Rave with mother

Glastonbury used to be about getting wasted to music. Now it's a heavily-policed, fenced-off, no-fun wet weekend for Devonshire tax advisers.

Emily Hill

Topics Politics

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‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Glastonbury, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the green fields at dawn looking for an angry fix.’ Or maybe not. It is highly unlikely that any contemporary howling poet or songwriter would write such words about the three-day British rock festival. Because what used to be an ‘event’ that was all about getting wasted to music is now a heavily-policed, fenced-off, no-fun wet weekend for Devonshire tax advisers and their exotically-named daughters: Coco, Emerald, Poppy….

Before the festival even started (it kicks off today and drags on through the weekend), a lot of romantic tripe was spouted on the subject of Glastonbury (or ‘Glasto’, as some people call it) – starting, of course, with the idea that the festival is a countercultural event! In truth, it’s got sod-all to do with Ginsberg or acid or rawk or spontaneity. In fact, one wonders whether any real festival crusties will manage to get in at all, what with the high prices, tight security and strict no-drugs policy. One happy camper told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Glastonbury is great because it’s like, you know, ‘Disneyland for adults!’ Yes, in the sense that those who attend it are treated like overgrown children who must behave themselves while they queue for the latest attraction.

The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world. It has been up-and-running since 1970. This year, its 137,500 attendees have each spent £154 on their photo-ID tickets (a kind of precursor to New Labour’s threatened ID cards), in order to see 2,000 performances, shop at 800 stalls and wallow in miles of mud, all in the safe surroundings of five miles of perimeter fencing. Isle of Wight 1970 it ain’t. Indeed, far from being edgy, Glastonbury is now cheered on by those same sections of the press that cheer Tim ‘Come on Tim!’ Henman during Wimbledon. Glastonbury has become a sort of national sport, bringing the nation together for three happy days of Jo Whiley reporting live from a tent.

And now it is presided over by its very own Commander of the British Empire. Veteran Glasto organiser and boss-man Mike Eavis was awarded a CBE in the latest Queen’s birthday honours – presumably for services to keeping ‘the kids’ in line. Rock’n’roll!

This year, if you aren’t put off by the squealing young middle-class girls who really dig The Kooks, or the fact that Shirley Bassey is headlining (Bassey is what my grandma shimmies to whenever she wants to scare the living daylights out of a boyfriend of mine she doesn’t like the smell of), then go forth to Glasto where you will find yourself inside a government-sponsored health-and-wellbeing exercise dressed up as a rock festival, from which you may emerge three days later a better (and wetter) person whose soul has been saved by Oxfam. But remember the rules.

Keep off the grass (as in marijuana)

In 2007, grass is out at Glasto. This year, one report says, ‘potsmokers will not be able to lounge under trees with their customary mellow insouciance, casually blowing fragrant smoke towards uninterested police officers. For the police are coming equipped with shoulder-mounted cameras that will transmit live footage back to a surveillance unit, forcing officers to take action or risk the wrath of their superiors’.

According to Superintendent Adrian Coombs, any cannabis users will be given a ‘street warning’, which apparently is not a criminal record ‘but it is noted as an offence against the person’s name’. If, however, you are caught smoking pot twice – two joints at a three-day festival? Never! – then the matter will be treated as a ‘more serious offence’ (1).

Bloody cops, right? In fact, the anti-drugs hectoring is endorsed by Mike Eavis and his daughter Emily, the organisers of Glasto who wouldn’t know what a good time was if it attacked them in an alleyway. On their official Glastonbury website (which looks like a kind of Department for Community Affairs offshoot, in both its design and its content), they have issued a stern message for any attendees who might be feeling a teensy bit experimental: ‘If you are foolish enough to experiment with illegal drugs, this really isn’t the place to start. The whole festival experience is quite surreal and gives your senses enough of a challenge just taking it all in without you confusing them any further. You might get very insecure, paranoid or distressed in large crowds.’ Or you might get arrested. You have been warned.

Dodge the police on your way to Glasto

According to a report in the Guardian, the police have stationed sniffer dogs at the gates of trains heading towards Glastonbury in order to catch any of these ‘foolish’ revellers who foolishly thought that Glastonbury was a haven of freedom. Think of it as pre-emptive policing to create a peaceful environment so that only nice people can headbang to Bassey.

A police spokesman said: ‘Police have been conducting a two-day operation at Paddington station…. The operation started yesterday and involved 40 officers and two drugs dogs. So far, British transport police officers have arrested 34 people, most of them on drug-related offences. Four of the arrests were for possession with intent to supply.’ An onlooker added: ‘They were targeting those carrying rucksacks as they came off the underground and entered the station.’ It seems the Eavis family, thanks to the cops, may get their wish of a drug-free rock-fest.

