Muddy Musical Glastonbury!
By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com


Getting away from the heat for a summer vacation has become part of life. For those who can afford, our own local hills and other resorts; exotic haunts of Europe for the super rich. “Come summer,” my daughter’s unabashed refrain: “Oxford Street in London is like Karol Bagh, with more Indians crawling than locals”. For those culturally minded, Europe’s musical scene is an attraction too.

Now that circumstances permit, I myself took off for a southern sojourn in Bangalore, the poor-man’s-Ooty Saklespur in the Western Ghats, then Mangalore, and the ayurvedic resorts in the vast expanse of backwaters in Kerala. For a fish eater, seafood lover, and one who is ecstatic about soothing body care, nothing could be more exotic.

My son in England and his bride too took off around the same time for a weekend break. In their life style they do it ever so often, and so do not make much of these indulgences. Neither are they gushingly eloquent to write home about such. This time though, I was surprised to get a long mail about their holiday. They had been to an Event of Performing Arts and musical extravaganza – the Glastonbury Festival.

Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts – one of the largest music festivals in the world and known to be the mother of all festivals in the UK, is run by Somerset farmer Michael Eavis at Worthy Farm, Pilton - near Glastonbury - since 1970. Normally on the last full weekend of June, with an occasional miss to give both the land (a working farm) and the locals a chance to recover.

My son found the Festival ‘amazing’. The setting on 700 acres in a beautiful valley, the site huge – about a mile and a half across with a perimeter fence about 8 1/2 miles. Everything within the fence – camping and entertainment, with no arena to queue up for and enter each day. Several stages for the music, theatre, circus, cabaret, and acts of performing artistes – a three day festival at which everyone camped in tents. “We got there on Thursday morning, a few friends arriving earlier to cordon off an area for us. We had 10 tents in total around a gazebo, like a little commune!”

What was special? “The festival started on Friday afternoon, but before that there was this biggest thunderstorm in history. It started at around 3 in the morning while we were still in our tents. There was so much lightning that the ground was shaking and the whole tent would light up. Apparently some dipstick decided to go to the toilet in the middle of the whole thing and got struck by lightning, and got thrown three tents away! Also a couple of the festival tents got struck and split in half.”

That was just the start. Most of the 152,000 crowd – over 100000 paid ticket holders, 35000 staff and performers, and in tow the ‘Kidz Field Crew’ – all left covered in mud. 292 people lost their tents when over two inches of rain thrashed the site from 3am to about noon causing heavy floods. “A river of mud and water flowing down the hill sweeping away everything in its way, including people sleeping in tents, the toilet blocks, a parked ice cream truck etc. 100s of people had to be evacuated to a different part of the valley, a lot of them lost everything. We were lucky and were pitched on a slight hill, away from the flood, and were spared the consequences.”

More than 3m litres of water were pumped off the site by the fire service after the torrential thunderstorm left some tents submerged in 8ft of water. Specialist fire service rescue teams checking submerged tents for occupants, found no-one was seriously hurt by the floods – which caused power failures and delayed the start of the programme. Renowned though for the variety and energy-sapping quality of its mud, Glastonbury will remember 2005 as the year of the great flood.

But despite nature playing dirty, the flash floods gave way to brilliant sunshine and Glastonbury danced itself into the muddy ground. “In spite of the chaos, damage and confusion, the festival continued, the people’s mood not dampened. It was so crazy, having to wade through knee deep mud at times trying to get from one place to another, as the flooding had made the valley of farmland just one huge swamp/mud flat. The previous week had been really hot and sunny, so no one had brought Wellingtons. Which meant everyone went down the market area to buy boots and socks. 100,000+ people trying to do this caused everything to sell out in minutes, causing queues that stretched literally for miles. Apparently 33k wellies were sold, just on that Friday!”

“The music was amazing and many fantastic performances. Some of the bands I listened to were: Coldplay, Keane, The Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, Jools Holland, Van Morisson, White Stripes. There were others too, but I can’t remember!”

Information on ways to improve one’s life and the world around, shopping in the vast markets of over 700 stalls with their fantastic variety of clothes, crafts and food; the enlightenment, the mime artists cutting the grass with nail scissors, the mad butler with his tray of drinks, the tea ladies on tour..... just added their bit to make Glastonbury Festival the place to spend the best time of one’s life!

“All were unanimous in their verdict: The secret of Glastonbury’s success… the people! The weekend went really quickly, with BBQs and beers and cider, walking through whacky
areas of the festival, with naked people, circus tents and cabaret performances including poetry recitals! All in all it was awesome!”

900 words: 04 .07.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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