The first time I went to Glastonbury, I literally cried at the state of the toilets. I was eight. My mum works at the festival, giving massages in the Healing Field, and nothing had prepared me for the long drop loos. While most people enter the festival world as mid-teens, clutching shit warm cans at Leeds and Reading, I just inadvertently went full-pelt into the biggest festival of them all. Attending every time until I was 21 (when I discovered that European festivals were warm and places like ATP had beds) I learned a fair amount that it feels important to share before hundreds of thousands of Brits pack away their pill stashes and roll mats for another train ride to the Somerset farmlands.
I saw countless "legendary" sets but remember very little of them because often getting ice cream or watching people fall down a mud hole for hours is more entertaining as a kid than looking at a stage, watching music you don't know that well and can only see when you're on someone's shoulders. So from someone who as a child saw The Levellers more times than any human being should be subjected to and at 16 took one for the team and stood in a pile of his friends own pear cider-induced vomit to hide it from his mother, here's some of the things I've learned about the UK biggest festival.
Think twice before making it your first psychedelics trip
Come on. Before I'd even hit puberty I'd seen more bad acid trips at Glastonbury than your average St John's Ambulance person sees in a lifetime. I encountered wild-eyed and deeply scared grown-ups curled into a ball on the floor crying, manic hysterical screams from frazzled minds and one year a semi-naked guy came bursting through the hedge in the middle of the night, all bloody and scratched and drenched in fear, as I sat toasting marshmallows around the fire. It's amazing what you just shake off as not a big deal when you're a kid, and even all those experiences never stopped me deciding to experiment with hallucinogenics there for the first time. Maybe for a seasoned pro, Glastonbury's infinite lands of colour and activity are a tripper's dream but for a first timer there's so much potential headfuck that I'd stay clear if you're a novice.
The Pyramid stage isn't the epicentre of fun
"Oh wow! You were at Glasto in 1997? You must have seen that legendary, infamous Radiohead set that Q magazine voted the best gig of all time?" I hear you say. Well, yeah, I watched a bit of it but my little brain found it well fucking dull, so I went to see Reef instead who were headlining the Other Stage. I guess the 11-year-old me was more into Chris Evans-approved turgid dad rock than some weird, warbling progressive art rock.
Chances of seeing genitalia are high
In 1995 Elastica were joined on stage by a very energetic streaker and anyone who was unfortunate enough to see The Bravery play (remember them?) in 2005 will recall that the bass player took all his clothes off and hung full dong for quite a while before throwing himself into the drum kit, like a sweaty drunk goth version of a very tired and cranky gorilla. Whatever it is about the festival, people seem to want to take their clothes off. As a kid I just remember endless images of naked bodies trundling around. There was one woman who I would see year after year whose job seemed to be to just walk around the site pushing a wheelbarrow while naked and in wellies.
Keep your eyes on the floor
There's a lot of fucked people at Glastonbury and fucked people drop things all the time. Money and drugs mainly. I've found a lot of money there over the years just from finding notes in the mud on the floor (£80 in one go once). If you find a wallet then hand it in obviously (when my mate went to lost property one year to check – with no hope – to see if his wallet had been handed in, he almost cried with joy to find out it had. Give other people that chance at happiness), but I think loose money on the ground is fair game. And that cider will taste extra sweet if it's bought with free dirty floor money.
Improvising with personal hygiene becomes the norm
A good friend of mine one year at Glastonbury was partial to needing the loo a lot but rarely had toilet paper. This didn't stop him and rather than doing the very straight forward thing of asking a stranger or buying some from the numerous stores that sold it, he just used whatever he could find in the toilets on the floor. Such implements he told me he used to wipe himself clean included: a glass beer bottle (??), a crumpled up fag packet, the little Guardian Guide thing you get each year with the stage time breakdown on it, a bit of watermelon and a half eaten sandwich. Get creative, people. Or don't because frankly this made me sick even to type.
Use the flag people to your advantage
Glastonbury is full of flags. So many, many colourful flags that obscure the view of the stage you've paid £200 to watch from half a mile away. However, the place is so ridiculously large that they make for useful meeting/reference points when in a busy crowd. That said, flag holders are inherent attention seekers and getting too close may bring you within the orbit of their "banter" –depending on your mood, state of drunkenness and willingness to engage, keep a safe distance.
Don't camp at the bottom of a hill
A no-brainer one might think, but people still do it in droves and scenes like the below can be found. This was the field we stayed in (mid-2000s) and it totally flooded and people's shit was just floating around all over the place. The river of water that ran down the field was so strong one year we pulled someone out of their tent who was stuck in it as it slid down the hill. If it does a mega rain and you're at the bottom of a hill you will lose all your possessions and clothing and tent and be left with nothing other than misery and a trip home, spunking a month's rent on buying new everything or becoming one of those people who just cake themselves in mud and slide around for the rest of the festival. None are good options. This year's weather looks promising enough to not need to worry about this, thankfully.
Beware of the "poo train"
The poo train is the big long cylinder shaped vehicle that drives around Glastonbury sucking up all your terrible excrement and puke and liquids. One of my fondest Glastonbury childhood memories was being there in 1998 and the story breaking that the poo train was sent to suck up all the excess mud and water from the dance tent, when someone accidentally pressed the 'spew human shit and waste all over the place' button instead of the 'suck it all up' button. So just remember every time you see that thing that all it takes is for one tired, slightly hungover, a bit grumpy human operator to make one mistake in which they push just one wrong button and … yeah.
You can find Daniel gearing up for another year at Glasto on Twitter.