I once offended almost everyone in the country by exclaiming on national radio that I prefer Glastonbury to Christmas Day. OK — I take it back. But once Christmas Day turns into Boxing Day morning I have one thing in mind: summer festivals.
I grew up in Manchester during Oasis’ imperial moment, but I was too young to go to Knebworth. My first insight into summer festivals was via my older brother’s tales. It set me off on a mission to go to a field and lose it with my friends. That happened one summer in Leeds aged 15 or 16, a time before Instagram feeds of flower crowns. I didn’t know what to expect or how to handle it — and the experience was equal measures charming and terrifying. My initial thought was, “This is disgusting and I am going to die.” It was loud, lawless and dirty.
Slipknot were playing and some legend had set the toilets on fire. With one eye on the masked rockers and one on the fire, I was half living my best rock life and half concerned about inhaling burning shit. We slept in a Ford Fiesta. What a time to be alive, I thought.
"My initial thought was: 'This is disgusting and I am going to die'..."
I didn’t know it then, but I was to spend nearly every summer weekend of my twenties and thirties in a field. I’ve been to festivals all over the world but nothing compares to that thrill of arriving at Glastonbury. And I know everyone says it, but everyone is right — it is hands down the wildest weekend of summer anywhere in the world. “But Coachella is fun, right?” Wrong. I actually find it offensive when people say Coachella is a festival. I mean, sure it’s outside and there is music — but it just doesn’t quench my thirst. It is room temperature flat Pepsi to Glastonbury’s ice cold Coca-Cola.
Maybe my love of Worthy Farm is based on nostalgia. In 2003, my first Glastonbury, I was there as a radio plugging assistant. Unsure as to what I was meant to be doing, I spent my time wandering around, striking up a friendship with my now number one festival compadre Annie Mac, and somehow making it onto the pyramid stage to perform as part of a choir.
It was a real wet one that year. I camped with my friend Alex and she showed me the Glasto ropes, traipsing around the healing fields, staying up till sunrise at the stone circle, starting campfires with strangers and conjuring up ideas of never leaving. We were working with a new Vegas band called The Killers, who were also Glasto first-timers. We escorted them to interviews, introduced them to the Eavis family and hassled John Peel for a fan photo.
That first one was a life-defining moment. On the way back I thought: “Is this… work? Could I count this as work?”
"We were working with a new Vegas band called The Killers..."
As an 18-year-old about to embark on adulthood, I was scared of transitioning into the working world. But at Glastonbury none of the adults felt grown up. They didn’t look bored or complain of being tired. Instead, everyone had this passion for bands, passion for people and a passion for getting drunk all day. What a holy trinity.
I’ve been to every Glastonbury since. Aged 18 to infinity. No two years are the same, though the hangovers get worse. I feel I could write a book of wild stories — but I’ve probably forgotten them already.
One year Pete Doherty kung-fu kicked me down the stairs of a winnebago. (The Klaxons were furious at this, and off they plodded, dressed as mushrooms, to “sort him out.”) There was the time we took my 15-year-old niece with a stick-on handle-bar moustache to Block 9 with Scissor Sisters and raved till dawn. And we can’t forget the time my great friend Gillian saved a flooded mobile home by diving in and removing the offending object from the toilet. She threw it over the fence and saved the day. We later learnt that the other side of the fence was headlining act Muse’s VVIP compound. Apologies to Muse.
"Slipknot were playing and some legend had set the toilets on fire..."
It’s weird to think it but I’ve had some of the best moments of my life standing in a field in Britain. When I was at school my parents forced me to do a Duke Of Edinburgh award. They said it “builds character”, and I’m sure it does. But nothing puts hairs on your chest more than a weekend knee-deep in mud and human faeces and having a cider for breakfast.
This feature was originally published in the June/July issue of Gentleman’s Journal. Get your copy here…