There and Back Again: The story of Glastonbury 2017

Having taken time away from Glastonbury for technical problems, I made a return back to that field in Somerset for the festival but this wasn’t just the first festival since my stroke and cancer diagnosis, but the first one since I started going in 1992 where I come from Glasgow as opposed to the East Midlands or Bristol. So this was a wee bit of a challenge, and the best place to start is Monday the 19th June.

I’ve decided to fly to Bristol, spend a couple of days catching up with people before a friend, Alan, picks me up on the way to the festival. That Monday was a humid day in Glasgow, though friends in Bristol and already on the festival site had warned me it was hotter than Egypt there. Leaving my house I head to Buchanan Street bus station for the shuttle bus to Glasgow Airport.

Being the afternoon the shuttle bus was empty barring a German couple and a confused looking businessman.

Feeling just a twinge of excitement in the glutes, the bus sped across the Clyde to the airport…

And quicker than I thought I arrived at the airport to a sea of pasty Glaswegians and placing my faith in Easyjet, I arrived later that evening in Bristol which was indeed, like walking around in Egypt barring the sand.It was like walking into an oven, and indeed, sleeping in one so I didn’t manage much sleep in the runup to Glastonbury which meant I was bright and sharpish as I met Alan at 6am on the  Wednesday of the festival.

As this was the first year I was a fully registered disabled person this meant we went for the disabled queue to get our passes, and for the shuttle bus to take us to Spring Ground, the disabled campsite within the festival. Only catch was it was around 28 C in the morning and there was a bit of a queue.

Shade was a premium and for a few hours everyone felt like slow-roasting pork as we crawled towards that white tent in the distance where we’d get passes, etc, and hopefully on the bus. Luckily while in the queue we met up with part of the group who’d come from Glasgow by car. Eventually we got sorted, got on the bus, got to Spring Ground and very, very, very slowly started pitching up. Have you tried pitching tents in 34 C heat after having stood in it for five hours and those of us on medication were starting to seriously struggle? It isn’t nice but it is preferable to the rain…

Eventually the last part of the group turned up from the dark recesses of the North West of England, but by this time it was getting into the evening and I’d arranged to meet a mate from Bristol at the bandstand at 8 so I grabbed some beers (my drinking ban was lifted for the duration of the festival) and headed into the wilds of Wednesday night at Glastonbury.

By now there was some merciful cloud cover which helped the skin which by now resembled cracking off a Sunday joint, but Wednesday night I’ve always enjoyed at Glastonbury because nothing much is happening and stages like the Pyramid Stage, are still coming together. What this means is that it’s the only night that feels like ”old” Glastonbury in that you have no idea what you’ll encounter and because one has to make their own fun everything is joyfully random which means sitting around at midnight talking to a family from Hull about how the festival has helped reshape their lives.

And Glastonbury turns into a glorious place at night, especially when it’s warm and dry because you’re not struggling with the mud or hurrying back to your tent to avoid the rain. Not so this night where you could sit in what we used to call the Jazz Stage field, and young ‘uns call West Holts watching fireworks while drinking beer.

A wonderful Wednesday night bled into Thursday morning, and a quiet one. The site this night was quiet which was surprising until you remembered your sunburn and the fact most people would be knackered but my crippled arse stayed up past 3am and crawled into bed having had a splendid night.

Thursday starts with my daily drugs, which look nothing like the drugs I used to consume at the festival in years past.

Thursday is the day where the festival kicks into gear. All the stages bar the three biggest ones start and the festival kicks into gear. Our intention was to see The Orb at the Glade, but getting near the stage was doable but hearing it when the organisers have stuck several smaller stages near was impossible which leads me to a whinge. Over the last decade they’ve added so many stages that there’s so much to see and do that you’re spoiled for choice, but the big chunks of space the festival used to have which allowed the festival to breath are gone. So one stage bleeds into another less than ten metres away and that frankly, is shite. I’d like some of the stages to go or for a bit more thought in how it all works for disabled folk who find it a struggle when there’s bottlenecks.

