It’s the day after Glastonbury. Whilst packing boxes for our impending house move, I’ve seen a certain narrative taking over social media around the Festival.

It seems that the weekend has got further under the skin of certain more conservative media sections than usual. In the race for a loss of perspective, I’ve seen Sir David Attenborough described as a virtue signaller, the attendees described as primarily Hooray Henrys and a general impression of fecklessness around contradictions introduced by the one key change – the banning of plastic bottles being sold on site.

So first off – there wasn’t a ban on plastic. You could still bring plastic bottles on to site. I saw many people refilling their existing plastic bottles through their weekend, taking them beyond single-use. There was always going to be plastic used at the festival or left behind. There was going to be less. This was achieved. Sir David was wrong about the festival being “plastic free” but given his contribution to all things environment and education related, we can give him some latitude, can’t we?

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There were queues for the water – not many though. 37 kiosks were sensibly positioned around the site and in our group of approximately 30 people ranging from early teens to mid-fifties, the worse we encountered was just over ten minutes – at the Pyramid Stage, directly after the headliner Stormzy on the hottest weekend of the year. Water was available throughout for drinking with a waiting time of no more than than a couple of minutes, the same as would have been experienced if you’d been buying from a vendor in a van. Showers were stopped from Saturday onwards. This was water conservation, as sensible as a hosepipe ban in the height of summer. This wasn’t a failure but a proportional direct response to the heatwave conditions. It probably has served to inform the organisers of what capacity issues exist. As a first attempt at the policy since it’s introduction, it was a roaring success.

The kiosks were run by the friendliest volunteers you could wish to meet. We are talking 2012 Olympic games makers levels of helpfulness, patience and pragmatism on a challenging weekend. Well done to all those hardy souls available to ensure the smooth running. 

The festival isn’t perfect. Tents were left behind on Monday but 0.7%, a marked improvement. It might have been higher on a more inclement weekend but it represents progress. As a double-figures attendee starting in the early nineties, there was a palpable tidiness beyond previous experience. Bins areas were used properly. Cutlery and containers were compostable. There was the odd soul weeing in a bush but nothing like previous years. Mitigation of the festival’s impact is improving. I saw it with my own eyes.

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Emily Eavis’s tweeted photo of 2 July showing the lack of tents left behind

This leads me on to the very existence of the festival, which seems to really annoy certain parts of the media. Firstly we should accept that circa 200,000 people will have a carbon footprint wherever they are. If they weren’t at Glastonbury, they’d be driving cars, consuming food, sitting in air-conditioned offices. So the environmental impact whataboutery that I’ve seen needs to be tempered with this baseline. There is litter on site, petrol will have been consumed getting to Somerset and some people may have been rather more “refreshed” than they should have been. So let’s call this the harm.

I also accept that other countries have more of an environmental impact than the UK. This isn’t a race to the bottom or the time for complacency. We’ll get caught up by China and India in short order if the potential free market deregulation that could follow a populist government being elected. This is the only planet we’ve got. Surely leading by example is the way to go.

The festival organisers recognise the impact. My 14-year-old daughter travelled from London to the site by train. It went like clockwork. Car-free travel to Glastonbury is a possibility. Biofuel powers 10% of the stages. The Green Fields areas are run on solar and wind energy. 500 tonnes of compost are produced from the toilets. Chemicals aren’t used at the notorious long drop toilets. This means that the waste can be dealt with at the local sewage works.

Now let’s focus on the benefits.

On a personal level, I’ve seen the bonds between friends reinforced in our group. We love and respect each other, we watch out for one another, whether it’s sunburn or the moshpit. Our children all have the same attitudes, forged over fifteen years of attending. We are very lucky to be able to afford to come here. We are all from working-class Black Country stock, who’ve pulled our weight in the world and made the most of the breaks. We treat this as a holiday, putting money and annual leave aside. Wives, husbands and kids attend and rub along brilliantly. We’re not hippies and we’re not hoorays. We are normal people who care and have consciences.

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On a wider societal level, much of the previous paragraph is true. Safety is paramount. 96 crimes were reported by Sunday evening with 16 arrests. For a pop-up city with no established social hierarchy or prior neighbourliness, this better than previous years and pretty good going. Not perfect but it’s an environment we are happy for our teenagers to enjoy and explore.

There was a noticeable rise in the profile of black and female artists this year. There was a sense of baton being passed and it was thrilling to see. There is only so long that four white blokes with guitars, bass and drums can sustain the future of music.

