The festival with the light idea
Glastonbury has been receiving a lot of flack lately – it’s no longer counter-cultural rebellious, but gone a bit Gwyneth, commercial and mainstream I’m told. This vexes me as it is completely missing the point; Glastonbury is about the commonality that unites us, which will always be so much greater than the flim-flam that divides us. Set on key leylines, Glastonbury is a spiritual hotspot, evident when the seagulls swoop down and the mushrooms brush up. All of Nature has a ticket. The magic of Glastonbury burgeons from an infinite source; it is a unique festival that unites myriad tribes in its walls, catering to each of their needs. It represses more than anywhere, it makes Glastogoers jump through hoops to go, but it knows that it can because it swerves goers back into the rhythm of their lives, reminding us all how very easy things can be when we let go, let go, let go. Thursday night before Glastonbury this year I was pacing up and down my flat, eating nuts and thinking ‘eek! I know I can make it happen, but should I?’ 32 years old, a psychotherapist whose clients think I belong in a chair not a field, lately single having just broken free from the man I love, with whom I got matching tattoos on day four, reading about rain and mud. Biblical rain that is - three weeks worth in three hours I read, which seemed an obtuse comment on so many levels. Sense and circumstance were saying no, but something in me said maybe, like a moth to the flame, I might. When I went into the bathroom and saw a plump moth on my washing machine I knew it was written, so I sent out the signal - on Facebook: ‘Help please, I need to go to glasto!’ A ticket popped up from Sophie, my graceful guardian angel, who directed me to her garden shed to retrieve it. The journey I conjured up from a friend and his girlfriend took five and a half hours, with the Sat Nav set to avoid motorways and the couple’s ensuing tiffs, but Bath looked nice. I was still feeling doubt, the face on the photographic ticket was not mine and I had nowhere to camp, but a man from M&S at the service station was frothing at the mouth as he told me: ‘come off at the next junction 12, go round the roundabout and they have tents at the shop beside Sainsbury’s, make it happen, froth, froth’. So I did. And once I’d found a £30 pop up tent in the sale there, I had my autonomy, if flimsy, small and green. I flew through the gates with my ticket, who cared that my eyes were brown, Sophie’s blue. My friends were scattered in teepees or VIP so there was nothing to do but fling up my tent on the edge, in with the vital, vibrant masses, free. Festivals are about longing, and none more so than Glastonbury – longing for a drink, a friend, a fag, a bite, a buggy. With such a spread of wonder it is easy to be longing always to be elsewhere, so I decided to be with my own longing and belong. It was curious to find myself exactly where I wanted to be, as if wherever I went my guide was. I slipped into the flow of my life, revelling in such extraordinary synchronicity I had to stop the inner somersaults of surprise and just accept that things were happening or that I was making them happen perhaps; at one point I had a hog roast sandwich in one hand and a drink in the other, having neither paid nor asked for either. I stepped out each morning with my soul as my guide, ears pricked to what music I felt like, happy also to just walk and meander. My friends were often where I went, if not the people I wanted to talk to were there. I met myriad strangers, with whom I had the same conversation, one of optimism and hope, of awakening and love. I wandered with Danny from Manchester, we talked and thought and shared. It was not about class, race, gender, musical divides or commerciality, but about connection - the bit of infinity we share that glimpses out from behind mirrored shades, and over pint glass rims. There is a part of us that is mortal, that has to crouch over the abyss of the portaloo, that experiences hunger and thirst that needs sating, but there is a part of us that is boundless and it was that part that was engaged over Glastonbury’s heads like a sea siren’s music. It was open and connected, saying ‘yes! I see you, I hear you, we are the same, we are fingers on a hand, let’s shift the whole tonight’. I felt connected to everyone in such a deep and visceral way; it felt quite mystic. A world appeared in which everything was shared, just as our consciousness is, a whole new world of marvel that was so very simple and so fun. How on earth did things in the normal world get so serious? Blind faith was my wristband so there was nowhere off bounds; I went where I wanted, as everyone can. I'm aware this piece might sound me me me, but we are all a part of the river that knows how to go around a rock, all we have to do is un-know our conditions and become children once again - but taller and more directional naturally. The security guards weren’t looking up in the air where I held my bare wrist high, they were looking down at the doubt in the pockets, fumbling around for nothing, instead of believing they had everything. With faith you have to see it to believe it, or not see it