I will take this chance to thank the young lad and his girlfriend who helped me up a hill near the Glade when there were so many people in one place it was ridiculous, and in fact, I’d say 99% of people at the festival when they noticed I was disabled did all they could. The ones that didn’t can fuck off.

I also experienced the dubious joys of the backstage bar as it’s on the disabled route backstage between stages, and I have to say what a soulless, empty echo of the festival it is. Braying London media whores and their hangers on pretending to have their exclusive Glastonbury isn’t Glastonbury as the joy of the festival is we’re all in it together. Sneaking off to your nice Winnebago isn’t playing fair. I get why Eavis has allowed the backstage area and this demographic to grow as after all, he started this festival to make extra cash but it’s bollocks and for me, risks the heart of the festival.

Anyhow, Thursday ended up being back at the tents in Spring Ground and an early night (sort of) in anticipation of everything kicking off proper on the Friday.

Friday was cloudy and cooler. The media were saying it was what we’d all hate, but give me cool and cloudy around 20 C as that’s perfect festival weather after days of being roasted alive from dawn til dusk.

The site takes on a new energy from the Friday. We know the A Team (not Mr T sadly) are kicking it on the main stages.

Friday however wasn’t a great day. A few decent acts on West Holts and the comedy tent aside, nothing caught my eye til Radiohead who I’d seen when they played the NME Stage (now Other Stage) in 1994, THAT show at the Pyramid in 97 and in 2003 when they last headlined.

Radiohead are a great live band, and they don’t disappoint here, yeah, some of the stuff from Kid A goes down like a lead enema but on the whole the band pick the crowd up and play with them like putty.

At this point I need to say a word about the stewards organising the disabled platform and thank them for doing all they can to make the night, and the experience, as good as it would have been for everyone. They did a great job and considering they’re all volunteers and don’t get a penny for it makes it all the more extraordinary.

As Radiohead draws a close to Friday we head back to the tents, sit around and talk wonderful bollocks until the first spatters of rain hit us causing us all to call an earlyish night and hopefully let the rain be no more than a passing shower. Unbelievably it was, and better than that, the rain dampened down the dust so the site was no longer a dustbowl as it was say, in 2010, 1995 and 1993. This set up Saturday nicely as this is the day where the festival finds an extra gear and goes mental yet the biggest crowd of the day wasn’t for a modern beat combo, it was for a politician.

That’s Jeremy Corbyn in the distance. Now I’ve branched out my opinion on Corbyn’s appearance here, but I will say I have concern for anyone chanting any politicians name as it means you’ve left your critical abilities floating in the long drops. A ”jobs first Brexit” is as much a load of utter pish as when Nigel Farage talks about it and my concern is that Corbyn’s selling a lie to people because there’s no version of Brexit that doesn’t put jobs at risk but he won’t tell you his version (which is exactly the same as other Brexiters like Farage and Gove were punting last year) will, and neither does he want to engage the fact Labour have now put immigration ahead of jobs.

So lots of chants, lots of positivity and a lot of hubris. I’ve seen this shite before and I wish what is going to happen doesn’t but I fear I’m going to be right and an almighty disappointment is heading people’s way.

Moving on from politics the band after Corbyn, Run the Jewels, were a splendid piece of bombastic hip hop and I really should search their stuff out, but no time to hang around as I go for a wander round the site after that.

Ah cider…

This is a giant tortoise shaped mobile soundsystem in the circus fields that I watched for ages as the thing, and the people around it, were great fun.

That’s a marching band. They were utterly brilliant but my path was now making me head towards West Holts as no Foo Fighters for me (and anyhow, I saw their first gig at Reading in 1995 and have seen them around a dozen times) as The Jacksons were heading up that stage.

Now, I’ve always been a fan of disco as I always found it to be the cousin of Punk in terms of ripping the old music down and giving us something new and exciting. As for The Jacksons? Well, where else are you going to see them without paying 80 quid a ticket just for them? And they did the most ridiculously, pompously brilliant video ever which also happened to be the only song they could open their set with.

