Glastonbury was a rite of passage for most West Country teenagers, now it’s a rite of passage for most teenagers in Great Britain, and probably even further beyond.
I first visited in 1998, as a starry-eyed youth, paid a Scouser to crawl through the hole he’d just dug under the fence, and spent subsequent years scamming wrist bands, tickets, and favours from mates, before eventually giving in and working and volunteering on late night gates and party tents for a free ticket (yes I do know the way to Shangri-la).
And now I can’t get one, let-alone afford one. And yes, it has changed. But I miss it, like I miss my youth.
I miss that time of year where everyone is glued to the weather report in the weeks leading up to the festival (although admittedly it probably didn’t cross my mind as an adolescent in the 90s).
People checking in fear and anticipation, of trudging through gloopy mud for a long weekend until their legs ached and their sweaty wellies blistered their feet and shins. And now those lucky few, who are thrilled and delighted they get to spend one of the best weekends of their lives baking in hot dusty sunshine.
The rest of us at home for the weekend, secretly pray for rain to appear over the Pilton hills, before reminiscing of bygone days full of cider, drums, sweat, mud, sunrises, and a million smiles.
There is nothing quite like Glastonbury. It is the world and it’s most talented and freakiest people collectively bound in a mashed-up, hedonistic, extroverted punch-drunk love party.
From Mexican motorcyclists risking their lives in a tent on the Wheel of Death, to cross-dressing nuns threatening to give you a cheeky enema in their mobile ambulance – Glastonbury’s heart and soul is in the Circus Fields. But its head and brain lie semi-conscious in the stone circle, reverberating to the sound of a thousand bongos, struggling to open its eyes due to all the smoke and burning incense.
And the music, oh the music! Radiohead plink-plonking ‘No Surprises’ across a hundred thousand stars of cheap lighters, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers smashing out the sweatiest dance tents in the early hours of the morning, the steam rising from Bruce Springsteen’s head as he refused to ever stop playing, Oasis wailing out ‘Wonderwall’ to a sweaty, slurry, smiling crowd, Dolly melting a million hearts, and Arcadia blowing a thousand teenagers tiny-minds in an explosion of gas-pressured jets of drum and bass flames.
And then back to normality on Tuesday, jaded and broken. But my mind expanded from all that Glastonbury gives, and all that you can remember to take away, for nothing has ever some close to doing that again over such a short amount of time. I found Shangri-La.
And now I might eventually give in to the curiosity, and watch some of the coverage on the BBC; jealous if the sun shines, and smug if it rains. But I miss you Glastonbury. And there will always be a bit of my heart devoted to it.
Joe Middleton is a writer, environmentalist, compere and former Glastonbury regular who lives in Barton Hill.
Read more: Review: Glastonbury 2016, Sunday