and never know. I sipped cider from a bus, burrowed down the Rabbit Hole to dance – and yes there were celebrities there, but aren't we all the celebrities of our own lives? I had one special person stay in my tent on the Friday – I saw her place the next day with a silver airstream, champagne and white pillows, but mine was the hotspot on Friday. The weather was interesting and varied, with the sun disappearing only to make a grander entrance: ‘now you notice me’ he beamed on arrival, casting glimmering shadows across the mud paved with gold. I much preferred the changeable weather to the previous year’s steady bake; it carried the seasons to my soul and I understood that there was a place of awareness and perfect balance that could meet dark and light, hot and cold, wrong and right, up and down with equanimity. It was a phenomenal feeling, and when the rainbow sprung up and right round on the threshold of the rain and sun, containing every colour, but which all felt the same, then life felt full of wonder. As for the main event, the psychedelic of my soul, the music, it didn’t matter what it was so long as it was played with faith. I trundled through the mud towards it on epic walks that were always so much harder and further than I remembered, but which were then forgotten in an instant, like childbirth. Glastonbury sorts the artists from the egos, as it is those who don’t really care if you are watching, who are so engrossed in their play (like Jack White) you might as well not be there, that transfix you. Dolly Parton attracted swathes of indifferent punters, who were soon mesmerised by her character and elan. ‘This has always been my dream’, she declared from under a wig with high hope, before launching into I Will Always Love You as the largest ever Pyramid crowd dissolved into tears. It was gridlock at the back, where bodies got locked in, trying to go to the edge and around the scrum, but it was clear there was space at the front by the source, if you just squished through. And breathed. I had a thought in one dance tent of getting up on the stage with some mesmeric transvestite dancers doing a routine, and before I’d thought it through properly I had popped up and was dancing along with them, showing off for sure, but moreover feeling free. Dance tents were popping with energy, I kissed a girl called El with fake boobs in a bronze bikini – next night she wore a onesie and looked a little sheepish, but at the time who frankly cared, we felt it. Steve looked like a mushroom that had grown up through Glastonbury’s soil, with his ruddy mud complexion and his mushroom hat all oiled. ‘This too will pass’ he told me. ‘I always say that’ I agreed, ‘everything changes, today’s article wraps tomorrow’s broken glass!’ Life sprung up from its sleepers and vibrated very slowly, it shimmered and glistened and shone, and as I wandered home alone, I slipped my Nano on. After following music all weekend, it was time for me to lead, and I knew I knew you music, I believed. http://youtu.be/K92a6gmn9-A I had everything I needed this Glastonbury, though I lost all my money in the mud. I bought nothing the traditional way, as money was shown to be the symbol that it is; I was generous with what I had an infinite supply of - talk and energy mostly, though I know I need to go quietly too (next year perhaps) - and was overwhelmed by the abundance I received in return. A friend of a friend who djs whisked me off in his VW campervan to a beautiful hotel for his birthday on the Monday.‘You’re in!’ he said in the rocket tent, though I’d only met him once before. There were four of us who went to the hotel and had the most magical time, watching swans dip long necks into the lake and up again, swimming in a cool blue pool and enjoying the remnants of freedom and connection that Glastonbury had instilled in us. Both the spell and the camper van broke on the way back to London, and we had to wait four hours for AA on a sunny roadside bank. But I found I could celebrate the wait, as like the rain, it would pass, and the ray of bright AA would be that much jaunty for the cloud. I surrendered to the flow of life that knows exactly what it is doing at Glastonbury, and very much hope to stay here. It was a charmed, enchanted experience, so please still the idea that Glasto’s ‘lost it’, as I just read, as isn't that just getting distracted by the finger pointing at the moon? You have to find it to lose it, and all Glastonbury does is let things be just as they are. It reminds us what we already know by heart, allowing us to remember who we are and where we are going. I will be going again next year; I do hope you'll come. *** Please consider signing this important petition. No to Fracking under the festival site and across Somerset. It takes 30 seconds to sign: www.frackfree.org.uk "People need to understand that once a fracking Gas rig sets up next to your house, you can't sell your property, cancer and leukaemia rates sky rocket and your water supply can become polluted with chemicals and methane. The government is pushing this through at a breakneck speed. If we don't stop them, Somerset's aquifers and those under the isle of Avalon could be trashed for generations."