Again I’m on the disabled platform on a stage chatting to a lovely Welsh family on a bucket list as one of their number is suffering from a terminal condition and again thanks to the stewards who did all they could to make things comfortable. As for The Jacksons they were wonderful but poor sound mixing made parts of the gig a struggle, however these guys are wonderful showpeople and fuck me, they put on a show even if they did play some of the problematic solo material.

After The Jacksons I thought I’d head for a cold cider but it turned out the Foo Fighters were still going letting off the world’s supply of fireworks.

It was an impressive sight some distance away.

After some time waiting for the crowds to leave by forcing myself to sit by the cider bus drinking and chatting, it was eventually clear enough to wander back to the tents across a pretty trashed Pyramid Stage arena.

And off to bed for the last day..

The Sunday was warm and sunny. As is often the case one takes stock of how good a festival has been on the Sunday by how quickly you want to leave, and I didn’t want to go. Yeah, the lineup overall had been poor but you don’t think I’ve been going to Glastonbury for 25 years for the lineup do you? I go to meet friends old and new, and see and experience things I’d never do anywhere else. I go because I might meet extraordinary people who don’t realise their uniqueness, or to chat to drunk people, or meet young people who remind me of me 25 years ago.

Remember what I said about disco? Imagine seeing Nile Rogers and Chic on the Pyramid on a lovely summer afternoon with around 70k other people up for it?

Yeah, it was that good. Which would have made a perfect end to the festival if Biffy Clyro hadn’t come and laid their ponderous landfill rock all over the place like some dirty protest at people having fun. Here’s a picture of my weak leg to show you how interested I was during their set.

And yes, that sunburn still hurts.

At this point we started chatting to a family from Manchester who’d been involved with the Ariana Grande concert bombing and apart from being decent folk, started plying us all with very nice gin as we stared at an amazing sky.

Ed Sheeran is a strange thing. Bland, thin on talent and ability but yet massive. It also should be easy to hate what he does (and his show was at best wallpaper as he sung to a backing track) but he sums up part of where Mainstream music is in 2017. Nothing too adventurous. Nothing radical. Give them a few anthems and send them home. It’s pop music for people who live on microwave food.

But the crowd loved it and as it closed the festival I thought that for many of these people this is what Glastonbury meant for them and who am I to deny them that?

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The next day was the sad, melancholy packing up as everything returns to normal.

The festival wasn’t quite over as Glastonbury doesn’t stop, it just fades out slowly into the Monday as people leave to return home and I retraced our entry. Only this time there were less queues.

Although Alan’s satnav set us on a long and winding road from Pilton to Bristol, I finally saw Brunel’s bridge appear as we sped into Hotwells.

After being dropped off at a friends in Bristol, I said cheerio to Alan but Glastonbury wasn’t quite over as I wasn’t actually home yet so I was still in Glastonbury mode the next day when I made my way to Bristol airport to return to Glasgow where the shuttle bus awaited me.

This dropped me by Central Station where a taxi whisked me back to my humble home and some much needed sleep.

So was this a classic year? Yes, I’d say it was. It was a piss poor lineup but having experienced the festival as someone probably more disabled than I’d like to admit I have to say that virtually everything about this year was amazing from the people I was with, the the weather, to the fellow random festival goers to the stewards and indeed, everything. Yes, I’m physically paying for it afterwards but fuck it; if people go there who are literally counting down the number of weeks they have left to live then being a bit sore and sniffy isn’t a problem.

That said, I’m glad 2018 is a fallow year. It means I have time now to rebuild things and get fitter because frankly, up until the end of May I was in still two minds whether I’d go.It took me three weeks at the gym to get fit enough again to carry the weight I did not just in coming in and out, but over the weekend, so another two years will see hopefully a vast improvement. 2020 is the festival’s 50th anniversary and having attended the 25th and 40th anniversary celebrations I’m not missing that.

Glastonbury 2017 was wonderful. I could go back there in a second. Of course I’d wear more sunscreen but I think people on the whole decided to have fun and decided in light of recent events to be decent human beings, on the whole. Bring on 2019!

 

Fun in the Sun-The Tale of Glastonbury 2003

I took a break from writing my personal history of the Glastonbury Festivals I’ve attended mainly to give me a break to do other stuff, but seeing as it’s Spring and that means it’s nearly Summer, it’s time to get back to it. Firstly here’s a recap of previous blogs.

