With a population of almost a quarter of a million people and spanning over 1,000 acres, it’s fair to say that Glastonbury is overwhelmingly big. It’s actually so big that once it’s fully up and running, which is roughly around the time someone first goes “Fuck, it looks like it’s going to rain” at 7PM on Friday, it becomes the fourth-biggest city in the South West of England, just behind the population of Plymouth, but almost double that of Bath.
With any place that massive – especially one fuelled almost entirely by MDMA and warm cider – it’s going to have some fun and weird little secrets. I’ve only been to Glastonbury twice before, but I can’t count how many times I’ve ended up off the beaten track, listening to some mysterious old man sing Prince songs on a piano while being inexplicably served free Bloody Mary’s. In fact, if you haven’t gone “What the fuck is this place, how did I get here?” at least five times in your average Glastonbury weekend, you might as well have not bothered going at all.
After various ill-advised attempts at sneaking into the VIP section earlier in the day, I was feeling dejected, and I thought, what better way to spend my first night at Glastonbury than scouring its feverish walls for the most secret, exclusive (but still free for all) spots to party?
Firstly, a place that might not be so secret, but has many secrets herein: NYC Downlow.
Sitting at the top of Block 9, the queue snakes around and around the corners for miles. Fortunately, if you know a secret technique, you can bypass the queue and go round the back, getting you easy breezy access to what is, considering it’s just a load of stuff hastily built over a few weeks in a field, by far one of the best night clubs in the world.
Like any of the best gay raves you’ve ever been to, the vibe is wild, free and uncaring, with drag queens and dudes in bondage having it up and down a catwalk slap bang in the middle of a dance-floor with the most fervent dancers in the festival. It’s the kind of clubbing experience that makes you remember why you fell in love with raves, and like the best nights out, leaves you feeling the place with a shiny golden aura.
Next up, we plodded over to Maceo’s – a secret bar behind an unassuming wall that usually doesn’t have much of a queue until it gets to the early hours, when suddenly it starts getting pack out as it’s one of the only bars at the festival that keep going 24/7.
Though Maceo’s can barely fit more than 20 people, or 50 if it’s really hoofing off, you can expect to see the worlds best DJ’s like Leon Vynehall, Moxie and Eats Everything casually blasting out bangers in a club no bigger than an oversized living room. They also serve a cider called Truth and Light, which makes you feel incredibly strong and mighty like only the best ciders can whenever you’re in a giant field.
Last up was probably my favourite place in all of Glastonbury, except for the Stone Circle at 7AM on a Monday when there’s a naked guy usually running around for some reason: a secret bar near Shangri-La.
It’s a place no one really knows about unless you’re in the know. Unfortunately, if I tell you any more about it, my mate Will promises to fucking kill me, but just know that it’s one of the best designed, best equipped, best sound system fitted, luxury bars you’ve ever been to in your actual life.
Listening to some slinky heaters surrounded by leopard print furnishings and a crowd that all keeps exchanging glance at each other like ‘How the fuck did I get in here?’, all while the rest of the festival is raging around you, it’s a bit surreal, but really and truly something else to experience.
I’m not usually one to ever know or be accepted into secret spots, in fact I can’t remember how many times a Berlin bouncer has smelled I’m English a mile off and said ‘Sorry mate’, with a half ‘Fuck you buddy’ looking smile, to have access to some of the best spots in the best festival in the world was a real headfuck, but obviously a great one. A great headfucking experience, if you will.
Probably the least secretive of all the Glastonbury ‘secret spots’ was the Rabbit Hole. We tried to get in with all our might, our photographer Chris doing his best and most convincing ‘Actually, we’re serious professionals’, despite me looking a Burberry Pokémon on god knows what kind of drugs, our furious secret spot streak was cut short, with a not-so-polite ‘Not today lads’.
To be fair, the queue was fully insane, like going all the way up a hill kind of vibe, I think because national treasures Bad Boy Chiller Crew were playing at the time, so we really were trying our luck with that one.
With an emotional hug and a warm fuzzy feeling in my gutty wuts, I treaded off back to my tent to ‘sleep’, AKA stare at the ceiling for a few hours while listening to ambient through a crackling phone speaker. Good night, that.