This story is over 5 years old.

festivals 2016

An A-Z of Glastonbury... For Dummies!

A standard guide to navigating festivals in general isn't any use. You need some sort of map, like Lonely Planet but with some references to stomach-rotting drugs.

Glastonbury is unlike any other event in the world. With its 60+ stages of globe-spanning entertainment, assemblage of spoken word, drama, and strange men on stilts, and unwritten laws of camping hierachy, it practically pops up each June as Britain's temporary yet premier city of culture. At the least, it's a unique blend of humanity, where it isn't surprising to see a new-age fairground manager riding a ten-foot-high flame-shooting tractor in walking distance of planet earth's biggest popstar singing about her devastating heartbreak.


The great beauty of Glastonbury is its unpredictability. You can be watching Novelist one minute, then be accosted by a self-proclaimed witch telling you your aura is full of purple hues another. You can go ten times and still have no fucking clue where anything is or what’s going on. For that reason, a bog standard guide to navigating festivals in general isn't any use. You need some sort of map, like Lonely Planet but with some references to stomach-rotting drugs. So we’ve compiled a handy A-Z guide of things you can expect to deal with whether you’re a seasoned Stone Circle philosopher or a total Glastonbury virgin. Begin…


You may be the one pounding lukewarm cans of supermarket cider, assaulting your ears, and wearing down your body until it is a barely functioning host vehicle for your reckless hedonism – but it’s your arsehole that’s going to take the worst beating. Think about it: there's only one way to expel the torrent of gak and Pieminister you've packed into your gut like too many towels in a suitcase, and it's not going to be pleasant. Do your most delicate body part a favour: pack some quilted toilet paper, ten pairs of underwear, and some form of garden hose.


Because it's powered on by the lunchtime detritus that's left underneath your fingernails and your unwashed limbs, doing the sex with another human at a music festival is gross. But lets face it, the combination of uppers and a dense collection of attractive people is going to make you feel more confused and horny than a rutting stag on a bouncy castle. So, fuck it: why not dive in? Where else can you have sex and listen to ZZ Top play “Viva Las Vegas” live, at the same time? Where else can you get fingered by a D list celebrity in the close-quarters of a winnebago? Grab life by the balls, mate!



Photo via Wikipedia

Coldplay are gobshite, you said. You would rather neck a shot of pig sweat than sit through their set, you said. Then Sunday rolls around and neither LCD Soundsystem or Earth, Wind, and Fire are rousing your enthusiasm. You start to think, actually, Coldplay might not be such a bad shout. They have that one song, don’t they, the one about the world being beautiful. That could be quite nice to listen to after not eating four days. Cut to 45 minutes later and your friends can barely hold you up as you slosh your pint down their v-necks, tears streaming down your face, passionately crying every single word of “The Scientist” like a morbidly single uncle at a wedding.


These bald-headed, long-short wearing protoplasms rule Glastonbury’s camping grounds in abundance. At any other festival, a sighting of the rain-mac’d dad signals the fact you’ve taken so much MDMA, you’ve inexplicably been led toward the confines of the Hipshaker tent and will soon be ruminating your way into a deep mental contusion involving love-less marriages, excessive amounts of DIY, and mortality. At Glastonbury though, it just means you have arrived. Dads are everywhere, because Glastonbury is their realm. Touch one of their heads and feel how smooth it is. Massage it for a little while. This is one of those festival experiences you’ve been reading about in the comments section of the Guardian.


We don't make the rules. This is just a basic requirement for continued existence.



Forget weekend buddhist retreats in Cornwall or those Bhakti yoga lessons you saw discounted on Wowcher… If you can spend two hours, hungover, crouched in the darkened foyer of a one man Quechua tent, cleaning your disgusting body from head to toe with 400 moist tissues, then you will have discovered the true essence of self-realisation.


C'mon dude. You shouldn't be this drunk already. This is the festival. This is where you are. This is your home for the next five days.


A massage? Some holistic therapy? A beautiful little yoghurt for breakfast because the muscles in your mouth have become vessels of nausea? Glastonbury has got your precious little behind covered and wrapped up in the relaxing grasp of an ethically sourced blanket. See, there’s a whole area of the site called the Healing Fields, which is basically where everyone who knows their shit from their feeling shit goes on Saturday morning when they’ve spent all night dancing with drag queens in Block 9. These things get booked up quickly, so get there early on Thursday, secure a place in the Bowen treatment tent for later in the weekend, and await your ascendance into the upper-echelon of heaven.


Photo via Flickr user Kris Williams

Yeah, we know "insane views" sounds like something Otto from The Simpsons would say while pointing out of the bus window, but look at that shit behind the Pyramid stage. LOOK AT IT. This is the most beautiful festival site on earth. It is a medieval novella.



Photo via Wikipedia

The dictionary definition of "preaching to the bloody converted" is Jeremy Corbyn talking about democratic socialism to a crowd of NutriBullet enthusiasts in the Left Field, sandwiched between 'Big Bill's Radical Roundup' and 'Comedy with Elvis McGonagall'. Must see though, don't miss it.


