Glastonbury – Not At Good As It Used to Be?

Queue here if you think Glastonbury’s Not As Good As It Used To Be…

So here we are, two days after Glastonbury tickets went on sale, and for the first time in Lord knows when, they didn’t all sell out in minutes. In fact, there are so many left that in a somewhat desperate measure, if you didn’t register first time round, now’s your chance to do so again. Should this be seen as a cause for celebration or a national disaster? Is the festival really, genuinely, Not As Good As It Used To Be?


The answer depends on the reasons behind the apparent lack of scramble for tickets. Many bloggers are blaming Jay-Z – a less than typical Glastonbury crowd-puller. Others shout out about the price – £155 (£164 with unavoidable booking fees and postage) plus travel, food and drink for the weekend makes it an expensive holiday.

You could get a week in Greece – or Ibiza – for less, and if your budget doesn’t stretch to both, that might not be a hard choice to make. It would be a desperate irony for Glastonbury to be one of the first casualties of climate change but perhaps successive years of bad weather have finally taken their toll.

As the mud becomes deeper, let’s not forget that we now have a generation of kids who have grown up under such an increasingly ludicrous and restrictive Health and Safety culture that many have missed out on the outdoor activities older music fans grew up enjoying, and as such consider it an affront to their human rights to be denied access to television, a PSP2 and a warm shower twice a day.

This last in particular has been cited by friends in recent years as the reason their teenaged kids choose to stay at home and watch Glasto on the telly instead. Free entry over the fence is also a thing of the past.

So, even more sadly, is the sense of freedom that once existed within Glastonbury’s hallowed fields. It used to be a place where the normal rules did not apply, where many a blind eye was turned and you could succumb to most indulgences safe in the knowledge that no-one was looking over your shoulder. That, too, went out of the window last year, as overbearing security guards whipped spliffs out of the mouths of anyone daring to light up (assuming, of course, they had survived the sniffer dogs on the buses en route and the bag-searches at the gate). This was not the Glastonbury we had come to know and love.

A knock-on effect of the weather last year was that atmospheric conditions contributed to the poor quality of sound on the Pyramid Stage. The Eavises could do little to help that, but there’s much they can do prevent the holy grail of festivals from sliding too far into the corporate mud. Friendlier stewards for one – people who might think about treating you like someone who’s spent the best part of a week’s wages coming to their show, rather than a crack addict on the lookout for their next murder victim.

I object – strongly – to being asked a second time whether my rucksack contains drugs by a steward who issues a warning that I am breaking the law if I lie after I have replied ‘no’ first time round. I object even more to being asked if I smoke and then, when I answer that I don’t, being lectured on where I can and can’t have a fag on-site regardless. Courtesy takes very little effort but makes a world of difference. Entering Glastonbury Festival should not be akin to a lecture from your prissiest maiden aunt. And in the UK, we are innocent until proven guilty.

Greater genuine accessibility to younger fans might also be another option to stop the rot. Rather than patronising nonsense such as making tickets available via mobile phone as well as the internet, what about a reduced rate for under 21’s or full-time students? £50 say, or something else they may be more likely to afford? A colleague is going for the first time this year at the age of 29 not only because it’s something he must do before he’s 30 but because this is the first year he’s been able to afford it.

Glastonbury used to be special. It used to be a weekend when you could expect to be transported to another planet, free from the mundane world outside, were there was a different (and often better) set of morals, and the doors of perception would open in more ways than one. That special feeling wasn’t there last year, and the rain and the mud wasn’t the only reason.

Of course, Glastonbury now has to compete with other festivals. Some smaller, some cleaner, some more family-friendly. Bestival does most things Glastonbury does, and in the most part does them better in all but size. But size isn’t everything. Other festivals still have the feeling of freedom you used to get on Worthy Farm before security was placed before it.

Finally, this year, more than probably any other, most festivals have better music. Deliberately trying to shove a genre of music you know is not your average customer’s favourite down their throats is not a clever business move. It’s as patronising and wrong-headed as trying to be down wiv da kidz by accusing them of being too stupid to use a computer.

Last year’s Glastonbury was, pretty much, hell. Bearable hell in places – Arctic Monkeys in the rain, Justice in the Dance Tent – but hell nonetheless. On a particularly cold, wet, miserable moment in the middle of Sunday afternoon, a thought slid into my head that had never shown its face there before: "If I don’t get tickets next year, it wouldn’t be the end of the world". I pushed it out immediately, but if this year’s ticket sales experience doesn’t act as the wake up call it should be, next year I may have to listen.

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  • Sean

    As well as the weather, there were simply too many people on the site. Adding an extra 30,000 capacity wasn’t a good idea IMO. I’ve been most years since 1999, and I’m just not bothered about going this year.

  • Emily

    Totally agree with this blog and its such a shame. It really was another world, a real shame that its losing that spark and energy it always had 🙁
    I’ve also heard a few people blaming Emily Eavis’ growing involvement in the festival’s organisation.

  • Gabriel

    Don’t be so miserable. So you had a couple of arsey stewards and didn’t have enough drugs. I did and it was brilliant!

