My Top 5 Pros and (almost) Cons of Glastonbury
Is Glastonbury for me..? Does Glastonbury live up to the hype..? Is the weather always bad at Glasto..? Are the toilets really so bad at Glasto..?
I love festivals and in my opinion Glastonbury has always been up there with the most well-known in the world so when my friend Gemma (proper Glastonbury- advocate) suggested we try for tickets I, of course, agreed. I didn't hold out much hope for success, reputation has it tickets are nearby impossible to secure. But, to my surprise we got them! On the lead up to June 2019 I asked myself just some of the questions above. The weather was my main fear. Gem had experience (one very wet and muddy) and she basically became my Glasto-guru. She kept me up-to-date with announcements, told me all sorts of facts and generally hyped it up. All in all I thought I was prepared, especially having been to festivals before of all sizes and notoriety.
Gem did an excellent job of organising us from the lead-up to the arrival to navigating the site. In that respect we were completely prepared and it was a definite advantage going with somebody who has been a couple of times before.
Glastonbury itself... well I was continually blown away for the next five days.
I couldn't wait to write a blog but where to begin! I didn't want to blow too many surprises but I also wanted to shout out to people who are on the fence- like I was.
When I did some research, lots of articles hate on Glastonbury. Yet a majority of their issues are 'festival-problems' in general- not necessarily Glasto-specific. Yes these things existed but don't let them mislead you.
Glastonbury has stolen my heart in the same way a city or tropical beach can.
So for all you adventure-lovers who aren't fazed at 'living out of a bag' or 'sleeping in a tent whilst mates nearby are chatting shit' or 'not being able to wash properly' or 'pissed up/ drugged up states' or 'that queue jumping nob head' here is a realists approach to the cons of Glastonbury. Almost cons because even some of these cannot be helped and are festival givens and they did not put me off.
The pros far, far outweigh them!
*If you haven't ever camped over at a festival, garnering some pre-Glasto experience wouldn't be such a bad idea!
5 Glastonbury Cons
-which aren't really cons, but at least you can be prepared for them
1. The walk from your car to a camping spot.
Possibly the biggest con although unavoidable at most big festivals.
Unless you're prepared to arrive on Tuesday (Glastonbury is already 5 days long- starting Wednesday) you'll probably be parking a fair trek from any camping areas, let alone the area you want to camp in.
We aborted our original idea for a camping spot and pretty much set up the moment we entered Gate D. But then we did take all of our stuff in one go between the two of us.
Dragging and lugging your stuff is gruelling (we did it under a blazing hot sun but at least the ground was hard!) Gem beasted the hill with her rucksack and pulling a fully loaded industrial sack truck and I, still oblivious of what was to come I realise now, sucked it up and followed suit.
We used a proper travel rucksack each and duct taped our things to the sack truck and another pull-along. If you have to, take breaks and if needs be, make two trips. Don't stress each other out by moaning. Gem told me it will be worth it. I only really understand that now but I still told it to myself.
Imagine that first drink when you're all set up and ready to party on for five nights!
The walk back is grim considering Glastonbury is over. But at least your load should be lighter once consumables are gone.
2. The sheer scale of Glastonbury.
Only a con because Glastonbury turned out to be much more than just a tick on my bucket list!
So Glastonbury is massive. And although it is possible to scour the whole site and physically 'see' it all, be prepared to put in some serious legwork. We clocked up 15 miles on our step-counter just on our first day. More than 80 miles over 5 days...
The vastness of it is a part of what makes it Glastonbury so this is by no means a complaint! There is so, so much to see and do and virtually 24 hours a day. You can never be short of entertainment from live performances (musical and more), to healing tents, a massive variety of food, clubs and bars, workshops, artwork, sculptures, debates and never mind just people watching!
But I didn't get to see Shangri-La or the Unfair Ground at night time (they look AMAZING in the day and now I can only lust after what they must look like after dark.) But then I don't regret any of the other stuff I was doing instead, it's just that now I really, really want to go again. No, need to go again.
Take comfortable footwear- trainers or walking boots, wellies, good socks and loads of plasters.
Expect your feet to hurt and get on with it!
3. 'Long-drop' and 'Compost' Toilets.
Glastonbury's toilets are different in their set-up to most BUT I'd argue not necessarily worse.
