The Hobo Guide to Glastonbury
Since relocating to the UK, I have attempted to cross as many English traditions as possible off my bucket list before my visa expires and I am swiftly deported. So far, these traditions have been rich and varied and have included drinking wine in the street like a commoner, yelling obscene sentences at a football match in the freezing cold and attempting to touch a squirrel while pissed in Hyde Park.
However, the crown jewel of UK traditions occurs every summer: Glastonbury. This quintessential British festival sees thousands of gumboot-clad punters head to a farm in the middle of nowhere and stand in the mud for five days whilst being rained on from cups of piss thrown into the crowd as well as frosty droplets from the sky.
Having already cut my teeth on a variety of Australian music festivals, it’s safe to say I was nonchalant about this whole Glastonbury caper when I attempted to survive it last year. I’d been to Splendour; same thing, right? Wrong. By 11am on the first day, my “Please, I know how to festival!” smug expression had been wiped firmly off my face. I may be a self-titled expert at Australian festivals, but when it came to the British, I was clearly a novice.
Now while one Glastonbury festival experience definitely does not make me a pro, it has elevated me to the dickhead status of, “Oh you wouldn’t know, you haven’t been to Glastonbury,” which I think entitles me to impart the wisdom I learned in case you have purchased a ticket for this week’s frivolities.
WHAT TO BRING
Yes, they are on the banned list and yes, you should ignore it. You will be so thankful there is a communal space you can all sit under when it starts pouring with rain that it won’t matter if security asks you to take it down three times before then. Just keep putting it back up. There is nothing more miserable than trying to squeeze six of you into a two-man Argos tent that was clearly designed for midgets.
One of the great things about this festival is the fact that you can bring in as much booze as you like into your campsite, as well as the festival site itself. Forget cute cross-body bags that only hold baby wipes and tampons, bring a proper backpack and stuff it with booze to take into the festival site each day.
I don’t care if it’s forecast for 30 degree days the entire time; you will need these when it inevitably rains. I was blessed with only sporadic showers, but even those turned the ground into a gluey pit of mud which no sturdy Converse, Doc Martin or Topshop ‘Festival Boots’ could have survived. Not getting trench foot because you had proper footwear will make your weekend.
I know it’s summer, but summer in England seems to play by different rules than summer everywhere else. It will get cold at night and you will need warm blankets for your bed. Otherwise, you will end up buying one from the festival general store for £5 which will then make all of your belongings smell like wet dog.
If you want any kind of sleep, you will need ear plugs. Bring a couple of pairs, or be prepared to put the ones you dropped in the dirty alcohol-covered floor of your tent back in your ears. You’ll choose sleep over a possible ear infection when it’s 7am and your neighbours are only just getting home.
The funnel we bought along was intended for drinking games, but became a valuable urinal tool for my lady bits when it was 4am, raining and I managed to find an empty plastic bottle on the floor of the tent. Much better than struggling into gumboots and hiking to the toilets.
Nothing from the ASOS ‘Festival Range’
Around this time of year, most high-street shops will start releasing their festival ranges. These often include cute playsuits, fringed suede bags and delicate leather sandals. Some stores may even carry culturally inappropriate headgear or aesthetically inappropriate bodysuits. Please stay the fuck away from all of them. Do not take anything that you will weep over if it gets dirty – because it will. Take the comfiest clothes you own and the ones that don’t show up dirt, sweat and cider stains. The only one that will look like a dickhead is the girl in a white crochet dress and suede fringe boots covered in dust, mud and spilt drinks.
WHAT TO DO
Arriving and Setting up Camp
When it was patiently explained to me for the 8th time that yes, we would need to leave between 1-2am in order to get there in time, I laughed. It was only a few hours’ drive away, what the hell would we do from 4am until the campsite actually opened? The answer is queue. Queue with all the other geniuses who had the foresight to leave at this time. We arrived in the carpark at 4am and didn’t set up camp until midday. Think of the poor bastards who enjoyed a sleep in at home and left as the sun was coming up. I was merrily drinking cider under a gazebo as they set up camp on the road or next to the toilets. Get in early, queue and get a good spot.
Before leaving, I printed off the set list and and spent hours working out who to see and when. My very patient boyfriend listened to me get worked up about missing bands and activities numerous times. I tried faithfully to adhere to my timetable once we were there, but I enjoyed Glastonbury better when I wasn’t frantically dashing from stage to stage. Spend some time working your way around the huge site which includes an obscene amount of bars, dance tents, circus acts, DJ sets, movie screenings, political talks as well as the main headliners. Relax and spend some time discovering the amazing things Glastonbury has to offer, like a secret 3am Mark Ronson DJ set involving an incognito Bradley Cooper.
For some unknown reason, a lot of people seem to leave behind all their camping gear and rubbish. If you are so inclined to do that, at least pack all your foul smelling camp gear down and put it in a rubbish pile for the saintly cleaning crew. We left our camp at 10am and didn’t arrive home until 7pm. If you are in no rush, sleep in and then lounge around your camp for a while before leaving. Trying to exit the carpark was an ordeal, and I ended up napping on the ground next to the car for hours. Bring snacks.
Contrary to the amount of urine and hard labour that was conveyed in this guide, Glastonbury was one of the greatest festivals I’ve been to and was one I recommend everyone attempt at least once in their lifetime. It is so large and different to anything I’ve done before, consisting of incomparable music acts as well as people of all ages from all walks of life coming together to inhale the smell of weed, sweat and cider while simultaneously hoping that that Kanye West will choke on his own misguided rhetoric. Five hobo thumbs up.
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Rowan still hasn’t finished War & Peace, but she did use it to balance her dinner once. Living in London, she’s steadily working her way through the Europe’s great cities and hopes to try every wine in England before her visa expires.