23 August 2014

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Event review: Glastonbury Festival 2013


The daddy of all festivals is back after a year off, selling its 138,000 tickets in a record-breaking 100 minutes. V&E popped down to Worthy Farm for a mad weekend in the sun.

Words: Damien Gabet

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I don’t really want to, but I’m sniffing the back of a man’s head. We are so tightly packed in front of the Pyramid Stage, that I can’t see my feet. I drop my lighter, it’s gone forever. Still, in a few minutes, one of the most famous bands of all time will be on stage and a wave of ecstasy will ripple across this 100,000-person mob. This is our idea of fun.

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It’s difficult to know where to begin with a review when the event you’re covering spreads across 1,000 acres and has the equivalent population of Milton Keynes (around 180,000). We don’t like to talk in superlatives too often, but Glastonbury is a paragon of event excellence: the way it is organised, the visitor experience and even its ethos are to be revered.

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We spent as much time walking around the festival, pointing out what we thought worked well, as we did enjoying ourselves. Site-wide mains water, well-kept (relatively speaking) facilities, a wildly diverse food offering, even more diverse entertainment. There were chess-piece making classes ferchrissakes.

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We thought it best to whittle it down and highlight what we liked best. So we did.

The staff:

God knows how they get such good people, especially when you remind yourself how you were treated by the last person you encountered in a G4S jacket. Barring a few seniors and special security, they are largely unpaid, but despite this remain invariably friendly. As in, always asking how you are and helping out where possible.

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The people who go:

The bonhomie is clearly infectious. How so many people can be in such a good mood is baffling. One of our group, stood mid-crowd in front of the Other Stage, was moaning about the fact he had lost his sunglasses down the toilet. Shortly after, a girl came over, gave him two (two!) pairs and walked off. I mean, what even is that?! Fabulous.

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The hospitality offering:

Groups who’ve purchased hospitality tickets won’t be disappointed. The vast inter-stage space (between the Pyramid and Other Stage) is a fun and comfortable place to chill out and used as a short cut, can save you up to half an hour in high-traffic. Every year it’s decorated differently and this year’s Jules Verne theme was one of our favourites. To camp, there are a limited number of tipis available – locations don’t get much better than this. Off-site, there’s a host of super-swanky glamping options too. Camp Kerala will set you back around £6,000 for two people. Tickets included.

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The benevolence:

Eavis gives £2m away each year to Greenpeace, Water Aid and Oxfam, as well as a few other smaller charities (check out our video interview with the man himself here). Besides that, the festival’s worth over £80m to the economy. It endeavours to be kind to the environment too. Around the site, you’ll see clusters of colourful bins organised to hold different sorts of waste. Its ‘Love the Farm, Leave no Trace’ campaign reminds people to use them.

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The entertainment:

It cannot be omitted. One has a choice of 850 performances. Despite only sleeping four hours a night, we still only saw about 15 bands. Besides the cider, we filled the rest of our time watching comedy (Andrew Maxwell was hilarious) and acrobats, following carnival floats, throwing tomatoes at each other and occasionally eating on wooden thrones. Mick Jagger and his boys were obviously the cherry on the cake, though. While the performance wasn’t astounding, the atmosphere from the crowd was like no other. £205 – the price of a regular weekend ticket – is a bargain.

Did I mention the weather? Praise the lord, it was glorious.

Best bit: The Rolling fucking Stones, of course.

Room for improvement: it would seem every single genre is catered for other than hard rock/metal. We’d like to see a tent (even if it’s a small one) dedicated to those with a penchant for raising their index and little finger in the air.

Glastonbury Festival, Worthy Farm, Pilton, BA4 4BY

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