So, no Glastonbury this year. It occurs to me today that I have spent too many years on this equivalent Monday stuck in traffic trying to leave Worthy Farm. I don’t envy those trying to do exactly that on the Isle of Wight today.
I love festivals. I think they’re a very weird and quite English thing, and they have a great place in life. I think it’s funny that everyone thinks they are being really cool and edgy for going to a festival, when I do not know a single person who hasn’t been to one.
Festivals and I fell out of love for a few years. Perhaps this is inevitable for a woman hitting her thirties who no longer takes any drugs. I feel like I’m finding my way with them again and I’m kind of ready to fall back in love.
A potted history of my love/hate affair with festivals:
My first great festival: Reading ’97.
It was the first time I had been to a festival for the entire weekend and I was ready. I think it was just before festivals got unbearably commercial and expensive – but then again maybe I would say that. It was boiling hot and I shared a one-man tent with Lou and Ian, next door to Sara and Claudette. I drank loads of beer and saw loads of bands and wore bikini tops and had the best time ever. Exactly what a festival should be.
My weirdest festival: Reading ’99.
Not knowing what to wear to Reading that year and being in an attention seeking phase, Russell and I fortuitously found complete wedding outfits in a charity shop the weekend before. We put them on, brought no other clothes, and bought bottles of cheap fizzy wine to complete the look. We just thought it would be kind of funny, but it ended up meaning that we got free drinks everywhere we went, we got some backstage access, Bis dedicated their entire set to us and got us up on stage, and we were written about in the Telegraph and the News of the World. I was in serious trouble when I got home, in the final weeks I lived at home – staggering through the front door of my mum’s house in a filthy wedding dress that got thrown straight in the bin. The next year, I kid you not, we saw at least a dozen couples in wedding attire.
My worst festival: Glastonbury ‘07.
The classic festival disasters all happened. It rained, a lot – I mean, like, a lot (people died and the dance tent was destroyed when it was hit by lightning). One of my friends took a metric shitload of drugs and disappeared for two days, and we seriously thought he might be dead. Another friend acted like such an idiot, we have actually barely spoken since. It was the first year when there was no Lost Vagueness field – which was where most of my best Glastonbury memories have occurred.
It was when that horrible commercial idea hit, which I still really disapprove of – the demand for tickets is so great, you have to book yours before the line-up has even been announced, which results in going to a festival at which you may not love the music, with a lot of people who just don’t care about music. I tried to go and see Björk on the second stage, but the crowd was too big and weirdly hostile. The one highlight was seeing Amy Winehouse live (twice, on the jazz stage and on the main stage), but even that seems sad now – although I’m really glad I had the chance to and she was great.
I remember I got home and straight into a hot bath, where I sobbed for an hour straight. I haven’t been to Glastonbury since, and have had only occasional pangs of envy when friends have been on years when the line-up is great and the sun is shining.
My most grown-up festival: 10 Years of ATP.
This hit at exactly the right moment for me. I had fallen dramatically out of love with Glastonbury, was feeling a little bit old for Reading (which really is a festival for teenagers, although I have been getting a hankering to go back, just for a day). All Tomorrow’s Parties was the perfect solution. It takes place at a Butlin’s holiday camp, so you have your own chalet with a bathroom and a kitchen; the other facilities remain open, so you can eat your dinner at Pizza Hut or go for a morning swim; the festivals are usually curated by one legendary band or artist, but this was a ten-year anniversary celebration of all the best people who had played at ATP over the years, getting as many of them as possible to play again.
Jimmy, Jack and I saw bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mudhoney, Josh T. Pearson, Devendra Banhart, Crispin Hellion Glover and The Breeders, then went back to our chalet to watch the snooker and cook a fry-up. The only scary thing about the weekend was that it’s weird to discover that you have become a new target market – everyone there looked exactly like us: they all seemed to work in publishing or web design, there were a lot of fringes and stripy T-shirts, thick-rimmed glasses and battered Converse. I can’t wait to go back.