and her boyfriend kindly helped me put up my tent and then we all settled into the night with the view of the new Pyramid Stage in the near distance being actually quite bloody impressive..

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Thursday night was a drunken but fun affair and early in Friday morning I decided to crash out as there was a lot I wanted to do as I realised I’d be at Glastonbury by myself for the first time, well, ever, so I wanted to go off and do my own thing for a morning until Tash turned up in the afternoon.

Which i did, but I noticed a few things. One everyone was hyped as David Bowie was headlining on the Sunday. The other it was very warm and humid. The third was there was so many people everywhere. Everyone was crammed on top of everyone else.

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On one of the bridges on the farm there was a crush. A very dangerous crush that made me and several others around me mouth ‘this is like Hillsborough‘ at each other, but thankfully I managed to pull myself out of the crowd (I was still lithe and fit in those days!) and jump over several people while trying to pull people out of the crush. Thankfully a couple of policemen managed to sort things out and introduce some crowd control but it was scary. It’s also a story I heard when I returned to our camp from some of the others who were also stuck in crushes around the site. Basically the site was full and overflowing and there was still more and more and more people coming in whether they had a ticket or not.

As I sat there chatting away I forgot about Tash turning up and as I quickly pulled out my impressive piece of mobile technology, saw a text from her that she was at the bus station onsite and where the fuck was I? Well normally from where we were camping to the station it would have taken 20 minutes but as I tried to run across the site I realised it took me 20 minutes just to get to the other field, and the station was ages away yet so I went to pull out my phone when I realised it was gone. Some bugger had pocketed it in the crush. I checked my wallet and it was still there, but the phone was gone and now I was hitting a panic as I hoped Tash wouldn’t wander too far from the station. As i ran up the station eventually I realised she wasn’t there as the crowds still pouring in on Friday afternoon were ridiculous. Then I remembered I texted her that Doug was camped by the Other Stage, and that wasn’t too far from the station as long as I could get through the tens of thousands of people and remember vaguely where Doug said he might, possibly, could be at the Other Stage.

So I ran down the hill for about 200 yards before hitting a wall of people and shuffled slowly to the Other Stage and it was now getting into late evening, and any chance I had of finding Tash, or Doug in the dark was a million to one they said….

Then somehow in the darkening field I stumbled across not just Tash, but Doug. He’d bumped into her as she looked for me & him and the pair of them were looking for me as they’d tried calling me and couldn’t get through.

I was a lucky, lucky, lucky bastard. To this day I have no idea how I met them in the crowds.

Anyhow, after taking my deserved bollocking from Tash, we headed back to Doug’s camp as Tash had stuck her bag there, plus Nine Inch Nails were coming on, plus Doug’s camp had loads and loads of beer so we headed to it and it was indeed in a great location to view the stage. It was a great show and I say this as someone who isn’t a fan, but as we hung around I realised there really was too many people everywhere. Tash noticed this on the walk from Doug’s camp to Big Ground that the crowds were much, much larger compared to 1999 and she was right.

We got back to our camp well after 2am but people were still up, including Denise who when told of my massive fuck up also dished out a deserved bollocking but was astonishingly impressed at my finding Tash in the crowds as she and her boyfriend had also been stuck in crowds.

Without driving home the point, Glastonbury 2000 was overcrowded like nothing I’d ever seen, and I’ve been to Scotland-England games at the old Wembley and Hampden, illegal raves in Warwickshire and round the M25 and free festivals in Nottingham and London. I was used to crowds but this was dangerous in places, but hey, it must be ok as nobody official said anything.

The next morning I had to go up to the police station to report my phone’s theft which was up by the farm house which wasn’t too far from where we were camping. The other thing about where we were camping was as it was quite high up Big Ground it was pretty well spaced out, but then again that could have something to do with the toilet tent the girls had to sort out as getting to the loo for girls was a nightmare and evolution hadn’t given the the joys of a penis.