Photo via Wikipedia

Ah, ketamine. One of the most cherished darlings of British culture, alongside Cheryl Cole and Greggs. We could probably cast some troubling and sweeping statements about what it says about modern Britain when a dissociative drug used for tranquilising horses has become so popular among young partygoers who wish to numb the deep and dull ache of real life, but it's probably just cos it's £30 a gram.


Your iPhone, your wallet, your grip on reality. Leave everything you usually need to survive at home, because you will almost certainly lose it all.


Photo by William Coutts

If you absolutely must do this, then consider the fact that there is literally no place for cum to go in a tent that won’t come back to haunt someone later.


Getting off your face can be pretty fun, but the coolest part of any festival is taking care of yourself and being respectful to others. Namaste.


Let us sit down and put our safety hat on for a second. The one thing you need to know about your maiden voyage towards Glastonbury that isn’t related to drugs, footwear, or the toilets, is the one way system. Because, honestly, this shit is important. Unless you get educated on the structural limitations of the festival site, the possibility of embarking on an extended and pointless mission across it is a statistical certainty. Look at the map, look at the giant and illuminated signs, look at the men in high-vis jackets screaming at you to walk the other way. Look, and know you are not one of the schmucks who has kettled themselves away from the one-way-system leading not just to Shangri-La, but all of their hopes and dreams.



There aren't any decent pictures of the mysterious underground piano bar of Glastonbury – a chaotic Irish speakeasy which you must both bribe, lie, betray and then crawl on your knees just to get in – so here is the video for Jamiroquai's "Deeper Underground" to get you in the mood for some subterranean hedonism, and also to remind you how far CGI has come.


Photo by William Coutts

"Follow me!" You shout at 2am, as you and your friends inexplicably decide that the best thing you can do right now is leave the shoeless warmth of Heaven in Shangri-La, to embark on a character-defining quest of noble intentions, through mud, rain, obstacles, terrors and temptations – all because someone you fancy has text to say they are in Silver Hayes. Two hours later, you will eventually arrive, a disparate group; bloody, beaten, and sober, to see that the area has now closed, and everyone has gone bar a sleeping man in a swan onesie. Nevertheless, somewhere on that quest, you became a man.


Omg Cliff Richard died! Omg Cher died! Omg it’s 2009 and Michael Jackson isn’t actually dead but he’s definitely going to show up at the Stone Circle and serenade us all at 1am! Oh wait :(


For men: All is well going for a drunk and relaxing 6am sauna with your mates at Glastonbury until you realise those two pills you took three hours ago have left your shrivelled todger looking like a frozen cocktail sausage that has fallen out of an Iceland party pack.


For women: All is well going for a drunk and relaxing 6am sauna at Glastonbury with your mates until you realise you're surrounded by ten naked and insecure men frantically hiding their shrivelled todgers, which, may I add, look like frozen sausages that have fallen out of an Iceland party pack.


A good tent is all about finding the middle ground. Not just because it’s stupid to try and sleep in a one-man coffin or exceptionally arrogant to roll-up with a seven-person neoprene castle and marquee’d porch, but also because you don’t want someone’s piss leaking down into your pillow and increasing your chances of catching Hepatitis B.


You know how some people are physically repulsed by clowns and fairgrounds and dismembered devil children? Take them here at night. Get their tarot cards read. Let them have a go on the "crack heads" game machine. Drop them off in Bez's Acid House. Wait until they have been cleansed of childhood fears and are born again, brand new, despite living in a world of mud and depravity. Think of it as an experiment. A cruel, fun experiment.


Shorts, thick jumper, bikini top, kag in a bag, sunglasses, thermal underwear – you will need all of these things, possibly in the space of three minutes, because for cosmic reasons unknown British weather is especially fickle during Glastonbury week. Alternatively, you can just wear a bin liner with armholes for five days and be done with it.



You will always bump into that weird guy from your office. Always. It might be while queuing up for a Buddha bowl in the Green fields. It might be while squelching across the mud to the nearest portaloo. It might be while flailing your arms around outside your tent trying to get some phone signal. But he will always find you, and the result will be ten long minutes of stilted conversation and crippling awkwardness. Always.


X…cstasy? X…calibur? X…pectation? The letter X can do one, if we're being honest.


Photo via Wikipedia

At Glastonbury, with its large assortment of organic food stalls boasting all kinds of oils and fruit extracts hitherto unheard of, yoghurt is your new best friend. When you’ve been gurning for 48 hours straight and your jaw feels like it’s held together with invisible chicken wire, but you also need to eat something that isn’t chewing gum, head for the nearest Yeo Valley sign and give yourself the Raspberry-flavoured gift of shitting out the last few days so you can start over. Think of it as a shower for your intestines. A weird, milky shower.


Photo by Ralph Arvesen via Wiki

They will be there. You will joke for weeks about watching them for lolz to spite your dad. You will definitely not watch them.

You can find Noisey UK on Twitter