Uncle Johnnie's Glastonbury Hints And Tips

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This is taken from the May issue of Mixmag magazine. Since it isn't on their website, I thought I'd put it up here for anyone who hasn't seen it. It contains language you may find offensive (even though you use it yourself), and advocates practices I can in no way condone (yeah, right).

Glastonbury Hints General Tips
  1. Arrive as early as possible
  2. Bring a bit of food
  3. Bring some other stuff
  4. Venture beyond the two main stages
  5. Go to The Healing Field
  6. Visit the Theatre and Comedy Areas
  7. Go to The Sacred Space (especially at dawn)
  8. The Green Fields
  9. Walk around the camping areas
  10. Be open-minded
  1. Don't drink too much booze
  2. Bring a torch
  3. It might actually rain
  4. Buy/beg/borrow
  5. Remember where you pitched the tent

Mixmag writer John Mitchell is as old as time itself. He's been to every Glasto since 1984 and here gives us a few pointers on how to survive the typical British festival with your relationship, possessions, health and indeed your very soul intact.

Glastonbury Hints

1. Arrive as early as humanly possible.

There's many a leathery old Glastonbury veteran (like me) who gleefully pitches up as soon as the gates open on Wednesday morning and will resolutely stay put for a week. These people bring armfuls of festival-conceived offspring and make the fest into their annual holiday. A bit like Butlins only with better music. If that all sounds a bit extreme, Wise Old Uncle Johnnie heartily recommends you arrive as early as possible on Thursday, allowing plenty of time for getting nicely settled.

Fighting your way through Friday evening's colossal queues and trying to find a square centimetre of spare space to pitch your tent is not 'fun'. And early arrivals also get first pick at the firewood pile (in 1995 this was situated next to the Dance Tent) which will have completely disappeared by Friday morning. But be warned. Don't let the desire to arrive early mean you forget the essentials. In 1992, a good friend of mine was in such an indecent rush she got halfway to the site and realised she'd left her tent and sleeping bag at home. Der.

2. Bring a bit of food.

This is true for any festival but particularly so for Glastonbury. Unless you're Mike and Mary McLoaded the Millionaire Festival Goers, eating at those tempting food bars will leave you bankrupt (and probably still hungry) by Sunday night. And it's best not to rely entirely on lager for nutrition and sustenance. One idea is to pack a cardboard box (banana boxes are the strongest and they also come with a handy lid) with some tuck which doesn't need much preparation and won't be affected by the heat. Take a selection of fruits, a load of nuts maybe, some dried bananas, some rolls, some veggie pate - a bit of cheese perhaps, and pick away to your heart's content. The truly adventurous might like to try some cooking. I swear by Tony the Trangia - my faithful festival stove which runs on meths and is wok-friendly. It will also cook substantially quicker than a Calor Gaz stove. Heat up a little oil, add chopped peppers, broccoli, beansprouts and carrots, a dash of soya sauce and some chopped smoked Tofu, add to noodles and a monster meal for you and half your field is ready in minutes. Feel the illusion of health and be the envy of your burger-troughing chums.

But take heed. One year, it was 1986 if I remember right, I tried to do away with food completely and existed for three days on lager, high grade amphetamines and Seven Seas liquid vitamin tonic. I stayed upright and in control after a fashion. But my piss turned a worrying shade of green for days afterwards and I needed a week in bed once the crash kicked in.

3. Bring some other stuff.

Almost everything a human being could ever need can be bought at Glastonbury. It'll just cost substantially more than you'd normally pay. And few journeys in life are more depressing than the early morning hike to Big Bob's 24-Hour Rip Off stall for bog roll. A basic checklist of essentials would include a roll of bin liners, bog rolls, torch (more of that later), bottle opener, tampons, contraceptives, toothbrush, toothpaste, Olbas Oil, ciggies, lighter(s), sunglasses, earplugs (for when you want to sleep), sunblock, bottle of Scotch, more bog rolls, more bin liners and Paracetamols.