I went up to the police, waited about an hour with a hangover kicking in just as the sun started beating down on me and spoke to a nice officer who took my details, gave me my crime number for the insurance and I mentioned the crowds to which she said ‘yes, we know. The Site’s got too many people on it but we can’t stop people jumping fences as we’re overstretched’. With that snippet of information I went back to camp where the girls were tidying up from the night before, but it hardly came as a surprise for anyone.

Tash and myself left the others shortly afterwards as we’d arranged to meet Doug and hang out with him for the day, and we had a totally fun day as well wandering round the site, chatting, drinking and eventually, bizarrely as we all hated them, enjoying Travis who headlined the Pyramid on the Saturday night. After that we chilled and people watched which used to be a great source of fun at the festival, but eventually we said cheerio to Doug and headed back to camp to sit up til late talking bollocks with everyone else. Tash sadly had to go back on Sunday afternoon as work was calling, so it was an early rise, followed by a few hours chilling and then a slow wander through the crowds to see Tash safely on the bus (having now learned my lesson)  and then I realised it was now all about Bowie!

Problem was there was nothing worth watching on the Pyramid stage beforehand, the crowds were too bloody heavy to get through and there was a load of beer back at my tent so back to the camp I went to chill in preparation for Bowie. Thing was the others had enough of fighting through crowds, so I went down early with the last of my beer and my last tenner (these were the days when cash machines onsite were impossible things so you brought what cash you needed in your pocket) in readiness for Bowie.

Now I’d loved Bowie since a child. The first single I bought with my own pocket money was Life on Mars, and Bowie was the first musical act I loved. I had seen Bowie in Manchester during the Glass Spider tour and it was crushingly disappointing. I also saw him in Tin Machine and it was crushingly disappointing. This had to be good or else!

So with beers in hand and with anticipation at the maximum, I waited in the rapidly darkening evening for Bowie to come on…and when he did it was immense

In retrospect it probably was a weird set list. Some of the arrangements were a bit off, and Bowie’s voice was strained due to him recovering from being ill shortly before the festival but it did not bloody matter there and then. The entire thing was magnificent and my memory of the gig is looking round at this enormous biker next to me who was blubbing like a child during Life on Mars, and that started me off and then a few more blokes near us did the same and the field seemed to be full of 30-60 something men weeping at the simply brilliant gig Bowie was putting on.

Glastonbury moments only exist if you live in that moment and we all lived in that perfect few hours as Bowie played his heart out. Utter bliss.

Walking back from that set was a blur. I remember spending the last of my money on some cider as it was cheap and sat down to take it all in. The last few weeks had been a blur and it all dawned on me suddenly my life was turned upside down and things were uncertain and foggy and I’d just seen one of the greatest, most meaningful things in my life. I was also quite drunk and high on half an E which may have also contributed to this. Whatever reason it hit me, it hit me so I went for a very long walk round the festival just chatting to people to clear my system out . Eventually I went back to camp to only find Denise still up and we chatted for a bit before crashing as the next day was Monday and reality was returning.

In the morning I got up, packed up my tent, said my farewells and headed back for the bus to Castle Carey so I could get the train back to Bristol. I was still an emotional mess, mainly because of Bowie’s set,  but because everything dawned on me. I also had some part of me that realised that the Glastonbury I knew had to change because demand had outstripped supply, plus all the wonderful and weird people were being swamped by a new type of festival goer who were effectively tourists and didn’t care much for music, politics, or anything the festival really stood for. For them it was another notch on things to do as Glastonbury was now a part of the establishment.

See, the thing is while the festival supported CND and stood against the Tory government it was outside the establishment. When it was televised on Channel 4 it was still edgy and alternative because that was the image and demographic of the channel. On the BBC it was acceptable, and when it vaguely supported the new Labour government as well as supporting worthy charities like Greenpeace, it didn’t mean it took an anti-establishment stance. In fact 2000 probably saw the start of the festival as an establishment fixture, but nobody quite knew it yet as the ramifications of the 2000 festival were still to be felt.

