‘It’s a fever dream’: Glastonbury revellers celebrate the return to Worthy Farm

·5 min read
 (PA/Getty/EPA)
(PA/Getty/EPA)

I finally understand what people mean by Glastonbury” says festival first-timer Hannah Wright. Stood in front of the Pyramid Stage with her twin sister and two best friends, waiting for Billie Eilish with thousands of other fans, the 21-year-old says there was a time when she never thought they’d get here.

Her friend Dani Murden, from Manchester agrees. “I feel like it’s made it more special because this is the first one back, it’s so nice to connect with people again. Emotions are very, very high, because there are so many moments where you look around and realise where we are. Everyone’s happy – it’s a fever dream!”

Highlights for the group, who met at school, are: “Arlo Parks joining Phoebe Bridgers on stage, Wolf Alice, Confidence Man, and Girl in Red’s gayness”.

“Pack light, because that walk to the campsite will destroy you, emotionally and physically!” they’ve learnt.

We’re interrupted by ear-splitting screams signalling Billie Eilish’s arrival on the Pyramid Stage. On the edge of the huge crowd, bodies bump into one another as they make their way along the paths between stages, food stalls and campsites.

Taking a break from all the steps is David, 29, from Liverpool, sitting on the dusty grass. He’s been to the festival six times before, but believes this Glastonbury is the best yet.

“I’d like to thank [Glastonbury organisers] Michael and Emily Eavis, because they’ve just done such a great job of making it so inclusive and amazing,” he says. Dressed in a spiked neon jacket (inspired by Billie Eilish), he says the festival feels like “home, family and love”.

It’s a sentiment shared among many attendees, such as Mansel Davies, 62, from Monmouth, who’s here working as an independent monitor at Glastonbury. “It just seems like everybody here is so chilled,” he says. “I’m sure there are people here to spoil everyone’s time, but I don’t think I’ve witnessed any ill feeling amongst people. Even when I did the shift, we were evicting people who were trying to get in for nothing, and even they were good natured!” Davies, a musician, even got a last-minute chance to play the festival when he saw a post on social media with a backstage slot. “I thought, I’ve got my guitar, I might as well go and do it and dine out on that one – it’s all over Facebook today!”

As a first timer, he’s very keen to return to Worthy Farm. “It’s not my last time... it’s my first time till next year! It’s an immense thing and I’m glad I came on this basis rather than as a punter. It’s almost like one massive family on the campsite and I think the facilities are probably better too!”

David, 29, from Liverpool (Megan Graye / The Independent)
David, 29, from Liverpool (Megan Graye / The Independent)

Late on Saturday night, somewhere near the realms of Shangri-La, Dublin band Sprints can be found amongst the softly glowing lanterns. They’ve arrived earlier in the day following a Belfast show where they opened for Liam Gallagher, before catching the overnight ferry just in time for their Worthy Farm set. We don’t bring up Liam’s rival – older brother Noel – who played the Pyramid Stage earlier in the evening.

As Glastonbury newbies, the band are astonished at the size of the crowds. “It’s slightly overwhelming at times, because I’m not used to this many people. This is the most amount of people that I’ve ever seen in one place in my entire life” guitarist Colm says. The band’s drummer Jack agrees: “It’s f***ing mental, going from nothing, no people, no gigs, to this, it’s a buzz.”

Kate, 60, from Wales, has been volunteering at the festival as a campsite steward, returning to Glastonbury after a long hiatus: “I was here 40 years ago when I was 20, and it was only a couple of fields!” She despairs of the numerous stages peppering the site: “You run out of patience looking at the list!”

She’s still surprised that crowds of this size are permitted, despite new covid variants emerging and spikes in hospital admissions. “But it’s also great. It’s liberating to be back and to have the freedom to move around the festival and take it all in... it’s awesome.”

It’s less surreal, more... this is how it should be,

Seb Lowe

Unlike other attendees, Manchester artist Seb Lowe has a different point of view. “It’s less surreal, more... this is how it should be,” he sais. “It’s Covid that’s surreal. This is normal – it’s a sign of getting back to the way things should be.” As a first timer, both in playing and attending, Lowe has been most struck by the spirit of Glastonbury. “For me it feels like a festival that has a purpose that goes beyond just music, it’s got meaning. There’s this real kind of hope and energy directed towards change and looking after each other – a lot of festivals don’t have that kind of community.”

He continues: “Amid the crisis that the country is in, it’s just great to have this spirit and alignment of all these different people from all over the country. People come from miles away and we all come to this place – there’s a unity in that. Everyone agrees in the music and also the message that it sends.”

I find Nottingham-based Rachel, 21, enjoying some early rays on Sunday morning. She didn’t know what to expect coming to Glastonbury for the first time. “I think it’s nice that everyone is looking after each other. We’ve just come out of a very stressful period in everyone’s lives, so we’re all a bit ‘agh’ but it feels like such a safe space,” she says. As for her advice to those considering a visit next year, she offers: “Don’t stress. I was so anxious – but you’re going to have the best time of your life!”