One other thing to remember is that you'll probably be parked an awfully long way from your eventual camping spot and slabs of Stella can weigh a ton after a while. Beat those sprained wrist blues with a fold away luggage trolley. It sounds a bit wanky I know, bit just trust your Uncle Johnnie.

Now it's time to...

4. Venture beyond the two main stages.

Glastonbury began as an attempt to mix the atmosphere of a Medieval Somerset country fayre with the hip'n'happening Groovy Love In. Marc Bolan headlined that year. Glastonbury is more than a corporate showcase for major label acts. Take The Jazz World Stage for instance. Don't let that name put you off. This boasts a hatful of leftfield stars. 1995's acts included the likes of Tricky, Transglobal Underground, Freak Power and JTQ. Then there's The Acoustic Tent which features all manner of people with these strange thing called 'instruments'. The Avalon Field tries to recreate the Glastonbury vibe of old and also features more bizarre musical offerings plus pyrojuggling, teepees and omnipresent stripy leggings. All it takes is a butchers at the programme and a gentle jaunt and a lifetime's love affair with a new artist could be yours.

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5. Go to the Healing Field.

Things can get a shade frazzled when you've been raving since last Thursday and your neck feels like it's been sat on by four drunken Sumo wrestlers. This is definitely the place to sort your karma out. Remember, Glastonbury is a place where cynicism, narrow-mindedness and sarcasm simply don't exist. That's for the world beyond the metal fence. A full-scale reflexology (that's a holistic foot massage) treatment will leave your whole body feeling relaxed and refreshed. This is also the place to discover the joys of cranial osteopathy, flower remedies, aromatherapy and every other branch of complementary therapy imaginable. No one will laugh at you, this is Glastonbury. It's OK. The place has even got an Argument Tent (no joke) which adheres to the 'better than bottling it up' school of psychotherapy and is the allotted space for a full, frank (and non-violent) exchange of views.

6. Visit the Theatre and Comedy Areas.

It's loads more chilled out here than the bedlam of the market and main stage areas and there's some top notch comedy at Glastonbury. Harry Hill, Alan Parker, Attila The Stockbroker, Matthew Hardy, Tommy Cockles and a whole stack more have all played at Glastonbury. Bill Bailey comes every year and there's always the chance you'll see (as I did in 1995) Mark Thomas threatened by a semi-naked Mad Person clutching a butter knife. Just add top class circus-type stuff and a full size cinema tent showing loads of top-class films and you've all the makings of a full blown three day cultural bonanza.

7. Go to the Sacred Space (especially at dawn).

Located high above the Green Fields this is one of the coolest places on site. It used to be where the Romanies would park their horse-drawn carriages but The King's Ground (as it's also called) now boasts a genuine Ancient Stone Circle. Actually, it's only about five years old, but who cares. It's a truly top notch gaff, a cool place to chill out, and is also dead romantic. The ideal place to bring your new found Special Friends away from your mates' prying eyes in fact. At dawn this field is yer genuine Tribal Gathering, a jabbering human zoo of flotsam, jetsam, the lost and the looking. Characters from the more messy periods in your life you'd presumed to be either dead or resting over at Her Majesty's Pleasure emerge smiling from the mist. They then proceed to tell you how they've spent the last five years hitchhiking down the Zambezi river in the company of yet-to-be discovered tribes of pygmies. Hilarious and very disturbing at the same time.

My favourite memory of this field was in 1995. Four Glaswegian meatheads in a Security Land Rover just looked utterly agog as a Channel Four film crew sauntered amongst a thousand drumming revellers who cheered maniacally as the sun rose on the Vale Of Avalon. Only at Glastonbury.

8. The Green Fields

are what truly sets Glastonbury apart from all other festivals. This is yer actual genuine Alternative Lifestyles Mix n' Match Supermarket. It's a veritable Crustyland Theme Park where you're free to find out exactly what permaculture is, about sunpowered vehicles, the site of the latest anti-roads protest or see the famous Rinky Dink Bicycle Powered Sound System. Learn how to carve wood with a traditional woodturner, sculpt with stone or phone a friend on the wind-powered telephones. Believe me, in just ten minutes her you can listen in to some astounding conversations. ("Yeah, Scouse Tony's safely in. He came over the fence last night. They winched him up in his wheelchair with some rope and a grappling hook and a load of people caught him on the other side.")

