It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks. As Joe Biden’s mercifully uneventful inauguration set out to rid America of what Tom Hanks later called the “troubling rancour in our land” (at least, we think he said “rancour”), the other great hope for 2021 took a bullet right in the third eye: Glastonbury was officially cancelled. 2021 was over before most of us had even started drinking our way through it.
And ‘government-approved’ is very much the key phrase for festival season 2021. Your more #StopTheSteal-inclined mates might blame lockdown itself for the continued tribulations of the hospitality, music and festival industries, but Glastonbury’s cancellation is, in my opinion, an avoidable situation brought on entirely by:
1) Tory dithering over locking down at all
2) Tory dithering about supporting venues, musicians, crew and events properly through the crisis they caused with 1)
3) Tory dithering over having any sort of plan or roadmap for how major events might reopen safely. Albania’s Unum festival recently announced itself as the first rapid-testing festival of 2021 – if I were a band or major event, I’d seriously consider upping sticks and relocating to Europ… oh.
As a ray of a light, Glastonbury have suggested replacement livestream events and perhaps even a smaller event later in the year. The festival proper is always held on the summer solstice weekend, or ‘Midsommar Monsoon’ as it’s become more famously known. What have the druids got on Michael Eavis? Does he live under the constant threat of cattle blight by the pagan god Thunor? Do the Druids even bother showing up? In almost 30 years of Glastonburys I’ve only ever seen one druid there, and he was so off his ibex horns and smeared naked in his own shit that it could’ve been Shroomtober as far as he was concerned.
Well, whatever the reason, like a boiled whale bobbing to the surface of what was once an ice-cap, Glastonbury’s cancellation augured ill for the rest of the festival season. But all is far from lost just yet. Some other festivals are more manageable in terms of adapting to the ever-shifting governmental debacle. Download Festival bosses have announced the plan to go ahead if possible, and many major events are constructed in days rather than months, so can wait out these crucial COVID peak months before crunch time.
Reading & Leeds boss Melvin Benn has said he’s adamant that his festival will go ahead in August. He told NME, with trademark reticence, “I feel very positive because I know that it’s possible”, adding: “I’m super-confident about the end of the summer; I’m super-confident about the beginning of the summer. If everyone over the age of 60, or definitely the age of 50, is vaccinated by the end of May, then Jesus – there should be no stopping us.”
But even if, in a worst case scenario, festival season 2021 does fall – and for the sake of the entire festival ecosystem and our thunderous hunger for Wombats-accompanied ostrich burger, we hope it doesn’t – let us not be downhearted. Kaiser Chiefs bassist Simon Rix recently tweeted the marvellous suggestion of making up for 2021 with two Glastonburys in 2022, and I’d go further. Since we’re all gagging to be at Worthy Farm en masse as soon as the pandemic is beaten, why not have a year-long (or at least a summer-wide) Glastonbury starting as soon as we’re allowed in – the ultimate COVID wrap party?
We don’t need any main stage bands, just let us shout “Shalom, Jackie!” across the Sacred Space, bask in the fire breath of the giant metal spider and celebrate having life back, in the place where life is best. It’ll feel like the inauguration of a real new age.