The festival was overcrowded. Figures range from 200,000 onsite to half a million. I’m inclined to go to the higher end of the scale, if not more. The site’s infrastructure nearly collapsed and the constant sea of people were astonishing, so some drastic measures had to be done but those measures wouldn’t be known for a while but for the festival to continue something had to be done.

Luckily 2001 was a fallow year, so the festival was to take a year off to regroup and plan for the 2002 festival, but in the meantime the festival found communities dedicated to Glastonbury spring up online which again helped spread the myth of the festival to people. Both good and bad came from Glastonbury’s online communities, some sites were better than others and some tried their best to milk the festival for all it was worth while alienating parts of the growing community.

Glastonbury was now a business. It was now part of the establishment. But it wasn’t quite formed into what it is now. That would take a few more years yet, and the announcement of the Superfence which was to circle the 2002 festival made people think this was just another scare tactic as the festival constantly used to boast about impenetrable fences and this was just something to frighten people off.

Oh how wrong people would be…..

That’s a story for another time though. I left Glastonbury in 2000 in a tired and emotional state, and as it turned out the next two years would be hardly what i hoped leaving Worthy Farm that June morning. Things really were coming to a close in more ways than one.

Next time, the 2002 festival and the messy run up to it….

Let’s party like it’s 1999-Glastonbury 1999

I’ve covered my own little history of Glastonbury from the highs and lows of 1992 and 1993, the sun and dust of 1994 and 1995, the mud of 1997 and the crapness of 1998 which takes us up to 1999, obviously…

We reach a period in my often quite turbulent and messy life where I’m actually quite secure  and settled. I was living with my then partner Tash, and my job was day manager and wine and spirit buyer for a chain of licensed venues across Leicester, including the mighty Pump and Tap. In fact I’d been in this position since doing my back in, and been in a cosy relationship for over a year. I wasn’t doing anything naughty, plus I was genuinely quite chirpy and settled.

So by the time of planning the 1999 Glastonbury I had to deal with introducing Tash into my life. She’d already seen the comics side of things by going to the first Comics Festival in Bristol earlier in 1999 and was now ready to go diving into the first festival…

Firstly though I needed to sort out a lift. The group I’d arranged to camp with were the extended friends of Denise, the girl I went to Glastonbury in 1995 with, so I knew them well but Tash only knew Denise, and not the others and some of the others were a bit, well, messy…

Firstly though, a lift!

A week or so before the festival I spoke to Chris who’d come with me in 1998 and endured the hell of that year, and neither of us wanted that again, especially Chris who became quite ill after 1998’s festival. Chris at this point managed the tapas bar which was part of the same group I worked for so I spent a week wearing him down until he finally said ‘ok, I’ll drive us down’ only after sitting in down and studying the weather forecast for an afternoon.

We couldn’t go down on the Wednesday due to various people’s work commitments, so I agreed to meet Denise somewhere at the top of Big Ground, the big camping field in front of the main stage and this was in the twilight era before everyone had a mobile so meeting them was purely a matter of luck, but they were keeping some space for us which meant being really lucky.

The other thing was that Chris didn’t have a ticket, and neither did his mate who was also coming but as I’ve pointed out in previous blogs, it was dead easy to get in however myself and Tash had tickets so the plan was formed. Chris would pick both of us up on Thursday morning and we’d get there late afternoon, find Denise’s camp, get set up, unload the car and get settled before dark. Job done!!

Thursday morning came along but Chris didn’t. Early afternoon came along but Chris didn’t. Now Tash and myself were packed and ready to go. The cat was safely looked after and we were ready to go. I’d tried calling Chris at home, and at work but he wasn’t answering at home and work said they thought he was with me?!

