A first-look at the new, political and rage-y Shangri-La at Glastonbury 2019

Back for its tenth year at Worthy Farm, you'll definitely want to make the pilgrimage to the south-east corner's politically-conscious wonderland this weekend

It’s only 5:51PM down at Glastonbury‘s most south-easterly point and the party is already threatening to spark into life as the synth-led opening of Underworld‘s ‘Born Slippy’ booms out of the speakers. Shangri-La, the outspoken and much-loved corner of Worthy Farm is celebrating its tenth incarnation this year, serving up its usual dizzying dose of the theatrical, the radical and the bizarrely brilliant through its latest set of visual arts, curious installations and live performance. ‘JUNKSTAPOSITION’ is this year’s theme, setting Shangri-La’s satirical gaze on challenging the political, social and cultural chaos of the present-day, while also mercifully offering heavily-recycled shoots of hope that, maybe, just maybe, we’re not that fucked after all.

NME got a quick preview of all things Shangri-La 2019 from its dedicated team of organisers (creative director Kaye Dunnings, co-producer and director Robin Collings and music director Chris Tofu) ahead of last night’s grand opening (June 27) — here’s what we learned.

Shangri-La’s message for 2019 is about happiness and recycling

Heading into The Shed, a micro venue dedicated to encouraging intersectional positive masculinity (messages such as the chirpy “every day may not be good, but let there be good in every day” and the probably quite-true “life is short, smile while you still have teeth” are daubed across the walls), we’re given a preview of what’s new for Shangri-La in 2019 — or rather what’s left over from the 2017 festival.

A major player in the set-up for this year is the recycling regime that Shangri-La holds so dear, with many of the attractions and structures in the area being built with the help of the rubbish (or, as the official party line details, the “baby wipes, blow-up mattresses and bad choices”) left behind by punters at Glastonbury 2017. The Gas Tower arena has also benefitted from this pro-recycling ethos, with 10 tonnes of plastic collected from beaches and rivers in the south west being utilised to help build the structure.

You’d expect to see this kind of environment-conscious approach being endorsed by many if not all of Glastonbury’s many attractions, but for the organisers of Shangri-La it’s integral to their artistic response to what’s going on in the world today. “At Shangri-La, we ask: how are people feeling? Particularly now with politics all over the place and climate change at the top of the agenda, [this year’s Shangri-La theme] has connected so well,” Dunnings says. Funnily enough, NME bypassed the huge Extinction Rebellion parade on the way over here, which the organisers here hail as “the zeitgeist at the moment”.

They also voice their hope that the overall message behind this year’s Shangri-La will help us realise the need to disconnect more often from our blinkered, screen-dominated worldview and instead be more human, connecting face-to-face in order to solve the world’s problems — so maybe think twice before whipping your phone out at The Disruption Bureau, eh?

Oh yeah, and Shangri-La has a rather excellent slogan for this year: “Don’t be a dick.” Wise, wise words.

The artwork is in-your-face and, of course, brilliant

From the always-brilliant Reuben Dangoor‘s Molotov cocktail of nasty newspapers (see above) to work by Radiohead cover artist Stanley Donwood and a giant see-saw which features Trump and Boris effigies balancing the world (or rather the fate of it) between “fucking it up” and “sorting it out”, the numerous artworks, posters and installations at Shangri-La are well worth gawping at. Readily expressing the anger, confusion and madness which are sadly such regular fixtures of the everyday, there are also plenty of artistic calls for positive activism and impactful change: the latter perhaps best expressed by a “Unity” mural, which features portraits of and stirring quotes by Sonita Alizadeh, Emma González, Malala Yousafzai and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Dunnings says that the intention of this year’s art is to “inspire change without trying to make you buy something”. We’ll buy that, though.

There’s loads of live music going on down there – and possibly some further surprises, too

“We’re not really interested in the mainstream,” Tofu says about Shangri-La’s artist-booking approach. “We’re more into people with a message, like Idles, Sleaford Mods,” adding that the latter’s “secret set”, which was only just confirmed earlier this week, was going to be “a legendary moment” for Shangri-La. The organisers add that they’re always keen to give a platform to the genres of music that don’t normally get a say at other major festivals, and the area’s numerous stages and performance spaces will provide the ideal backdrop for a night (or four) of musical exploration for festivalgoers.

Collings is very keen to promote the soundclash talent which is set to grace the The Clash stage this weekend, with rival underground music crews vying to out-do each other and win over the crowd through the power of their respective sound systems. Three words? “Fuckloads of bass.” And, whisper it, but there’s also the off-chance that the one and only Sean Paul might drop in during Jamie Rodigan’s two-hour closing slot on Saturday night. You heard it here first…

So why visit Shangri-La?

“Festivals can be anything you want them to be,” Dunnings says. “They bring people together and unite [them], and that’s why we’re here — people need a shared experience… hopefully people will feel at home here, in an open and shared space.” Go forth and explore, good people of Glastonbury: Shangri-La is waiting for you.