I see the BBC get a pasting, especially after the change in over 75 license fees and the salary of talents. Why do they spend money on the Festival? It’s clearly an investment. Their coverage is comprehensive, picking up headliners and up and coming acts. This helps spread the music, something especially vital in the era of streaming with reduced record company budgets for promotion. This all adds to our economy, as music so often has from the Beatles onwards. They do pay for the honour to cover the festival and may have call over some of the roster of the day but in the end, the balance is pretty good when one considers the fifteen plus main stages and all of the other performance spaces too. Take your pick – folk, dance, reggae, world music, jazz (especially jazz), grime, rock, metal – you name it, you could find it.

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There was politics. Of course, there was, there always has been. If anyone is shocked to find variations on Loyle Carner’s “I Hate Boris” sentiment then they have clearly not been paying attention to the lack of political engagement with young people. So the idea of another privileged white Etonian running the country doesn’t thrill them? Forgive me not being surprised.

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Stormzy and his mum, the morning after the night before
Let’s go back to personal for a second. Loyle Carner and Stormzy love their mums. Can there be a better expression of the kind of values that we want to see spread through society than this? So in the uninformed rush to paint this as some drug and sex-fuelled hellhole, a 21st middle class entitled Sodom and Gomorrah, let us reflect on two of the biggest stars declaring their love for their mums. And what’s more, they aren’t afraid to publicly express that love.

 

I can’t make people who hate the values that Glastonbury embraces understand what joy the festival can bring. It’s difficult to do that if you are sat in your armchair, reading the Daily Mail, screaming at the latest grime innovator on BBC2, refreshing your alt-right Twitter feed whilst you frantically opine on how it encapsulates all society’s ills. And by the way, if you are going to tweet images of the Pyramid stage the day afterwards, do me a favour and get the year right. We do remember these things.

I can give you a view from the ground though. The sun machine came down and we did have a party. Trust me though – the positivity will reverberate long after the F5 keys have been worn out.


NB: Glastonbury musical post will follow once we’ve moved house.

Written by stue1967

After taking several readings, I'm surprised to find my mind's still fairly sound

15 comments

  1. I was expecting a review of the music – but this is by far the best thing I’ve seen written about Glastonbury 2019. I wholeheartedly agree with EVERYTHING you’ve written – I was there with my teenage family and the mates I always go with – and yeah it’s a bonding experience – and a magical place that we return to every year. You’re right about all the environmental stuff – the festival is really doing right things – reusable cups are impossible on the scale of Glastonbury but it was heartening that the beer cups seemed to contain little or no plastic. I didn’t see anyone peeing on the ground – which used to be a common occurance in years past – so messages are getting through – to the extent that they don’t even have those green police now telling people off who do pee on the ground. I expect the plastic usage will go right down further which can only be a good thing.

    And you’re right about the BBC – when the only mainstream music show is Jools Holland, it’s a wonderful thing that they will spend some of our licence fee on Glastonbury. It also means that everyone I know can experience the festival and have a conversation about it even if they weren’t there.

    ANYWAY, I’m looking forward to your music round up – I’ll let you know my favourites then too – if you looked in the right places 4 white guys with guitars still has a place…! alongside all the other genres that I experienced…!

    So – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jim, thanks for reading and commenting. We’ve been moving house so only just catching up on the blog. I’ve been blown away by the feedback I’ve received.
      Hopefully the music one will follow next week. Glad you enjoyed the festival.

      Like

  2. Great read. I volunteered with WaterAid and had a brilliant time working on the kiosks. I’m pleased it sounds as though this came across to the people queueing for water refills.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I couldn’t have put it better myself. I went with my wife and 7 Yr old, leaving 2 teenage daughters at home sulking because we couldn’t afford to pay for them. We met 8 similarly aged parents/friends there and had a whale of a time. There’s something for everyone at Glastonbury and the love /spirit/empathy/graciousness of the festival is something I’ve yet to find replicated anywhere else on this planet. And that’s before we talk about the music. A well observed and written piece. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a true account, for once, of this beloved Festival. I have been to every festival since 1979 and my parents have been going since the first in 1970. We have seen many changes mostly for the better over these years. And this year was truly one of the cleanest and happiest. Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Went for the second time with my husband and we loved every minute, your article will hopefully go some way to dispel some negative myths about the festival

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is absolutely spot on👍🏻. A terrific, honest view from the ground which I’ve forwarded far and wide amongst my circle of friends. Thank you for taking the time to write it and we look forward to your music report when your house move is done with. Good luck with that😊
    My wife and I attended our first ever festival, aged 55 and 56, at Glastonbury this year. Never fancied the idea before, but my wife “felt we should see it for ourselves”… WOW!!!
    Nothing at all like what we expected. What an extraordinary, Marvellous, insane beast it is.
    Ignore the red top naysayers and the media barrage of bad behaviour amidst failures in the organisation and running of this utterly, bewilderingly remarkable slice of heaven.
    Never been before; but if we don’t get tickets next year, we will be GUTTED!
    Glastonbury we love you❤️❤️❤️and we’re missing you already!

    Mark & Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

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