Plenty of Glasto-goers hated the loos but festival toilets are renowned for being bad and I have certainly witnessed some horrific porta-loo states and smells in the past. I've had far worse experiences elsewhere with festival toilets, however be prepared for these facilities:
Long Drop Loos-
Rows of roofless, metal cubicles housing a bench with inset toilet seat, set above a deep pit. Be warned if- no when- you look down this loo-seat you can see lots of poo and other debris floating in gallons of pee below; and hear the gushing of people pissing all around. Sometimes these absolutely stink but they're emptied at least daily so you might strike it lucky from time to time.
I chose to hover and go, quick, but you could wipe the seat down and sit, put your hands on the walls either side to support your hover or some people even climb onto the bench either side of the seat and squat!
Let me tell you my biggest gripe was the fear of falling in- not that you easily could. Do be careful not to drop anything though because you won't get it back!
These are sturdy, enclosed cubicles and the set near to our tent were usually clean and well kept. We mainly avoided the others around site because the queues tended to be longer/ go down slower than at the long-drops.
Basically you pee and poo into a big box which composts thanks to layers of tissue paper and sawdust or soil. Yes, if you need a number 2 you have to scoop a cup of sawdust from a huge bag before you go in... slightly awkward.
Toilet tips- if you spot toilets and the queue is low, always take the opportunity. If your mate needs a pee, you might as well go too. Take anti-bac, especially with a nice, bright smell, it will refresh your senses afterwards; never mind reduce germs spreading. When the long-drops stink, do what you can to mask the smell; breathe into your clothes or toilet paper. Lou recommends a splodge of anti-bac in your palm and breathing into cupped hands. She told me this afterwards so I'll be trying it out at Camper Calling in August... On the plus side a smelly bog becomes quite the conversation starter... "Disgusting." "Disgusting."
Also note when your campsite toilets are quiet. By 9am there was always a huge queue for both the toilets and water tap so we always visited both as soon as we woke up.
4. The volume of people.
Potentially scary/ annoying/ intimidating/ a hindrance.
Glastonbury is not only on a massive scale, it is also very, very busy. Over 200, 000 people attended in 2019. I watched Kylie when reportedly over 100, 000 of us occupied this one field (Pyramid stage) and yes, that part was amazing. (For perspective, a standing concert capacity at Wembley is around 70, 000). Seeing all those people dancing, laughing, singing- it was wonderful and overwhelming! And another big part of what Glastonbury is about. We didn't always attend headliners but it was always busy wherever we were and this added to the intensely exciting atmosphere.
So again, not a complaint but be prepared for massive crowds and, particularly when an act finishes, rivers of people.
Take this into account when planning to walk from area to area because either one will slow you down. A space you strolled through with ease at one point, you might need to walk completely around because you know, forty thousand people decided to crowd there. Nothing at Glastonbury is 'manic' though. I hate waiting and queuing but I rarely felt impatient even amongst the heaviest swarms. There's so much to watch and/ or reflect on as you walk. Just during those really busy times, hold on tight to friends- reception can be iffy in places so don't purely rely on your phone. Choose specific meeting points should you be split up.
After an act, you might really need a wee but if the flow ain't going that way then go with it until it begins to thin out, which it will. There's no point trying to push through sometimes plus you'll find possibly quieter toilets the further away you walk.
Basically, when it's slow moving enjoy the vibe- it's Glasto-baby!
5. The Weather.
I am not complaining. But there were still cons to pure sunshine.
Glastonbury is renowned for mud. At least I clearly remember TV footage from over the years of tents literally washing away in streams of rainfall. So on the lead up I was awash with anxiety as during late May and early June it rained, and it rained, and it rained!
As it happened, Glastonbury 2019 was the hottest in history and temperatures hit thirty degrees. It was FANTASTIC! Although Glasto-guru Gem might disagree. I wish that sun would just fu…
I would have been thankful for most weather over extreme rain and the hot sunshine made us feel like we were on a holiday abroad. I loved it. However, just like if it had tipped it down, we did struggle to find shelter if we didn't want to miss out on acts. Plus plenty of people commented on how the blazing heat was almost as bad as pouring rain and thick mud. It was dusty and sweaty and we all felt really drained by it at times.
Clearly whatever the weather, you'll be exposed to it. Check the weather report on the lead up but still prepare for everything. There are lots of water refill points so take a reusable bottle plus sun cream, wellies, a waterproof poncho/ hooded mac and warm clothes for night time. You can also use an umbrella in rain and in sunshine. We saw plenty that had been decorated.
Our ultimate Glastonbury life-hack was using my rubber wellies as a cold foot bath. (See pic.) Just WOW. I felt like a new woman after this.
