On Saturday morning we thought the Bootleg Beatles on the Pyramid stage might be fun.
However, they started around 10.30am and on the Friday having been up and out to catch the first act of the festival we were half asleep by the time Radiohead came around. There is so much going on at Glastonbury that it can wear you out at the best of times, and when you add a demanding, uncompromising (aka stubborn) 3 year old to the mix, it makes sense to take your time, so we chilled at the tent for a while, chatted with our fab tent neighbours, I wrote up Friday’s round-up – and we decided to make British Sea Power our first act of the day around 1.15pm. By the headline slot we felt much more awake as a result.
It was funny to watch a photographer on our travels taking photos of litter, trying desperately to get the best angle to make it look as bad as possible, no doubt for the media’s annual “Ooh look at this, a festival full of eco-warriors and just look at that mess!”.
The media are of course giving people what they want, people love to fill the void in their lives by getting outraged about things which aren’t necessarily true or representative, and often don’t even affect them! Most of the site was relatively clean considering the number of people, but they take the extreme, the very worst area they can find, and present it as the norm.
It used to be that Glastonbury was dismissed as a “field full of smelly hippies”, today that’s been updated to “Middle class, eco-warriors driving their parents land-rover”.
The reality is of course that with nearly 200,000 people attending Glastonbury there is a very broadchurch with people from all walks of life, backgrounds and incomes.
At one extreme Brad Pitt, Tylda Swinton and both Jon Snow’s (CH4 Newsreader and Game of Thrones) amongst many other celebrities were spotted watching bands.
At the other, even around our campsite, the elderly couple who had attended the first Glastonbury and came throughout the 70s and 80s had a nice tent but it was given to them by a friend who was upgrading. They couldn’t afford a trolley to bring stuff from the car so we lent them ours.
The 4 young student girls from Hull in the next tent had volunteered, working to get a free ticket as around 20,000 people a year do. Even the King of Glastonbury himself didn’t bring his old Bedford Dormobile campervan because he couldn’t afford the extra £100 for a campervan pass!
Some people are relatively well off and will leave a £300 brand new tent behind because they can’t be bothered packing it up, others rely on free food from the Hare Krishna tent and sleep in communal areas. Most are just ordinary working people or students who save up for it like you would for any holiday. Tickets seem expensive, but when you consider you get 5 days of entertainment it works out at less than £50 a day. When you look at what it costs to go and see bands these days it’s actually a bargain, even if you only watch a handful of bands all weekend.
The media will often describe Glastonbury people as “Rock fans” but some people spend the entire weekend in the Dance area, others spend all their time in the acoustic village. I know people who never go to watch a band! The only thing you can legitimately generalise about people who go to Glastonbury is that they go to Glastonbury (and generally know how to have a good time!)
All the people I know, take great care to clean up all their litter, but inevitably when you have so many people on a field, the relatively small number who drop litter can make a big mess. The Pyramid Stage holds nearly 100,000 people and is active from 10.30am to around midnight with people constantly coming and going. Some people stuck in the middle of the crowd will fold up their empty beer cup and put it in their pocket until they pass a bin, some will just drop it. But then the litter picker volunteers clean it up over night and it’s all recycled. Even human poo is recycled at Glastonbury (via the Compost toilets).
In an ideal world the bars would find a way to dispense drinks into re-usable containers. Liverpool Sound City this year had a £1 deposit on plastic glasses, and that seemed to keep the litter down.
Anyway, getting back to the festival!
British Sea Power
British Sea Power sounded great, a fab start to the day, despite a light shower a few minutes into their set. There is always that sense of dread that perhaps it’s going to rain for the rest of the day, but fortunately it only lasted a few minutes.
Their “special guests” weren’t particularly special or surprising – it was the polar bears they bring out every time they play! But nevertheless an enjoyable set from start to finish and the little one caught some Z’s so we were able to relax!
We caught the start of Wild Beasts who sounded really good, but my missus has been desperate to see The Big Moon for a while, so after a trip to the ice cream van and the toilet we headed over to Williams Green and just managed to catch the last song of their set. She loved it and is now more keen than ever to catch them in Liverpool when they play in October at The Magnet.
