At the end of this year’s Glastonbury Festival, Emily Eavis wrote on her Instagram page: “I know it has been said before but that really was the best Festival yet!” Indeed, it’s a well-worn phrase at the end of a weekend over on Worthy Farm, but upon leaving 2019’s edition, there really was a feeling around the place that this was the best bash the Eavis’ have ever put on, and that Glastonbury Festival truly had levelled up.
From booking a British rapper to headline the Pyramid Stage to the historic decision to ban single-use plastic and serving up the most diverse, fresh line-up the festival has ever seen, there were giant leaps forward taken all across Glastonbury 2019. Here are the reasons it was the best ever.
A British rapper headlined for the first time ever
When Jay-Z became the first rapper to headline Glastonbury in 2008, it opened up a new world of opportunities for the festival, which has since seen the likes of Beyoncé and Kanye West top the bill. Booking Stormzy for this year’s Friday night slot as the first British rapper to headline Glastonbury, though, was another leap forward entirely. Of course, he more than justified the risk. As we wrote in our review following the set, Stormy’s performance was “a platform to elevate others, a statement of intent and bloody brilliant”.
It was the first festival to ban single-use plastics
At the end of February, Glastonbury revealed that it would not be selling single-use plastic bottles at the festival. At the end of the weekend, it was revealed that this move saved over 1 million bottles from being used at the festival. A giant, risky move, with the festival putting their (significant loss of) money where their mouth is and laying the marker down for other leading festivals to reduce their carbon footprint. You didn’t even really notice, either – water was sold in cans, and WaterAid workers were absolutely everywhere across the site, making sure that everyone had all the water they needed, especially on such a stonking hot weekend.
Kylie finally made it to the farm 14 years after she cancelled
If you didn’t well up when Kylie got all emotional on the Pyramid Stage talking about cancelling her scheduled 2005 performance at Glastonbury due to her breast cancer diagnosis, then we’re sorry but you’re officially dead inside. Of course, the Legends’ Slot is always a slice of pure Sunday afternoon joy, but Kylie finally making it to the farm after a decade and a half and serving up 75 minutes of pop perfection – plus three minutes of Nick Cave! – really did make it a properly special one.
There were secrets and surprises everywhere
Secret sets and surprises are all over every Glastonbury, but it really did feel like 2019 went one better. On the Thursday night, The Big Moon gave us a taster of their second album, before Pale Waves cemented their credentials as a Very Big Band. Up on the Park Stage on Saturday, Vampire Weekend continued their current penchant for a morning gig, easing us into day two with Fleetwood Mac covers, a set of requests, and bucketloads of pure bliss. It wasn’t quite as calm for Foals though, who lay waste to the area six or so hours later, proving they’ve got exactly what it takes to headline the Pyramid Stage.
There were also some true surprises not even hinted at before the festival began. The Killers brought out Pet Shop Boys and Johnny Marr, Miley Cyrus facilitated the Pyramid Stage travelling to the ‘Old Town Road’, and Glastonbury stalwart Nick Cave sauntered his way around the stage for ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ with Kylie. Add in Dave’s now-infamous special guest in crowd member Alex, and there have never been as many wide-eyed moments of surprise down on the farm.
There were a whole host of inspiring speeches
The biggest festival audience in the world, never mind the telly cameras on top of that, means that when you’re on stage at Glastonbury, the opportunity is there right in front of you to reach millions with a few wise words. From Lizzo’s stunning mantras on self-love and confidence, to Janelle Monáe calling for the impeachment of President Trump, Stormzy leading the crowd through a chant of “fuck Boris” and Christine & The Queens championing queerness and weirdness, this year’s Glastonbury big guns took it upon themselves to make huge, iron-clad statements.
The dance arenas got a revamp
Everyone knows the night at Glastonbury doesn’t nearly end once the main headliners finish up around midnight, and this year the dance areas got a revamp, furthering the claims that Glastonbury is indeed the best dance festival in the world, as well as all the other accolades around its chest. Arcadia’s spider is no more, replaced by a mighty crane, more room for dancing, and the same iconic spits of fire. Block 9, meanwhile, almost doubled in size, with its new look headed up by IICON, a ginormous stage with a set of electronic eyes and a world-beating line-up. As if there weren’t already enough things to do after dark in this festival wonderland.
It was Glastonbury’s most diverse line-up yet
Towards the end of Stormzy’s headline set on Friday, he name-checked a huge list of British rappers who he was influenced by and helped him become a Glastonbury headliner. More importantly, nearly all of them held important, huge slots at the farm across the weekend. With Dave, Stefflon Don, Octavian, slowthai and more holding important, televised slots, and headline sets taken up by the experimental, brilliantly queer likes of Christine & The Queens and Janelle Monae, Glastonbury’s decision to give Stormzy the headline slot was proved far from a token gesture; they’re building a more diverse, more vibrant line-up from the ground up.
David Attenborough brought his iconic voice to the Pyramid Stage
From the Dalai Lama to Jeremy Corbyn, Glastonbury has had its fair share of iconic voices grace the Pyramid Stage over the past few years. None of these voices rang in the ears of everyone in that field from childhood quite like that of David Attenborough though. Maybe this country’s most-loved broadcaster, to hear his tones beaming out to hundreds of thousands – let alone that he was praising the festival’s decision to ban single-use plastic – was unforgettable.
Fitting tributes were made to Keith Flint
This year’s Glastonbury was missing one name. The Prodigy were due to headline the Other Stage on the Saturday night of the festival before the tragic death of frontman Keith Flint in March. The band’s peers The Chemical Brothers took on the slot, and held a poignant tribute to him at the end of their set. Liam Gallagher also joined in the tributes, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when he dedicated a closing ‘Champagne Supernova’ to the firestarter, and thousands upon thousands bellowed it back with fury.
99.3% of tents were taken home
Maybe the most stunning statistic from the whole of Glastonbury 2019 was revealed by Emily Eavis on Instagram the day after the festival. “Just heard that 99.3% of all tents were taken home,” she wrote. “That is absolutely incredible… HUGE thanks to the record numbers who loved the farm and left no trace!” A huge signifier that the masses are buying into the festival’s clean, green message and committed to the future of the festival as well as environmental progress, the togetherness and commitment of Glastonbury-goers shone through more than ever before this year.