But whatever the weather, have fun and accept it. In hindsight, rain would not have dampened the overall spirit of Glastonbury.
So after those actually shit attempts at cons. Here are five shit attempts at specific Glastonbury Pros.
The 5 Pros of Glastonbury!
-the broadest 5 pros ever because I wanted to include so much.
1. An absolute treat for the soul.
Glastonbury set my senses on fire.
It inspired me and humbled me beyond my wildest dreams.
My emotions rode on a rollercoaster from start to finish.
That might all sound a little over the top but as a creative and spiritual person it flared every single one of my passions. I can't even put into words (ironic considering one said passion: writing) how or when or what happened to make the whole thing so special. I just loved everything about Glastonbury and in no particular order including the level of detail which goes into all areas and venues, music and art everywhere, greener living, people, shared vibes, the acts and many things to do, moments of friendship and laughter, an air of acceptance, crazy random observances, dancing and genuinely having the best time.
Driving home on Monday I felt emotional yet positive, thankful, motivated and focussed- in short Glastonbury has and will impact hugely on my life. (I get it now Gem!)
I know some people aren't quite as enamoured with Glastonbury- but plenty definitely are. Many claim "Glastonbury is life-changing" and I took all that with a pinch of salt. So don't believe me, I wouldn't expect you to but, if you're curious at least, try it out. One thing I keep thinking about is how every person has their own unique experience of Glasto and that in itself is so cool.
If you enjoy festivals anyway and don't mind camping, love music, art, people, one-off experiences, community spirits, are open minded and have a zest for living then Glastonbury is for you.
We did witness people who didn't exactly nail their experience- being sick, burnt, seriously drunk, completely off their tits... Just don't leave your common sense at home. And as my Glasto-Guru Gem wisely stated Glastonbury is a marathon, not a race.
2. Value for money.
When you can't put a price on something, it just has to be a pro.
Some say £250 for a ticket is expensive but not only is Glastonbury easily worth that, it compares well with other festivals (V, Download, Leeds all around the £200 mark.) It breaks down to £50 a night. Or £25 per gig if you hit just ten across the weekend. Most of the big names would set you back £100 each to watch usually... never mind that you don't have to pay for travel or beer if you take your own (see next Pro!)
For £250 you gain access to the BIGGEST greenfield festival IN THE WORLD. There are loads of areas and each one is filled with stages, tents, bars and even full blown clubs; some bigger than I've seen in a city centre. Each area stars big names and also include loads of other talented musicians and artists. Don't be surprised when your plans suddenly change. In fact that's something you should expect! Take full advantage of the privilege and explore. Gem said to me it's like a Disneyland for adults and I completely agree!
You also get a free lanyard and programme on entry.
Food averages between £8 and £10 for a decent meal and the bars offer £5 pints and £8 cocktails- again bang average in comparison to other festivals.
We spent less than £100 each whilst there but we could have spent more as the shopping opportunities are also great. The range of food is absolutely fab too, I wish I'd eaten more!
In my experience, what Glastonbury cost did not compare to what was on offer and gained. The total that Glastonbury cost me (around £430) rivalled experiences I've happily paid double for.
3. Virtually anything goes.
I noticed 2 rules specifically enforced during Glastonbury June 2019. One, use a reusable water bottle (no single-use plastic was allowed.) Two, no peeing on the land. That was annoying because I have a bladder the size of a nut but I respected the reason- the environmental health agency check water pollution levels after Glastonbury and could remove the festival license if they're too high... enough said.
Other than that you can take your booze wherever you want (we packed a rucksack twice a day and shared the load.) So there's no having to be sneaky plus it saved us a ton. Also plenty of people used stoves at their tents to make hot drinks and cook, which isn't always allowed at other festivals. We didn't bother but if you're sensible enough, go for it.
There's a party atmosphere and we regularly smelt weed and saw drug-taking- but again, festivals attract that vibe so expect it/ accept it. The stewards are responsible enough and on the few occasions we noticed someone having a rough time the workers were on hand with water or keeping a watchful eye. If drugs/ drinking is your thing, don't go all out and ruin it- mostly for yourself! A virtual majority of people at Glastonbury just want to have a wicked time. So join in or sit/ stand back and watch but most of all, enjoy.
I was gutted we didn't spot any full nudity (apparently it's allowed and common at Glastonbury) but there were lots of boobs, pecs and bums! I'm not just a perv, honest, I loved the spirit of acceptance and just be yourself, anything goes!
