An Ode to Glastonbury, From a First-Timer

I should be at Glastonbury right now. That’s definitely not the first time you’ve read that sentence this weekend, and it probably won’t be the last. But as I write this, it’s 11pm on the last Saturday of June and I should be dancing in the middle of a field in rural Somerset without a care in the world, at home in what I consider the happiest place on Earth.

I was a late Glasto bloomer; my parents certainly weren’t the type to attend festivals (both of them are yet to ever go to festival, and I don’t think we’ve ever been camping as a family), and as a teenager the festival always coincided with the school term. My boyfriend (and In Phase Blog co-conspirator) Corey, much to my dismay, bagged a ticket for the 2017 festival; I was forced to remain at home doing my A-Levels. That year, I tried my very best to ignore all things Glastonbury. I refused to watch any of the TV coverage in a FOMO-induced fit of rage, and my heart sank every time I received a photo or video from Corey attempting to show me how amazing the festival was. That weekend, I vowed that I would, by any means possible, be at the 2019 edition.

October 2018 and the dreaded ticket sale day rolled around after a fallow year. After half an hour of incessant refreshing, one of our ticket-buying group got through to the payment page before getting timed out. We accepted defeat until 4 hours later when, albeit late, my confirmation email came through, containing those magical words:

I had a golden ticket. And from that point until the day I walked through the gates, the only thing I could focus on was Glastonbury. I trawled every forum and every blog relentlessly; by June, I felt like an expert. I had my lengthy packing list, I’d bought bottle upon bottle of booze and my Clashfinder was handily prepared. Little did I know, no amount of blog posts could prepare me for the sheer amazement and euphoria I felt for that entire week.

There’s no way I could possibly sum up my experience as a first-timer in a singular article. Glastonbury was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life; walking through the gates felt like stepping into a parallel universe where everyone is inexplicably friendly (as a Londoner, I was not used to this). I could have read every single blog ever published about the festival, and I still would have been in as much awe.

This weekend, I’m undoubtedly in a more comfortable environment than I would be if I was on Worthy Farm. I’m able to turn my fan on and open my window in the blazing heat rather than waking up after a couple of hours of sleep in our giant microwave of a tent, desperately unzipping the front and sticking my head out for a gasp of air. I can go to have a shower and brush my teeth easily rather than queueing at the Pennard Hill long drops for fifteen minutes, trying my best to shuffle into the tiny sliver of shade under a tree before filling up a bucket in anticipation of my underwhelming – and freezing – flannel-bath. At 5am, I’ve been sound asleep rather than still buzzing, watching the sun rise whilst dancing in a far-flung corner of the site, wondering how long it’s been since I last slept. Despite the comforts of home, right now I’d give anything to be back in any of those situations, no matter how grisly they seemed at the time. Because it’s Glastonbury, and any mildly bad situation there is still miles better than a really good time anywhere else in the world.

Watching last year’s sets on the BBC this weekend has been nice, and has given me a little solace when I’d otherwise be wallowing in self-pity, but it just isn’t the same. You truly can’t broadcast the best parts of Glasto. You can’t broadcast sitting in a tent in the Healing Fields, with a barefoot old man trying to convince you that the Earth is flat. You can’t broadcast the butterflies in your stomach when you turn around at the top of the hill on the Wednesday night and get your first ever view of the whole site, lit up and ready for the week ahead. You can’t broadcast being half a pill away from heart failure in Shangri-La at 3am on Saturday night, ploughing on and refusing to care because if you die, at least you’ll die at Glastonbury. 

Of course, watching back some of the 2019 coverage has given me a lovely wave of nostalgia, but it’s impossible to recreate the atmosphere through a TV screen. In the run-up to the festival last year, I watched every set I could find to get myself excited, as I’m sure many 2021 first-timers are doing this weekend. I had no idea what was in store. As beautiful as the Pyramid looks even in videos, nothing compares to the Sunday night last year, watching the sun go down behind the stage during The Cure’s set. As a field of tens of thousands of people sung in unison to ‘Friday I’m In Love’, I realised I was truly in the best place in the world.

I probably didn’t need to do all the precise planning I did in the run-up to the festival. I filled a Bag for Life to the brim with food that I didn’t eat and alcohol that I didn’t drink. My meticulous work on my Clashfinder was undone at 1am on the Friday night when we sacked off Four Tet’s set half an hour in, in favour of wandering around aimlessly for three hours. I should have really listened to the Glasto veterans urging me not to plan my days to the minute – I ended up seeing maybe half of the acts I’d vowed to watch, but had equally as much fun exploring the lesser-known areas of the festival. 

Despite the almost unbearable heat and the strain on my muscles, those five days on Worthy Farm were without a doubt the five best days of life. A lot of people online told me my first Glastonbury would change my life, and I didn’t believe them. But it truly did. For five days, I was the happiest person on Earth. There’s a reason so many people have been attending religiously for decades – the magic draws them back, year after year. Hopefully I’ll end up being one of them. Until then, all we can do is look forward to what 2021 will bring. 

Only 360 days to go!

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