If you’re living in London, or anywhere else for that matter, you should make it your duty to go to Glastonbury, at least once. There are other festivals in the UK (my first UK festival was the V Festival in 2008, in Chelmsford) and other parts of Europe, but Glastonbury is the biggest and probably the best!
This year, we took the National Express direct coach to the Glastonbury festival site. which is on a large dairy farm in Somerset. Besides queuing for a bit before we were able to cut ahead to get to our booked 7am coach, the actual journey was problem-free. We departed from Victoria Coach Station about an hour later than scheduled, there was traffic and congestion but it took approximately 4 hours to get there, which was not much longer than the estimated arrival time. The bus station at the festival is very close to one of the main gates so after getting off the bus, we didn’t have to walk too far with our gear to get into the site.
[Taking a train to the festival would have been an option as well, but from what I've heard about overcrowded trains and then having to board a coach after the train anyway to get to the festival site, it just seemed more direct to take the National Express bus from start to finish. Besides, the coach guaranteed our seats, which apparently doesn't happen on the train. Also, when we departed the festival on Monday, I noticed a really long queue for the bus back to the train station whereas we boarded our direct-to-London bus right away.]
At the site entry gate, we did a little bit of queuing to show our tickets, get our wristband but we were in within minutes! We started our hot, dusty walk in to find that perfect campsite.
I researched best sites to camp before leaving and I settled on the Hitchin Hill area, mainly because it was near the gate but also because some reviews called it a quiet place to camp (and not right up in the noisy action of the festival). But by the time we made it to Hitchin Hill in the heat, with all of our camping gear, I could have cared less how close or quiet it was; I was done walking with two backpacks and would have camped anywhere!
I don’t think Hitchin Hill is as quiet as it used to be. Late at night on the Wednesday and Thursday, fellow campers were having a lot of fun outside, mainly because the music and events weren’t going to start until Friday. When Friday came, the noisy campers took their party down to the festival, but music from a new venue called Cocktails and Dreams could be heard from Hitchin Hill well into the early morning hours. No matter, however, as ear plugs were a key part of our sleeping kit! As was an eye mask. The 5am sun will shine through your tent and wake you up before the heat in the tent will.
Much of Wednesday and Thursday was spent wandering the festival site, visiting areas we were familiar with from last year, as well as some unexplored areas such as the Park. I do think the Park is one of the best areas of the site and we ended up spending more time there than I would have expected. The grassy field above the Park as well as above the Tipi Field is also a great place to hang out and relax.
The food at Glastonbury is actually really good. We avoided the typical burgers and pizza joints and instead ate a lot of Caribbean chicken, fresh donuts, fresh milk (the festival is a working dairy farm, afterall) and fruit. Pictured above is the sausage and cheesy potatoes from Le Grande Bouffe (they didn’t have chicken this year!!!). Maybe we were just being more budget-conscious this time but it seemed like the food prices were slightly higher than last year. The average main dish would cost about £6.50. Big bottled waters were £2, milkshakes were £4.
Besides cost, one incentive to not overeat or drink is the state of the toilets. There are port-a-loos and long-drop toilets all over the place, but they either reek or are covered in pee. I came up with all sorts of strategies to the cleanest toilet experience but the main one was to not eat or drink too much! The best toilets I found were near the Pyramid Stage. They were serviced constantly everyday by a company called AndyLoos. Sometimes you’d walk into one of their loos and they were pine-fresh, which considering the number of people using these things, is phenomenal! Fortunately these AndyLoos were on our path from our campsite to the festival site so I’d stop by in the morning and evening.
One of the best things we did throughout our stay at the festival was to take advantage of the free rolls of toilet paper given out by the Propery Lock-Up stations and Info points. They have them right on their tables up front; just grab one, say thanks and you’re saved!
If you think it’s strange I just spent so much time writing about the toilet experience, it probably just goes to show how much of a big deal it really is at Glastonbury! I do have to say, they have plenty of toilets there. They just aren’t the shiny, flushing porcelain bowls we have at home.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday are when the music happens. It’s impossible to see all of the bands you want to see so you’ll need to prioritise. There are also occasions where you’ll be disappointed by a performance so it’s always nice when there is another performer you can dash off and try to catch the end of.
For 2010, Gorillaz was a letdown. They didn’t even say hello to the crowd! Basics, people. A lot of the songs performed were from their Plastic Beach album and I really didn’t feel like I was witnessing anything more than a replaying of their CD. No personality added to the live performance at all. Anyway, we also caught Muse (amazing!), Hot Chip (fun!), The Editors (eh), a Swedish group called Miike Snow (great!), a Canadian band called Holy F*ck (great energy to watch) and a ton of others I’ve since lost track of. But that’s the fun of the festival! Learning about new bands, seeing some you know you love, and really just going with the flow.
This year I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of people that would gather at the Pyramid Stage (pictured above, right) and really enjoyed the laid-back, less-rammed mood of the Park stage (pictured above, left on a less busy morning).
Besides music, there are a TON of other things going on: acrobatic acts, massage tents, yoga, bars, games. There are also people of all ages at the festival, which I think is great. There really is something for everyone.
There are more Glastonbury 2010 pictures on my Flickr page.
You can read more about Glastonbury on their official website or check out this great FAQ on Glastonbury (note: it looks like it was last updated a couple of years ago, but it was one of my main sources of info when I was planning this trip in 2010; most information is still relevant). There are also a few online forums for festival info such as eFestivals and GlastoWatch.