Weekend drop-outs tune up for wet Glastonbury

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The Independent Culture

As the invasion of middle-class bohemians, weekend drop-outs and the occasional old-fashioned crustie got under way at the Glastonbury Festival yesterday, the storm clouds that had marred Wednesday and created muddy puddles underfoot at last cleared.

As the invasion of middle-class bohemians, weekend drop-outs and the occasional old-fashioned crustie got under way at the Glastonbury Festival yesterday, the storm clouds that had marred Wednesday and created muddy puddles underfoot at last cleared.

And though both sturdy boots and wellies remained the footwear of the festival-wise, those traders advertising waterproofs and wellingtons looked temporarily disappointed - but with the likely satisfaction of a killing if the rain returns tomorrow as predicted.

By last night, around 100,000 people had poured onto the 900-acre site at Pilton in Somerset, with most of the rest of the 112,500 ticket-holders and around 40,000 traders, security and other workers expected on by the time formal proceedings kick off at 11am today.

The England vs Portugal football provided a rousing warm-up last night with as many people watching the game on the special giant screens at Michael Eavis's farm as in the stadium in Lisbon, festival organisers claimed. The screens were laid on after fears that the event would otherwise face a post-match influx from local pubs in the dark.

Today the music begins with performances by Franz Ferdinand, The Kings of Leon and Oasis, nearly a decade after they first headlined the Pyramid stage. Tomorrow sees Black Eyed Peas and Paul McCartney with James Brown, Morrissey and the farewell gig by Orbital rounding things off on Sunday.

Michael Eavis, who has organised the festival on his dairy farm for most of the past 30 years, issued a message of welcome in the programme wishing everyone "a wonderful time''. He apologised that it had proved so difficult to get a ticket, when the tremendous demand caused the online booking system to crash. It was "a selling nightmare that must not be repeated,'' Mr Eavis said. "Next year, we will have in place a system that will be much easier to use, but of course this doesn't mean that more people can come ... our farm is simply up to capacity.'' These days, the common lament is of a commercialised Glastonbury, dominated by traders of all kinds eager to make a quick buck by offering every type of cuisine or the latest fashions. But those who remember the days of trench loos, and the impossibility of finding any of your friends, are more grateful for the solar-powered showers and the mobile phone recharging facilities. The clampdown on security, instituted when breaches of the perimeter fence threatened the chances of the event securing a licence in future, have made it safer than the edgy Nineties when festival-goers often returned to find that their tents had been stolen. Police reported a total of nine crimes and 16 arrests in the first day this year, mainly for minor drugs offences. There were no robberies and no assaults - at least until darkness fell.

And despite the criticism that the event has become too demure and middle-class, there is still something worthy about a long weekend on Mr Eavis's Worthy Farm.

This year left-wing politics are much in evidence with the addition of the trade union Amicus in the Left Field designed as a hotbed of political discussion. Tony Benn, who has become a surprise hit in recent years, returns again and other speakers include Naomi Klein and Billy Bragg.

And, as every year, several charities stand to share in around £1.3m that Mr Eavis donates from proceeds. The principal beneficiaries are Greenpeace, Oxfam, Wateraid and a number of local projects.

John Sauven, campaign director of Greenpeace, which has benefited from this generosity for the past 12 years, said Mr Eavis was their most important individual donor. "The festival has provided Greenpeace - and Oxfam, and Wateraid - with millions of pounds' worth of income," Mr Sauven said.

But what was almost as important is the profile it offers, in terms of branding on the stages and on the tickets, in recruiting new members and in gaining celebrity supporters through encounters with the performers.

"It's a great way of getting in touch with a new, younger generation. It makes the issues very real,'' he said.

THIS YEAR'S ACTS

Friday 25 June

Oasis, Nelly Furtado, Groove Armada, P J Harvey, Kings of Leon, Chemical Brothers, I Am Kloot, The Rapture, Badly Drawn Boy, Franz Ferdinand, Goldfrapp, Spiritualised, the Levellers, DJ Dave Clarke and Chicks On Speed.

Saturday 26 June

Paul McCartney, Sister Sledge, Starsailor, Black Eyed Peas, Basement Jaxx, Keane, the Von Bondies, Jamie Cullum, Joss Stone, Zero 7, Tim Booth and the Hothouse Flowers.

Sunday 27 June

Muse, English National Opera (Wagner's Ring Cycle), James Brown, Supergrass, Morrissey, Amy Winehouse, Orbital, the Divine Comedy, Belle And Sebastien, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Suzanne Vega.

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