by Chris Fox
That's right, it's not a game review. Now that's out that way, here is a review of sorts (in that it's in no way an actual review) of the "game" I've been "playing" over the last "week", The Glastonbury Festival of Arts 2011. I have been regularly attending Glastonbury over the last seven years and while I understand uprooting one's self from the usual four concrete walls and all of life's little comforts isn't for everyone, I whole heartedly recommend that you try it at least once.
This said, there is a specific moment of Glastonbury that occurs every year that I absolutely hate. A moment I cannot stand. A moment that truly makes me question why I go to this festival. I am of course referring to the moment when I arrive on the Wednesday and have to carry all of my inexplicably heavy camping equipment to what always seems like the opposite end of the monstrous site. And I don't take much. At least I try not to. But when the sun/rain is beating down on my sweaty brow and the mud attempts to claim my wellies each step I take, the weight of my tent, camping chair and all the other crap becomes unbearable. Surrounded by my lightly-packed friends who are gleefully and effortlessly leaping from spot to spot impervious to all sweat, I look to the sky and scream, "WHY DO I CONTINUE TO COME HERE?". Moments like Pulp finishing their secret set with Common People to a jam packed audience answers my question. With authority.
The first and most obvious strength that Glastonbury has is an incredibly diverse lineup. Unlike the Reading Festival which caters to a predominantly heavy rock crowd or Download which caters to a predominantly heavier rock crowd, Glastonbury truly offers something for everyone. Over sixteen main stages every single genre of music is catered for, with sub genres being created and equally well covered across the four days. Not into music? THEN WHY ARE YOU AT A MUSIC FESTIVAL? I mean then that's ok! The circus, cabaret and thousands of other mini venues give poets, jugglers and any other act you'd care to mention their just platform. Even with such incredible diversity and vast number number of places to see said diversity, Glastonbury clashes are still inevitable and devastating. I am even struggling to write this now as I have QOTSA's set playing on iPlayer in the background. Having said that; Fern, Reggie and Lauren Laverne need to fuck directly off. Now. Oh great, now a spectacular rendition of Shiver by Coldplay is on. Too many clashes, dammit!
As great a cliché as it may sound, you don't need to see any music at Glastonbury. Or jugglers. The "Glastonbury of Old" is still alive and well underneath it's arguably commercial contemporary. Head to The Green Fields to while away the hours creating homemade masks, drinking tea or powering eco friendly cinemas with bicycles. This festival really is a fairground for grown ups. However, some of these grown ups for some reason choose to bring their kids. If the mud can, at times, reach my knee, surely many toddlers perish each year? No, of course they don't. That would be reported on some kind of television news network, no doubt. I always visit The Green Fields every year, but if you do visit Glastonbury in 2013 or beyond, make sure you catch a sunset (or better yet a sunrise) at The Stone Circle. You'll hear a lot of people talk about this and when you witness it you'll know why.
The aspect of the festival I will never forget and will always hold closest to my heart is the spirit of those who attend Glastonbury. Conversations, hugs and shared joy with strangers as the sun hits The Pyramid Stage during an anthem such as God Only Knows by Brian Wilson fills me with such potent happiness that it can (and will) last forever. This feeling cannot be put into mortal words to describe to someone who has never been to Glastonbury, they have to experience it for themselves. I hear people complain about the camping experience, the mud and THOSE toilets but I would gladly sacrifice all of this and more to attend the greatest festival on the planet year after year. Friendships become stronger than ever and new ones are forged as the iconic Pyramid Stage casts it's shadow over Worthy Farm. Curse those selfish cows for wanting next year off!
After catching acts like the phenomenal Beyoncé, the heart pounding Chemical Brothers and the sneaky Radiohead who secretly took to The Park stage, I return home physically well but an absolute mental mess. The emotional comedown from Glastonbury is not instant. But what else can you expect after so much joy is delivered to you in one extended weekend? I implore you to please go to Glastonbury and take your friends. As for me, I'm back in London now. On the tube. Sitting opposite a huge boulder of a woman reading a Katie Price novel. What could be worse? Oh, she's an employee of Transport for London. Well, at least she'll have something to read on her next strike.