It got me thinking that Wild Beasts and The Big Moon both played FestEVOL last month, and whilst the appeal of Glastonbury goes way beyond music, in terms of lineup, FestEVOL, Sound City and Threshold both had far better lineups for me this year. Of course it’s fun seeing acts like The Jacksons and Barry Gibb, but in terms of musical discovery – Anteros, Nils Bech, Be Charlotte, Sleeptalking, Bang Bang Romeo, Generation, AbiChan are all acts I love and were new to me this year (admittedly I’m late to the party in some cases) and I saw them all at festivals in Liverpool, only one of them were playing at Glastonbury. I didn’t discover any new acts this year at Glastonbury, admittedly in part because I wasn’t as free to run around checking bands out with a 3 year old, but also with a site 2.5 miles wide and 1 mile high, you can’t possibly catch everything!
As always I heard lots of scouse voices at Glastonbury – scousers know how to party after all! But I wonder how many of them are missing out on some of the delights closer to home?
After The Big Moon we decided to see a booking who was by far the most popular t-shirt star this year. Jeremy Corbyn!
His t-shirts were so prolific that when I saw a Nike t-shirt I nearly thought “why has he got Nike written above the Corbyn swoosh?”
Whilst Ed Sheeran is of course a controversial choice of headliner – some like the fact that he’s worked hard and writes his own songs, lets face it, he’s had a lot of chart success so a lot of people must like him, for many others including myself we just can’t see the appeal. If he was unknown and I saw him at an Open Mic I’d think he has a lot of talent, but massive superstar? Not my cup of tea, but he makes people happy, the bands I see make me happy, so what’s the point of musical snobbery, or turning into my parents “we had proper music in my day”!
But Corbyn is arguably an even more controversial choice of booking! He polarises opinion like nobody else I can think of. For supporters he can do no wrong, for haters he can do no right!
Never has Britain’s media so viciously and consistently gone after a politician. Even traditionally left-wing papers haven’t always given him a fair hearing.
Of course like I said earlier, people at Glastonbury come from all walks of life and although it’s traditionally a left-wing festival, not everyone who goes is left wing, and not everyone on the left supports Corbyn.
I was later speaking with a frightfully posh bloke in the kidz field who looked at his phone and said “Jeremy Corbyn is speaking again tommorow, can he just not speak at all, ever”. Clearly not a fan!
I’ve seen Corbyn speak before in more intimate venues and even had a selfie with him, so I was in two minds whether to make the trip to the Pyramid stage or not, but I was curious what the turnout would be like, and whether there would be a big singalong!
The Pyramid stage was already packed when we got there – I thought maybe people had just turned up early for Run the Jewels, but no, looking from the back of the field where we were, once he finished a lot of people dispersed.
Michael Eavis himself brought him out and said that Corbyn supports the issues the festival has been campaigning for, for over 40 years.
Like people who attend Glastonbury, people like to pigeon-hole Corbyn supporters, either as communists, naive youngsters who can’t remember the 70s, lazy people looking for handouts, students wanting free education, but the reality is that Corbyn supporters come from all walks of life. From people struggling to get by, to millionaires like Billy Bragg who would pay more tax under him, so fair play to him!
For me personally, for example I saw Conservative grand dame Anne Widdecombe on Andrew Neil’s show a few weeks back, she was ranting like a banshee about the NHS, claiming that it was created at a time when people didn’t live so long, and the population was smaller, and that we can no longer afford it. She reckoned that Corbyn was so unelectable that Theresa May would have at least 10 years and could make the “difficult decisions” regarding the NHS.
A lot of people probably think she’s making sense, after all it’s true that people do live longer and the population is bigger. But I find it frustrating that we just accept this kind of stuff because the other side of that coin is that people are living longer because they are healthier, and they are also working longer so paying tax and NI longer. The Conservatives themselves claim that more people are working than ever before, so why is nobody asking why we can’t afford the NHS?
My mum always used to say that you’ve got nothing if you don’t have your health. Healthcare is something we all end up needing sooner or later. What does it say about our priorities as a country when we accept defeat that we can’t afford healthcare for our population, but we can afford so many less important things. The media try to make out that health tourism is the problem, but some basic research shows that only accounts for a tiny proportion of the NHS budget.
