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Notes from Glastonbury 2023

It’s a sunny Thursday and I’m making my way at a snail’s pace down the M5, blasting a playlist called “Mills and Janie take Glasto”, and painstakingly curating my personal line-up for the next four days. That’s right, I’m heading to Glastonbury. I have wanted to go for years, and it’s my first time so it’s fair to say excitement levels are running pretty high. I’m also explaining, very patiently (but nevertheless for the fourth time today), just exactly who the Arctic Monkeys are. Why’s that, you ask? Ah yes — the elephant in the room.

I’m going with my mother.

My nutritional therapist, marathon running, quasi-vegan, all-round health goddess, pretty much entirely sober, mother. It’s the point at which I’m assured that the running shoes have actually, god forbid, been left behind for once that I start to question whether mummy dearest and I are on the same wave length and whether our definitions of a wild weekend are in any way similar at all.

A disclosure is most likely required here. I like to think I’ve done the full ‘festival experience’ before. Aged 17, I was carted off with some friends to a five-day drum and bass festival (God knows why), armed only with a charming naivety, far too much illegally-sourced vodka, and no idea of what fresh hell lay ahead. Emerging five days later, a thoroughly broken and changed individual, I vowed that I would never, ever again partake in an event that rendered my calling a tent home for any length of time necessary. Fortunately for me, my mother has a similar aversion to structures that require 137 different steps, five working days, and a bag of pegs (one of which is always broken, bent, or missing) to assemble. So, we happily booked ourselves into a neighbouring farm adjacent to Worthy Farm, affording us beds, showers, and a limitless supply of bougie anti-hangover supplements. What follows is a list of observations from our four-day ‘bender’.

Worthy Farm is huge. Yes okay, that sounds obvious, but it’s 900 acres’ worth of huge, to be precise, and by the time things actually get going you have no chance of getting your bearings. It’s near impossible navigating your way between performances anyway, let alone just meandering along. Get there on the Thursday (gates technically open at 8 am on the Wednesday but most attendees arrive between Thursday and Friday evenings), and spend the evening doing what middle-aged people call “soaking up the atmosphere”. It’s one hundred per cent worth trekking up to the Healing Fields (south of the Pyramid stage), and sitting underneath the Hollywood-esque Glastonbury sign as the sun goes down. It’s the best view you’ll get of the site all weekend, you watch the last bits and pieces come together, and if the weather is good, you’ll be blessed with a stunning sunset.

On that note, even with all the will in the world, you can’t see everyone you want to — there will be clashes, or it’ll be fractionally too far to make it in time, or you might just want a well-earned break. Hit with the devastating news that we’d have to choose between Blondie and Will Young; Loyle Carner, Christine and the Queens, or Lana Del Rey; not to mention the devastating Guns n’ Roses or Mel C (we obviously made the right call and spiced up our lives). It was made abundantly clear that planning, prioritising, and strategising are the names of the game. Be prepared to change your plans when the secret sets get announced, and follow @secretglasto on Twitter. Maybe it’s Emily Eavis in disguise, maybe it’s sorcery, maybe it’s Maybelline, I just don’t know, but they were correct about almost everything and were at least half an hour ahead of the festival itself every single time. Hozier, Fat Boy Slim, and The Pretenders were all confirmed last minute, and it’s a handy way to see different stages, too.

It’s a micro-climate. Whatever you do, take wellies and waterproofs, just in case. “But it’s the end of June in Somerset!”, I hear you say. Exactly. In the county with the most unpredictable weather, with hills on either side, you would not want to be caught in the ensuing mud-bath that would result from even the tiniest amount of rain. If you don’t believe me, google “Glastonbury 2007”, and pop those wellies back on your packing list.

Emily Eavis knows how to book a good headliner. Despite the understandable and necessary controversy surrounding the fact that all three headliners were male (two out of 2024’s three are confirmed to be female), they were still incredible. The whole acute laryngitis debacle had thrown Friday night’s Arctic Monkeys set into a degree of uncertainty, and despite the crime against humanity that was slowing down Mardy Bum, Alex Turner strutting up and down the stage looking suitably like he’d ruin your life made for a hugely memorable headline slot (their third, and hopefully not the last). I don’t have much to say about Elton John that hasn’t already been said a million times over (if you haven’t seen it, it’s on iPlayer) — but standing in a field with 120,000 other people hearing classics like (the original) Candle in the Wind, Tiny Dancer, and Rocketman played live for the final time in the UK (probably) was moving in ways I just hadn’t anticipated.

Rick Astley is a national treasure. I had no idea that watching him play Highway to Hell on the drums in a salmon pink suit was on my bucket list, but turns out it very much was.

And finally, it was the best bonding experience you could ask for. If your parents are anything like mine, they have the unique potential and ability to annoy the hell out of you like no one else — simply because they are your parents and do things like call it the Facetime instead of just Facetime. But the opportunity to have four days away, with pretty poor signal, no siblings to catch up with, and, crucially, no dishwashers to be nagged to empty was pretty special. Without those small, mundane, everyday moments of tension that come with navigating becoming an adult in your own right and still being your parents’ baby, I learnt a lot more about our relationship. And unfortunately, I have to admit that at the grand old age of 21, that this is unfortunately because I’ve started to turn into my mother.

So while it might not have been the wildest weekend of my life, it was a pretty good one. And if you are thinking about trying to get tickets for 2024, register right this very second. Waking up at 6 am on a cold morning in November to try and secure tickets might seem a little over the top, but it genuinely is one of the best places in the world and worth every second you spend trying to get there. You never know, you might even want to bring your mum.

Image: Amelia Perry

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