Cries and Whispers: Anarchy rules! So long as someone else is paying

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Indy Lifestyle Online
FRIDAY, 23 JUNE, 1995, and a bus with molten seats is bumping along the country roads that connect Castle Cary station to Worthy Farm, home of the Glastonbury Festival. In the back seat, a man in red jeans and a V-necked T-shirt is holding court, proudly instructing his fellow passengers how to sneak on to the site. "Stealth and patience, that's what you need," he says, with the air of a man who could get onto Concorde without paying. "You got a ticket?" he asks a boy in the seat in front. The boy hesitates, embarrassed. "Yes ... but I'll probably sell it when I get to the gate ..."

For Red Jeans Man and his disciples, climbing the fence is as central to the Glasto experience as poor personal hygiene. It's not that they make a habit of trespassing, it's just that for one weekend a year, different rules apply. It's part of the whole rock'n'roll, counter-cultural, smash- the-system spirit of the event, they say. Besides, the Festival falls on an ancient druidic bank holiday, and this great land of Albion is ours to roam across as we please, particularly when there are a few of our favourite bands roaming nearby. This time last year the Big Issue even ran a cover story on why breaking into Glastonbury was the thing to do.

But as the old saying almost goes, there's no such thing as a free festival. Blur, Pulp and Primal Scream don't go to Somerset because they love camping, and the money required to pay them - like the money that provides staging, staff, toilets (not always worth the cash) and courtesy buses to take people to and from the site - comes from anyone who has bought a ticket.

Every part of Glastonbury's organisation has to be paid for by someone, which is what makes gatecrashing such a horribly cynical bit of anti-socialism. The perpetrators don't really believe the Festival should be free for all: they're fully aware that it's only free for them because 90,000 other people have coughed up. And if expecting your peers to subsidise your entertainment weren't insulting enough, it's especially offensive to guarantee that those others have a much worse time because of you. Twenty thousand people gatecrashed Glastonbury in 1995, and by the Sunday, the entire site was like Oxford Street on the Saturday before Christmas, with all the comfort, safety and rural relaxation that go with it.

And it's not just the paying customers who are being robbed. After 1995's Festival, its founder, Michael Eavis, handed over half a million pounds to Greenpeace, Oxfam, WaterAid and numerous other green, human-rights and local charities. I wonder how many people consider nicking CDs from an Oxfam shop, or magazines from a Big Issue seller, to be a wholly justifiable, nay heroically anarchic, action.

Mind you, I'm getting a press ticket for nothing, so who am I to talk?