Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Diary of a Glastonbury Virgin - 2010

Taking a break from my usual photographic blog posts, here's The Diary of Glastonbury Virgin by my sister Louise, which tells of her experiences from 2010, with lots of photos. If you enjoy her story, please tell her on Twitter (she's @Dwese) or with a comment on this blog. Thank you. 

amazing costumes and very brave in the heat

Looking back on the weekend at Glastonbury you forget the shit moments! It is true you get rose tinted spectacles! There wasn’t many shit moments really. I looked through my note book (bought for the occasion to record what I knew I would forget, the little things that make you smile at the time) like The Glastonbury "Mexican Yell".

What is that I hear you ask ? That was on the first day as people arrive and were rather excited. It would start somewhere on the site with someone yelling for some reason and would spread Mexican Wave like across the site and you would find yourself enveloped in a primeval scream resonating across the valley and passing over you as a wave, only happened on the first day when no bands were playing.

flags everywhere - great for finding your tent

Back to that note book. I had made notes to myself; loosen up, relax, strike out on your own a bit, don’t try to look after everyone else. As it turned out I was on my own the whole time.

Initially this was one of those aforesaid  “shit moments”. I had stumbled for 20 minutes across the rough tussocks of grass and even rougher hard core covered roads thick with dust and dropped by the John Peel Tent near the Dance Fields. My bag was getting heavier by the step and it felt like 100 degrees. Already fields were filling up with tents all around me (this would turn out to be a record breaking attendance for the Wednesday, fuelled partly by the Football and Good Weather). As I was getting up my Twitter friend Emma had texted she was in the Park Ground already !!!! This seemed miles away to me (and it transpired was indeed 2 hours walk away).

I had to make a decision; trek on over to them or camp where I was. Decisions are not my strong point, especially on my own with nobody to consult with. Stay and move later? Stay and camp alone? What to do! I really didn’t think I could carry my rucksack that far. I was cursing as all around me people had trolleys. National Express, it turned out, did not care what you brought to their coach despite the dire warnings on the ticket to the contrary that I had followed - curse my rule following nature !

So I made my choice to camp by The John Peel Tent, I was 5 or 6 tents back from the road, in the shadow of an Electricity pylon – some good landmarks for finding it again !!

Camping – now for those of you who have camping experience (and have read the safety  label in your tent) know you camp at least 6-8 meters from other tents, privacy, fire safety, good manners dictate this. No no no! At Glastonbury you camp 6-8 CENTIMETRES from the next tent.  Leave anything larger and someone WILL attempt  to put their tent in that gap !

it takes two hours to walk from one side of the site to the other

BIT OF LUCK # 1 I had a little 1 metre area of grass in front of me and what turned out to be Andrew and Jo’s tent, and we kept it. A luxury to be able to put up your chair !

BIT OF LUCK # 2  Andrew and Joanna, lovely neighbors, from Doncaster. Negating “group of piss-heads” two tents over with “Colin the Knob” I knew his name pretty fast as his group constantly saying Colin stop it, Colin get up, Colin leave it, Colin stop being a knob. Colin was young, didn’t handle drink well and was constantly drunk. Two of Colin’s mates had brought a tent like mine, a 2 man tent, (1 ½ really) for 2 full grown blokes !! The next day one of them ran off to Millets and bought another tent !!

So I pitched my tent and chucked my stuff in it, unrolled my self inflating mattress and sleeping bag and decided I would explore. (PS The self inflating mattress is brilliant ! It's only about ½ inch thick but feels great !!)

do-nuts - the food that tastes the same several hours later

My location notes: John Peel tent / Pylon / Donuts / Exceptional sausages. In that order – you find home !