My First Glastonbury, or What The Buggery Bollocks Happened 20 years Ago?

I Wanna Live Like Common People-Glastonbury 1995

Swamp Things-Glastonbury 1997

It’s the End of the World As We Know it-Glastonbury 1998

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

All good things…. The tale of Glastonbury 2000

Wide Open Spaces-The tale of Glastonbury 2002

Which takes me to the year 2003 and the second festival since the erection of the Superfence which after 2002 was something that was shown to work which meant the people who tried and failed to jump the fence in 2002 didn’t (on the whole) try it again. 2003 is also the year when things started to take shape to form the festival as it is today, but things were still in flux so it was caught between the Behemoth that it is today to the still somewhat chaotic mess it was back then in that faraway time of 11 years ago.

The first thing that changed was the speed in which tickets sold out. I remember being at work, logging onto the website and buying my ticket first thing in the morning. By the time I got the bus home I overheard someone talking about how tickets had sold out but she’d managed to get five of them which most were to end up on Ebay.  This was my first hint that something was going to be different this year, but seeing as I was single-ish (a story for another time) and 2002 had been my first solo festival for years, I decided to do the same again though I’d had offer from friends from a Glastonbury Forum I became part of to camp with them.

So like the previous Glastonbury, I decided to go down on Thursday morning, though that quickly became the afternoon as I spent most of that morning fannying around online which meant I’d arrive mid to late afternoon which was peak time for arrivals, or at least, in previous years it used to be the peak time. By the time I arrived by bus from Bristol, the site was rammed to such an extent my plan to camp in Pennards Hill was ruled out as it was full, so I decided to trek over to Big Ground and find somewhere there. I eventually found a space up high on the hill facing the Pyramid Stage, and I set up my tent for the weekend which was promising much as the line up was good and the weather forecast was exceptional.

Thursday night saw a meet of our little group from the aforementioned Glastonbury Forum, and this involved drinking heavily, people losing their money as they were doing a Spider Walk, and the Voice of the Mysterons...

All in all it was huge fun and a great set-up for the rest of the weekend which started on the Friday morning with my first exposure to a little band called The Darkness. Now this band ended up imploding in a spectacular way with the frontman scraping around for a Eurovision gig, before the inevitable, desperate reunion but at this time, in that field they were magnificent. Yes, they were a bit too knowing but when a lot of British bands were either crap DJ/Pop or over-earnest guitar bands The Darkness were a massive breath of fresh air. They were a bit different from the knowing Hipster music starting to form and they were also a fucking tight band.

After The Darkness closed their set on what was a gloomy, dank morning it was a sprint to the Other Stage for Har Mar Superstar. Now this might seem today as a silly choice, and I’ll be the first admit that Har Mar was a one trick pony, but Power Lunch is still a fantastic tune, and this performance was huge fun. We all needed fun because the rain was coming and as I again sprinted (as much as one can sprint at Glastonbury) to the Pyramid Stage to see Echo and the Bunnymen, the rains broke so I managed to dive under a tree by the main arena to shelter and here I bumped into Wes, a lad who I worked with and his girlfriend who were also sheltering from the rain during Echo and the Bunnymen. Deciding we all wanted to see De La Soul and Mogwai, we hung around as the rain stopped, and the afternoon started to get warmer but poor Wes having taken far too much cider, pills and stupidity, passed out just before De La Soul and regained life halfway through Mogwai. After this we went our separate ways as I caught most of Suede before heading to The Other Stage for Electric Six.

To this day, this set is one of my favourite at any festival ever. The band were magnificent in the boiling bright sunshine; they were simply utterly magnificent but unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any clips of their show online which is a massive pity.

Now as you may note I’m not talking about being drunk, or bouncing around doing odd stuff but seeing bands and this Glastonbury was the festival where I think in one day I saw more bands than I had in the entirety of the previous year. It really was a great lineup that year.

I finished off the Friday with Primal Scream before wandering to the Tiny Tea Tent to meet people, chat, and drink till the wee hours.

