My Glastonbury 2016 Food Roundup

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If there’s one thing about Glastonbury that you can’t appreciate on the telly, it’s the food. Granted, festivals can be cruel on the bank balance, as your rumbling stomach forces you to part with astonishing amounts for a meal, but the right stalls reward a ramble. I really admire those who endeavor to cook pot noodles and Ainsley Harriot’s couscous on the campsite stoves, as a fair few of my festival mates did. However, if you’re willing to put some money aside, you can treat your taste buds for several days if you pick the right stalls. And the choice! It’s like a small sample from every corner of world cuisine convenes on Worthy Farm.

However, not all Glastonbury food is created equal. Last year, at the end of one night, our drunken eyes were allured by the 24 hour food marquee near our campsite. Even with our alcohol-soaked senses, it was still one of the worst cheeseburgers we’d ever eaten. This year, we arrived at a different campsite at around midnight, shattered from hiking the final three miles to the site with our entire luggage. There was nowhere else to go; even so, I hoped this 24 hour outlet would be different. Sadly no luck; our only hope was to douse it in ketchup. The fact is, there are too many burgers in the world for you to waste your time forcing down a sub-standard one.

THURSDAY

Thursday went a lot better. Any trip to the Park Stage around lunchtime deserves a stop off at the Lebanese Mezze stand. Along with the standards of falafel, olives and hummus, there were also vine leaves stuffed with feta, sumptuous bean and potato dishes. Over at William’s Green for dinner meant an obligatory visit to the BEST cheesy chips you will have; just the right level of crispiness, and melted mature cheddar that doesn’t overpower the whole product. I also tried a stone-baked pizza from a nearby stand, proudly proclaiming it was courtesy of one of the Great British Bake Off finalists; spicy lamb with onions, on a nice crispy base. If they told me he was Italian, I would have believed them.

FRIDAY

On Friday, we were caught in an almighty grime shutdown on the Pyramid Stage, which meant one thing for lunch… Oli’s deep fried halloumi, served in a crispy flatbread cone with salad and sweet chilli sauce. Even writing this makes my mouth water. Granted, a lot of things taste good deep fried, but the combination of textures is what makes this. The soft, chewy flatbread with the rubbery halloumi and the crisp salad leaves… it has to be one of your “must have Glastonbury lunches.”  That evening, as me Tom and Lavie made our way to Foals, I took a chance on Chapati Man; my masala chicken wrap had just the right level of spice, with a good portion of chicken breast in there among the veg.

SATURDAY

Saturday took us back to the Park area, but as much as I loved my mezze, there was too much on offer to go for anything else. I stumbled upon a Carribean stall serving delicious jerk chicken, with a whole charcoaled chicken wing and a large dollop of sauce amongst the rice and peas. Granted, it was a little bit black on the outside, but otherwise the meat was succulent and very good value. That night, waiting for the wonder of Adele, I stumbled across one of several Le Grande Bouffe stands dotted around the site. There’s a reason there’s a few of them; they’re too good to have just one! I went for a sausage in white wine with a potato tartiflette; honestly, one of the nicest things I’ve ever tasted. Probably the only time I debated going back for a second meal!

SUNDAY

On Sunday, I was determined to round off a weekend of good food (and some decent music besides). This was to be a day of past tradition; round the corner from the Other Stage, I banished my hangover with a “Growler”; a deep filled baguette with bacon, chips and melted cheese, described as a “tribute to Pauline Fowler.” Not sure about the link, but it hit the spot. A late afternoon visit to the old favourite Goan Fish Curries was too good to miss; their mackerel masala dahl, with a whole smoked fish atop it, would make the entire ocean proud, and the fresh herbs made it as fragrant as it was tasty. Finally, right before LCD Soundsystem, so I treated myself to Square Pie- a spot-on steak and Guinness, with gravy full of tang and delicious flaky pastry.

Festival food can be hard to get right- not just because there’s so much of it, but if you’re in a group it can be hard not to just go for what’s in front of you- but there are plenty of decent options among the bland. As a rough guide, try anywhere where they’ve made an effort with the name, appearance, that sort of thing. It sounds trivial but often the generic names that just describe the origin of the food (e.g. Mexican) are often below par, as my friends Tom and Lavie sadly found out with some much maligned nachos and a pessimist’s burrito. I couldn’t help but feel bad as I sat there in curry heaven thanks to Chapati Man. Of course, the headliners will always get the most attention, but if you can feast for five days, why turn down the option?