Switch off, chill out, be lectured by greens

If you manage to evade the real police, you’ll still have to deal with the green police. If the Glastonbury website is anything to go by, various worthy greens want to use the festival as a sort of conversion camp, to hector all the fun out of the attendees. For instance, the Green Fields area is held to ‘encapsulate the spirit and ideals [of Glasto]’: ‘Its skyline filled with peace flags, gently turning wind generators and the outlines of dozens of tipis, this is a place to discover that there are other ways to make the world turn round other than competing and consuming.’ Yes, if you pay your £154, get your photo-ID ticket and make it in one piece past the police and their sniffer dogs, you too can discover that there is a nice and green and less consumerist way to live!

Apparently, the best way to discover Glastonbury’s green area is to ‘Walk the Green Way’ – ‘this is a special marked competition route that gives you a chance to win tickets to forthcoming green events’. According to the Glasto website, along the route you will find the Greenpeace Field, the Green Kids Field (which ‘offers fun, creativity and a safe space for children’), the Green Futures Field, the Healing Field (‘a place for meditation, spiritual awareness, therapies, singing and dancing’), the Craft Field, and the Tipi Field (‘simple living in the tallest tents in town, with fireside chants, storytelling and rituals’). Are you managing to control your excitement?

All this green lecturing is like an inbuilt self-correcting mechanism for the festival organisers. Where festivals were traditionally about excess and not giving a fuck, Glasto 2007 will coax and cajole all attendees to think carefully about everything they do – rather like Catholic schoolkids rather than adult ravers.

Along the way (providing you’ve not been put in Green Prison for Green Infringements) you can do a yoga workshop, a salsa taster class and rub yourself up against some magic crystals. All this for 150 quid I hear you say? Show me the way to the nearest drain, sir – I’ve got some money to throw down it! As we know, however, Glastonbury is not just for the kids, and older attendees do enjoy certain discounts. As the website of Saga Insurance explains: ‘Saga is today offering some respite to the purse strings of over-50s heading to this year’s Glastonbury festival, by refunding the cost of the motorhome pitch. With Glastonbury tickets costing in excess of £140, Saga’s offer will come as welcome news to the thousands of over-50s expected to make the trip to Worthy Farm in their motorhomes.’ (2)

Rock on, grandma!

Remember the Rules about Bog Roll

This year, do not even think about bringing your own toilet paper: it might be the wrong kind! The Glastonbury organisers – in partnership with Nouvelle, ‘the UK’s leading 100 per cent recycled toilet tissue brand’, apparently – are insisting that all loo rolls must be recycled. Mike Eavis, told the BBC: ‘There will be more than enough for everyone and, more importantly, it will be the right kind of loo roll.’ Well, if Glastonbury, with the help of the riot division, is keeping out the wrong kind of people, why shouldn’t it keep out the wrong kind of bog roll too?

Then there came the news that revellers’ tents could be donated to the Third World after the festival. Someone vomited inside your tent? The inner bit collapsed into the mud? Never mind, give it to some Africans….. According to one report, all the donated tents will be sniffed by dogs, so that no drugs accidentally get through to the Third World poor. Patronising, or what. Why would African people want the cast-offs from our hippy weekends? In an attempt to imbue Glastonbury with some kind of meaning, perhaps to salve the consciences of those who feel bad about enjoying themselves for three days (fat chance), revellers will be invited to gather up all their junk and send it to poor, pitifully grateful black babies. If Live 8 wasn’t bad enough (singing to ‘save Africa’) now we have the sight of Glasto-attendees who can’t be bothered to bring their tents and other assorted crap back home and so they wrap it up and post it to the poor instead.

Too much fun

How long before Glastonbury bans smoking as well as drugs? A field has not been designated a place of work (yet), but I’m sure the wily Eavis family will find a way to demonstrate that Glasto is a workplace and thus all fags should be stubbed out. How long before they confiscate booze, too, on the basis that it’s bad for the liver – and junk food, because, as Jamie Oliver warned, that’s bad for us and the environment, too?

Indeed, if you will insist on going raving under the stewardship of the nauseating Mike and Emily Eavis, you may as well go the whole hog and bring your mum along. ‘Now children, it’s going to be muddy so bring your Wellingtons and pack your anorak….’

Stick that in your pipe and try to get high off it.

Emily Hill is staff writer at spiked and a blogger for Dazed and Confused.

(1) Big Brother comes to Glastonbury, The Australian, 22 June 2007

(2) Motorhomers heading to Glastonbury offered pitch refund,, 4 June 2007

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Topics Politics


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