THE SITE – it is not possible to convey to someone who has not been just how bloody massive the site is. It is 1,100 acres (but that doesn’t mean much) it is the size of York when full, it does fill an entire valley, there is 175,000 people when full, about 150,000 tents ?  It takes about 2 hours to walk from one side to the other. They had a souvenir poster and aerial picture that does do it some justice. They have metal roads fitted I guess if its muddy the vehicles still have to get through, these are noisy to walk on but better than the very rough ground with massive rocks strewn about (I always seem to find and trip over). I did have flip-flops with me but the rocks were painful and the dust a problem so I stuck to my trainers and had nice white “sock” tan lines !

gateway to the stone circle
THE JOURNEY -  I had my journey all planned. I live in London. I'd get the train to Liverpool St Station (12 mins) then circle line to Victoria (about 15 mins) but on the radio they kept saying signal failures at Liverpool St, delays. So I opted for bus to Mile End and District to Victoria. This was great, half empty bus (good when you can easily take out several passengers with one sweep of your rucksack), half empty train. Bad news… This train will not be stopping at Victoria due to overcrowding on the platform, for safety reasons "it will go on to Sloane Square”… fuck fuck fuckety fuck. Luckily I had 30 mins to spare (never a LastMinute.com me) !!

So I walked from Sloane Square, overshot the road and walked round the block – all with a chuffin heavy bag getting heavier every step. I walked round the back of Victoria, there was THE QUEUE ! About 100 people looking like a refugee line. I grabbed a quick bottle of water and joined the line shuffling through. It was 9:40 my coach left at 10:00 from gate 19. The line was past Gate 1 and out the door into the street.

warm pants to throw at Shakira?
Foolishly I thought it would be my coach, labelled G1 at a gate waiting ! What it was was a line of hundreds of coaches labelled G1, at gate 19. Two coaches in load em up drive off load em up drive off, so it was about 500 people who had a seat on the 10am G1 !!

BIT OF LUCK  #3 It worked I was on the coach at 9:55 and pulling out at 10:00 !

I shared with a nice Australian guy (his girlfriend was across the aisle) who had included Glastonbury in their round the world travels. One of those moments when you share a few hours with someone you will never see again.

Straight drive to Shepton Mallet. Bloody freezing on the coach, a/c on full. Was worried we would be roasting on a coach (memories of nasty school trips on nasty coaches with puking school kids) but no, we were shivering. First “taste” of communal sanitation; the coach WC – the TINIEST toilet in the world (verified but Aussie guy who had seen “the World”).

Had no chance to buy food for journey, ate breakky at 7:30am would be arriving at 3pm one bag of Minstrels to sustain me !

At Shepton Mallet it all ground to a halt and we crawled and stopped for an hour the last couple of miles. Everyone trying to get a glimpse of the site. We finally came upon the crew campsite which is on the very edges of the site and then we could see “the wall” glinting in the sunlight (better than fading in the mist and rain !!)

We got straight in, off the bus, bag in hand and back to the paragraph beginning “initially this was one of those aforesaid shit moments” !! It was a real rollercoaster of feelings, excitement, tinged with gut sinking sick feeling of apprehension. Will I find them? Will I be able to camp near them? Will I be able to carry this chuffing bag more than 10 metres?

So I am camped, and bag in hand with everything of value; camera, phone, wallet, ticket, credit and cash card I set off to explore. I was starving by this time, I think it was about 5pm in the afternoon so several hours with only Minstrels to keep me going. I grabbed a tray of chips, headed for the Pyramid Stage as it was close by.

the Greenpeace Field had excellent stuff for kids: pirate ship, skate ramp, climbing wall.

BIT OF LUCK #4 where I camped turned out to be noisy but very good for The Pyramid Stage, The Other Stage, the Dance Field and The Glade. Our grass stayed green (other areas looked really bad after a day) our tents didn’t get dirty (others were covered in a thick layer of dust) and our footpath was not too busy.

BIT OF LUCK #5 the toilets nearest to me where pretty good, only had to queue once. I seemed to catch the ka-ka tankers crew and cleaning guys just before I needed a number 2, it didn’t exactly smell “sweet” but were acceptable for spending more than a penny (that is being in them for 5 or so mins). Hell I didn't envy the guys who like to sit with a paper for 20 mins !!

the hula hoop tent - obviously

I designated “MY” toilet early on and always used it until the flush broke and it said “urinal only” in masking tape on day 3. Note for the uninitiated; when I say flush that means it uses the “liquid” part of the toilet to flush away paper and solids, this is not flush as in clean water – so when you “flush” be ready to leave fast as that created a lot of smell as its flushing with piss basically !!

