Diary of a Glastonbury Poet : Bugger the Pyramid Stage…

by Hollie McNish

It is Thursday afternoon at Glastonbury Festival and I’m completely knackered. In a good way, a brilliant way. I’ve been to Glastonbury festival twice before but every time I come I forget what it is like. It really is an amazing place and I feel so lucky to be here.

Watching the BBC coverage is all good, but I’ve been to the BBC area. It’s clean, it’s not even inside the festival and the presenters don’t need to be wearing the wellies they’re in cos it’s just a tv set made to look like part of the festival. A few hay bales thrown around and the wellies are just for show. Glastonbury has so much more to offer than that. Attention to detail in every area. Each space, from the Latino Zone to The Common (my current favourite), Arcadia, Green Fields and Shangri-La are all decorated and themed differently – different music, different sculptures, different paintings on the bins even. All put together by different teams of people. And the volunteers and staff work their arses to the ground to make it so magical. For us. I feel very grateful.

Raving copyright David Steele

Raving copyright David Steele

I arrived here on Wednesday morning after an 8 hour hour drive in a van. I’ve never driven one before and it has been a long ambition of mine to be a white van driver. The van is blue. I didn’t shout at anyone on the street but I did get a slight feeling of superiority over small cars packed into the traffic jams with us down the country lanes of Glastonbury village. Apologies. I got to the festival just as the final ribbons were being thrown up around the middle maypole and the scaffolding teams were tightening all the tent rungs and bolts and putting up the hammocks. I found the Poetry and Words stage, signed in, spent two hours trying to find my name on the performers list and finally got to sit down, have a bit of the local cider sold from every road lay by on the way here and check out the programme. I read it cover to cover, circling madly all the acts to see. Portishead, John Osbourne’s John Peel Shed, Laminate Radio… I also found out there is an opening ceremony on the Wednesday every year here. I’ve never bothered reading the programme fully before and so never knew about this event.

Stone Circle copyright RoboSchro

Stone Circle copyright RoboSchro

After that, I got on my shoes and the night took off by itself in a way only festival nights can. I went to the opening ceremony at the Stone Circle, an area on the high hills filled with people gathered around a mini stonehenge. I managed to climb on top of one of the stones. I am obsessed with rocks and stones and had cravings to lick them constantly when I was pregnant. So sitting astride a huge rock is pretty much a fantasy of mine…anyway. The festival was opened by a calm and modest 50 year old woman playing a huge horn-like instrument, followed by thousands of people cheering. For a festival where it seems like female music acts are almost as rare as blue smarties, I liked that this woman opened it all. I sat on the huge cold stone chatting to my friend below, looking out for my cousins and watching drunk people get drunker and families putting their babies to bed in fur lined trailers. It got dark, I found my cousins and we wandered around the green area, passed a helter skelter, through old wooden tavern pubs and the metal spider-like dj booth known as Arcadia and finally into Block 9, the dance area. A huge derelict building with a gigantic underground train suspended crashed into the top of it welcomed us in. We walked through the tunnel entrance into one of the most immense raves I’ve ever been in. The rave carried on till morning. I stopped dancing at 3am, slunk back to the Poetry area, into my sleeping bag and fell asleep thinking about how much this place has to offer.

Arcadia copyright Duchess photographic

Arcadia copyright Duchess photographic

So this morning I made a pact. As well as watching a huge amount of poetry, I want to gather as many experiences from here as I can. Cos people have been working so so hard to create this place, and it’s as close to a fairytale fantasy land you can get.  I’ll try and experience a new thing each day here – something I’m scared of – and not just follow the main acts. Firstly, I’m  going to salsa lessons in the Latino Zone. I am scared of salsa and dance like a stiff robot. I need to overcome this. The second is to have my fortune told in the field of Avalon. This also scares me and I generally don’t believe in anything like that. I’ll try to be open-minded. The third I haven’t decided yet.

Wellies copyright Scott Tyrelle

So if you are here or ever want to be here, I’d say get a programme and look through it properly. Walk around the whole site and see every area, check out the artwork, check out the paintings meticulously drawn on every single bin, check out the circus acts and trapezes, the tiny cafes themed like rabbit holes, the velvet padded cinemas, the secret raves, the stone circle and of course, the poetry and words tent hidden behind a circle of hammocks in Bella’s Field. Because the line up for this festival is immense. And not because of the Rolling Stones, Arctic Monkeys, Nas and all the other big names, but because for three days you can listen to and experience things you might never get to do otherwise; experiences that thousands of people have worked so hard to put together. Basically, bugger the Pyramid stage, put on your wellies and go explore the festival properly. Experience something new. Cos we are very lucky to be here and this place is pretty unbelievable.

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