At around 2pm Chris pulled up outside the front door of our little house. The car had broken down as soon as it started so he’d spent the last two hours in a garage getting it fixed and his mate had let him down with a tent, but I had my old tent which I loaned him so he and his mate could get some cover instead of sleeping in the rain and mud like he did the previous year.

We eventually headed off and sped quickly out of Leicester with me navigating. At this point Chris broke it to us that we had to cut through Bristol to pick up his sister’s boyfriend who was a student at Bristol Uni, and did I know a quick way to Bristol? I said yes, and this ended up with us taking the most roundabout route ever as instead of just cutting down the M5 and being direct, I decided to me a smartarse and took us through Oxfordshire which was very nice in the sun but it was an arse over elbow route down to Bristol and everyone in that car made that clear.

Ah well…

Eventually we hit the M4 at late afternoon just as all of London and the South East were pouring down to the festival. Joy. There’s nothing worse than being stuck on a motorway going to somewhere but going nowhere. That was the M4 on this afternoon.

Eventually though we got to Bristol around late afternoon, but we’d arranged to meet Chris’s sister’s boyfriend at Temple Meads station and we were slap in rush hour. Joy. We’d not bought any provisions or beer yet either so we were skating on thin ice timewise so we really didn’t need to sit around Temple Meads waiting for this lad to turn up. So we spent about an hour sitting in the carpark outside the station, but Tash did bump into one of the lads from SFX magazine who she knew through her brother who offered us both some work which we were daft enough not to take up. Tsk.

Eventually this lad turned up around 6pm, and we quickly discovered why Chris had been cagey about him. He was a cock. A total and utter cock. The fact he was at Bristol Uni should have been the hint but no, we were not prepared for his cockness.  We loaded everyone back into the car, and before Chris got in I asked Chris if he was camping with us, to which Chris said he wasn’t sure.

Fuck.

One the way out of Bristol we finally stocked up on beer and food, and it was here that we tried for the first time to ditch the lad in Knowle, but sadly we didn’t as he managed to jump in the car and bray loudly about how much fun we all were for having a laugh , etc.

Fuck.

Seeing as it was now early evening as soon as we got out of Bristol and hit Shepton Mallet we also hit the queue to get into the festival. It was here we again tried to get rid of him as he staggered out of the car to try to chat some girls up in the car in front of us, which was a classy thing to do when your girlfriend’s brother is giving you a lift.This prompted another attempt to dump him. We failed.

Eventually the queue started moving quickly and as this lad was out the car again trying to chat up these girls, Tash and Chris’s other mate in the back seat pulled out his rucksack, dumped it at the side of the road, jumped back in shouting ‘GO!!’ as we saw clear blue sea between us and this lad. The last we saw of him was him running futilely dragging his rucksack behind him trying to catch up with the car while we managed to pull away into the village of Pilton and a good, safe distance from him.

Thing was all this fun and games had made us forget the fact it was now nearly 8pm, we hadn’t got in to meet up with Denise nor had Chris and his mate worked out a way to get in, though Chris had brought his Showsec jacket from the previous year to try to blag in.

Then before we knew it we were onsite!

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Now it’s worth noting that in the pre-spoilers era that you didn’t know that the festival grew or that something had changed until you turned up to see it for yourself, and this year the festival had grown massively, plus the fact we were turning up very late on Thursday night meant we were far, far away from the main entrances which meant a very, very long trek from the car to where Denise’s campsite would possibly be in Big Ground, not to mention we had two people without tickets to get in all before dark which at this point was starting to creep in.

We parked and decided to take what we needed and travel as light as possible, which meant tents, rucksacks, sleeping bags and only a slab of beer out of the four we bought back in Bristol. First of all though was getting Chris and his mate in. This happened to be quite easy after Chris tried the Showsec stunt for the second year running and failed yet again, but as I told him that Al Green was due to play he was fired up for it as I knew he was a massive fan so the cry of ‘AL FUCKING GREEN!!!’ was heard all weekend….