Saturday saw me wake up early, not to mention surprisingly sober. Saturday at festivals is always the day when the weekend kicks into full gear, so it was actually nice to face it with a totally clear head. I spent the morning chilling at my tent chatting to some kids from Bridgewater who’d come to their first ever festival before heading off for a wander of the site on what was an utterly stunning sunny day and there was nothing I wanted to see really til Jimmy Cliff so off for a wander I went, which always means ending up in the comedy tent either watching something brilliant, or some arts student from UWE telling us that ”George Bush is a cunt’. Oh the satires!!

Anyhow, the afternoon went on, Jimmy Cliff came on and did a blinding set and I was ready for my highlight of the Saturday which was the Polyphonic Spree. Now it’s hard to think that what I’m about to say is real, but at the time they were a rightfully massive band and this was reflected by the massive crowd that you can see in this video of the opening to their set.

I’m somewhere on the right of the picture, facing the harp if you can squint hard enough.

Thing was I was standing down the front on a boiling hot sunny day next to the Pyramid Stage which was a silver coloured tent which meant it was reflecting sunlight at anyone near it. This meant I ended up with a Harvey Dent tan for the rest of the weekend and for the rest of the weekend that also meant getting very drunk to get over the sunburn, which ended up with me drunkenly watching Radiohead from my tent with a very sore face, and a sore head as well.

Sunday saw me wake up hungover. Very hungover. After wandering around to find somewhere that sold a greasy fry-up, I decided to take it easy on the last day (no more Brothers cider!) as there wasn’t a lot I wanted to see, but what I did want to see was scattered all over the site plus it included wandering up the hill to see the great Roddy Frame which was fantastic. What wasn’t fantastic was Yes who I endured as I walked past them on the way to the comedy tent which is where I spent most of the end of this year’s festival. I can’t remember who I saw, but I do remember leaving the tent in the wee hours of Monday morning to walk slowly back to my tent in a lovely warm night, and by now I’d got quite used to Glastonbury being warm and dry.

Monday saw me wake early, pack up and walk slowly, not to mention sadly to get the bus back to Bristol. Sad not only because I was leaving a festival where as far as I’m still concerned, had the best line-up of any year at a time when music was at a high, but because that bloody journey back to Bristol was always grim and depressing.

On the bus back I thought about the weekend, mainly about how much busier it was now another 20,000 people were allowed in which meant the festival didn’t suffer the big empty spaces of 2002. It also felt about right but the downside of the event being televised so heavily was it sold the festival as a big gig in a field, which even though this blog has been all about me running around the site seeing bands, it really isn’t. 2003 was in many ways a totally unique year, not to mention one of my favourite years but I’d decided I couldn’t be arsed camping by myself anymore so in 2004 I’d hook up with someone to go.

The story of 2004 and the ups and downs of the year that showed how the festival had changed completely since I’d first went in my next blog….

Swamp Things-Glastonbury 1997

As pointed out in my last blog about Glastonbury, 1996 was a fallow year which meant no Glastonbury, but I still went to T in the Park, Phoenix Festival, the dreadful V Festival and Reading, More of this another time, but the festival scene had changed in 1996 from a lively underground culture to something becoming more mainstream, and the truly awful V Festival being testimony to the corporate nature of this new world. It does have to be pointed out that the televised coverage by Channel 4 of Glastonbury played a huge part in this, but the idea that the festival was becoming more mainstream had been slowly growing throughout the 90’s so the blame can’t be slapped on the door of television but the warm, dry years of 1994 and 1995 had sold Glastonbury as a holiday destination like Ibiza so for hundreds of thousands of people it became somewhere not to go because of the lifestyle, but because it was suddenly fashionable with a section of society who’d never seen festivals as an option before.

Also, Britain was changing in 1997 with the long serving Tory government slowly dying waiting to be replaced by the younger more energetic Labour Party under Tony Blair. We all hadn’t seen through Blair or Labour yet so there was a sense of wonderful optimism and celebration going into 1997 as an election was coming and we knew the country was changing.

