The Glastonbury Festival is all over the media this weekend and the images have triggered my own memories of visits in 2009 and 2010. There was the music, of course. Not just the headline acts – Neil Young, Blur, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and more – but also the unexpected pleasures on the smaller stages. Then there was the variety of exotic food outlets, and the pleasures of just sitting in the sun soaking up the atmosphere.
Edward reading the Sunday paper in the enormous shanty town of tents at Glastonbury in 2010.
One of the memories dovetails very neatly with the themes of some of my recent posts – about the struggles of John Snow and others to provide London with safe drinking water. Glastonbury is an enormous temporary town, the size of Sunderland, yet with the most basic plumbing and sanitation. For four days or so, we are plunged back into the type of city that John Snow would have known. A city where water has to be carried from standpipes (wells in Victorian London), where water is only warm enough to shave with if you have a stove to heat it. And, most pertinently, there is only the most basic sanitation. The toilets at Glastonbury are notorious although, probably, no smellier than the average London street in John Snow’s era. The biggest differences are that we have, thanks to John Snow and other from that era, made the link between foul water and disease, and that our noses are more finely attuned to the smells.
Another strong memory of Glastonbury 2010 is persuading my family to watch Dizzee Rascal rather than the then barely-known Mumford and Sons, tonight’s Pyramid Stage headliners. I’ve never been forgiven for that.
A forest of legs in front of the West Holt Stage, awaiting Dr John’s set in 2010.
The crowd in front of the Pyramid Stage for Tom Jones’ set in 2009. Glastonbury Tor is just visible in the distance.