A week ago today I was stood in a muddy field, beer in hand, watching the sunset accompanied by the dulcet tones of Guy Garvey from Elbow. As the crowd sang along in perfect harmony to Grounds for Divorce and One Day Like This, it occurred to me that festivals are the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life and a way to really reconnect.
For over 40 years Michael Eavis, owner of that infamous Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset, has been bringing together people from all over the UK and the world, united by a love of music, contemporary and performing arts and in those early years milk (a free pint with every ticket!).
I’ve been going to Glastonbury for the past 15 years and even volunteered for Oxfam one year when I was a poor student, just so I could get to those amazing fields. Over that time the festival has changed, it has become less about political activism and environmental campaigning (although Greenpeace and the Leftfield tent of political debate still have a strong presence) and more about big name bands, attracting a more mainstream crowd.
This year over 200,000 people crowded into those fields, which is bigger than the population of my home town of Blackpool (about 150,000), and large enough to potentially almost warrant it’s own hospital! As the festival has become more mainstream it inevitably attracts more busy professionals who are looking for an opportunity to step off the treadmill and recharge those batteries (quite literally with EE’s ingenious portal power bar that recharges your phone as you watch the performances).
Working in mental health has taught me that the chance to take stock and reconnect mind and body cannot be underestimated. Although it is true that there is an elevated level of consumption of alcohol and drugs, there is no sign of aggression or fights that you would expect to see after a Saturday night somewhere like Blackpool, where there has been a similar level of sustained drinking. So what’s the difference?
It seems to me it’s because it has a vibe of togetherness. Dolly Parton quoted she thought it would be great if everyone in the world could just get on and there be no fighting just like at Glastonbury Festival and she’s right. There was a melting pot of Metallica versus Jake Bugg fans, all types of nationality, religion and background and no one cared.
The other element that has improved greatly is the amazing array of healthy food. You could go vegan, gluten free and raw all weekend and be spoiled for choice. Then you can walk it all off across the vast distances across the site. My friend had on a pedometer and clocked up 40 kilometers (that’s about 25 miles to you and me) in the four days there.
All in all I’m of the opinion that Glastonbury festival is very good for the mind, body and soul. So should it be available on prescription? I think so.
Me in Shangri-la at Glastonbury, wine in hand. Couldn’t resist.