Dearest Glastonbury, now more than ever, we want you to know how much we truly, truly love you.
Sure, there have been fallow years before – Glastonbury isn’t a total cert every summer – but never has the festival been cancelled just three months before the gates of Worthy Farm were set to swing open once again to welcome 135,000 over-excitable fans, thousands of workers and actual Taylor Swift.
Over in the US, SXSW was the first of many festivals worldwide pulled due to coronavirus, quickly followed by Coachella. Here in the UK we’ve yet to hear about the fate of the big festivals that come later in the summer, but as things stand, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if they all took a year off too.
Yet Glasto is such a behemoth that, in a weird way – and in denial, perhaps – we felt it would keep rolling on. It was only last week that its full line-up was revealed, giving us a jolt of hope in the midst of a wave of tour cancellations. The eventual pulling of Glastonbury 2020 has left us heartbroken of course, but it’s the right decision. No wonder: Emily Eavis is a Godlike Genius, after all.
But at least we have the somewhat foggy memories of years gone by to keep us going until 2021’s event, which surely will be the best Glasto of all time thanks to the giddy momentum caused by a whopping 24 months away from Pilton and Great Britain’s indefatigable dedication to the field-based sesh.
This year’s festival would have marked not just the 50th anniversary of the Greatest Festival in The World, but also 20 years since I first went to the festival. Fresh from my GCSEs and cadging a lift in my mate’s mum’s builder’s truck – which, now I come to think of it, seems… weird?
Being 16 and, quite possibly, an absolute idiot, we decided to sack off David Bowie’s headline set and also didn’t take nearly enough cash, meaning we ended up trading jokes with anarchists for free pancakes. Yet despite spending three days mainly just feeling a little bit lost, it was a joy from start to finish. I’d been to Reading Festival the previous year, but this was different and not just because it seemed about 50 times the size. This was freer and friendlier, with a crowd that wasn’t just made up of 15 year old ska-punk fans in Carhartt jeans and visors. I was obsessed.
Since then I’ve done roughly 10 more Glastonburys, each filled with their own triumphs and disasters.
There have been moments of sheer beauty; Leonard Cohen’s beautifully gracious sunset set and Jay-Z opening with a brilliantly off-key version of ‘Wonderwall’ in 2008. The tears of happiness I wept as Patti Smith orchestrated a sing-along Happy Birthday for the Dalai Lama in 2015. Or the time I stumbled across a real ale bar that looked like an Airbnb run by Bilbo Baggins and have never, ever been able to find again. Similarly the Airstream trailer dealing out free cocktails and the naked sauna field, which I have yet to visit but have it on very good authority that it definitely exists. Something else to look forward to next year.
Even the bad shit was kind of amazing; the time I got dumped on the first day of the festival, the year it flooded and I decided to bring a tent that didn’t have a top sheet and woke up at 3am to find it raining inside. Once, I even had to watch an entire Muse set.
Well, that’s the festival all over: it’s a magical, mercurial thing that confounds and delights but next year will be back and will be blinding. Whatever festival cancellations follow Glastonbury’s, it’s hard to think that festival season 2021 will be anything but the greatest ever – and we can make it so together. Everything might seem pretty doomy right now, but there’s a light at the end of this particularly shitty tunnel. And if anything’s worth the wait, it’s Glastonbury.