For 1997’s festival I decided to buy a ticket. This was to be the first year I’d done so, and this meant phoning a ticketline to buy my ticket. This I thought would be dead easy. It wasn’t. In fact it took me most of the night as tickets went on sale at I think 10pm on a Thursday night, so I got on the phone line with my mate’s credit card in hand and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited…………..

The problem was that Glastonbury had become so popular that demand had outstripped supply & this clogged up phonelines and with the organisation not used to this demand, it simply collapsed. Luckily though I got a ticket at around 2am and promptly went to grab a few hours kip before getting up for work four hours later.

That was at the start of the year. No bands were announced but Radiohead were rumoured, and OK Computer had just come out so the band were huge, but Glastonbury was never about the lineup. It was all about the experience.

Winter turned eventually into spring, and that slowly turned into summer which meant FESTIVAL TIME!!! A group of my friends had also got tickets and as we all drank or worked for the Pump & Tap, one of Leicester’s finest pubs which is no longer there sadly.

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Anyhow, what was going to be a number of people boiled down to four of us. There was myself obviously, Alex who was assistant manager of the Pump and also from just down the road from Worthy Farm where his parents still lived, Anka who was German and one of the barstaff, and Zeb who was a hippy but he had the transport which was to be a four wheel drive bright red sports car. Just the sort of wildly conspicuous thing you take to a festival!

We’d formulated a plan which was to go down on the Wednesday as none of us apart from Alex had done so before, and for Zeb it was his first one while Anka and myself were grizzled veterans.

Now this is where I point out that none of us apart from Zeb had bothered to take note of the weather forecasts which were looking fairly wet, but it’d rained in previous years when I was there and had dried out very quickly but I packed a bright yellow raincoat which I used at work and my best walking boots.

The plan was to meet at the Pump early on Wednesday afternoon, so I packed my bag and walked to the Pump carrying my bag, rucksack and sleeping bag to the carpark of the pub to wake up Alex, who lived in the Pump. There we sat drinking a few beers waiting for Anka and Zeb to turn up.

And waited.

And waited.

By now, the weather was grim. It was cold and rainy for the middle of June, but there were patches of blue sky and sun which was enough to be going on. Zeb eventually turned up around 1ish. He’d had a problem with his bright red sports car so had to take another even more extravagant bright red sports car. Shortly afterwards Anka turned up and decided to spring upon us the fact she’d bought a case of Hobec, which was a Dutch beer like Grolsch and just as heavy when there’s 16 bottles in a case.  The plan had been to buy beer at the Sainsbury’s on the way down to keep weight down in the car.

Anyhow, we eventually got going mid to late afternoon after spending a few hours quietly getting drunk in the Pump and hit the road out of Leicester. Only to be stopped by a motorcycle policeman warning us about speeding. The bright red sports car stood out, but as it was left-hand drive the copper pulled up to where I was sitting in what he thought was the drivers side, but was the passenger seat. That probably saved us from being nicked as the copper looked in the car, and realised he had four crusty hippies going to Glastonbury and didn’t want the hassle.

So with a warning under our belt we drove safely out of Leicester and on our way to Glastonbury. In the rain. In the torrential rain. Spirits were still high though as we’d heard on the radio that although the site itself was wet, it wasn’t that bad, so we drove down having the sort of fun and banter one does on the way to festivals until we hit the big Sainbury’s in Glastonbury itself and stocked up on beer.

Now from there to the festival site it’s only ten minutes drive, but during festival time it’s any amount of time so we decided to take a detour to Alex’s parents to get a cup of tea, some sandwiches and the last proper crap in a proper toilet for nearly a week. We spent some time here as they live in a lovely house, and the sun was out so we sat and chilled before deciding ‘right, better get going’. By this time it was early evening and we were all hyped and we wanted set up before dark. We left Alex at his parents as he didn’t have a ticket but as his parents lived in the catchment area for free tickets they’d arranged for one to head his way but not til the morning, but we’d agreed to set his tent up and carry his stuff to where we were camping after meeting him at a set time at the Stone Circle the next day. These were the days before mobiles so we had to use brains and trust back then…..

