Somewhere in a field in Somerset
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
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.