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My belated Glastonbury 2016 review

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Here’s an important question that needs to be answered: how long can you keep talking about Glastonbury after the event has been and passed? It’s an issue as thought-provoking as how long it is reasonably acceptable to keep your wristband on after the event, considering all the mud you embrace during your five days on the farm. But hey, leaving it a few weeks gives you plenty of time to reflect (plus life’s been pretty manic recently), so here are some of my thoughts on this year’s action on Worthy Farm…

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Who would have thought that London to Glastonbury would take 10 hours? No crazy detours either- our coach troupe set off at half 1 on Wednesday,  and we were just over 4 miles away by half 4. Fast forward three hours and we were only a mile closer. In the end, it was just before midnight that we reached the campsite having abandoned the coach just before 10 with three miles to go. This was my 3rd year at Glastonbury, and the queuing has never been as bad as this.

The only thing worse was the mud. The draining, soul-destroying mud. It doubled the length of every journey across the site, and made it impossible to sit down anywhere, meaning there were deep staring battles for chairs and the one patch of grass left in front of the Pyramid. Granted, it did lead to a few entertaining encounters as the luckless lost their wellies in the mud- followed by admirable demonstrations of camaraderie as we rushed in to help, embracing the true festival spirit. But even so, it was a relief to get back on solid ground once the weekend was over.

Why do I start on such negatives? Well, despite the queues, mud, and queues IN mud, Glastonbury still remains the highlight of my year, unchallenged in its celebration of contemporary music and art. Maybe it’s the sheer variety of bands, comedians and artists on offer that keeps me coming back; maybe it’s the sprawling variety of areas that after three years in a row I have still yet to explore entirely. Or maybe now it’s become a post-university tradition that nostalgia forbids me to break. In any case, Glastonbury amazed and delighted in equal measure once again.

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For musical highlights, there were plenty of well-chosen last minute decisions, such as the Syrian Orchestra, first on the Pyramid on Friday morning, with Damon Albarn leading a brilliant cover of Blur’s “Out Of Time”. Also on The Hell Stage at 2am on Sunday morning, we decided on The Apples, an Israeli funk nine piece who finished with a rousing cover of Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of.” Unexpected surprises such as Gentleman’s Dub Club in the Glade, and firm favourites exceeding expectations (Ezra Furman and The Last Shadow Puppets I’m looking at you)… too many bands to name!

However, I do have to mention my headliners. Firstly, Underworld on West Holts were the perfect frenzy for a Friday, an explosion of dance and light that set a commendable pace for the days ahead. I saw them at BBC 6 Music Festival earlier this year, but far from dissuading me that I had already experienced this set it only encouraged me to return. Then, Adele on Saturday was an unforeseen joy- or at least, I thought I would enjoy it, but I was surprised by just how much I did. It was just the right mix of banter to lift your spirits from the emotional depths that her songs plunged to.

Finally, we had LCD Soundsystem on The Other Stage, bringing us down with the curtain call. I knew this would be the one band I would kick myself the most for missing. It wasn’t just the gaiety of their sharp electronic rock; it was in the way James Murphy and his band performed that made it such an enjoyable experience.  From the pounding chants of “Us V Them,” the dance-punk ferocity of “Losing My Edge” to the final number of “All My Friends,” the piano chords refusing to relent, I felt suitably satisfied at the set and only just missing my friends in a few fields away, most of which opted for Earth, Wind & Fire.

 

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Overall, Saturday night was the maddest of the lot. Somehow, on a high after Adele finished with “Someone Like You,” several of our group made it to the fabled South East Corner, famed for its late night mind boggling madness. Shangri La in particular spins popular culture and the role of the media on its head; the twists to convention enveloping you, particularly after a few bevvies. It was here we saw The Apples, along with Dub Pistols and a DJ set from Mark Ronson and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, before I conceded defeat and made my way home along the railway line (which, I hasten to add, is covered over).

However, halfway along to home, I realized sunrise was just around the corner (or in this case, just over the horizon), and I was caught up with a few other enthusiastic night owls who were making their way to the Stone Circle at the top of the festival site. We arrived to a chorus of drums, percussion and otherworldly chants as the first rays leapt over the horizon. It was a site to behold, a new day at the festival… and then it was half five, and I realised how  truly tired I was, and I struggled back to camp. Even at six, as I finally got into my tent, there was still so much going on, refusing to give in to tiredness.

Glastonbury is full of experiences like that- maybe not all quite so draining- and even waking up late on Friday morning to the news we were leaving the EU did little to affect the festival spirit. Sure, it was mentioned plenty of times- Damon Albarn strolled onto the Pyramid stage a few hours after the result, and proclaimed “reasons to be cheerful? It’s not raining!” But Worthy Farm is one of those places you stride into, and suddenly all of your problems and woes ebb out of you. All I can say is, if you think the Pyramid looks one heck of a site on the telly, just wait till you glimpse it in the Somerset fields.

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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.