Mud & Music. 28 June 2011 Intrepid reporter Hannah Schmitz makes her Glastonbury debut.

I had never been to a festival before. I love music and going to gigs but camping and not washing for six days whilst being covered in mud didn’t really appeal. 

 

Friends and family have tried on many occasions to drag me along but, until now, I have always managed to resist.

Having left London at 6am on Wednesday morning and after queuing in traffic for about an hour and a half, we finally arrived at one of the many Glastonbury car parks. It was pouring with rain, not just a light drizzle, but enough to get you completely drenched. We donned our wellies and waterproofs and loaded ourselves up with backpacks, tent, airbed, sleeping bags and everything else you could possibly need to survive a festival.

I had been told that the pedestrian gate to access the site was a little way away and was prepared for a walk, but I hadn’t expected the mile-long queue to get there. I’m not the kind of person who minds waiting in line and consider myself fairly patient, but with a heavy backpack (I had of course packed for all weathers so my bag was bulging) along with the rain, I turned into a bit of a grumpy monster.

As we approached the gate at snail’s pace the mud under our feet had turned into a small stream and people were fighting to get up the slope. We hadn’t even got our wristbands and yet people were already covered in Glastonbury’s signature mud. I was surprised at how many people thought it would be sensible to bring their nicest case on wheels; all they did was pick up thick layers of mud, making the cases even harder to move. Three painful hours later we finally found somewhere to pitch the tent and could finally relieve our shoulders of the heavy bags. I didn’t get off to the best of starts with the festival and was really hoping the rain would stop, the mud would just go away and that we wouldn’t discover that our neighbours snored loudly.

Starving, we wandered towards the market places to find food. As a vegetarian, I am often pessimistic and was ready to settle for five days of unhealthy fast food. I was pleasantly surprised to find that nearly every other food was purely vegetarian. There was so much on offer it was difficult to choose what to eat – a completely luxury. And the best part was that although the food wasn’t cheap, it was good, wholesome and freshly cooked. Things were looking up.

I had no idea how big Worthy Farm was. By Thursday morning there was hardly any ground uncovered by tents in the camping areas and they were pitched so close to each other that you could hardly walk around them. I also didn’t realise that the festival featured theatre, comedy and circus as well as many other activities alongside the music. The diverse programming means that every age group is represented and walking around you recognise that it doesn’t matter what you look like or what your profession is, everyone is at the festival to have a good time. Seeing people in fancy dress became the norm, covered in fluorescent paint and wearing flowers.

Friday’s weather was miserable. It rained almost all day and soaked through my waterproof jacket and two jumpers to my skin. We heard early afternoon that Radiohead were going to be playing a secret gig later that evening and knew that once word got out it would be crowded. We headed over to the stage five hours before in order to get to the front for a good view. While we were there we saw a fantastic all-girl band called Warpaint. The drummer was especially impressive and they are well worth a listen.

Unfortunately with an hour to go my bladder decided I had to go to the toilet. It meant giving up the best spot in the audience and I was absolutely gutted. On my way to the toilet my wellies got stuck in the mud and I fell over. Covered in mud and having queued for ages, I headed back to the stage to find that it was completely packed. I couldn’t even find a place where I could see the stage, so spent the whole of Radiohead’s set on my own. I was cold and tired and almost at the point of wanting to go home.

I had horrible nightmares about the portaloos before arriving in Glastonbury but in reality it wasn’t so bad. The volunteers did a superb job of cleaning them, and I only heard of one incident when the big containers which take away the waste got blocked and someone set the pipes to blow instead of suck... I even surprised myself by my ability to just get on with the camping. Washing my hair under the cold tap made my head numb and wet wipes aren’t as good as a shower, but I definitely didn’t feel like a smelly animal!

The music was, of course, the best bit about the festival. The cost of a ticket would enable you to see about three different gigs normally, so it’s well worth the money. I had hoped to see more bands, but getting around the site was really slowed down by the horrendous sticky mud. It trapped people everywhere, sucking their boots off and leaving them desperately trying not to fall over in the gelatinous goo.

By the time the ground started to harden on Sunday, it was so hot that the most attractive bands to see were the ones where the stages had shade. I was introduced to Chap-Hop, saw Cassette Boy of YouTube fame and discovered how good Plan B and Two Door Cinema Club are. Elbow were reliably crowd-pleasing and were followed by an impressive set from Coldplay.

Despite some of the criticism about Beyonce headlining on Sunday (some people thought it was another step towards Glastonbury becoming more mainstream), she was definitely one of the highlights of the festival. The first ever woman to headline the Pyramid stage, her performance was phenomenal with a voice out of this world and she owned the stage.

Arriving home made me really appreciate the luxuries of a warm shower, a big double bed and a flushing toilet. Will I be going to the next Glastonbury festival in 2013? I’m sure I can be persuaded...


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