Glastonbury’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness

Bags unpacked, showered up, the first proper night’s kip in a week. I’ve now been back from Glastonbury for a couple of days and I’ve just started to rise out of the inevitable post-festival blues. Ah well, only 357 days until the next one and counting.

Glastonbury; always a ten, always worth it.

Glastonbury; always a ten, always worth it.

In any case, I’ve now had enough time to evaluate my experience at this year’s incarnation of the Worthy Farm festival (and watch an unhealthy amount of performances on iPlayer, considering the weather we’re having). This was my second time at Glastonbury, after going last year and vowing to return at every chance I got. I relished each sight as I descended Pennard Hill, from the Tipis and Park area in the south to the cluster of stages in the Silver Hayes and John Peel to the north, and everything in-between. Honestly, the impact was just as powerful as when I first laid eyes on it; only this year, it felt more like a welcome home.

But during your inaugural Glastonbury experience, it’s just enough trying to take it all in and find your way around the site, let alone pin down any clear objectives for just what you want to achieve over the five days you are there. There are many who are happy to go with the flow of the festival, but I am not one of those lucky few. As soon as the full line up was announced, I was analysing every stage to decide on my plan of action for each day; in particular, I wanted to spend much more time at the smaller, more unusual stages, and fully make the most of what Glastonbury has to offer.

If this was, shall we say, a “regular” mainstream festival, say at Reading and Leeds which has eight stages, or even Bestival which has twenty one to its name, then this wouldn’t be such a difficult job. But Glastonbury has over ninety stages. It’s impossible to cover every single one. You can certainly try though; some hurtle from stage to stage, trying to sample tastes of as many acts as possible along the way. Personally, I place a great deal of emphasis on enjoying a set from start to finish and taking it all in, so the idea of adding more stress by trying to see everything is incredibly off putting.

The Palo Voladores, an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony. It's almost "too" Glastonbury.

The Palo Voladores, an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony. It’s almost “too” Glastonbury.

But can you see the problem emerging here? In trying to decide what to do, it can be nerve-wracking just trying to come to a decision. What if the act you finally choose turns out to be a pile of rubbish (enough with the comments about Kanye already!) and you end up missing one of the highlights of the festival elsewhere? Glastonbury’s greatest strength is the sheer variety of things you can do there, but this also acts as the festival’s greatest weakness for the indecisive; there is simply too much to do.

I’m not just talking about bands as well; away from the main stages, all manner of things from Buddhist meditation to Mesoamerican ceremonies and salsa classes tempt your fancy. Considering the breadth of activities available for you to try, are you wasting your ticket if you stick strictly to the main musical trail? The stress truly is real; my parents went again this year, and spent every evening the week before in anguish as they weighed up clashes, even revisiting albums to try and come to a decision.

Yet maybe I am just nit picking; with a glorious balloon that swells with music, culture and celebrations, I have to be the one that looks for the needle to let out some of the air. After all, the sheer variety of things on offer isn’t just a strength of Glastonbury; it is its definitive calling card. To have it any other way would be ridiculous; in fact, what I love about the festival so much is that you CAN have it any way you want it.

Is it him you're looking for?

Is it him you’re looking for?

Call me crazy, but I was one of the few who didn’t witness Lionel Richie’s Sunday afternoon performance. I spent that particular slot with George The Poet in the Silver Hayes, and witnessed an astounding display of lyrical genius. Yes I missed one of the biggest sets of the weekend, but to linger on that minor detail would do George The Poet a great disservice; it wasn’t like I wasn’t enjoying myself elsewhere.

George The Poet was just one of numerous highlights across the weekend; Caribou, Songhoy Blues and FKA Twigs also stand out, but all in all there wasn’t a set that I didn’t enjoy to some degree. Now I’m home, the only stress that remains is whether I’ll be able to get a ticket for next year. Picture a trip to the beach in the height of summer; once you’ve swam around for a while and taken a break, you want to get back in as soon as possible, to explore the reefs and ride the waves. Ultimately, Glastonbury is a holiday unlike any other, and if it wasn’t bursting with too much to do in five days, it simply wouldn’t be the wonder that it is.

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