Thankfully some cheery Scally’s were around who’d nicked one of the stamps (back in those days there were no wristbands, just stamps to say you’d paid) the doorstaff were using to stamp people on the way out. For a tenner each the pair were promptly stamped, and we all got in with only the small problem of finding Denise in the increasing darkness to worry about.

It’s hard to stress that trying to find your way around the festival site in the dark with two people who’ve never been loaded down with stuff with tens of thousands of people milling around is not a fun experience so let’s say I held back the fact we’d have to walk up a very steep hill to get where we needed to go til the last possible minute. I was cursed more than once, however Tash wanted to camp with someone else who was female that she knew, and there was still the slight possibility that Denise had somehow managed to keep us space for our tents.

As we eventually got to Big Ground I then went on the only clue as to where Denise was camping which was it was near the Kids Field. Also I used my big mouth to shout her name very loudly which after about ten minutes actually worked when I heard her shouting back! We’d managed to somehow stumble across them in the dark, but there was a hedge between us which we managed to crawl through to find Denise and her crowd safely camped up (as they had been for nearly a day) with space to cram two tents in! to this day I have no idea how I pulled that off, but we were on the verge of just camping where we were standing which was about two metres from their campsite.

The priority now was to get the tents up, but we still had stuff sitting in the car so Tash, Chris’s mate, Denise and some of the others helped put the tents up while Chris and myself went back to unload the car. In the dark. When people were still pouring in. However the next day was forecast to be a scorcher and none of us fancied lugging stuff in the boiling sun so off we went in the dark chatting and quite desperate for a beer as we’d forgotten to bring any with us out of the small amount we’d carried in that first trip.

We got to the car after a good hour’s walk back. Grabbed what we could carry, leaving only a small trip to pick up some wine in the morning, we headed back but once we were through the gates we ended up being split up and I ended up completely losing my bearings and being lost for what felt like hours as I lugged slabs of beer up and down hills before eventually finding where I needed to go and turning up at the campsite to find that Chris had been back for nearly an hour and everyone else happily chilled out round the campfire and our tents had been put up.

I collapsed, grabbed a beer and fell asleep only to be woken by Tash to tell me to go to bed. To this day I’ve never had as good sleep at a festival as I did that night. Normally I wake up at festivals at dawn regardless of the state I’m in but I was asleep til nearly 9am! I crawled out the tent  to find that everyone had been up for hours and I hadn’t even noticed Tash getting up and out of our tent.

The plan for the Friday morning was to get some breakfast, have one last trip to the car and then chill watching bands. REM were playing that night and most of us wanted to see them play, but first things first. To the car!

Problem was the weather forecast had been right and it was boiling hot. We dragged ourselves the miles to the car, picked up the stuff and emptied the car and very slowly headed back stopping only for a spot of lunch at one of the beer tents where we took part of some very nice beer as Chris and I were beer snobs, but Tash just wanted cider seeing as it was hot and we were at a festival….

Eventually we got back just as everyone was off to see Blondie. In all the excitement we forgot about bands, but we couldn’t be arsed going down however where we were camping was perfect for the main stage as we could hear perfectly, plus see the stage fine if we squinted through the hedge and saw the giant TV screens at the side of the stage.

After Blondie, Tash wanted to see the sight so I did a big tour of the site as I’d done with people in 97 and Chris and his mate tagged along in what became a bloody fun afternoon as I took them all up to the Stone Circle to see the site from the top of the valley.

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It’s an impressive site when you see it for the first time but the things you don’t get in a picture is the noise. It’s unlike any other festival and incredibly hard to describe. There’s also the smell which depends on the weather. If it’s wet, it smells very farmy and damp and quite dank. When it’s sunny it smells of sugar and sweet things. The sweetness is actually things rotting, and the sugar is the alcohol.

