June 26, 2002 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Glastonbury opened its gates today for the insanely keen; the music starts on Friday. A small corner of Somerset becomes transformed into a heaving, crime ridden small city, but without the sanitation. Everywhere you turn a corporate sponsor will be in your face. A ludicrously expensive fence has been erected to keep the riff raff out. I cant help but feel the thing has lost its identity over the years. Michael Eavis has said, this will be the last one if there are gatecrashers, really, who would care? Late Junction on Radio 3 commented that another festival starts this weekend too. It seems much more in tune with the spirit of the original Glastonbury and is free. Ironically it takes place in the middle of a large city, but I bet the vibe will be much more chilled.
posted by Fat Buddha (12 comments total)
Sad to hear about Glastonburys decline. I've been going for several years to Roskilde, which begins this thursday even though I'm not going this year. They've restricted admittance from the 100 000 it was a few years ago to about 70 000 but it nonetheless seems to be a sharp contrast to the Glastonbury, you portray, Fat Buddha. Virtually crimeless it has never ceased to amaze me how well that many drunk (and high) young people with very different life styles can get along. Roskilde, too, began as a hippie rock-festival in 1971, but the attraction for me has always been the diversity in the music played. If you've been disillusioned about Glastonbury, perhaps it's time for a change of venue.
posted by cx at 7:15 PM on June 26, 2002

As an American who has attended two Glastonbury Festivals, I take issue with many of your characterizations of the event. Corporate sponsors? There are none. Glastonbury is and has been a charity event. Expenses are covered, including repairs to Michael Eavis' lands, and then the remainder is given to organizations such as Oxfam. In excess of 500,000 pounds is given to charities by the festival every year. The intimation that the whole thing is sponsored by corporations is completely baseless.

As far as the new wall goes: yes, it is a pity that the crowd will likely not be as diverse as it normally is, when those who can afford the ticket were joined by many more who could not. Surely, some of the vibe will be lost. But let's be practical here. Anyone who has attended the festival knows that there were countless thousands present who weren't there to experience the festival, but to take advantage of it. Both years I attended, items were nicked from my tent, including my shoes. Not fun. The wall and increased security keeps common theives and unscrupulous drug dealers off the grounds, and allows people who are actually there for the music to concentrate on that, not their personal safety.

Also, the crowds that included fence jumpers have simply been too big. With attendance levels monitored, there's less of a chance that an accident -- such as one that occured at Roskilde last year -- will occur.

Festivals are a logistical clusterfuck. But among them, Glastonbury is the best, and I'll take it any day over "T in the Park", "V5", and other truly corporate festivals.
posted by NoMoreLSAT at 9:56 PM on June 26, 2002

A tenner says the wall won't work. Every year that I've worked there (in the property lock ups usually - free ticket, free meal and you can jump the queue when you need to dump your stuff). By Thursday morning at the latest you've heard an enormous cheer go up from somewhere around the site and you just know that that cheer means two thousand people pushing against this year's incarnation of the uber-fence have brought it down. In 2000 I heard the cheer on Tuesday afternoon.

Unfortunately I couldn't make it this year and I'm worried I've already been to my last one. :(

NoMoreSLAT, aren't Mean Fiddler organising this one? If they are I'd reserve judgment until I've seen it if I were you mate. None of that 'fence round the arena' nonsense I bet but you just know it's going to be different this year. :(
posted by vbfg at 12:09 AM on June 27, 2002

NoMoreLSAT, I was at Glasto 2000 and remember seeing a few corporate sponsors. Kodak, Orange, and several large circulation magazines and papers had booths or stages, but yes, they were the exception more than the rule.

Maybe this year's smaller crowds (assuming the wall works) will help return Glastonbury to a more community-based festival. Maybe the crime rate will drop. Or maybe it will only mean lower profits for merchants as half their market is kept away.

At least the bogs won't fill up quite so fast this year.
posted by Monk at 12:48 AM on June 27, 2002

Yup, Mean Fiddler are organising this one, so I would expect it to be more commercial than in the past.

I was there in 2000, and the crowds were just ridiculous. David Bowie and the Chemical Brothers completely filled the Pyramid Stage field. I always preferred hanging round the quieter parts - the Field of Avalon, the acoustic tent, etc. As much as I hate to say it, I may stick to smaller festivals in the future.

