I tried – and failed – to have a very highbrow time at Glastonbury 2019

Glastonbury for you – and definitely for me – might be one big glorified excuse to spend a whole weekend necking as much booze as possible and any other fun treats you can get your hands on, but there are some other sides to it too. At least one of those alternate experience gives festival-goers a much more civilised weekend; more cultured and genteel than falling over in the muddy moshpit at Sunflower Bean. As a woman more used to getting rowdy at Liam Gallagher sets than doing anything vaguely intellectual, I decided to see how people far more refined than me do Glastonbury.

First stop – art. Sadly, there’s nowhere on Worthy Farm that would give me the chance to pickle some sharks and become the next Damien Hirst, although my temporary home for the weekend could give Tracey Emin a run for her money. Instead, I headed to the Daemon Or Doppelgänger stand, where you’re given a lump of clay, a board and your choice of tools and free reign to model anything you want out of it. Stuck for ideas, I took inspiration from my surroundings and made a little cow who could roam the fields long after the festival was over. After my initial mind block, playing with the wet lump was actually pretty stimulating and relaxing, even if most of the people around me were about 20 years younger than me.

Hands covered in clay, it was time for something even more sophisticated – the art of dance. Over at the Astrolabe Theatre, Ballet Works’ Andy Angel is performing a short piece. The tent is dark and fitted with rows of seats and a stage with red velvet curtains that swoosh open as the performance begins. It already feels incredibly highbrow, even before Angel appears onstage in a flesh-coloured bodysuit, socks, and nothing else. Ballet, it turns out, can be quite intense – especially at the point where it looks like the dancer is glaring right into my eyes. Perhaps he’s trying to tell me it’s a bit uncouth to be clutching a can of warm Stella while he does his moves. I find myself losing myself in the piece – not a zoning out and distracted state of mind, but one where you’re fully immersed in it. The choreography closes with a dramatic end and flourished bow, and a rude return to reality.


Shortly after, there’s a Shakespeare performance – highbrow as fuck – happening on a treetop stage in the woods by the John Peel stage. Despite the heat, I decide to kill the time remaining before it with the most elegant (soft) drink of all – Earl Grey. Forty minutes later, I wake up suddenly as I almost fall off the bench I’m sat on in the pretty Woods Cafe. I’ve had an accidental nap – absolutely nothing to do with having only two hours sleep the night before – and wake up confused. I go to see if I’m getting Romeo & Juliet or King Lear. In my sleepy state, I go to the wrong place and miss the performance. There’s still another to go before the end of the festival so I plan to come back later.

As it turns out, old habits really do die hard and I’m very easily distracted by even the thought of drinking some cans and getting lairy. Either the time of the last performance has changed or, more likely, I’ve gotten it very wrong. After taking a quick pitstop in my old ways at The Streets, I try to finally reach my most sophisticated peak. I’m an hour and a half late. Shakespeare is no longer in the building.

Experiencing some other sides of the festival is quite enriching and makes a nice change to being on it all the time, especially on a Sunday, but the highbrow life 24/7 is just not for me. Maybe next year I’ll make it to some more civilised activities, but I’d also be totally fine with sticking to my usual routine.