On the way into the carpark we decided to camp in front of the main stage as it really is quiet an impressive place to camp for a newbie as you see the main throng of the festival, plus lots of bands we wanted to see were playing there. The problem was that the carparks are a nightmare to get through, plus you end up miles from the front then  you have a hike as you can see…

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This is where we realised we had all of Alex’s stuff, our own and Anka’s case of Hobec. On a dry day the walk would have been a pain, but it was a bit muddy plus it was starting to get dark, so we trooped on and found a  good spot in front of the main stage, setting up the tents and going back for the beer. By the time we were finished it was dark, and both Zeb and myself were knackered as we had to carry that bloody crate…

But we were at Glastonbury. Ok, it was nearly dark, a bit colder than you’d want for the end of June and bit muddy in places but it was otherwise fine. Nothing a jumper, a good pair of boots and a few beers wouldn’t solve and with that attitude the three of us went off for a wander into the site as it got dark.

I think we must have spent a few hours just taking everything in, before deciding around 3am to go back to our tents and get some sleep as we wanted to spend the Thursday having a good look around the site before everyone turned up on the Thursday evening and the festival kicked into full gear. Just after 3 I remember nodding off  with the sound of a few raindrops hitting my tent..

I woke up around dawn as I felt the river that was now flowing under my tent. At some point in the last three hours a storm had started and the rain was now so heavy that it was starting to come through into my tent so I got as dressed as I could, and started trying to mop up the water and plug the gaps in my tent which I somehow managed to do but it was now very, very cold and very, very wet. Around 7am I stuck my head out of the tent to see a very dismal looking Anka sitting in her tent looking grim and we sat there looking at the rain falling and falling while the lovely green of the site was quickly turning into brown.

Eventually Zeb emerged and it turned out that he’d also struggled with the rain overnight but it’d stopped raining which gave us time to patch up tents and get dressed in an attempt to stay warm and to get ready to walk up to the Stone Circle to meet Alex later that morning. With the attitude of ‘fuck it, it’s Glastonbury’ we walked into the heart of the site to quickly discover it was now a brown running sludge…..

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Also, the soil of Worthy Farm is clay based, so it’s also amazingly sticky, so it was also a sucking mud which meant you had to quickly develop a walk where you spent as little time with your full foot on the ground as possible which meant trying to glide as quickly as possible. This mainly meant falling on your arse.

It started raining again by the time we got to the Green Fields. Very heavy rain. Thankfully we found a large tea/food tent and took shelter in there along with a number of other souls who also looked equally pissed off but we were warm, and had tea and were having a good chat with people which was fun. Then around 11ish, someone came in the tent and said ‘it’s snowing!!’. This got everyone off their chairs to look outside not to see snow, but a light sleet. In June. It was sleeting in June at Glastonbury. It was bloody grim, no matter how much of a optimistic edge we were putting on things.

By this time though we had to meet Alex, so that meant going out in the mud , sleet and rain. We got up the Stone Circle, in the rain and thankfully met Alex pretty much straight away though unfortunately this meant struggling all the way back to where we’d camped.

The rest of Thursday was taken up with staying warm, grabbing some food and diving into the first few bands in the Green Fields but because of the weather the site wasn’t as full as expected as people had either put off coming down til Friday morning, or as we discovered, didn’t come down at all. We even bumped into a few people from Leicester, while I bumped into people from Bristol as we sat watching some punk band on the Thursday night but the rumours were starting to fly that the second stage, The Other Stage as it was now called, was sinking and that the festival itself was under risk of cancellation. With that hanging over our heads we decided to drink more, head back to our tents, drink some more and then get an hour or two of sleep before getting up early for Echo and the Bunnymen and the Seahorses the next day.

The next day came and the site didn’t look much better. It’d stopped raining heavily halfway through Thursday but the temperature was still in the mid teens when it should have been in  the low to mid 20’s for the time of year. It basically felt like early April. It was bleak and the site was now a swamp though the area in front of the main stage wasn’t too bad, the area in front of The Other Stage was virtually impossible though some bands did play early on that Friday, the stage was closed quickly as it was made secure which meant closing the stage from around 11am til late afternoon, so we wandered around most of the afternoon and ended up taking shelter in the comedy tent.

