Richard D North

I fear that my first Glastonbury may not be my last
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The Independent Online
Michael Eavis - the Methodist farmer who runs the Glastonbury festival with a mixture of canniness and inspiration - is looking thinner these days after a go-round with cancer. Love or loathe the event and the people it attracts, he is a great Englishman.

Michael had suggested that I should doss at Susie Deardon's place just up the road from the site. In this, probably the poshest B&B in the world, various middle-aged good eggs wondered vaguely if they might join the unwaged in ferreting into the festival through the holes in its fence which had been made by scurrilous types who then charged a tenner a time to let people in. Since Mrs Deardon's house has fabulous grounds and a Victorian spring-fed swimming pool (clear, rich in newts), it was touch and go whether Channel 4 - whose cameramen were parked there - would actually get a show at all.

My festival-going has been erratic. In 1966, I was employed to turf hippies out of tents at the Windsor Jazz Festival. I had a uniform with sergeant's stripes (intended to convey authority) and an Alsatian (intended to induce terror). The dog's lack of physical courage matched my own. We retired, not exactly hurt, but having failed utterly .

We had other work to do, anyway: I was also guarding the directors' liquor cabinet at the World Cup.

The next big bash I went to was Knebworth in 1976. I had turned 30 and decided that my life had been too carefully spent. It was a great night: Hot Tuna, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Stones. Memories of the big, fat Southern band came back clearly when I heard The Black Crowes this weekend. It may be my age and all that, but I fear Ronnie Van Zant could show them a thing or two. Still, The Crowes were good and the grumpiness I was lugging about began to slip away.

After 1976 I spent five years as a pretty competent ligger, and only retired from the scene about the time Bob Marley - the only muso I really adored both on and off stage - went and died. The best night of that period was spent talking quite bluntly with Marley about Rastafarianism, on the bus to Brighton, towards the end of his life. He did a soundcheck which was like seeing an artist's sketch of the full-blown oil painting which was to follow. Alone with a percussionist, that reedy, rather plain, voice was more psalmodic than usual.

It thrills me that the children (mine, the Deardons', probably everyone's) have Marley's picture on their walls, alongside New Men cuddling babies (if it's a girl's room) and all the gorgeous bimbos the boys can now ogle.

As the house is always full of rap, house, jungle and so on, I hied myself to Glastonbury's dance tent to listen to this stuff at proper volume. I suspect it wouldn't take much use of mood-enhancers to find this music seriously invigorating. Much later, The Hub (a tented offshoot of a Bath club, with the best light show I've ever seen) staged a live band from West London. They were drearily aggressive and kept shouting "check it out", but I suddenly realised that they were fiercely good.

About 2am, my stamina gave out and I stumbled back up the hill to Susie's through a hedge-tunelled lane. I was never more glad to get a high, medium-hard bed under my back. Refreshed, the next day I heard some good bands: but Dreadzone were exceptional.

Glastonbury attracts, of course, a good many hardish hippies and punks: the sturdy beggars with frighteningly vacant eyes in year-round tanned faces. But there was such a huge body of weekend hippies, and people who weren't hippies at all, that I fear my first Glastonbury may not be my last. As I left, a policeman with one pierced ear (no stud, of course, on duty) chatted briefly. Things can't be all bad when so many come and get drunk and stoned, and so few policemen are required to regulate them. Which, I take it, was Eavis's point all along.

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