Why I go to Glastonbury

Recently I’ve become a fairly regular attender of the Glastonbury festival: I went to the last one a couple of weeks ago. Friends are curious about it. I end up in many discussions about mud, camping, drugs, toilets, noise and crowds. And I’m quite often asked why (on Earth) I go. Here’s my conclusion. It’s about connection…

  • …connection with the people I meet. The lovely woman who had helped her mum move a pub and its contents from Canning Town to Crete. The cool teacher who was sick of schools and was opening an outdoor learning centre in Devon. The five very excited girls who had just played their first Glastonbury gig. The slightly pissed leukaemia researcher who wasn’t sure what to do next. The dozen or so teenagers who joined in my dance to “One step beyond” at 8.30 on a drizzly morning outside a tea tent. The two enthusiastic lads from the North who sat next to me in the Stone Circle at dawn breathing balloonfuls of NOS and not a word of sense. And the ex-dustman with the colourful mohican (whose wife had died last year) who had given up the bins to skydive and work at festivals. People talk, openly and honestly.
  • …connection with the people I go with. This year I was with friends, some I have known for forty years. It’s reviving to take up the same daft tumble of conversation and larking. A return to youth; or perhaps a return of youth. In 2009 I took my then 11-year-old daughter: we still talk about it.
  • …connection with myself. The Who, who played this year, were one of my favourite bands from my teens. I felt an odd, eerie loneliness when they began their set. Choked, a bit teary and experiencing what I think was the exact opposite of nostalgia - I felt a real compassion for the spotty air-guitarist from back then who was about to set off awkwardly to tackle the world.
  • …connection with the crowd. Standing in a field with 85,000 happy, relaxed people is a very unusual thing. I seldom have much in common with the people standing next to me; but I do have something in common with them all. Perhaps a bit like the feeling astronauts reported when looking back at the Earth from the Moon. A sense of something that connects us - something that’s more than the sum of the parts. It’s as close as I get to spiritual.

I left Somerset with a beaming smile that (genuinely) lasted for a week. As I began bumping in to people - well-washed people not wearing wellies - I had an extraordinary feeling. Part of it was smugness and part of it inspiration. Inspiration to do what I can to make my ordinary life, and particularly my work life, a bit more like Glastonbury.

There is also good music.