  • Michael Hubbard

    I gather the Lost Vagueness element has gone, not long after Arabella Churchill departed for the big gin palace in the sky. That’s all a great pity.
    And Jay-Z can be seen by Londoners at Wireless, and Neil Young at the Hop Farm fest, Vince Power’s new one. Kings of Leon are everywhere. They’re not headliners that are especially unique.
    It’s probably a good thing that it’ll maybe be smaller this year though. It was getting too big.

  • Bek

    I love lost vagueness but last year there were definately more observers than participants… that lost it for me

  • Louise

    Totally agree. My family had been glasto-goers for years and it was always seen as a special, almost sacred place of release from the restrictions of the outside world. It seems to me that the outside world has penetrated even Glastonbury, and I think this should be cause for serious concern. I find it so bizarre that so much emphasis should be put on security and on not taking illegal drugs when alcohol, which tends to close the doors of perception is so readily available, and even encouraged. It’s very sad that this special place seems to have been tarnished, and that instead of hearing a tribal, communal drumming coming from the stones there are now only drunken voices and tinny radios. I wont be returning to Worthy Farm until the festival is once again Worthy.

  • bryan

    Its nice people can still get tickets after day one! The ticket scramble no doubt linked to radio 1 hype is actually relatively recent. I can’t help feeling the organisers are damned whatever they do..(though the new ‘rent a tipi’ field was far too contrived) All said and done, I’m sure come June there be plenty of the old festival magic to be had.

  • Jamil

    I think of lot of people just want something different, even for Glastonbury. The bigger festivals have all homogenised themselves in one way or another, esspecially in terms of lineups and the extras and Glasto is no exception.
    I still found the atmodsphere to be good but the stewards were noticaebly on a power trip, compared to a few years ago, where even the police would turn a blind eye to things (within reason).
    Last year, my second, it felt less like that strangely brilliant feeling you get when you first go.
    I was just drained from it, be it partying, the washout or the 7-hour wait to get out of the car park. I did have many good moments but I don’t feel like going through it again for a while.

  • Darren

    I was supposed to go this year but the friends I was travelling with pulled out becuase of the price and last year’s mud. To be honest those things don’t bother me, but the 7 hour hypothermia-enducing wait in the freezing rain for National Express to pull their bloody fingers out is an experience I’d rather not endure again. There’s no way I’m going to suffer that on my own.
    Last year a lot of the festivals seemed to have the same line up so I think people are more savvry with regards to the alternatives. I’m leaning towards Latitude which sounds great this year.
    Re Jay-Z – I’m not too bothered- it’s not like you’re going to be short of stuff to do if you don’t like him, but I’m naturally suspicious of anything that’s re-vamped to be “down with the kids” (BBC3 being a case in point).
    Children are annoying. That’s why we don’t let them do anything fun until they’re grown up.

  • I thought the editorial very well written and thought out. I, for one, had the pleasure of my first Glastonbury Festival last year, even at the great age I am (?) and not only did I meet, what appears to be the worst continual weather, but actually had the pleasure of walking from the Pilton side to the Green Futures up to 5 times a day to get interviews and find my way through the massed area around the Pyramid Stage – especially just prior to DSB’s gig, now that was something else, I met them both ways before and after. The Avalon Tent was, well, hip replacing, the mud was so deep and the missed interviews soon added up. But, and the big But is although after a lifetime of being involved in and around the music business – it was enjoyable. Mostly very friendly – even the toilets (no – only kidding me and Festival Toilets another story) but we hacked it. The Story’s just off the Elton John Tour, were incredible and wonderful guys, I even followed Gaynor O’Flynn’s flying stage trips gaining the Glastonbury World Record of number of stages played, and the Police, both real and non-real (Green Police) were reflective, kind and in the case of the Green Police – well simply Fun. But then I was under the premise of being ‘under cover’ – a roving reporter, a covert interloper. Had I been younger and under the influence of a ‘Splif’ well who knows. Those interviews that I can play will soon be on do have a listen – it’s a newly fledged station for musicians and people around the world. Well that out of the way – after speaking to Michael Eavis and probably being the last interviewer of the late Arabella Churchill I do hope that Glastonbury becomes more like it used to be, more free’er – perhaps more like Sunrise Celebration – now if you really want to get the feel of the Festival Scene that I remember (and I went to what is thought of as the first at Windsor Race Course, Balloom Meadow – sometime in the forgotten middle 60’s, then make sure you’ve booked and if they ask you just say that I, Michael at sent you because that was a beautiful time and everyone was just wonderful for the whole family.
    Knowing Michael E, who has given a lot of his time and life (forget the Mean Fiddler group (what an apt name) and I believe new owners (?) he would love it to be once again just like Sunrise is and for as long as Sunrise can sustain both financially and in its -smallness!

