GLASTONBURY FESTIVAL: Enter the promised land of dirt, dope and weird dancing: Free spirits crowd into a field to do everything their mothers told

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The Independent Online
IT WAS about as hard to get into Glastonbury yesterday as any fabled promised land. The cars stretched in a bumper-to-bumper queue for more than 10 miles. Like the path to heaven, the road to the festival is winding and the gate exceedingly small.

Those who made it inside, however, entered a different country. The lush, scented Somerset country lanes gave way to a plain of rutted fields and dotted tents. Here, inmates worshipped at the twin altars of dirt and dope. The only rule: to tune in, chill out, and experience the music.

The festival-goers all displayed their free-living faith in much the same way. They wore their hair dirty, dyed and dreadlocked, and their clothes in pieces or not at all. They took off their boots and carried them, picking painfully over the stony paths. They were also tolerant of much that would be laughed at elsewhere - goatees, nakedness and weird dancing.

But while adopting the dress of Dickensian beggars, they tended toward the harsh Victorian view of children. Babies were carried by their parents, dazed and cold, through the throng of stalls and cacophonous loudspeakers. Up in the Healing Field, a mother in tie- dye and dreadlocks smiled approvingly as her toddler brandished a chopping knife from the sleeve of her grubby babygrow.

A perpetual stream of people moved constantly up and down the paths as the light faded and the fireworks began. In dark corners black men lurked, muttering 'Hash . . . hash' under their breath. Campers scavenged for wood and tent sites. 'It's nice and there aren't many people there yet,' a boy assured his girlfriend. Nearby, another girl was comforting her friend. 'What's the matter? Have you taken something?' she asked sympathetically.

Despite paternalistic warnings in the official programme - 'Loos are provided. Please use them. As your mother used to say, wash your hands afterwards' - the tap outside the portable lavatories was dry. But as most people were busy trying to do anything but what their mother had told them, it did not seem to matter.

The whole point of Glastonbury was to get thoroughly dirty, explained Robert and Dave, 19-year- old students from Liverpool University. They were rolling a joint a few feet from Natalie and Jo, 23, from Maidstone. 'The boys are too smelly to hassle us,' they said. 'They have a really laidback attitude.'

This attitude was all to do with the end of the 2,000-year astrological cycle, according to Mike Lyons of the Isis stall. 'Since Uranus and Neptune began their transit through Capricorn we've had the breakdown of the Conservative government and the Berlin Wall. Now crystals are everywhere, powering computers via the silicone chip . . .'

Other stall holders were putting filthy lucre before philosophy. Zen Foods was doing a cracking trade in cucumber and seaweed salad. The Real Meat Sausage Company was slugging it out with the Natural Nosh Food Co. Next door the legal drugs stall rose surreally above it all by plying opium lettuce, aphrodisiac mandrake and euphoric hart's deep. 'It's the nearest thing to cocaine,' the bearded stall holder was telling a nervous customer.

The sun was setting fiery yellow and orange. On stage a band was singing: 'You're lovely and jubbly teacake, feel the blue skies open, feel the space all around you.' Peace, dirt and harmony reigned. Then a warden with a blond mohican tore through the crowd. 'Attempted child abduction and stabbing. Over,' he panted into his radio phone.

It had to happen. For someone, somewhere, the dream had ended in tears.

(Photograph omitted)

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