I survived. I came out the other end, long drops an all. And you know what, the whole thing was grand. No really.
Glastonbury attracts a huge amount of fuss. The festival, which has been running for the guts of 40 years, saturates the media when it takes place at the end of June. People are interested when you tell them you’re going there – hell, my local radio station even called me on my way back to do a live interview about how I got on. The festival is iconic. And that’s why, no matter what sort of person you are, what sort of music you’re into, or how high maintenance you think you are, it’s something you should put on your bucket list.
We first seriously considered going after a friend told us she’d had an out of body experience there. ‘It’s that good,’ she promised. Now, hippy chemicals aside, she’s right. The festival, with its history, vibes, setting and atmosphere is an adult playground. When you pass through those gates and slap that coloured wristband on your arm, all thoughts of home and work and financial worries fall from your mind. You’re there to party – and so are the other 170,000 folk. Do you know what happens when that many people come together to have a good time? Peace. And love. And dancing – everywhere.
Over the past few weeks I’ve met a couple of people who’ve told me they’d love to go and probably will go in the near future. Well, if it’s on your list of things to do, here are a few things you need to know.
Tickets for Glastonbury go on sale in October, but you must be pre-registered, including the acceptance of a passport style photo, if you want to join the ticket race. This means you need to be planning in September to go in the following June. Registration for Glastonbury 2017 is already open and you find all the details here.
2. Ticket Sales
Tickets go on sale on a date to be announced in October – it’s usually on a Sunday morning at 9am. That means you have to get up out of your hangover bed and be online at 9am, ready to go. A few minutes past and you’ll have no chance. Last year, we watched the tickets go in under half an hour – all 130,000 of them. And, we’ve found, that if you have a slow broadband speed, you’re less likely to get a ticket at all. You’ll need all your reg details to book the tickets, including the individual registration numbers of anyone you’re buying tickets for. You can book for up to six people. If you’re booking in the UK, you’ll need a debit card and if from overseas, like us in Ireland, you can only book using a credit card. You pay £50 per person deposit and this is refundable if, for whatever reason, you don’t end up going the following year. But, unlike other festival tickets – you can’t pass your ticket onto a friend if it is the case you can’t go – instead it will go back into the pool for resale in the new year.
3. Second chance
You’ll have to pay the balance of your ticket in April and after this, the tickets that have come back into the pool go back on sale. This is a chance to grab a ticket for a member of your group who missed out on the original sale or for all the new friends you’ve met since last year. We secured a ticket for a friend this way back in 2011 and there was much jumping from sofa to sofa. The tickets are priced in total £228 plus a fiver booking fee. BARGAIN!
4. Accommodation & Getting there
So ticket in hand, what do you need to know about getting there? Well, what surprises many peeps, myself included is that if you’re camping, you need to be there first thing Wednesday morning the week of the festival to set up. Yes, that’s Wednesday, when the campsites open – no rocking up on Friday evening expecting to find an amazing pitch. (You can, but good luck to you)
We camp as near as we can to the Pyramid Stage and avoid corners (they’ll be gone in a few hours as people trod them away with their wellies) toilets and bins.
Your other options include the Tipi Village which house up to six people, but are expensive and sell out quickly. More luxurious options are The Pop Up Hotel, located just outside the grounds and local B&Bs or hostel accommodation. But – the majority camp and hey – camping can be fun. (If you know, you like spiders and no showers and things).
A lot of people make their way by car to the festival – or camper van if you’re of that ilk, but the public transport services in aren’t bad either. I flew to Bristol this year and shared a taxi there (£20) and took two buses on the way back. Bristol Meads train station is a good hub for getting there. They even had a bin for wellies on the way back – to be donated to charity. Man, the British are organised.
