This weekend, I packed up my wellies, my raincoat, and my suncream, and headed back to somewhere I like to think of as a second home – Glastonbury Festival.
My relationship with the infamous 5-day mud-fest began back in 2008, when I was lucky enough to get work experience as a photographer of the event (the dream, I know). That year is now known as the year Jay Z headlined, and I can still remember the crowd’s roar as the opening bars of Wonderwall rang out from the Pyramid stage. I was 16, shy, timid, inexperienced, and incredibly overwhelmed, but from the moment the band was on my wrist, I was hooked. Since then, I have only missed 1 year (not counting the year the festival took a well-earned rest in 2012), in which I spent the week glued to my TV, wishing with all of me that I was with everyone else on those muddy fields. I learnt from my mistake, and have religiously attended since. Twice as a regular punter, and 3 times as a photographer.
In the few weeks before the gates to Worthy Farm opened, I finished 4 years at University, started 2 new jobs, and was spending the majority of my time between Wales and home. I was knackered, and Glastonbury was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t even know the line up before arriving in Somerset apart from the few big names being chatted about in the news, and it’s fair to say I wasn’t excited about any of them in particular. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Writing this review the morning after getting back from the muddy hills, I may still have my Glastonbury-rose-tinted-glasses on, but I’d still say this year was one of the good ones.
Glastonbury, unlike many other festivals, has space for everyone. Whether you’re into rock or pop, established artists or newcomers, music you can dance all night too, or that causes you to fall into a blissful trance, you can find it somewhere on site. From intimate settings like The Rabbit Hole, to the stages broadcasted for the world to see, each area has its own character, and it’s fair to say it’s highly unlikely you’ll visit all the venues on site (of which there are more than 50) during your week.
As this year I was lucky enough to have a press pass, the majority of my time was spent around the well-known stages, but in previous years I have thoroughly exploring the other options on offer. There’s nothing quite like stumbling across an amazing unknown band and spending a few hours dancing when you only went looking for some chips! At first glance, the line up on the main stages didn’t do a lot for me. There were a few names I knew weren’t going to disappoint, but my expectations for the rest were low. So now looking at my list of the top acts I saw this year, my opinions could not be more different from a week ago…
Bombay Bicycle Club
Without a doubt, my top pick of the weekend. I’m a big fan, so was always going to be a little biased, but with their new album bringing a fresh sound, a hybrid of world music and elctro-pop, twinned with a brief moment of sunshine and a cheeky pint (which are few and far between when your ‘working’), it was the perfect way to spend a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon. I’ll be honest, the whole scenario was so beautiful, it bought a tear to my eye (though, probably helped along by the exhaustion I was feeling 4 days in…).
I know, I know, I’m shocked too. I went to photograph their opening numbers knowing next to nothing about them, and pretty sure I was going to hate every second. Was I wrong. For starters, their opening video was genius, the perfect way to warm up the audience for what was one of the most high energy gigs I have ever witnessed. The atmosphere was electric and infectious, and I left the press pit shaking with adrenaline. I may not speak for everyone when I say this, but Metallica might have converted me to appreciate rock, in all its head-banging-guitar-solos-crazy-face-pulling glory. (I’d also like to take this moment to mention that I was briefly distracted from the action on stage by the presence of BRADLEY COOPER who had appeared in the press pit beside me. He may have not meant to, but it became incredibly harder to concentrate on getting a good photo of the performance after he flashed an awkward smile at me.)
If you’ve seen it on TV, you don’t need me to tell you how many people came to see the Queen of Country Music. The crowd resembled that of any headliner (except with more cowboy hats and blond curly wigs) and thoroughly enjoyed her set of classic hits, singing loudly to ‘9 to 5’ and ‘Jolene’. The set ended with a surprise appearance from Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, and even if the 2 on stage looked slightly awkward in their rendition of ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’, the crowd lapped it up. There’s no doubt that this year will be known as the year Dolly Parton reminded us all why we need a little country in our lives.
Other honourable mentions for me were The Royal English Ballet
(opened the stage Sunday, and their show was so beautiful it made me, and several others, cry) Paolo Nutini
(I’m a little in love with him, he could never do wrong in my eyes), Disclosure
(a controversial choice to watch rather than Kasabian on Sunday evening).
