Harriet Walker: Let's inject a bit of Glastonbury into regimented old Wimbledon

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The Independent Online

We all know what we're supposed to do at this time of year: go out and buy crummy Union Jack hats, eat strawberries and cream, and wail about the latest British hopeful almost/nearly/just about getting through the early rounds at Wimbledon.

The truth is no British hopeful could win if you gave them a racket the size of Texas and grafted Mark Philippoussis's arms on to their pigeon-chested torso. That's just not how it works.

The tournament is all about formula, and it's as stultifyingly rigid as a quadratic equation: sad people plus patriotic nonsense divided by an almost entirely false sense of suspense equals massive let-down, yet again. Of course, some of the familiarity comes from the fact Wimbledon, in all its institutional glory, is one of the only sports events not to have been wrested from the BBC's grasp.

There are those who would cry real human tears at the very idea of its hopping channels, but others might whimper with relief at not having to look at Sue Barker for two weeks every summer until they die.

Like the Test cricket and the footie, there's a chance Wimbledon could blossom in the arms of another broadcaster – though not ITV, because we all know what they did to the Boat Race. But Channel 4 perhaps might unearth some hitherto unseen aspects of the tournament that could revolutionise its wearying regularity.

Our Wimbledon is the BBC's Wimbledon; the predictability with which the golden oldie clips are shown, the same celeb faces wheeled out, participants and inanimate objects given fey, Enid Blyton-esque appellations, may well be solely the fault of the corporation. Who's to say that Wimbledon done another way wouldn't focus on the petty rivalries or, say, the international strawberry shortage? It would be fascinating to see whether another take on Wimbledon could make it a bit cooler.

It's astonishing and depressing that, over the same weekend, Wimbledon and Glastonbury should represent the different faces of Britain. One is ruddy-cheeked and plastered in cheap facepaint, the other spattered with mud and Lord knows what else. But Wimbledon could learn a lot from its rocking rival – Glastonbury is one of those things that foreigners think are good about Britain. Granted, they're going by the pap shots of Alexa Chung looking pristine in her Hunters, rather than all the narced-up trance fairies or men dressed as pagan gods and Willie Nelson. But still. No one could accuse Wimbledon of not being an admirably well-oiled machine, but that's part of its problem. The play and the people have become so robotic that the whole shebang has lost its charm entirely.

And all the socio-parochial baloney that comes along with it – the faux-camaraderie, the parochial humour, the "traditions" and the triteness – are dull. Not funny or entertaining, and – let's face it – in a sport where most of the major players have little to no personality of their own, Wimbledon could do with a shot of charisma.

It's a place of pilgrimage for overgrown Blue Peter viewers, which should have gone the way of church and the WI. Glastonbury, meanwhile, goes from strength to strength by evolving to modern tastes.

Fashion designer Alex Noble, who has dressed Lady Gaga, created a particularly frightening themed frock for a Wimbledon sponsor's party last week and it stands as perfect synecdoche for the whole tournament, really: you can glitz it all up with flags and bunting, and ladle on some double cream but, fundamentally, Wimbledon is just a load of old balls.