First things first – shopping ! I checked out the Pyramid Field which was full of some people watching a sporting event, football I recall. So headed for the “road” of shops near me, an assortment of clothing, food and drink and whacky festival stuff – hat like Brunhilder (why ?) lots of fancy dress – and people do wear some really crazy stuff. My fave being the two separate occasions of man in mankini (made famous by Borat) one lime green one lurid orange. Both with a nad hanging out !

I got a couple of T-Shirts (only £3 each !) and a hat with a brim as I only brought a baseball cap and hadn’t planned on it being 300 degrees with unrelenting sunshine – and this is the countryside where are the bloody trees ?  I did get a text from Emma and managed to meet her in the bar by my tent, we had a pint and chatted about out journeys. We had a note of the Tea Party at The Tiny Tea Tent at 11am Thursday and hoped to meet there.

Night one was bad. It was amazingly cold, like 2 or 3 degrees cold it felt like ! You could see your breath and damp settled on everything. I slept (ha ha slept !) in my fleece and socks and two t-shirt and was still cold. It was so noisy. The food trucks had music playing, the bar had very loud music until 3am. I don’t think I actually slept at all that first night, I usually don’t sleep well the first night somewhere strange anyway but with people walking 3” away from your head all night too !! I had bad thoughts as I was “trapped “ there for the next week and wasn’t having fun yet !

so much rubbish in only a day
My She-Wee turned out to be a good investment. Mostly for that 5am busting for a wee and the toilets are 10 mins away situation. I had kept a 300ml bottle specially for it and was a bit panicky when it was full almost to the top !! but it was great to do that then crawl back into bed until at 7am the sun started to roast you alive and all those layers I donned last night where rapidly flung off.  I had a latte and cookie for breakfast.

a variation of Gormley's Field for the British Isles
I made my way to The Other Stage field and the info tent where I got a better map and established where the Tiny Tea Tent was. It was in another area with lots of shops near the Greenpeace field. So I grabbed a smoothie and headed to The Glade. I meandered about, Greenpeace was good not finished building but they had a full size pirate ship, a massive climbing wall and a skate ramp. They also had their own stage too. I found the tea tent and had a most welcome cup of mint tea and a sit down in a sofa which was bliss. I decided I needed a chair, they were only £8 and everyone carried one and sat where they wanted as seats where rare.

I tried to use the Orange Chill 'n' Charge tent but that was a disaster. They should have just provided loads of plug point instead it was tables with various phone chargers, i-phones didn’t seem to have many and of course loads of people have i-phones. I waited 20 mins to get into the tent then an hour waiting by just 3 leads, there was 2 people in front of me then I realised one woman was saving a slot for 3 people !!! So I gave up just as the table blew a fuse and stopped anyway !

I treat myself to 2 gorgeous wrap around skirts, double layer Indian looks like silk but is actually polyester (hey it washes better !) only £12 each.

the iconic crowd + stage shot

I got my first experience with the long drop toilets – basically a Roman experience with seats over a tank with a full delightful view of the waste below, I noticed tampons (you couldn’t miss them) my nightmare would be a period to deal with there ! My She-Wee did sterling service again so I could stand bloke-stylee and not sit on it (the seats are not movable so wet)

I tried the Hog Roast for lunch, trying a little to stick to my diet it was nice with apple sauce.  Food was London prices I guess £4 seemed average for bacon butty, meat baguettes etc, got pricey when you added a drink at £2 but as I say about the same as eating out at home. I only had 1 pint of cider there, that was £4 a pint too.

It was starting to get really dusty now, kicked up badly by the passing trucks. I got my chair, a white one with the England flag on it (probably not a great choice white !!)

kids looked so cute in their ear protectors

Friday  – Rolf Harris kicks it all off at 11am

Seem to have a permanent headache. Think its heat, noise and lack of sleep. I tried my foam ear plugs last night they work much better than the others but make my ears hurt. Slept a little better at least, think my brain is starting to ignore the music !

