Not that many years ago, going to Glastonbury involved arriving on the Friday morning for a mere three days of field-based fun. But in recent years, Glastonbury-goers have been arriving earlier and earlier, to the point where some mad-for-it campers now wait overnight on Tuesday to be first in line when the gates open on Wednesday morning. Even with this year’s transport trouble, exacerbated by heavy rains in the run-up to the event, there were 1000 more people on site by 9am on Thursday than at the same point in 2015, itself a record year for early arrivals.
In part, it’s fuelled by a nagging sense of dread that the only place left to pitch your tent will be that bit of bog near the toilets. You know, the bit where it’s boggy even when it’s not been raining. But more than that, it’s because Glastonbury before the bands is brilliant. Across its 900 acres, Glastonbury offers so much to see and do that hopping between stages can distract from what’s really offer. Granted, if you’ve never been to the festival, the idea of turning up two full days before the music officially starts seems a bit mad. So, for the curious, here’s what Glastonbury-goers get up to before the music properly starts.
Wednesday and Thursday provide the perfect opportunity for a grand tour, when the calves are still sturdy and the liver is still supple. You survey the land, checking out new additions to the site, looking at the revamped NY Downlow in Block 9, the media hell-themed Shangri-La reboot. And you visit the bits you’ve always meant to mooch around but never got round to before. Next thing you know, you’re in a tipi watching a whittling demonstration. You don’t know quite how this happened, but you’re glad that it did.
Acquainting themselves with old favourites
The cider bus! The Stone Circle! That falafel stand you like! They’re all here, chums.
Enjoying the pyrotechnics
Wednesday night goes with a bang, with three bonfires on the high points around the site and a spectacular fireworks display. But don’t take my word for it….
Dancing to unlikely celebrity DJs
This year: snooker player Steve Davis, who played to a bloody enormous crowd at the Stonebridge Bar at The Park on Thursday afternoon. For a man who spins prog rock and minimal techno and is famous for being ‘interesting’ in inverted commas, that’s no small achievement.
Spotting the Eavises
Thursday at Glastonbury provides your best chance of clocking Glastonbury’s beloved founder, Michael Eavis, in his short-trousered glory. It’s on Thursday night that, traditionally, he appears with knockabout band The Vodka Jellies to do a bit of live karaoke, this year Elvis’s ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ and ‘My Way’. But at Glastonbury, you only need to keep your eyes peeled…
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Tiring themselves out
This is the tricky part. When there’s so much fun to be had, it’s difficult keeping enough energy in the tank for when the festival actually starts. Did you really want to watch Adele though?