It’s been two years since punters stepped foot on the hallowed ground of Worthy Farm and its surrounds and – as you’ll be aware from either A: being here or B: annoying Instagram posts – those feet are this year in trainers or sandals or, for the very brave, nothing. It’s sunny and dry and seems like the Glasto gods are in a good mood.
Glastonbury taking a fallow year, as it did in 2018, stings at the time, and especially given no other festival organisers get anywhere close to recreating the experience. But the wait makes the following year that much sweeter – the anticipation, the first glimpse of the Pyramid, the nostalgia of the long-drops, the smells and the sights and the thrill of the new.
For the early arrivers – almost all of the 175,000-ish, it seems – Wednesday offers a tantalising glimpse at things before they’re really open, some behind fences, some closed off, some open, what feels like a billion bars and paths to explore, art and lights and fun everywhere. This year, gone is the spider in Arcadia, and in its place is Pangaea, a brand new and gargantuan installation that looks like a dockyard and is yet to reveal its charms, lying dormant for most of Wednesday night. Glastonbury-On-Sea, officially opened on Thursday morning by Michael Eavis himself, is surreal and brilliant – a landlocked pier styled on Victorian seaside resorts.
So Glastonbury 2019 got off to a fiery and fleshy start, with the majority of revellers arriving on site as soon as the gates opened for the now-traditional crack-of-dawn-on-Wednesday-to-Monday-morning party, and the party started with a fire on the hill above The Park, and a gawp-worthy firework display.
But the Wednesday wanderer would also have been hit by a strong political message. Glastonbury has always shouted its ecological, political and social strands loudly, but this year it feels more stirring and omnipresent than ever. Everywhere you look, there are messages about climate change, and bee populations, and Brexit. The Greenpeace field, often overlooked by many Glastonbury-goers, feels like a hub this year, and had acts on right from the off. NME caught a singer-songwriter closing the stage in the wee hours whose songs about The State Of Things felt not just very Glastonbury but very 2019 too – as does the Extinction Rebellion procession on Thursday afternoon.
Up at Shangri-La, the art-gallery-cum-party-hub in the SouthEast corner, politics is the thing: this year, it’s a recycled, post-Brexit wasteland, a rubbish dump made art. There’s a giant sign promising a ‘Diversion from Brexit and all that silly bollocks’. Another says: ‘Don’t be a dick’. Good advice for life in general. And there’s also a big, beautiful Pride theme to Glastonbury, falling as it does at the end of the anniversary Pride month, and including a huge, anthropomorphic rainbow sculpture up by the Glastonbury ‘Hollywood’ sign that’s sure to clog up your social media feed.
Organiser Emily Eavis always says that “Wednesday is for settling in”, but by 4am, when this writer sloped off to bed, the party people were still up, gathered round a boombox on the old railway track dancing to breakbeat, or gathered round fires, or clutching mysterious balloons at the Stone Circle. Settling in to Glastonbury means adjusting back to this wonderland, this alternate universe of a place, and remembering that festivals are about people and experiences, and not about watching Lewis Capaldi and his bobbins emoti-pop. Stay tuned to NME for the real picture.