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Somewhere in a field in Somerset

Kath Owen

 

MuddyGlastonbury 2005 has been dubbed the best festival ever, and it certainly started with a crash and bang.  But for the tens of thousands of campers who were wakened by the incredible thunderstorm and the rain that followed, Friday could only improve after the early morning.  Those of us working there had crisis meetings as all the plans changed.  Concerns that neither stages not beer tents would be operational were eventually put to rest and finally the Glasto magic took hold.

 

As a relatively uncorporatised festival, Glastonbury retains its own unique atmosphere.  A genuine mixture of people and music allows for a plethora of experiences.  All of life is there: from the kids on their first festival to middle aged ravers, wannabe hippies with their homemade muesli to the it-girls trying to blag it backstage.  I can’t confirm George Galloway took a spin through the fields in his Merc, but rumour has it… (Allegedly!)

 

But for 2005, it came down to two types of festival goer – the haves and the have nots.  Wellies, that is.  Not being able to face the two hour queue and police cordon I remained without and prayed for sunshine to dry up the floods.

 

If you could struggle through the mud there were some superb bands waiting.  The Tears gig in the John Peel tent re-delivered the Anderson/Butler partnership to a grateful audience.  Some may have hoped for a few Suede classics but the new material has its own worth and still generated shouts of “We Love You!” from the bedraggled crowd.

 

Rufus Wainwright’s floral suit with matching tie and shirt threatened to outshine his performance but the quality of his song writing, complete with orchestra and guest appearance by sister Martha marked his out as one of the special gigs of the weekend.  I would definitely recommend catching him on tour if you can.

 

The Sunday night headliner on the Pyramid Stage would be a challenging slot for any group, but the absence of Kylie put extra pressure on Bassment Jaxx to deliver the goods.  But with a storming ‘Good Luck’ to start they proceeded to put on a memorable show – including elements of a Caribbean carnival – which kept even those at the top of the hill dancing all night.

 

But it wasn’t just the music on the agenda this year.  Having not been to Galstonbury for a few years, I was looking forward to visiting the Leftfield for a spot of progressive politics.  This combination of music, comedy and political debate will no doubt bring new people into politics and new ideas into the progressive movements.  It may also help to drag the trade union movement into the twenty-first century!  Saturday afternoon was a good time to be there, for the Refugee Council sponsored stand-up comedy slot.  This co-incided with the Make Poverty History “moment” on the mainstage when Saint Bob and the festival organiser Michael Eavis brought the MPH presence to a head by encouraging the crowds to hold hands and shout the slogan.  I had already decided to avoid this, having had enough of the ‘Click’ adverts and heartfelt pleas from Bono and Coldplay’s Chris Martin on the big screens.  There’s only so much sanctimonious celebrity I can stomach in one weekend.  So instead, we in the Leftfield listened to Mark Steel who was as topical as ever.  It was just a shame we forgot to mark the “moment”!

 

The MPH overload throughout the festival had annoyed me so much that I made an effort to avoid Coldplay’s headliner set.  The combination of bland politics and bland music is just too demoralising!  Other trade unionists working on the bar alongside me agreed – if the majority of Britons prefer the sentiments of Coldplay/MPH there’s much hope for radical progressive politics!

 

At the close of the festival the message that Eavis is holding off the next one till 2007 to “keep the music fresh” was filtering through.  I don’t know about the music: I’’ll take anything over Keane any day.  On the politics side there is a danger that celebrity sponsored campaigns could detract from the alternative nature of this festival.  So have a year off Michael.  As long as you keep the politics fresh, that’s alright by me.

 

July 2005

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