Not going to Glasto is a rite of passage too

The festival is merely a version of historical re-enactment. It's not alive

Share

“John Humphrys is explaining Glastonbury to Middle England”, said the tweet on Saturday morning. There was something odd about that sentence, and it wasn’t the image of the least rock’n’roll man in Britain elbowing his way towards the mosh-pit. It was the idea that Middle England needed to have Glastonbury explained to it. After all, Middle England has Glastonbury in its bones these days. It’s a part of life. Young couples in the park are smiling upon their toddlers in the sandpit and thinking, “Can’t wait to take her to her first festival”.

Being a devout believer that rock’n’roll should have a roof on it, I have never been to Glastonbury. I have none the less watched it grow over the past 20 years into as inescapable a feature of British life as the Young Conservatives and the Gang Show were when I was a child, and every bit as conventional. Anything less alternative than Glastonbury would be hard to imagine. Instead we live in a culture of display and young people want to go to “Glasto” like they want to go to the similarly abbreviated “uni” – less because they feel they might benefit from the experience and more because they fear that it won’t look right if they don’t.

Its growing popularity has been boosted by an explosion in media united in their eagerness to get the slightest piece of it. The difficulty of obtaining Glastonbury tickets, even for those accustomed to being waved past the red rope at hot-ticket events, has helped. Everybody wants to make sure they can go back next year so the media keep the log rolling. Their enthusiasm sells papers, pushes ratings and drives clicks. Social media has provided afterburners. The people on the inside can be relied upon to enthuse about “the vibe”. The people on the outside can equally be relied upon to mutter darkly about what saps they all look. Neither side pays much attention to the other. It’s a very English win-win.

How did this happen? Television. Live Aid was  the television spectacular that changed outdoor  gig-going from something for the intrepid to something your neighbours do. Nobody’s put off by the sums of money involved, nor by the fact that most festivals’ headliners were past their best many decades ago. The audience enters a pact with the act. In exchange for pretending that you’re not listening to a load of old rope you go home with the feeling that you’ve really been witness to – and here I quote a particularly blush-making BBC pronouncement on last Saturday’s appearance of the Rolling Stones at Glastonbury – “music history being made”. In fact, nobody was paying much attention when that history was actually being made, mostly in clubs and small halls across the United States and in the UK. Anything on this scale is more like historical re-enactment, another thing Middle England understands.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker