Flash Says…

Life at Glastonbury

Posted on: 2010-07-02

I’m just back from Glastonbury Festival. We arrived on Wednesday morning and left, exhausted but happy, 5 days later. I present some entries from my Festival diary.

It feels strange returning to Glasto after a year off. Last year I skipped it for the first time in a decade, tired from the constant push to try and get around the site while wondering why exactly I was paying to be there. After a break I felt revitalised and ready to go – the weather forecast was encouraging and I knew Claire (who runs the disabled access side of things) had made excellent provision at the Festival.  So we set off – and hit long queues very early on, even though it was only Wednesday morning. People seem to head to Glasto earlier every year, and although we’d hoped to beat the rush we were stuck in it. But within a few minutes of arriving in the campsite people came to say they missed me last year. In the market area “GlastoGaz” gave me one of his paintings as a present, and another chap I ran into donated me a funky wristband. The Glasto spirit slowly raised its head as I became immersed in Festival.

The disabled campsite has become a venue in its own right, thanks to The Outsiders, a disabled dating agency, who have livened up our wheelchair recharge tent by providing treatments like massage and reiki, entertainment such as live music at lunchtime, story telling and circus skills training, as well facepainting for the kids. (I would have included storytelling in the kids’ bit, but I hear it can get quite racy. Personally I’d feel quite awkward sitting in a circle of strangers as one of them narrated porn!) The Outsiders have done a great job, enabling everyone to celebrate the beauty of their own body in a relaxed and safe environment, and in providing entertainment to those who are less able to leave the campsite and plunge into the Festival. I just have one question: did no one question the wisdom of trying to teach juggling to the most uncoordinated people on site?

Disabled camping
Disabled camping marquee with music and treatments in full flow

Every day when I awaken, I get up to find out what my legs have in store for me. Fortunately, the current “limp of the day” seems to have a jazzy, laid back aspect to it. Hooray – perhaps today’s the day to dance to some blues at West Holts! Sometimes my body comes good. And sometimes I just look like a prat.

One delight of disabled camping is the shower – just warm enough, with no roof so I could look up at the blue sky and clouds as I washed. The sun dried my skin, saving me a task and feeling great in the open air. Never have I been so grateful for a small spout of warm water – I’m feeling guilty for what we have, and glad that part of our ticket price will go to Water Aid.

Watching Florence and the Machine (who did the most awesome cover of “The Chain”) I was really struck by a family behind me. They’d brought a disabled boy, teenage brother, both parents and a baby in pram onto the viewing platform at just the time when stewards were asking for people to please make way for wheelchair users, and we were glaring at them for hogging too much space. But actually what struck me was the father’s bond with his son. He introduced me to his little boy, who couldn’t speak, and later explained when the lad wanted to try honking my horn. The dad picked his son up and carried him all the way through Florence’s set. It was wonderful to see his obvious love for his boy. This meant that I was relatively relaxed when the next day, the son ploughed through our guy ropes in his wheelchair, destroying coveted chunky plastic pegs in the process. I knew his dad wouldn’t be far behind, and sure enough there he was with a ready smile and apologies to make everything better. Love conquers all.

Accessing the net by WAP is so sloooooow, isn’t it? Things have changed. In 1995 I was just starting to use the internet, discovering the value of using newsgroups to do my homework, and one of the first things I did on arrival at Glasto 95 was rush to logon from a solar powered net cafe in the Green Fields. 15 years later and the internet is everywhere – I’ve been spoiled by fast speeds on my broadband and access to the net on my Android phone, but that phone is valuable to me so instead here I am, sitting in a field with a cheap PAYG handset, cursing as it takes minutes to display the live Grand Prix coverage. I am only reloading every 5 laps, but not by choice. If only there was wi-fi on site – and then everyone would spend time in their tents checking for email. On second thoughts, I quite like the lo-fi system. It forces me to get out and see why I came here.

Faithless were great, though it felt strange watching them in daylight. Looking over the beautiful site at sunset across the Levels to Glastonbury Tor was magic. I could see across to the Park viewing tower, to the tipis, to the rows of gleaming parked cars, to the huge fence keeping us in and them out. It is strange how the Festival site takes weeks to be assembled, 5 days to be thoroughly trashed by us visitors, and then they start picking up the pieces straight afterwards to get the farm back operational as soon as possible. It’s Sunday night, but there’s still so much at this Festival that I haven’t yet done, and I wish it could last for a few more weeks.

Glastonbury at night
Looking across the site at night, under a full moon. A beautiful view.

Monday morning brings a gabble of voices as people strike their tents. Mike fetches the car, while I struggle to wake up. A cold shower helps but I still feel like a bag of bones that need to be shaken into place. The assorted beeps from reversing minibuses and wheelchairs slowly drive me mad along with the mutter of people queuing for the bus back to the carpark. Strangers covet our on-site pass which allows us to drive to the campsite to load up and then escape when we are ready. “How did you get one of those?” My answer is smug but simple: “I asked.”

In all, it was a fantastic festival with loads to do – in many ways the sun was the worst feature as it meant I had to shelter each day until the early evening when things cooled down. Despite melting, I’d be there like a shot next year. Roll on 2011!

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1 Response to "Life at Glastonbury"

I love to hear people’s Glasto stories, for 51 weeks of the year I miss the place like crazy 🙂 I’ll keep an eye out for you and say hi if you don’t mind, I’m a friend of Tort’s and thought your guide to Glasto on wheels was great 🙂

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