Glastonbury is unique in so many ways (even each set up is different from one year to the next) but it has an ability to whisk you away from normality and this should be treasured. Glastonbury doesn't try to make extra money from you and you can be whoever you want to be- so in return don't take a piss on the land; and don't take the piss in general.
Note: you don't need to be on drugs to enjoy Glastonbury. But you probably will feel like you are!
4. The sheer variety and diversity of people attracted to Glastonbury.
As an author I'm very interested in characters and personalities. I therefore love meeting new people and also the immensely entertaining sport of people-watching.
Everyone existed at Glastonbury. It felt like everyone was represented somehow. All groups, cultures, races, all walks of life and all ages from babies in prams to nineties (Sir David Attenborough attended and I know he's 93). This is definitely not just a place for one type of person or of a particular age bracket. Glastonbury aims to be kid friendly and accessible and it seemed to be doing a good job. Families and individuals, couples and friendship groups, everyone, all mingled together.
We chatted to people from New Zealand, South Africa, Europe, all over the UK and a tribesman spoke on the Other stage urging a receptive audience to save the rainforests and his home.
There were flags form literally all over plus lots were very funny and imaginative- helpful as markers when trying to meet up with friends. There were loads of people in fancy dress, plenty dolled up to the nines and just as many not, all styles; fashionable, traditional, casual and quirky. We raved with groups in their seventies to their teens, saw a wedding dinner and witnessed two proposals (one on stage) and both said yes. Glastonbury has a following I've only just begun to understand and it literally takes all sorts, anyone is welcomed.
I'm struggling to think of a group, race, culture, type of human not represented at Glastonbury. It was brilliant for author inspiration.
Choose wisely who you share this experience with- leave the dickheads at home. If you're planning on meeting up with people just be aware it might not always happen- sometimes it is just too busy/ your plans clash or even you become distracted elsewhere. If you're stuck for suitable company, go alone! There are forums you can get involved with for tips and to connect with other single visitors.
5. The Glastonbury "world."
Glastonbury is in a league of its own when it comes to festivals. It is a theme park, immersive entertainment and a celebration of the arts all rolled into one. Prepare to leave reality at home!
It is like visiting a happy, trippy alternative world and becoming part of a new community. Love it or hate it, once you have visited you become a part of it.
Anyone that has been to Glastonbury will share stories with you. Anyone that wants to go will growl and snarl in your direction. That would've been me anyway. I misunderstood the ticket selection process and thought the Glastonbury club was exclusive and therefore a bit smug. It is more like a random lottery and yes, yearly thousands go disappointed but everyone has the 'chance' to get a ticket. Tickets sold out in under 37 minutes the past 2 years!
Now I've been, I understand a Glasto-fan's pain of missing out. And the stress on the lead-up over whether or not they'll be granted access to this fantastical world once again. But the ticket selection can't be a con because the only con is not getting a ticket and of course everybody can't get lucky! I also now get Gem's utter delirium when we got our tickets. It actually adds to the atmosphere of Glastonbury because everyone feels special to have gotten in.
There are layers to the Glastonbury world with their 'hidden rooms' and 'secret sets.' Across the weekend a number of rumours will generate about artists making an appearance and some of these happen. Gem stayed in the loop using social media plus a friend was texting updates. We saw 2 secret sets although one of those caused such a stir it ended up being confirmed. Keep your ear to the ground and you might hear about them from others! Keep your eyes peeled too, for cool details like phone boxes which allow you to call random chatlines plus there are hidden rooms in some venues- although you have to find time to look for them!
Glastonbury also takes its impact on the environment seriously and their attitude and efforts deserve recognition. Across the whole site, the message was clear- stop fucking up the planet! The Glasto world could positively impact on the actual world with lots of Glasto-goers admitting it made them stop and think about how they could be kinder to the planet. Plus, as mentioned earlier, the surprise appearance of Sir David Attenborough caused a further stir in the media- worldwide.
Being in the Glastonbury gang and I can now share in the genuine level of love I've heard for this festival. Admittedly, before I thought it must be exaggerated and, well, I've now found out for myself.
If you're looking for something different to the rest, Glastonbury is worth registering for and trying to get tickets, it is worth the cost and the usual festival grievances because this festival is not the usual.
Glastonbury is wonderful, unique and the unexpected. The more you explore, the more there is to find!
Do you agree? Has this helped you to decide if Glastonbury is for you?