It’s September 19, 1970. Jimi Hendrix died yesterday. While he world is mourning the loss of one of history’s greatest musicians, a new musical legend is about to be born.
In the south west of England, Michael Eavis hosts a two-day event at Worthy Farm. 1500 attendees pay £1 to see T. Rex headline. Nearly a half-century later, that modest festival has become the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world, a template for every fete that has followed, and a bucket list item for music fanatics from all over the world.
A trip to Glastonbury feels like a visit to another planet. It’s a psychedelic playground where hedonism is embraced, unity is the order of the day, and imagination is the only limit. It also looks like an environmental disaster zone, smells like a ruptured sewer pipe, and can be harder to navigate than a swimming pool full of porridge.
Do it right, and it will be one of the most memorable 4-day stretches of your life. Here’s how to get through with your sanity intact.
How To Get There
Glastonbury takes place in southwest England at Worthy Farm, located in Somerset between the villages of Pilton and Pylle. Bristol International Airport is the closest destination by air, but coach services can also be arranged from Heathrow Airport directly to the festival. If you’re driving, you’ll need a car parking pass. Attendees are highly encouraged to take public transportation to the festival. Doing so earns you the title of Glastonbury Festival Green Traveller and access to discounts on meals and merch.
What To Pack
Enjoying the festival starts with being properly prepared. You’ll have to haul your gear a fair distance to where you camp, so only bring what you really need. The basics include your ID, your ticket, your tent, and enough cash to see you through. Have a sleeping bag and a roll mat to keep you cozy at night, plus an extra blanket to combat the cold. Sturdy boots – wellies, if you’re going classic – are a must, as is waterproof outerwear.
Pack any medications and first aid supplies you may need during the week, plus toiletries and sunscreen. You’ll also want bags for dirty clothes and trash, some kind of light source, and a reusable water bottle to fill from the free taps on site.
Do not bring: glass bottles, gazebos, pets, sound systems, generators, sky lanterns or kites, unauthorised fireworks, wax flares, or the drone you bought from an in-flight magazine.
Where To Stay
For the full festival experience, a tent is the only way to go. It may have a river running through it by the end of the event, but at least you’ll have a good story to share on Facebook. Your best bet to avoid that scenario is to pitch your tent with water in mind. Camp on the highest ground possible, and steer clear of ditches where water will collect into grimey pools. And while you’re at it, be toilet-aware. The area near the taps will get boggy, and the overburdened toilets carry a legendarily horrific stench.
If your tastes lean more torwards glam than gritty, there are other options. For a price you can score a yurt or a tipi provided by Land & Sky at nearby Writh Farm. The festival itself also has a handful of well-appointed tipis. For truly luxurious dwellings, book with Camp Kerala. One part boutique hotel, one part no-holds-barred party, one part relaxing getaway, Camp Kerala is a shamelessly opulent experience.
What To Wear
You’ve seen the photos of well-dressed celebs at Glasto who barely have a hair out of place despite wading through waist-deep mud. Delete that mental image right now. Barring a miracle, you will not party for days in a water-logged field and come out looking ready for your closeup.
Glastonbury’s weather is notoriously volatile, so pack for anything. Waterproof outerwear and mud-ready boots are essential, and don’t skimp on the spare socks and clean underwear. Prepare for both warm and cool temperatures. Summer clothes may be fine during the day, but nights can get chilly. Leave behind valuables, any clothes you care about, and attachment to creature comforts. $20 jeans and $200 jeans look exactly the same when they’re caked in sludge.
Waterproof bags are the best accessory you’ll bring to Glastonbury. Carry your mobile, camera, and wallet in small zip-lock bags to protect them from the elements. If you really want to look like a pro, keep a set of clothes in a bag that’s secured in your tent or car. At best you’ll have something clean to wear when you leave, and at worst you’ll have a spare outfit if disaster strikes.
What To Eat & Drink
The key word here is “dehydration.” When it comes to your body, it’s a serious don’t. Drink plenty of water to fuel all the trouble you’ll be getting into. Safe drinking water is available from the standpipes scattered around the site. You’re permitted to bring your own alcohol, but only in quantities considered “reasonable personal use.” Remember that everything must be decanted into plastic bottles – glass will be confiscated.
On the other hand, dehydration is a positive where food is concerned. Deyhdrated meals are lightweight, easy to pack, and surprisingly gourmet. Dried fruit also makes for an easy, festival-friendly snack. Not culinarily inclined? Fear not. Starvation is not an option at a festival with around 250 food stalls onsite. Glasto is famous for its festival fare, which encompasses all kinds of cuisine and price points.
What To Do
How do you decide what to do when it feels like you can do anything and you’ll be missing out if you don’t do everything?
First, be sociable. Make friends with your neighbours. Share your beer and cigarettes. Be respectful when it comes to noise and rubbish. Music is just part of what makes the festival experience memorable. If you’re not engaging with fellow festival-goers, you’re missing out on a major part of Glastonbury’s greatness.
Venture out of your comfort zone. The festival is massive and made up of distinct socio-geographic regions, each with a completely unique vibe. Explore as many as you can (unless you’re looking to waste as much of the event as possible, in which case claim a small patch of ground and cling to it territorially for hours until the headliner comes on).
Complain about the fence. It’s a rite of passage.
And finally, plan to have no plans. There’s nothing wrong with tracking down a few of your favourite bands, but the best Glastos are carefree. The beauty of Glastonbury is its abundance of weird and wonderful things to do and see. Explore everything.
If the dampness of Glastonbury is a deal breaker for you, check out the Burning Man Festival in the middle of the American Desert instead.
Your ultimate guide to enlightenment is right here: A Burning Man Survival Guide