(who opened the festival the best way possible), George Ezra
(witty lyrics and catchy tunes – perfect sunny day listening), The Drystones
(local lads, folky and beautiful music).
(though outfit questionable, she followed up a pretty impressive storm with some uplifting tunes, putting the life back into her soaking wet crowd), Foxes
(particular highlight was from a male fan behind me, who passionately screamed “MARRY ME” at any quieter moment of Foxes’ set) and Michael Eavis
’ annual karaoke performance on Thursday night, which is always great to witness, and a real crowd pleaser.
Food & Drink
Glastonbury provides as much choice in vendors as it does in music, with anything from Mexican, to Chinese, to your classic sausage and chips on offer. Prices aren’t cheap, but is that really a surprise?
There’s a few places that caught my eye (and subsequently made my taste-buds oh, so happy). The first day on site, I wanted something to get me through exploring the many areas of the festival. A Breakfast Special from Manic Organic
hit the spot (drool over the picture above). Fried potatoes, a tomato sauce along with a mixture of chorizo, chickpeas, spinach and beans, it was delicious. The Tiny Tea Tent
is a permanent fixture on my must-visit list, with it’s wide range of beverages on offer to be sipped under its beautifully decorated canopies, it provides a cosy home away from home for the weary festival goer, and always gives a great view for people watching!
The aromas wafting from The Soulful Food Company
was enough to get me hooked on their healthy street food of curries and stews, almost all stating low fat, dairy and/or gluten free – at a noticeably cheaper price to theirneighbours offerings too! I loved them so much I visited them pretty much everyday.
The best of the rest…
I’m going to be bold for a moment and say that the best bits of Glastonbury are no where near the main stages.
The heart of Glastonbury is with the environmental causes it showcases. Greenpeace, Water Aid
are all pivotal in what makes this festival both unique and important in our society, lasting much longer than 1 week in June.
Greenpeace made an impact this year by placing a huge mechanical Polar Bear in their area, along with a boat-come-skatepark, highlighting how vital the Arctic is to our planet. It was one of my favourite places to spend time, with a cup of tea, a copy of the Glastonbury Free Press
, and a bag of juicy plums from the farmers market they also had there.
If those charities are the heart of the festival, then the theatre & circus fields are the funny bone. Every hour, various comedic and theatrical acts pour out onto the grass to interact and entertain the public. Whilst there, I was offered some unusual therapy by a very bright group of ‘consultants’, whilst being followed by a group of not-so-subtle spies, all overlooked by a huge giraffe… It’s surreal, it’s weird, it’s brilliant. Definitely a great option if music isn’t to your liking.
After hours, the entertainment only heightens. My top pick is Arcadia, which has moved around the site the last few years, but seems to have finally found it’s home north of the Other Stage. A huge mechanical spider, spurting fire and lasers, gymnasts swinging overhead while you move to the best in dance music. Move slightly to the left, and there’s 2 guys in overalls manoeuvring flamethrowers as if they were no more than gardens hoses, before moving onto juggling lightening and setting off flares like party poppers.
It’s welcomed abuse on the senses, and I loved every second. Once you’re warmed up, head over to Shangri-La to dance the night away… (Apparently, I never made it this far…).
Overall, it was a great year, but not my favourite. This could be for a number of reasons, probably caused by me rather than the festival itself, or maybe I’ve just come to expect so much from it after 5 years. Another review I read summed up my thoughts quite well. There was great music, a great atmosphere, (almost) great weather… there was just no WOW moment – not for me anyway.
Saying that though, there’s no denying that my obsession only grows year on year, and it’s been a pleasure to see it with the thought of writing this review afterwards in mind. It’s hard work, but it’s the best work, and I can’t knock it for a minute (even though it’s definitely only worsened the exhaustion I felt before going!). On that note, I’m going for a much needed nap, before watching it all again on iPlayer, probably coming down with Festival Flu and wishing away the days until next year… Or at least till Somersault Festival in a couple of weeks time!
All the photographs in this review are my own, if you’d like to see more, visit my blog!
These photos are property of Hannah Trott – do not use without permission.
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