  • RM

    I’m lucky enough to have been at a sucession of brilliant Glastobury’s when it’s been the highlight of my year – but 2007 [apart from the Hold Steady and John E Vistic] wasn’t one of them, and I haven’t registered this year. I can put up with rain and mud – the combination of them and 30k more people didn’t work though and it must have been really bad for people who took kids.Punters didn’t move around as much as usual and the new area which was supposed to justify the extra numbers was always pretty quiet[ as well as very slippery] – as a result it was much more difficult to get near the main stages than in the past and further back the sound was poor, especially for The Killers. Really sad – Glasto is blissful at its best – but then Jay-Z doesn’t do it for me either and isn’t bling at odds with what Glastonbury stands for ? – but maybe I’m maligning him there as rap isn’t really my thing. Really hope next years Glasto looks better – summer won’t be the same without it

  • Chris

    To Emily and Michael… Neither of my kids are going this year. My 17 year old and her friends aren’t going to bunk off school for a rapper!You left that lot — puzzled.
    The older one aged 24 and his crowd of the 22 of them including cousins and friends, that shared a circle of tents last year ( between 22 years old and 30) have done a head count — only 2 are going. The reasons are varied, but the choice of musicians partcularly the rapper- left them wondering who the organisors were trying to attract, it certainly wasn’t the regulars.
    As an ex hippy rock music lover and regular rock concert goer myself, (also a Glasto regular) i read from you Emily that we wern’t welcome any longer, You Michael backed her up in another article, and then you booked — Neil Diamond ! Are you Kidding Neil Diamond !! His following was the people of my generation who don’t and never have been to Glasto! I have paid the cancellation fee on my old farts rented camper van, rather than go where i am not wanted, and my wife and friends who all registered, as we do — just decided that a combination of not being wanted, weird musician selection, means we will just give it a miss this year, as our own personal protest after you the organisors lost the plot. I have just come back from France, and to my amazement, thousands upon thousands of others did the same. Our total group was 6 teens, 22 twenty somethings , and 4 old farts last year in three groups around the site. Thats 32 last year. All musos. All ages. All regulars .This year its 2.
    Its not the mud. Its not the money. Its the music. And being dissed… I so hope you get it back together next year …
    Emily if you read this — the Glasto crowd is not ageist like you are. We all share a love of music and at our best share a magic few days of festival spirit of harmony and colourful diversity. We have done since the first one. Hell the Bath festival the year before the first one too! You blew it. Please get it together next year . We will miss glasto…

  • Michael
  • Kate

    It wasn’t the weather, the money or even the line up that put me off this year. It was simply the atmosphere last year. Something fundamentally changed and the whole place felt different. The sense of calm and contentment, which normally balances the hedonism so well, was lacking.
    Watching the Killers became a complete disaster and not for the poor sound quality. A group of young lads decided it would be great idea to pee into their empty cups and throw it all over us pretending it was beer. Now I don’t mind mud, I don’t mind not showering for 5 days and I don’t mind the overenthusiastic people but i sure as hell mind being covered in urine! What ever happened to the friendly, laid back atmosphere where everyone, young and old, had a common goal – to escape reality for a few days, get on with everyone and have a great time?
    None of our usual crowd are returning this year and I doubt we’ll be back until some of the old magic returns.

  • Jennifer Cole

    Kate – you’re absolutely right and what you say hits the nail on the head. Something was different, but you can’t entirely put your finger on what. Different people, a different attitude… just something *different*. For me, this started with the heavy-handed and rude security at the gate on the way in and never really pulled itself back.
    There was a time when nothing – but nothing – would have even begun to make me think I would ever willingly miss Glastonbury, but not any more. Right up until the moment I (okay, my better half) got a ticket this year there were times when I wondered if I could really be bothered to try and whether it would even be worth it if I did succeed.
    More than half of the reason I went ahead with getting a ticket this year was that after so many good memories of Glastonburys past, I genuinely want to believe that last year’s atmosphere was the fault of nothing more than the weather/odd atmospheric conditions/another unlikely excuse and that this year, as if by magic, the ‘old’ Glastonbury spirit will be back.
    I don’t want such a shitty Glastonbury to be my last – in the same way that I wouldn’t want my last conversation with a dying relative to be an argument. In a way, if this year is no better, to some extent I’ll accept that and leave sad and disappointed, but at least with some feeling of closure. I gave it another chance.
    What worries me is that it’s like your local independent cafe has closed down and a Starbucks has opened in its place. The Starbucks may not last forever but the danger is, even if it went away, could things ever go back to the way they were? I guess we’ll find out in June…

  • Fred Phoesh

    Is there a name for a woman wanker? At Glastonbury, Amy Winehouse’s band was fantastic, but I was embarrassed for them and those fabulous backing singers/dancers.
    She sang off key at least half the time, turned her good songs into floppy mulch and became one sad cliche’. Someone needs to explain to her last remaining, working brain cell, that it just aint so poetic, artistic, and cewl to be stoned out of your head, especially when your performance becomes so mediocre and lacking in charisma, energy, style.
    Amy stumbled around like a first year art school student trying desperately to be oh so weird, but all she proved is how darn unimaginative she has become, so dull, predictable and sadly, so boring.
    wake up stupid girl, or go away.