5. The Mud
The question on everyone’s lips when you tell them you’re going or have just come back from Glastonbury is – the mud – was it that bad, really? The answer is yes. Yes, yes, yes. But guess what? No one goes to Glasto without their wellies – and if they do, they quickly purchase a pair there. You put the wellies on and you get on with it. If it continuously rains it can be bad and it can be miserable, in 2011 we seemed to spend half our time pulling ourselves from the quick sand like muck, but this year wasn’t too bad at all. Besides, it’s nice to smell a bit of earth every now and then. By the way, it’s really worth investing in a good pair of wellies – a brand name with proper support. I would have scoffed at this before the dead toe for three months incident.
6. The Toilets
The next question people want all the gory details about is the toilets. Catching the offput of a pop up city for the guts of the week is no easy task. This year Glastonbury did away with portaloos and installed compost toilets and a majority of long drops instead. Long drops are basically sewers in the ground with toilet seats over them. It wasn’t pretty but I think the long drops do work. They offer less privacy – I had an awful feeling of someone watching over me every time I went because they’re open top, but they were possibly cleaner, less stinky and you absolutely did not spend any more time in them than you had to. There are sinks outside, but mostly you’ll use the water troughs outside to wash your hands. Stock up on the hand sanitiser and bring your loo roll with you everywhere. These are the important things!
No you won’t shower at Glastonbury (unless you’re a VIP, staying in a luxury yurt or standing out in the rain naked) But baby wipes do an amazing stop gap job and you will scrub yourself at the sink every morning in the cold water in front of everyone. It’s amazing what having cleaning hands, face and teeth will do for you – maybe we’re too clean anyway?!
7. Planning your weekend
You can check out the line up before you go and attempt to plan who you’d like to see, but as you go through the gate you’ll be handed a Glasto magazine which is packed full of information and things to see and do. I read it cover to cover and found out loads of interesting info which I could spout at my friends all weekend. There is so much on you will have to put some sort of plan in place – choose who you really want to go and see and make these non-negotiables, no matter how drunk you get over the weekend and how many people you lose along the way – go on your own if you have to. If you’re part of a group, plan out who you’d like to see and at what times – there will be clashes, so you may miss somebody you’d really like to see in order to get to another stage or place (or you know back to the tent for more drink) on time.
8. All of the entertainment
What might be most surprising if you’ve never been to Glastonbury before is the sheer amount of other entertainment and amusement that’s going on. You would never get round everything in one go – and it’s probably what keeps people coming back year on year. On the Saturday this year we made a special effort to just check things out other than gigs and we caught a full orchestra playing with a DJ, a chilled out nightclub in the middle of the day, a beat boxer and a rhumba class on the way back. That night we skipped the headline act and made our way up to Arcadia, which is sight for steel and fire eyes. We watched the Metamorphosis show which almost blew our minds. Think 100ft flames, giant crawling spiders in the sky and people using their own bodies as musical instruments while lightening comes out of their head – not even joking, that happened.
9. Late night revelations
There’s tons happening during the day, but at night the party goes on until the wee hours. After the gigs, we tended to head towards a late night DJ gig if there was one we wanted to see, or to our local (always choose a bar that becomes your favourite for the whole festival) and then usually on to a silent disco. Most head to the South East Corner (Shangri La) where all the late night craic happens (till 6am) but this year, due to crowd control, they were pretty strict on the numbers getting in so you need to head down early if you want to go there. The dance village is also open.
10. Make new friends
Be open to meeting new people. If you’re part of a big group, it might not apply as much, but if your numbers are small, there’s plenty of room to bring in new revellers. Glastofriends4eva. We made friends with our all of our neighbours this year and a bunch of Irish doctors. Totally covered if anything happened.
If you’d like to listen to me chatting about Glastonbury on radio you’ll find that link here.
Here’s a few photos of how we got on and some of the sights we captured along the way. If you think you’d enjoy Glastonbury, make it your business to go. This year, with the traffic and mud problems, I felt the media were giving it a bad rap (what the media, never?) In fact, a group of grown men nearly fell over laughing at the airport when I told them where I was going (ok I did look the most glam I did all weekend at that point). Glastonbury is great – and the mud and the loos are not that bad. Stick it on your bucket list. You won’t regret it, promise.
And do it all again. Next year. Same time. Same place. Till then.