Glastonbury Festival has sold out and I really ought to get over it but…

So yes. It’s a good line-up of music. Of course. So it should be. But I have a problem with Glastonbury in its current format.

Caroline and I wrote a feature for This Festival Feeling a few years ago called Has Glastonbury Sold Out? We kinda concluded that it had sold out but that it was OK that it had. (We don’t mean sold out of tickets, by the way. Sold out, as in, sold out to The Man.)

In hindsight I think we were a bit soft on the world’s favourite festival. Or maybe it has just got worse since we wrote that.

Glastonbury has become, I suppose, a reflection of society. So it does have its quirky leftfield, er, fields. But these are now found on the fringes where they used to be the raison d’etre of the whole event.

The main stage and other stage are hideous really. It’s like walking down Upper Street, Islington on a Friday night – all chain bars and drunken suits (albeit wearing their civvies).

I should be able to accept this. Fuck it, why am I interested? I am interested because Glastonbury is important. Or rather, it used to be important.

The first Glastonbury Festival was held in 1914, according to Rob Young’s excellent history of British folk music Electric Eden. From 1914 to 1927 it provided a “valuable platform for new British music and an experimental base for new ideas and crazes to be worked through”.

You could argue that it still does but your casual festival-goer would be unlikely to find the new ideas and crazes.

“If Canterbury is the official capital of the Church of England, Glastonbury has long been its heathen obverse,” writes Young.

In moving Glastonbury into the mainstream, Michael Eavis and crew have disowned this heritage. It could still be a massive event showcasing the new and innovative. It’s not. It’s just a big show.


Separately, while Paul Morley is on highly irritating form here, occasionally making no sense whatsoever, he has a similar point to make while talking about the Rolling Stones and Glastonbury. He also has an interesting (and probably correct) theory that any future youth rebellion will not come from rock music, which is sad enough for an old punk like him and sad, even, for an old raver like me. Not quite sure on his point that it’s likely to come from architects and techies either but…



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