No here’s the thing about Glastonbury; you can always find refuge in the comedy tent but in muddy or sunny years there’s no room. We managed to get a space by the front and stay as dry as possible til the early evening when it was all about getting ready for the Prodigy.

Only problem was the weather was fucking things up still. It wasn’t raining but it was windy and everything was damp so while we were standing in the mud in front of the main stage waiting for them to come on, we were slowly sinking into the mud and  we ended up having to pull a few people around us out of the mud. Thankfully the Prodigy put out an amazing set but as we trudged through the mud back into the site the weekend was taking on the feeling of a Dunkirk retreat but we headed off for the Friday night/Saturday morning of fun and games and ended up eventually sitting in the fairly dry Stone Circle watching the site and noticing the steam slowly rising from the site as we fooled ourselves it was drying out but really it was people drying out.

The next morning saw something akin to a sunny day! the mud had actually started drying out so it was now like walking through glue as it wasn’t warm enough to dry the site out completely. The Saturday is a bit of a blur for me, as by now I was suffering through having not much sleep for three days and drinking far too much so I remember going to see a band who’d played at the Pump & Tap a few weeks earlier and then making an exit back to my tent to get some sleep.

After a few hours sleep, I woke up fresh, well as fresh as you can get at these things and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the now empty Hobec crate (see, it served a use after all) watching the main stage but by no those of us who had stuck the festival so far were hitting a survivalist streak in that it was a case of the elements or the festival winning and we wanted the festival to win.

As the evening started to sink in it was a case of who to see; Primal Scream or Radiohead? Now I remember seeing Primal Scream, but I also have memories of seeing Radiohead. I simply can’t remember but whoever I saw they were great!!!

I think?!?

By the time Sunday rolled round we’d all started feeling, well, a bit healthy. Walking through the mud built up legs and burnt off calories. We’d all eaten pretty well (which is something you can do if you’re willing to walk around at Glastonbury) and we’d hit the last day now so used to dealing with the mud we felt one with the green, or the brown in this case.

Now Sunday’s at festivals are often sad things, but there was a massive element of uncertainty as Stevie Winwood’s truck couldn’t get onsite so dismal Indie chancers Kula Shaker ended up playing twice that weekend proving they were shite twice.

Ash were the last band I wanted to see, but then I remembered to struggle to see Daft Punk who I only heard from a distance as the dance tent was surrounded in a ring of mud.

And that was about that. We all came back together for one last sit round the campfire before grabbing a fairly early night in the hope that getting up early would mean missing the crowds which is a hard thing to do when everyone wants to leave to get changed and clean ASAP.

Monday morning saw a pretty quick packing up, and a pretty quick trek back to the car now there was four of us and we didn’t have to lug a crate of beer back, and the empty crate had been nicked anyhow.

We quickly managed to get loaded up and offsite pretty quickly, and once we were on the motorway we started to feel some part of reality come seeping back in. We stopped at the services but because Zeb didn’t want muddy boots everywhere we were all in stocking or bare feet which proved quite a sight in the services.

The weekend gave us one last sting as on  the last leg home it rained. Torrential heavy rain for an hour all the way home to Leicester. As we dropped Alex back at the Pump, the rain was still falling and as I was dropped home the rain was still coming down. Even as I lay down to get a bit of sleep in bed, the rain still fell and Glastonbury 97 started to pass into something akin to legend.

The reason the 97 festival is important in establishing the myth of Glastonbury is because the television coverage somehow managed to convey the fact that although the festival was muddy, wet and mainly cold, it was still bloody good fun. It showed a different type of fun from the sunny antics of 94 & 95 plus now it was on the BBC it felt more part of an establishment as opposed to the then risky Channel 4.

1997 was the real turning point. People saw the community spirit. People saw the Radiohead set and the experience people were having. They saw all this and they wanted part of it. Only problem was that many only wanted to be voyeurs rather than participants which meant changing the festival, but before we get to that stage we have to go through the last of the pre-millennium festivals.

Next up is Glastonbury 1998 and one of the worst experiences of my life….