I would be surprised if this fence holds. It's got to encompass a big area, and there's no way there won't be a major breach. If so, bye bye Glastonbury. It was nice knowing you.
posted by salmacis at 1:06 AM on June 27, 2002

Never mind the wall, the decision to bring in Mean Fiddler as the festival management company, may prove to be the final nail in the coffin. :-(
posted by Arqa at 2:28 AM on June 27, 2002

I first went in 1986 - I was 16 and told my parents I was off on a camping trip (well, I was, sort of) and made it almost every year until sometime in the mid 90's so Glastonbury holds a special place in my heart.
But I noticed a big change starting to happen around 1990 or so, although not commercially sponsored, the festival had an air of 'branding', like the marketing men had somehow been in. The sense of community was fading, as the hippies, rockers, wierdos, freaks and goths were joined by 'the kids' - people who watched Top of the Pops and listned to Radio 1. I suppose it became much more mainstream, which, while not necessarily a bad thing, brought with it the large crowds and queues. Eventually the colourful people who had made Glastonbury such a special place in 1986 (I'd never seen people like it, I'd grown up in rural North Yorkshire) left and the void was filled by yet bigger crowds. The last one I went to felt like every other big festival (the 'V' festivals, Phoenix etc.) and I stopped going.

I give the fence half a day at best.
posted by Markb at 2:44 AM on June 27, 2002

The festival is very close to my heart too - I lived and went to school in Glastonbury and have been to every festival that there has been since 1980 - This year I won't be there, It's too expensive and big festival and small babies don't mix in my opinion.

As far as the fence goes - If you get enough people behind it I'm sure it can be bent into somekind of makeshift ramp. A few years ago, the fence was pushed down on the wednesday or thursday before the festival started properly - This was reported in the press on thursday night and early friday morning I watched with great amusement as 20 policemen stood aside to let 1000 people run through. It looked like something from Braveheart.

It has changed over the years, as it became more and more popular and more and more publicised. The more "kids" there were, the worse it got. Having said that though, the "kids" tend to populate the two main stages, and I gave up visiting those - except in extreme circumstances - years ago. There's plenty to be found in some of the more far flung fields and this, for me is where you can still find traces of the old festival, impromptu performances by Hawkwind (if that's what you like), The Orb, Rory McCloud and so on. Take my advice and spend the weekend communing with imps rather than traipsing from the NME stage to the Pyramid stage and back again.

Enjoy it if you're going and say Hi to my Dad if you see him.
posted by Spoon at 3:39 AM on June 27, 2002

NoMoreLSAT , corporate packages are available at £4000 a throw. Orange, in an absolute masterstroke have removed all orange logos from their sites, thus ensuring massive publicity for themselves as everybody falls over themselves to pat them on the back. Including the Glastonbury press office. Their are others, and they do not do it for love.
The thieving and gangster classes will gladly have handed over their hundred quids, in the certain knowledge they will easily recoup their money. Still if people like what it has become, fine, I just think its original ethos has long gone, and its portrayal as some kind of Nirvana grates somewhat.
It has become a rite of passage , young folk don't feel whole anymore unless they have been. I work with someone who spent 3 days there and only saw the Corrs for christ sake!. She truly wasn't interested in anything else, but she was chuffed to be able to say she had "done Glasto"
The Mean Fiddler will be taking 20 per cent. As I say the ethos has changed.
posted by Fat Buddha at 12:05 PM on June 27, 2002

I shat myself on mushrooms and passed out in the gloopy mud of 1998. Upon recovering consciousness, I wandered into the dance tent, heard Coldcut splicing up the 'Black Beauty' theme with some breakbeat and looked around all confused. Covered in mud, one of my mates came over and gave the most needed hug ever. It was a beautiful year.
posted by boneybaloney at 12:45 PM on June 27, 2002

Sorry to go on
posted by Fat Buddha at 12:10 PM on June 28, 2002

Sorry to go on - no apology needed.

Although Orange "swag bags'' with branded torches, bottle openers and pillows are hardly the spirit of '70, Eavis says only those sponsors who contribute something needed at the festival are allowed on site. Orange's mobile phone mast brings reception to an area where mobiles are out of range for the rest of the year.

I guess this sums up my feelings about the whole thing quite well really - something needed at the festival being a mobile phone mast so half the festival can yap to their mates about how they're 'doing' Glastonbury - Urgh!
posted by Markb at 7:08 AM on July 1, 2002

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