Bands I saw; Rolf, Femi Kute, Corrine Bailey Rae, Willie Nelson, Phoenix, Lar Roux, Florence & The Machine, Gorillaz & Groove Armada

Rolf was great, that was my first experience of the Pyramid Stage Field being mostly full. It was great when everyone was singing along to Two Little Boys and Tie Me Kangeroo Down, Waltzing Matilda went down well.

I set myself up at the back near the elevated section for wheelchair users. Made friends with the people around me which was handy for going off and leaving your stuff if you needed wee, food, drink etc. It was really hot and I wasn’t sure I could stand it, then 2 couples sat next to me they had 2 golfing umbrellas and they lent me their one single brolly and I could not have stayed if I had not had that. Corrine Bailey Rae was good, very chilled out. Willie Nelson was weird as he kept singing as if his band wasn’t even there ! He wasn’t singing “with them” at all.

I moved to The Other Stage. I wanted to see La Roux and Florence and The Machine. La Roux was great, she had Glen Gregory from Heaven 17 guest and sing Temptation which was good and all her hits sounded excellent. Florence was her weird self ! Very emotional, she did get everyone jumping up and down for You Got The Love and that felt like an earthquake !

I spent the rest of the time wandering around I got a couple of friendship bracelets.

Gorillaz were on at 10 something so I wandered back to the rear of the Pyramid Stage. It was pretty packed, I came round the corner and there was a bench and just one woman on it, she wasn’t saving it so I sat with her, she as a local but staying on site we chatted until Gorillaz came on. It all got a bit crap. They played a couple of well known older tunes but then the newer stuff I don’t like as much and loads of blokes were rushing down pushing in and making it really crowded. I decided I’d had enough so tried to get out but the entrance there is only 20 feet wide and stupidly straight onto a field of tents, there was a lot of pushing and nowhere to go so we all spilled into the tent field picking through the tents trying no to catch guy ropes.

Decided not to go there again, well not near the entrance bit.

I walked to one of the shops for some Pringles (they were a rip off at £3 a tube but what can you do?). I decided to get a pink hoodie (£10) to sleep in as I was so cold at night. I sat by my tent on my new chair sipping Peach Schapps and listening to Groove Armada in the John Peel Tent. Cocktails & Dreams the “club” near me was busy and I could hear The Cuban Brothers who had guested at The Globe end of season party (I work at The Globe theatre).

Saturday – Full Capacity – everyone is on now and its sooooo busy ! And sooooo hot ! And soooo dusty !

moonrise over Glastonbury
I decided to explore, the music doesn't start til 11 and when you are up from 7am that’s some time to fill ! I found a different tea tent for my mint tea (only £1) I also found a local orchard that did fresh pressed apple juice. Talked to a nice couple there, I seemed to find lots of people who had been coming for years. Wandered round to The Queens Head (known for good bands and overcrowding !) got some Christmas presents – little bits, won’t say what as the people will read about them !

Saw some gorgeous jewelry but too expensive for me ! I headed back to the tent same time and Andrew and Jo we were pouring water over our heads in an effort to cool off it worked pretty well ! Read the paper a bit. Made my way back to The Other Stage for The Editors who were ok but not brilliant. Even the critic said their first half set was lifeless, some bands they sometimes pick some dour unknown songs to start with which doesn’t get things “kicking”.

A big chunk of people wanted to see Muse, who I don’t really know, so I was happy by The Other Stage as Pet Shop Boys were the headliners there and at the back it wasn’t too busy. They were brilliant, a real show with dancers and lights and stuff, so good, the classic songs and me and a lot of other 40 something’s going wild ! They saved West End Girls ‘til last and it was amazing, the moon was coming up and loads of the Chinese flaming things floating by it was very emotional and brilliant !

The Pet Shop Boys were the highlight for me - my era!

Sunday – I opted for the all day Pyramid option, I had my chair got two bottles of water and 4 do-nuts (those being the only thing to survive and be edible from buying at 10:30am and eating at 2pm !!)

In the morning I wandered the areas I had not seen up near the Green Fields and Healing Field. I got some more bits and bobs for people. I picked up a nice stone pendant shaped like a heart from a lovely old clouple who have been going for 40 years, they were having to clean all their stuff as it all looked old due to the layers of dust !

