Europe 12 – Glastonbury Festival

Glastonbury Festival (2)

Getting tickets

Tickets can only be bought via a link on the official website or on the telephone ticket line, the number for which changes each year and is disclosed online the day before tickets go on sale (generally at the start of April). And they go like hotcakes – tickets for the 2005 event (£125 for a weekend pass) sold out within three hours. The entire festival site is surrounded by a sixteen-foot-high, five-mile-long corrugated-iron fence, propped up by steel girders and patrolled by a small army of security guards. Once inside, though, no one is ejected, and this has led to a tradition of fence-hopping; in 2000, one hundred thousand tickets were sold and as many as fifty thousand extra people were estimated to have jumped over the fence – a noble hippie tradition you may think, but fence-hoppers push up the price for everyone else, and, since they breach capacity regulations, threaten the very existence of the festival. (The 2001 event was cancelled for this very reason.)

Insider info Leave your mobile phone at home. One of the quintessential Glastonbury experiences is getting separated from your friends and wandering around hopelessly on your own, meeting all sorts of interesting characters in the process.

What’s going on?

One of the greatest aspects of Glastonbury is the huge array of entertainment available to suit all tastes and all states of mind. In fact, it’s entirely possible to go the whole festival without taking in single big name band. Instead, you can watch bizarre theatre performances, holler at the outdoor comedy acts , try out your skills on the trapeze, play the bongos in a tepee, check out a solar-powered shower, take in a low-key set at the acoustic stage, get your freak-on to some big beats in the dance tents, catch an open-air movie in the cinema field or just sit in the stone circle at the top of the Green Field and meditate on the whole sprawling spectacle below. And then get to see David Bowie headlining the Pyramid Stage. Priceless. As there’s so much on offer, it’s really worth keeping hold of a copy of the festival guide that comes with your ticket – it has great maps and a huge timetable. Read up beforehand, but stay calm – you can’t possibly see and hear everything going on around Glastonbury so don’t even bother trying. Alternatively, take a radio and tune into the official channel, Radio Avalon (87.7FM), which has regular news, music and timetable updates. The festival website posts a line-up of acts as and when they sign up, so check it regularly in the run-up.

What’s in a name?

What is the Glastonbury Festival actually called? Some call it “Glasto”, which indicates that you’re a city type just down for the weekend, having borrowed your parents’ car to get there. West Country locals refer to it as “Glasters”, so perhaps everyone else should. The “Pilton Festival” would be the most accurate name, since Worthy Farm is actually located in the village of Pilton, six miles east of Glastonbury. Anyone caught talking about their imminent trip to the “Glastonbury Festival for Contemporary Performing Arts” should do the decent thing and give up their ticket to someone much more deserving.

Glastonbury: The movie

Julien Temple’s film Glastonbury is the most complete collection of festival footage ever put together. The director, whose past achievements include the rockumentary classics The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle and The Filth and the Fury, had complete access to all aspects of the festival from 2002 to 2005, plus thousands of hours of personal footage dug out from under beds, from the cellars and the corners of mouldy wigwams festering in the attic. The result, released at the start of 2006, is claimed by many to be as good as attending the mud-and-love fest for yourself. It’ll certainly bring back some great memories for regular festivalgoers, and whet the appetite of the uninitiated. As good as the real thing? You’ll just have to go and decide for yourself.

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