Thatcher famously said that the trouble with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money. But let’s think about that for a moment. Where do the super-rich get their money? From employing the non-super-rich to make products or services to sell, generally to the non-super-rich. So if people at the top are making billions, whilst the people who work for them and buy from them aren’t earning enough to pay enough tax to fund the kind of healthcare that people in this country have enjoyed since 1948 then clearly things need to be better balanced. That’s not class warfare or losers being jealous of the successful as the billionaires who own the media want to convince us, that’s just basic fairness and common-sense. And surely a healthy population makes a productive work-force?
I like the kind of thinking that lead Labour to create the NHS in 1948. Our debt was at record levels (circa 250% of GDP iirc compared with around 80% today, though with different ways of measuring it, it’s hard to find accurate figures) after WWII so in today’s thinking many would argue that we couldn’t afford to create the NHS because we need to get the debt down. But it was something that lots of people needed – they couldn’t wait decades for the national debt to come down, by that time they might have been dead – they needed it then. So the money was found, and the country didn’t go bankrupt. Contrast that with the USA where even now, all these years later, apparently 45,000 people die every year through lack of access to affordable healthcare – in the richest country in the world – and many in the Conservative party would seemingly like us to follow their example.
Of course in a global economy it’s a fine juggling act, there are no easy answers, business is needed to finance public services, but life is short and when business is put above people’s needs then something isn’t right.
Do I think Corbyn has all the answers? No, but at least he wants to find them, and after decades of politicians and the media being defeatist and putting money before people, it’s refreshing to find someone with the humanity to want to put people’s well being before money. We have the natural resources, people and skills to look after people, so money is clearly out of step with what it represents!
Many say Corbyn would bankrupt us but I feel that a lot of his policies do make economic sense. For example, take housing. I know people who live on a council estate of identical houses which were built out of the public purse in the 50s. Those who rent as social housing pay around £210 per month. Even on minimum wage it’s theoretically possible for them to pay their rent without state help. But many of the properties were sold off under Thatcher’s right to buy scheme in the 80s for less than they were worth. They are now in the hands of private landlords who charge market rent of around £850 a month, which means anybody on a low wage needs housing benefit to cover at least part of their rent. So basically the council are paying out housing benefit for properties they used to own, and were sold for less than they were worth. On the open market these properties sell for around £80K, meaning for about 8 years of housing benefit the government could buy back these properties, rent them out for an amount people can afford (covering repair costs and possibly even a small profit for the council to use on other things or build more houses), and ultimately bring the housing benefit bill down in 8 years or so. But Conservative ideology won’t allow them to do that.
It would be nice if everyone could afford the Conservatives £250K starter-homes, but the reality is that most big firms are bottom-heavy pyramids, with the CEO at the top raking in millions, various levels of management on good salaries, and the majority of people on the bottom rung earning around minimum wage (or less if made self-employed to get around it). Of course some will move up, but only some ever can, the majority will always be on the bottom rung because you can’t have a dozen managers for 1 employee!
Apparently the Conservatives have borrowed more since 2010 than every Labour government in history. One of the problems with politics is that it is very hard to judge the track record of one party, since policies put in place by one party can cause problems that don’t manifest themselves until another party are in power. For example, the global crash occured on Labour’s watch, but many years prior Thatcher had deregulated the banks, allowing them to indulge in risky behaviour which left us much more exposed to the problems. Equally Blair never reversed the deregulation of the banks, all parties make mistakes and it’s sometimes hard to de-tangle policy from global circumstances to know how good or bad a government has been.
Then take Education. There is a website which shows how much each school in the country was going to lose due to Conservative cuts (which I believe may have been cancelled due to Labour’s increased number of seats in the recent election). The school my 3 year old is likely to go to was set to lose £450 per pupil. His cousin in the Midlands’s school to lose £350 per pupil. To me this is classic Conservative short-termism. Perhaps the cuts wouldn’t affect academic subjects and only subjects such as music and sport would be cut – but these things are, in my opinion, important for a child’s development. And when our children are of working age and competing in a global market with people from countries like those in Scandanavia who really value education and fund it properly, they are going to really struggle, which will ultimately be bad for the economy.
Nobody wants to go back to the days when large groups of workers could hold the country to ransom, but equally few want a sutiation where workers aren’t valued and can for example be sacked and taken back on less pay and conditions, or made self employed so that they can be paid below minimum wage. One courier firm charges workers £150 a day if they go over their 2 week holiday entitlement! I’m not a courier driver, but if these things go unchecked and we don’t change direction soon then this kind of thinking will affect us all, and our children in the end.
