FL’s guide to Glastonbury
Sun 23rd Sep, 2012 in Features
Thinking of making the Glastonbury pilgrimage in 2013? Here’s our guide to the world’s biggest festival – from the draconian ticketing system to the best place to camp. Words by ALBERT SANTOS, who attended the hottest Glastonbury on record in 2010.
Unless you recently re-joined society after living as a forest hermit, you may have noticed that the international school carnival known as the Olympics wrapped up last month in London. While for Australians it mostly meant having an Olympic team that kind of sucks, for the Poms it meant that this year they had to miss out on Glastonbury.
Festival organiser Michael Eavis cited the need for the festival grounds to recuperate, as well as the problems with sharing necessities like security and portaloos with London. He also made the promise that next year’s headliners are all but locked in. Fair enough. Hey, some of our best festivals have taken the year off and come back with a better, fresher face, right?
Glastonbury isn’t just a festival. The Glastonbury Festival is the closest thing to Mecca that exists for the music fan, right down to the towering main Pyramid stage acting as the Kaaba. Bands become legends after a single set. Friends are made, and lost, and made again. Secret performances happen at a whim, anywhere, anytime. Flags of every nation, religion, creed, colour and club are waved.
But who’s playing?
If you’re worried about the line-up: Don’t be. While even some of the biggest festivals in Australia and the world over have around six or seven stages, Glastonbury has five stages in their dance village alone. Music news articles quip about how the festival appears to book every act ever, and they are very close to right. As you venture through the dairy farms that make up the festival site, you soon notice that there is almost too much choice. It is virtually impossible for there be nothing on that you want to see.
After a few moments digesting this fact, your brain reaches a point of sensory overload that used to come often to you as a child visiting an ice cream parlour. Your usual ways of breaking festival clash deadlocks start to fail as you notice you’re ultimately choosing between four headline-worthy acts to see at the surprisingly early time of 6pm.
Just as you may habitually go for chocolate or vanilla at said ice cream parlour, instinct will draw you to the Pyramid and Other Stages in the middle of the field. If anything, it’s the place where some of the world’s biggest acts have had both their greatest (Radiohead in 1997, often cited as the greatest festival set ever) and lowest (Amy Winehouse punching a spectator in 2008) moments. Or you might soon find yourself at the jazzier, hip-hop inspired West Holts Stage? Or maybe at the John Peel Stage, named after the late DJ renown for giving some of the most iconic British bands their big break? Or The Left Field stage, with bands often interspersed between political talks and comedy acts?
Sick of over-hyped acts for the day, week, or possibly forever? Glastonbury is about so much more than just live bands that it is entirely possible (though not recommended) to go the whole weekend without seeing a single one. The south-east corner of the festival is exclusively made up of bars and clubs built into overarching artistic themes, featuring everything from a replica 1970 New York gay bar (entry with fake moustache only) to a Karaoke bar that auto-tunes your voices to match U2’s Bono. They have a cinema on site that doesn’t just screen student short films, and in 2010 they hosted the British premiere of Toy Story 3. You can compete in the hilariously amateur sporting events. There are whole areas reserved for families (kids under 12 also get free entry to the whole festival). You can even just lay until sunrise at Stone Circle; the one location more than any other where it’s totally normal to be accosted by a guy dressed as a wizard for ganja.
It’s not all roses and dandelions, though…
Flags everywhere mean that it isn’t the friendliest of fests for the vertically challenged. If you are keen on personal hygiene, beware that the festival has limited shower facilities. Toilet paper and wet wipes become a second currency and the portaloos have a history of blowing up. Nine times out of 10, however, the whole site will become the worst type of mudbath imaginable. It goes without saying: Bring wellies.
*NB: I last attended in 2010, the hottest Glastonbury on record and very mud-less. All my information in regards to mud is second-hand.
How to camp, Glastonbury style
If you want a good camping spot, either pony up the extra cash for a campervan or Tipi or get there early and expect to line up for at least six hours. Once you are in, aim to camp in Pennards Hill, Park Grounds or as far away from the dance village as humanly possible. The slight advantage here comes from the festival being BYO throughout. This means that even if there is not a single drop you don’t like on-site – again, near-impossible – you can bring your own all the way up to the stage with you.
Do: Prepare for the hardest ticketing experience of your life
But above all of this is the draconian ticketing system. It’s why you need to make up your mind now – 10 months prior to the festival. Pre-purchase registration is now open until September 30: this involves handing pages of personal details over, including a passport-quality headshot. They’ll then send you a unique registration code, which is valid for a single ticket.
Once that’s done, you’ll have to be on a computer at exactly 7pm AEST (9am GMT) on Sunday, October 7. You can “buy” tickets for up to eight registration codes. This is the hard bit: Since 2009, the festival’s 150000 tickets have sold out in hours. So your best bet is to get all your friends registered and on a computer come sale day. If you know an expat or relative in Europe, get them on at least three; their chances of getting through are 10 times better than ours.
You “buy” the ticket because till now it still isn’t yours. Starting from next year’s festival, all tickets are sold on a lay-away basis only, with the initial deposit being £50 (roughly $75). The ticketing system reopens again in February so that you can pay off the rest of the £216 price tag, which equates to just over $330. A very small allocation of cancelled orders goes on sale closer to the festival date. On the bright side, it’s about $20 less than this year’s Splendour, and you get camping thrown in for free!
Don’t: know a guy who know’s a guy
And while this all seems much, don’t be tempted by ticket resellers or blokes with the promise to get you in through the back of a windowless van. One poor sod in 2010 was caught with another person’s ticket. He ended up being immediately thrown out of the festival, with no chance to return to collect his gear. The last that was heard of him was that he was being held indefinitely at a local police station. And let’s not even mention the two-layered superfence.
Just fucking go
Bringing the Mecca analogy back, to go is to complete a type of rock music Hajj. Glastonbury really is unlike any musical experience you’ll ever go to. Whether you love festivals, loathe festivals, or just inexplicably end up at festivals, you have to make the pilgrimage to Pilton at least once in your lifetime.
Click here to register for tickets.