Thursday, March 11, 2004

I will not cease from mental fight. Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand. Till we have built Jerusalem. In England's green and pleasant land.

"Glastonbury is a fantastic event. So many young people in a community which is self-governing and tolerant. It confirms my belief that despite everything, humanity really does want to get on with itself. Michael Eavis is a genius for making it happen." Tony Benn, 2003.

It's less than a month now till the Glastonbury tickets go on sale. My excitement is starting to build.

I love Glastonbury.

I love the chance to see so many great bands.

I love the fresh air and the sunshine.

I love the freaks and weirdos.

Most of all I love that fact that there are tens of thousands of people there and most of them are just like me.

Glastonbury remains the three best days of the year. I have attended other festivals but there is nowhere quite like Glastonbury. It's link to the past, and all things King Arthur, is maybe overstated but there is definitely something spiritual about the place. Then again maybe it's just the marijuana fumes.

Either way there is no feeling in the world better than sitting up that hill opposite the main stage, letting the young 'uns sweat it out at the front while you enjoy the sunset, the (ahem) refreshment and the anticipation building for the big acts of the evening.

Last year was one of the best. Four bands stood out. Radiohead were just amazing. Brilliant showmen, brilliant songs. Then there was REM - quite simply they are THE great band of our generation. Michael Stipe has charisma that extends a hundred feet either side of him. Anybody who can get 100,000 to shout out Leonard Bernstein in unison has a special gift.

Then there was the Flaming Lips. The furry animals, the pyrotechnics, the humour, the sing-a-long. I didn't stop grinning throughout their whole set.

Meanwhile there was Billy Bragg playing in the Leftfield tent. There's something about Billy that just inspires me. If you have ever seen him live you will know that you leave thinking that a socialist utopia is possible and between all us right-thinking people WE can make it happen. Billy is one of my biggest heroes and is so much more than just a songwriter and performer. Then again, even taken in isolation, his songs are little chunks of genius.

There was a single moment at Glastonbury 2003 that will always stick in my mind. It happened when the massed ranks of fans in front of Radiohead sang along with Karma Police.

With Glastonbury taking place last year against the international backdrop of the Iraq war, the conflict definitely left its mark. There was something of a Stop the War, spirit-of-the-marches vibe. There was a feeling of defiance and a new togetherness. In this respect, nothing felt more poignant than the words "This is what you'll get when you mess with us" sung by so many. Earlier REM singing the End of the World as we Know it, also pushed similar buttons.

But it was that Radiohead moment on that glorious Glastonbury Hill that really stuck with me. It felt like a Glastonbury army was being mobilised.

I applaud the efforts of Michael Eavis and his daughter for making it happen. And making it happen (almost) year after year. In particular his daughter deserves special credit for repoliticising the event and building the links that exist with Fair Trade. The festival may now have big name sponsors and corporate links but there are still products that are black listed and banned because of various corporate misdemeanors.

This year, numbers of attending friends have dwindled a little. But, at present, there are two cars going down and enough people to make a little circle of tents in a quiet spot somewhere.

I can even take the toilets. I'm not bullish about them at all. I hate them with a passion but five minutes hovering over a stinking pit is a very small price to pay to be part of something like Glastonbury.

For those that aren't going remember this: There will be a point that weekend when you switch on your television and you will see Glastonbury in all its glory. There will be happy faces singing along to whoever is on the stage. Your own planned trip to the pub will suddenly feel rather lame. What's more you will miss a sprinkling of genuinely historic performances.

...and you'll turn to the person next to you and say: "Awwww...why didn't we go?"

I just hope it doesn't rain.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.