The media try to paint Corbyn as a communist, because people generally don’t like communism even if they don’t really understand it, and communism’s track record isn’t particularly good. Yet, in a way the NHS is quite a communist idea – providing a service based on need rather than ability to pay, yet most of us quite like it! I’m no expert but looking at his policies, it’s a long, long way from full blown, unworkable communism.
So whilst I’m not sure idolising politicians is a good thing – they are all only human after all (some more than others!) and they all need scrutiny no mater how well-intentioned they sound, it’s nice to see someone advocating a return to putting people first, and around 90,000 people cheering him on!
The wee one was up on my shoulders watching him, and clapping along with everyone else! Unfortunately he was clapping my head which was getting sore in the end!
(Opinions obviously my own and not necessarily of this blog!)
Anyway, enough of the party political broadcast, this is meant to be a review of Glastonbury!
We caught a bit of Run the Jewels who we enjoyed, and would have stayed, but we decided it was high-time we got up to the Kidz Field as it closes at 7pm!
We went straight to see Mr Bloom’s band. Whilst the wee man had been a bit underwhelmed at Andy Day’s show the previous day, It was great to see him down the front, joining in, clapping, dancing, and having a great time watching Mr Bloom! He was trying to get the attention of a little girl who kept blanking him – bless!
We quite enjoyed the show ourselves, particularly his “cover” of Guns N Roses Paradise City! but perhaps when he asked if we wanted one more song, I shouldn’t have held my can of Carlsberg aloft!
We stayed for the next couple of shows before going out to play on the big castle and the sand pit. It really is a magical place the Kidz Field!
It was funny speaking to the aforementioned chap who was frightfully posh, and told me that he lives locally, and had heard all the music and comings and goings so he decided he must come! The way he said it, it was like he’d never heard of Glastonbury but saw something was going on and decided to check it out! Our politics are obviously very different but when we heard “Don’t look back in Anger” we both got excited and started to wonder whether the rumour that Liam and Noel would re-unite for Glastonbury was true, and we were hearing it. So we both excitedly got on our phones to see if social media had an answer. Funny thing was, neither of us were huge Oasis fans, just it would be something special if they reunited and we were listening to it. Presumably they didn’t or we’d have heard by now.
Definitely more that unites us than divides us! A lovely bloke.
The only problem with the kidz field is that when it closes the kids don’t want to leave!
We had a little wander through the Theatre and Circus field before heading to see Alison Moyet at Leftfield, introduced by the wonderful John Robb.
I saw her a couple of years ago at the acoustic tent (even though the Yazoo stuff in particular is very electronic!) and it was very much a surprise highlight of that year.
She has an amazing voice, and fab sense of humour, and of course a brilliant career spanning back catalogue.
Sometimes when an act surprises you how good they are, you build them up in your mind and the next time you see them they are a disappointment, not so here – she was on amazing form, and the little one was up on my shoulders enjoying her set too!
Neither of us are big fans of The Foo Fighters so we decided to go and see the Jacksons at West Holts. West Holts has long been my favourite stage to see headliners. Even when someone as big as The Jacksons are on, it doesn’t get too busy due to the fact that it’s the 3rd stage and a lot of people want to see the main headliners. Whilst the Pyramid can get a bit pushy-shovy as people come and go, West Holts typically has more of a party atmosphere – perhaps due to the location of the Brothers Cider bar there!
They put on a nice crowd pleasing set and after the later start that morning we felt much less tired and more relaxed. I was surprised to spot our tent neighbour The King of Glastonbury! He had a contraption with him made from milk crates to allow him to stand on to get a better view. This, his big green coat and cardboard crown made him easier to spot!
When the Jacksons finished we stayed and soaked up the atmosphere of the West Holts field, whilst a rather good covers band played in the West Holts bar.
Walking back to our tent along Muddy Lane to avoid the crowds we went through the wood which looks truly amazing lit up at night, complete with the Illumaphonium described as ” a gigantic semi-autonomous illuminated music making sculpture – invites the audience to create together; a shared moment of spontaneity immersed in ever changing patterns of light and sound.”
After putting the wee one to bed we sat and enjoyed a drink sitting outside the tent watching across the site full of light and sound, albeit with a heavy feeling that there was only 1 day left of the festival for this year!