Trying to write a short preview of Glastonbury festival is like attempting to summarise Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace in a couple of sentences; even if you do manage it, you’ll only scratch the surface. For Glastonbury is huge; the number of people that will be decanting to Worthy Farm in Somerset the weekend after this one (25th-29th June) is not far off the total population of Breaking More Waves home city of Portsmouth with a capacity of 177,000.
So instead of even attempting to summarise it we’re simply going to give some basic Glastonbury tips based on our experiences which started way back in 1994 and have continued on and off for 20 years, particularly aimed at newcomers to the event. None of these tips are rocket science, but sometimes even the simplest things get forgotten.
1. Before you go
One of the best guides to Glastonbury is the Glasto Earth site (here) which gives detailed information on pretty much everything Glasto related together with realistic site photos. Have a read through that. In fact forget this tips list and just go there.
2. When you go
Get there on the Wednesday if you possibly can. There’s not that much going on and it gives you a day to explore the site and get your bearings. Also you’ll get a much better choice of where to camp – the earlier the better is our rule. We’d also suggest having a look at the site map before you go (after reading Glasto Earth) and have a rough idea of where you’d like to camp, so that you’re not wandering around the site aimlessly. If you get to where you want to camp and it’s full the campsite stewards are very helpful about directing you to campsites with space – but if you get there early you should be fine.
3. When you get there
One of the worst parts of Glastonbury can be getting onto site, particularly if travelling by car as the walk from some car parks (it’s a lottery which one you’ll be allocated to) just to the entrance gates can be a long and tiring one, especially when you’re laden down with heavy kit. We’ve actually seen grown adults crying on the way in, albeit this was in a worst case scenario when a storm was lashing down and there were huge pedestrian queues to get into site. If you’re unlucky and have a bad experience getting onto site, remember it will get better and within a few hours that will all be forgotten.
4. Whilst you’re there
The Pyramid stage might look fantastic on TV but the reality can be (depending where you’re standing) very different. Remember seeing all those flags waving in front of the Pyramid stage on the telly? Didn’t they look pretty? Well, if you’re further back in the audience (particularly at night time) that’s probably pretty much all you’ll see. Last year we went to the Pyramid stage twice all weekend, this year it will be a similar number of times. We strongly believe that if you’re the sort of person who just stays at the Pyramid stage all day long you really are missing out on what Glastonbury is about.
We love planning what artists we’re going to see at festivals and running between stages to see as many acts as possible. Glastonbury is the one exception where we don’t do too much planning, quite simply because there are too many stages that are too far apart with too many other things going on in between to plan too much. The old cliche about being able to spend 5 days at Glastonbury without seeing any music really is true. We suggest you choose a maximum of 4-6 must see acts a day and then just see how things go with the rest. Also remember that as there are a lot of people there, many of whom will want to see the same things as you, so it can take a long time to get anywhere. There will be gridlocks, there will be queues. Just accept it when it happens and don’t be a knob to the people around you.
Glastonbury is set in a valley. There’s a lot of clay soil. So take wellies. Whatever the forecast says. Because even a shower can create quite a bit of mud at Glastonbury and if the rain is heavy, despite the improvements to the drainage of the site over the years things can still get pretty horrendous. Everything you’ve read about Glastonbury mud is (unfortunately) probably true.
One of the things that makes Glastonbury a little different from many other larger festivals is that there is no divide between the ‘arena’ area and the camping. Once you’re through the gates and have your wristband, that’s it. So if you’re the sort of person that likes to try to sneak a can or two of alcohol past security into the arena at other festivals, you have no need to do so at Glastonbury. The advantage of this is that besides potentially saving you some money it means that generally the bars are a little less busy than at other big festivals. However when deciding on how much booze to bring bear in mind that in a worst case scenario you could be 30-40 minutes walk from the car park to the entrance gates if you’ve come by car and carrying a heavy load of alcohol is hard work.
Talking of booze; pace yourself. It’s a marathon not a sprint. No matter how excited you are to be at Glastonbury, if you go too hard too soon you’ll burn out and this is one festival where burning out early makes no sense considering the amount of money you’ve spent on a ticket. And if you do drink too much or take some sort of other illegal substance please don’t be boring and insist on boasting about it at the top of your voice at 5am on the campsite whilst people are trying to sleep. You don’t want to be the festival twat do you?
A tip we’re repeating from last year. How to keep clean: Simply take with you 1 plastic bowl, 1 water carrier, a single ring gas burner, some soap and a flannel. Hot washes a plenty! Much better than wet wipes. Some people will be amazed at the ‘extraordinary lengths’ you have gone to bringing this equipment onto site. They’re usually the same ones who have sweated buckets carrying forty cans of cheap nasty lager in.
And that’s it – nothing too complex. If you’re going have a great time, we'd say 'see you there' but the chances amongst that many people are extremely limited. There’s no other festival quite like Glastonbury, if only because of its huge size.