Getting back to the main area we watched Hole, who were actually not too bad compared to the previous time I’d seen them at Reading the year after Kurt Cobain’s death where it was like watching a nervous breakdown happen live in front of thousands of people. However this was ended by a rain shower, so we headed back to the campsite as Chris really had enough of being rained on after his experiences the previous year.

Thankfully this was just a passing shower, and the sun back back quickly and hard as the rest of the day was building up to REM who were quite wonderful.

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At the end of the night, we wandered round a bit but headed back after an hour or so to the campfire and the camp antics. Chris and his mate had found some weed and had spent the night being stoned which was a state they stayed in for the next few days..

Saturday again brought the sun. By now Tash was happy and settled into the festival, and everything was quite jolly. She wanted to see the Manic Street Preachers being a huge fan of them, and I really wanted to see Ash and Joe Strummer, but first it was a wander around to show Tash the comedy stage and all the little bits and bobs which make Glastonbury so unique.

The Saturday is a bit of a blur. I remember some serious rain which lasted an hour. I remember being back at the site trying to defuse an argument as some tosser had stumbled onto our campsite and was being a cock with one of the group. I remember loving Ash. We watched the Manics. We had a load of banter at the campfire, and I don’t remember details, just flashes of light and colour.

See, that’s the thing with these blogs. You might have noticed that the descriptions of getting to the festival are more detailed than the descriptions of the festival itself. There’s several reasons for that; alcohol is one, but a festival tends to blur. Only a sound or a smell brings back a memory. I’ll often go to Glastonbury and remember something from a previous year that I’d forgotten about until that point.

Anyhow, we quickly move to Sunday and another lovely day. We’d all appreciated the weather, especially Chris and myself after the previous year’s horror, but here’s the other thing about the last day at a festival; you’re settled and don’t want to leave. The day was a lovely perfect one as we started out with Chris and myself going to one of the bars at the bottom of Big Ground for a long matey chat while everyone else chilled at the campsite.

Then the afternoon was all about Al Green and that was a sheer joy but everything was building up to the Fun Loving Criminals who we were all big fans of at the time but it was a dizzy blur for all that day til the time when FLC came on stage to what is still one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen at the main stage.

After them it was Skunk Anansie who none of us especially wanted to see, so the idea was to grab some food, get changed and have a wander round the last night’s antics. Problem was we all decided to grab a hot dog from the same stall and that came back to hurt us all about 30 minutes later as it came right back up as we all threw up in the hedge that was our shelter and home that weekend.

I was especially wiped out for some reason and all I wanted was to climb into my sleeping bag, but Tash was in a better state so she sat outside with the others as I lay there sweating out the food poisoning listening to Skunk Anansie being crap and realising this was the last band to play the main stage this century as next year it was the 30th anniversary and a new millennium. Back in the heady days of 1999, millennium fever was rife and everyone was caught up in it. Even me. It also proved to be a benchmark for Glastonbury itself, but this was one last hurrah for the festival in the century it was born in.

As we got up the next day again after sleeping most of the night, and packed up we all knew something had past in some way. The increasingly corporate side of things were becoming easier to see at the festival which you never used to see, even the year before. It was difficult not to avoid the TV cameras, or the feeling it was becoming something else, even more establishment in places as you now started to see yuppies and tourists in designer wellies pose around the stages waiting to be seen. BBC presenters were everywhere. Something had shifted that weekend but we didn’t really know what, and it wasn’t until well into the new millennium that we’d see the results. Right now, it was packing up to go home.

So we did that. Made our farewells to Denise’s crowd and hiked back to the car for the long, quiet journey back to Leicester where Chris dropped myself and Tash back home to a happy cat and a comfy bed to end that year’s Glastonbury adventure….

The next year was the year 2000. It felt like something that would never come when you were growing up as it felt so far away but it was six months away and the next Glastonbury was a year away. Would we survive?

Of course we did, but in the next year my life changed drastically. More of this another time…..