If all this sounds way too tragically hippy dippy for your tastes then you might well be right. But what's more tragic is spending three days in the Styrofoam wasteland of the two main stages and not realising any of this stuff was up here and not even bothering to give it a pop.

9. Walk around the camping areas

(especially late on Sunday night) and listen to the sound of fraying relationships. Three days of shared decision making, lack of sleep and a complete loss of all vestiges of personal hygiene can sap the soundest of couplings. And Sunday night is when the whole sorry saga is more than likely to explode out into a river of bile. "JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP WILL YOU!" yelled one exasperated Geordie as we listened in and sniggered a few years back. "All you've done since Thursday is moan, moan, fucking moan. Nothing's been good enough for you. Everything's been wrong. Well that's it now. I'm off." And off he went into the night.

10. Be open-minded.

Be wild. Do things and see stuff you wouldn't dream of doing in ordinary life. But be warned, avoid ill-advised body-piercing, and/or permanent bodily decorations at festivals. And NEVER EVER buy clothes at a festival especially when under the influence of Class As. Unless, of course, you want to go home looking like a member of The Levellers. Remember, NOTHING you buy at a festival will be of any use to you in the outside world, especially not that lovingly hand-painted stash box or elf-decorated soap dish.

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General Tips

1. Don't drink too much booze

during the day when it's baking hot. This sounds spectacularly boring and sensible. And it is. But a few lunchtime pints on a scorching day and you're heading for a quick nap followed by screaming sun-burn, dehydration or worse. Few things in life taste as sweet as the first over-priced outdoor pint of the day, enjoyed cold from a wobbly plastic beaker during a throbbing red sunset. The night is young, go and enjoy it. Keep up with the liquids and pace yourself.

2. Bring a torch.

Even the most buffoon-like festival virgin knows that this makes sense. You could be a flash bastard and invest £30 in a monster Maglite (complete with focusing lens) or you could plump for a pair of Orbital-esque torch specs (£6.95 from The Gadget Shop) which allows both hands free for, erm, any task which needs two hands. Complete the one-person light-show effect and make masses of new friends all in a similar condition to you with a Midget Laser key ring (call 015330 811227 for more info). This shoots a red beam up to a quarter of a mile into the sky and will provide hours of dribbling pleasure for chemically twisted children of all ages.

3. It might actually rain.

No really. And you're a long, long way from anything which resembles a roof. Be afraid, be very afraid or bring wellies and a waterproof - even if they just sit in your car boot all weekend. Nothing beats the satisfying squelch of wellies on mud as the well-prepared festival dude strolls confidently through lakes of cack as all the saddos with Withnail-esque plastic bags on their feet slip and slide in the all-enveloping cluck. Marvellous.

4. Buy/beg/borrow

the most cavernous, oversized fuck off tent you can imagine. That one-person second skin simply will not do. My little beast was actually lent to Universe for use as their main tent at Big Love and boasts three bedrooms, a chandeliered hallway and full-size jacuzzi. Complete the opulent effect and construct your own Guest Area. Stick a plastic picket fence round your tent, lay on some booze and other 'refreshments', get a load of shrieking Home Counties toffs to totter round the place in high heels and employ some intellectually-challenged knuckle dragger to keep out everyone bar you and your mates. Bingo. Instant celebrity status.

5. Remember where you pitched the tent.

Not as simple as it seems especially when the wide open spaces you left this morning have all been filled with tents which look exactly like yours. Make your tent stand out with a flag bearing some humorous slogan like 'Brummie Lager Monsters' and late night tent losing shenanigans will be a thing of the past.

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© Mixmag - from Vol. 2 Issue No. 72, May 1997

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