I decided to have a look at Arcadia as its very difficult to get to at night, it’s a night time thing a futuristic thunderdome type nightmare vision of the future with all these crashed things and a crane that belches fire and they have all these weird acts there and scary shit !

Arcadia - you could not get near this at night

Jo and Andrew were leaving on Sunday so I sad bye to them and exchanged Facebook details as I took a photo for them. At 11:10 I headed for the Pyramid field The Yeovil Brass Band were on and were very entertaining with their William Tell Overture and they played Who Wants to Live Forever which sounded great. Paloma Faith was good too in a kooky way she was really sweet. SLASH was on and the football was on so not so many but still a good field full ! It was the day of the epic FAIL for England. I was surprised how much I enjoyed SLASH, not usually my scene but they did a good show !

Made friends with Charlie and Jill, again a couple who have been coming for years so we did alternate chair guarding while I went to the loo.  Jack Johnson was very chilled out and Ray Davies and the Kinks relived the fact that they should have opened the 1970 festival (Marc Bolen did instead when the Kinks manager pulled them out as he has seen a press article saying The Kinks were opening a little folk music festival and he thought it was wrong for their image).

Sunsets and the crowd gathers for Stevie Wonder

Late into the evening now as we approach sunset, the field is filling up for Stevie Wonder later and Faithless now. I am not a big dance fan but Faithless were very good and really got the crowd on their side right to the back where I was. People lit flares and let off the balloon lights again. The lead singer of Faithless looked quite moved and said he would remember it for his whole life. The last time they played it was dark so he did not take in the whole field and just how many people are there.

So we all waitied for Stevie Wonder to finish the night. Which he did in style. He played the classics, everyone sang along, an amazing moon came up again and you could see the fire from Arcadia. It was a good long set over an hour I think and at the end Michael Eavis came on and very badly joined in with “Happy Birthday To You” the Stevie Wonder version not the birthday cake one ! It was a great end.

I decided to have a last look around and visited the dance field which I had missed and it was really great, the music and the lights and the RaveHenge was fantastic.

Rave Henge was amazing

It was weird as already quite a lot of people had left and were still leaving. Quite a lot of gaps in the tents now. It was strange to be bedding down as so many people were leaving, I had this weird dream where I woke up and I was the only one left in the field. I looked out at one point and I was still surrounded – and it was thick fog !

At 5am I woke and the thick fog was still there, it was quite nice to be cool. I packed as much as I could, chucked out as much as I dared and got everything in my bag. The tent was going outside the bag this time. I decided to keep my faithful chair too as it’s not too heavy to carry.

I had a final coffee and muffin and packed up and began the long slog at 8am ish I think. It didn’t seem as bad on the way back, I took the direct route knowing where I was going and I got my bag fitting better. My bus wasn’t until 11am but I didn’t want to slog up the hill in the heat.

Me with some peach schappes at the end of the day
I checked in with National Express and had to wait til it got closer to 11 to be called to our “gate” (a crash barrier section of field). So sat on my bag and read the souvenir programme.

We got loaded at 11:20 which as pretty good. Final spot of luck moment! I got a seat with nobody beside me  ha ha ! Pretty much as the bus pulled out everyone was asleep! I had a face pressed to the window scaring drivers on the motorway for a couple hours.

Got back to Victoria and piled out. I got a cab to Liverpool Street, too knackered for the tube.

Back to normality, much washing, much sleep (I slept 15 hours the first night back!).

Looking back with rose tinted specs it was brilliant, well it was all in all forgetting the self-doubting moments.

Thanks should be given to Emma Jane who actually got me into this and suggested I should book after years of trying and watching it on TV saying “one day I will be there”.


  1. Great read, As its just starting again this year 2011, I didnt realise how big it is, and how many other things they put on. Dont think I'd survive a night tho!!

  2. nice read. doesn't make me want to go lol but good write up (:

  3. Thanks anon and outroversion for commeting - I don't think I'm tempted to go either, like my creature comforts too much.


All comments are moderated and spam comments shall not pass.