Glastonbury A Cut Above

by James Hendicott

Glastonbury is due to unfurl across our TV screens (ah, the benefits of having the BBC) over the coming days, and once again make a difficult-to-dispute claim to be one of the very best music festivals in the world.

Your humble entertainment correspondent is not, on this occasion, heading for the glorious and often muddy fields of Pilton this summer – tickets are like gold dust, and alongside my seven previous successful attempts to attend the highlight of the summer, I’m approaching a similar number of failures. Against my own interests, I can only encourage anyone able to get themselves over to make the trip.

Why? Glastonbury has a scale and of a depth that is almost unimaginable in Ireland, making the likes of Electric Picnic and Body and Soul – highly respectable events in their own right – look like cheap copies. Plus, Glastonbury has less rules (bring your own beer, for one), and hands all its profits to charity.

Think over 100 stages, five days of action (okay, three main ones, but you’ll hardly be bored the other two, and turning up on Wednesday is the norm), mammoth headliners and equally mammoth secret appearances, and that’s before you get into the (easily half) of the festival that sets music aside entirely.

Exploring the gigantic fields of the place unveils entire corners dedicated to green ideas, political debates, children’s entertainment, wild dystopian nightlife, circus skills, beautiful ‘freak shows’, and much, much more., and for five days it simply doesn’t stop. There’s a giant metallic spider with acrobats and flamethrowers, and a wall of death for motorbikes in a small tent. Major musical names pop up on stages hosting no more than fifty people and perform sets that become the stuff of legend. There’s even a hidden stone dragon.

Catching it on TV, even with a cider in one hand, a heatwave for the daytime and a shower readily available, is at best a very poor approximation, but for this summer, it’s all we’ve got.

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