Last Glastonbury blog I spoke about 1997’s muddy year and how it was actually a fun experience. 1998 was far from a fun experience. Yes, the excitement months before was there, and the stress and hassle getting a ticket was there, the build up was there, and the anticipation was there but it couldn’t possibly be as wet or muddy as 1997 could it?
The group going down from Leicester this time was different. I wasn’t really getting on with some of the crowd Zeb wanted to go down with so I declined his offer to go down with him, and decided to go with my mate Chris who was also part of the whole Leicester Pump and Tap crew.
He wanted to bring two of his friends which was fine, but I was the only person who had a ticket so a plan was cooked up. Chris had a couple of Showsec jackets from when he worked for them, so he’d use that to blag people in, and seeing as we were going down on the Thursday, we’d turn up when it was getting busy so it’d work a treat!
Problem was by the time we got there on Thursday the decent weather we’d seen up in Leicester was gone and it was wet and windy, but not too muddy and the forecast wasn’t that bad. Before we worried all about that we had to get Chris and his mates in so he tried the Showsec blag, and promptly failed horribly just falling short of being nicked. This kicked in the back up plan-find the Scousers!
Here comes another thing about the pre-millennial Glastonbury’s in that anyone could get in if they found the right place in the fence, or spotted the right people so armed with this we found a couple of Scousers who promptly managed to get the other three in for a tenner each. Once we were in it was at this point that Chris broke it to the rest of us he didn’t have a tent, but he did bring a tarpaulin, some sticks, rope and a hammer. This was also the first year I camped in Pennard Hill just before it became the In Place to be in the post-millennium years thanks to festival forums.
Once we found a good, sloping pitch, we set up near another Scouser who helped Chris build his tent. In fact it was a pretty amazing bit of construction which would stand as long as it didn’t get hit by a storm and that couldn’t happen two years in a row and anyhow, it was a lovely warm, bright Thursday night as Chris and myself let his friends go off by themselves and do boyfriend and girlfriend stuff while Chris and me just wandered around having a chat and getting to know each other as although we worked for the same company and were mates, we didn’t really know each other. This was a great bit of male bonding and enormous fun as we drunk ourselves into a happy state over the evening and as we headed back we discovered another load of Scousers camped next to us who invited us both round their campfire for banter and drinks. I went to sleep that night relaxed and happy, a state I’d not be in again til Sunday evening….
The reason being is that during the night it started raining. Not just light summer rain, but cold, heavy torrential rain that made the ground everywhere liquid and as there wasn’t any drainage the ground looked like this.
The water wasn’t going anywhere and as the site was a giant bowl it meant the water was making the stages a giant puddle so we tried to have fun on the Friday. We really did but we lost Chris, one of his friends fainted and his girlfriend had to take him back to the tent, so I was stuck in the pouring rain to meet Zeb and go and watch the England game as the World Cup was on.
The game was to be shown in the cinema field which was then one of the highest points on site and is now where the bus station is. It also gives you an amazing view of the valleys and the Mendips themselves.so as the game started (England versus Columbia) Zeb and myself along with the thousands of others in the field saw the huge black clouds rolling over the Mendips. These huge black clouds contained all the rain in the world and were about to dump it on the festival for the next four or five hours, but for the 90 minutes of the game every single person in that festival out in the open was drenched. You can see the aftermath of this 90 minute drenching in this Foo Fighters footage as they were playing at the same time.
We managed to survive but were drenched through however I was intent that if I went back to the tent I’d miss a good spot for Portishead and I wanted desperately to see them. Sadly not only were they nearly an hour late but it’d started raining heavily again, and did so for the next few hours to such a degree that water was seeping through my waterproof coat.
As Portishead finished all i wanted to do was go back to my tent and sleep. Problem was I was now cold, tired and confused so I couldn’t find my tent no matter how hard I tried so my brain somehow told me to get a warm drink and calm down. I remember sitting in a tent with a dozen or so other lost souls just looking like we’d survived the Somme as there was a palatable air of shock as this wasn’t weather the festival had ever had to such a severe degree. Even the old hands were shocked by it.
Eventually I composed myself enough to go back looking for my tent, which I found easily enough in the dawn light, but Chris’s tent had been wiped out and he was kipping in mine when I got back. So we squeezed in and all I remember is quickly falling to sleep and hoping it was all a dream.
Sadly it wasn’t. The next morning Chris had got together what he could rescue of his stuff and stuck it in his car while the others looked miserable. I didn’t have any dry clothes. I was wet and miserable, but the sun was out, it was warm and there was signs things might get better so we gave it the day.
However as Chris was now fed up with his friends moaning he tagged with me for the rest of the day. As his own clothes were mainly still soaked Chris was wearing one of the Showsec jackets he brought which meant he suddenly had people paying attention to him. This was the only perk in an otherwise pretty sad day as the pair of us tried to milk something out of the festival.
Unfortunately as the dance tent was full of human waste thanks to someone hitting the wrong switch when they were pumping water out of it, we couldn’t hang around there which meant going to the main stage to see Robbie Williams. We were desperate souls by this point.
And we sat on bin bags watching Robbie we looked at each other and said ‘shall we go home tomorrow’ at virtually the same time. This isn’t to say we didn’t have fun on that Saturday night but the punchline was we went to get something to eat after Blur’s headlining set and both ended up being sick in a bush.
Chris kipped that night in the car, but we’d agreed to see how we felt in the morning and check with the others how they felt.In the morning they felt like going home. Chris wanted to go home. I wanted to see Pulp headlining but I wanted to go home. We packed up and went home.
The irony was as soon as we got onto the motorway the sun came out. In fact it was a lovely warm day that Sunday. We pulled into the service station looking a shocking mess, but we were on dry land and it didn’t feel like the world was slowly ending. The battle for survival was over!
We got back to Leicester early evening, and in fact after I had a bath and got some dry clothes on I headed down the pub to watch the Nigeria game in the World Cup before coming home to watch Pulp’s set from a comfy sofa in a warm and dry living room with my cat purring in my lap.
Which ends the story of Glastonbury 1998. The second muddy year but unlike 97 it rained all weekend which made it miserable, and people generally were miserable but don’t let these people who say ‘ah, but it’s not a real Glastonbury unless it’s muddy and wet’ think they know what they’re on about. They don’t. They’re idiots. The festival is fucking horrible when it’s wet. I can deal with the mud when it’s drying but when everything is constantly liquid it’s impossible to love.
The effect of this though on the TV audience was to help build up the modern mythology of the festival, so you were a ‘true festival goer’ if you stuck the weekend out. That was the narrative on TV and in the press, not to mention the early days of the internet.
1999 had to be better. The last festival before the Millennium. The 30th anniversary was the next year. It was all set up to be a classic and we’ll see how much that actually came to pass…