Mark, My Words: what it’s really like taking a baby to Glastonbury

Columnist Mark Beaumont swore he'd never take a child to Glastonbury. Then he had a child and Glastonbury still happened...

The most broken people at Glastonbury?

Not the unconscious Minion face down in a carton of dried falafel vomit in an otherwise empty Pyramid Stage field at dawn on Monday, surrounded by billions of those discarded water tinnies that just saved all the dolphins.

Not the Glasto virgins hobbling towards the bus station in one shoe wishing they hadn’t seen fit to bring enough luggage for a month in San Tropez and a picket fence to demarcate their tent ‘patio’ that had 20 other tents pitched in it within 15 minutes.

Not even the ‘glamping’ mug who paid some dodgy online scamster 16k for a normal punter ticket with ‘VIP’ scrawled on it in biro, a ‘luxury yurt’ that turned out to be a long-drop with a tote bag stretched over the top and a ‘mingling with the stars experience’ that involved ‘meeting’ The Killers during their headline set from half a mile away and having an ‘aftershow’ meet-and-greet with the blokes from Puppetry Of The Penis before they’ve had the chance to wash their hands.

No, the most broken people at Glastonbury are those that took their kids with them.

Now, I recall the moment I swore I’d never take a child to Glastonbury – it was the sorry sight of watching Jo Wiley tramp across a marsh-like guest area while an offspring scurried behind her, slapping her on the arse with a muddy balloon. Taking kids to Glastonbury was madness, I thought, the act of fools. They never get a round in for a start, and they’re no use whatsoever in helping you find your tent when the ground has turned to lava and your legs are blancmange.

Then I had a kid and Glastonbury, rather inconsiderately, decided to keep happening.

Suddenly these people became heroes to me. If they could survive the tsunami years with a furious, bawling maniac hanging off them at all times, it can’t be so tough: Sleaford Mods have been loads of times.

From the look of the Glastonbury parents I’ve observed over the years, all you really need is a paisley papoose, some garish ear defenders and enough Calpol to keep your baby barely conscious for 72 hours straight and you can swan around the site to your hippyish heart’s content. Of course we’ll take the one-year-old, I said. It’ll be exactly the same.

Little did I know that all of those people have been in training for months to develop backs like reinforced steel and genetically modified their children to never excrete. And even then, it never occurred to me that you don’t see the papoose crowd round the Beat Hotel at 3am that much, or crawling down the Rabbit Hole for a Fontaines secret gig – they’re all back in their family yurts and rustic campervans by ten, their kiddiwinks kept in a constant state of whining semi-sleep by the thunk-thunk-thunk of a nearby set by DJ Relentless and MC Thisgoesontildawn.

We’ve long been in discussion with doctors over our concern that our child has the funk – we’ve no idea how she might have got it, since I myself am chronically funk deficient and have been on supplements for years – but even our late-night antics were curtailed to a swift shot of psychedelic Horlicks before an early (well, 2am) bed.

With a child in tow, your Glastonbury shrinks dramatically. The Kidz Field is brilliant, like all your best trips happening at once, but with an even more intrusive Basil Brush. But they’re closed by twilight and venturing out into the rest of the site is fraught with dangers. You can take your little ones whittling in the Green Fields, but then the entire site becomes one big handicraft opportunity and before you know it you’re trying to fashion princess necklaces out of strings of tiny gas canisters. And the stage bills are a minefield of bad influence and lessons in inappropriate behaviour. What if we wandered by the Park Stage when Fat White Family were giving the sort of sex education lesson you usually get from the dark web? What if she started emulating any stage routine by Miley Cyrus or Lizzo at her next toddler dance group? What if we accidentally exposed her to Bastille?

There are even more pitfalls for the reviewer parent. We chose Liam Gallagher to be my daughter’s first ever gig and, like most in the crowd, she was rocking out a bit to ‘Rock’n’Roll Star’ and ‘Morning Glory’ but got distracted by a beach ball bouncing around the crowd during his solo songs and had to be escorted from the field for getting a bit loud and lairy. Later, Liam called me a cunt on Twitter for my three-star review in The Independent; not the stuff of the fondest family memories, so we’ll just tell her she saw The Killers first. She bloody loved them.

And that’s where you find whole new joys as a Glastonbury parent – watching your ecstatic child lose her shit to ‘Glamorous Indie Rock And Roll’, or suddenly learn how to kiss you when The Cure play ‘Lovesong’. And those are the sort of Glastonbury memories you actually remember.