This year's Glastonbury Festival has all the makings of becoming the stuff of legend. Sunday's line-up is topped by Stevie Wonder who draws what has to be the biggest crowd ever assembled in front of the Pyramid to see his singalong set of hits and feel good numbers to "celebrate" Glastonbury's 40th Anniversary.
Wonder had the masses in rapture when he brought event founder Michael Eavis on to the stage saying, "I want to thank this wonderful man who's had this for 40 years. Yes, 40 years. It's a celebration. Happy Birthday." A huge massed chorus of "Happy Birthday" followed with farmer Eavis joining in on vocals.
Elsewhere festival favourites Orbital drew a decent crowd and Empire Of The Sun provided a visual treat to conclude proceedings on The Park Stage. Rodrigo y Gabriela also gathered a decent following at West Holts. Meanwhile on the most incredible looking stage at the festival, Arcadia, David Rodigan provided a fortieth anniversary celebration of the formation of Bob Marley & The Wailers, with enough flames to Catch a Fire. I love the stage loads it's an awesome visual spectacle and the sound's good too.
A whole five days of sunshine with not a jot of rain is a rarity at Glastonbury, and the fields were dusty as fluttering flags and the occasional cloud provided shade during the morning. I was too tense about the football to consider not watching it, I wish now I had. We pack up the van awning and prepare the van ready for an exit very early tomorrow morning
The big clash of the day was the ill fated England match versus a rip roaring sing along to 'Sweet Child Of Mine', 'Paradise City' and more on the main stage with Slash, one of the most metal flavoured acts to ever grace the Pyramid Stage. #i made the wrong choise, the girls the right one.
We went to the bar to watch it on the tv screens, and our hearts sank as our defence just fell apart. For those footie fans who'd smashed up their vuvuzelas and were feeling the clouds of depression, there was Ray Davies filling the legend slot and he'd brought the Crouch End Festival Choir onstage with him to perform a string of Kinks hits including 'Sunny Afternoon', 'You Really Got Me', 'Lola', 'Waterloo Sunset', and 'All Day And All Of The Night'. It kind of helped the pain, some nice depressing 'slit your wrists' music would have helped more. Some of the shops had dropped their prices and started their sales, so we meandered around a few of them looking for shopping ideas.
I slowly made my way up to Park, drowning my sorrows by ticking off another four bars and pubs I'd not drunk in before along the way. Archie Bronson Unit provided the soundtrack as I considered making the climb up the ribbon tower. My vertigo and it visibly moving in the strong wind put the end to that idea.
We wandered slowly back catching a wonderful voiced performance from the special quest in the Bimble Inn - no one I aksed knew who she was however. We stopped off again at the Cornish Arms to drink under the winged surf boards, before finding a nice spot in the sun to view Faithless.
Faithless provided the last day's magical sunset slot entertainment and did not dissappoint, providing a wonderful worked soundtrack and a chance to take in our surroundings and take a chance to look around at the sights and sounds in this, the most iconic of arenas. Much like Maxi Jazz, I felt 'Become 1' was a moment never to be forgotten.
This year the festival had provided so much more Theatre, Circus, Poetry, Cabaret and alternative entertainment that the music almost took second place. Circolombia provided amazing acrobatics, and Ken Fox's incredible Wall of Death was an increddibly adrenaline fuelled experience. There were crowds in front of all the ground shows, and the new areas of The Common, Block9, and The Unfair Ground sat perfectly beside Shangri-La, and Climate Camp. This area really came into its own this year with mind bending site art, we spent ages trying to photograph the various Banksy artworks under low lighting and with camera shake, there were a host of random stages and bars, and a plethora of roving characters which made it an unforgettable experience. The Wheel Of Death was just amazing with the lady rider sitting no handed and side saddle whilst whizzing around the wall sideways - wow!
The Green Fields too provided a wealth of skills to learn, and had a wonderful relaxed feel about it, a true festival within a festival away from the crowds sweltering in front of the main stage. The new kids' galleon, and Earth Dome Stage in the Greenpeace area also provided a nice base for those with young families. I'm amazed that for the first time I never went into the Croissant Neuf tent, the nearest I came was sitting outside at the next door cafe listening on one of the earlier balmy nights.
Glastonbury offers a wealth of fun just for kids, with the huge Kidz' Field, and they turned up in their masses to enjoy the weekend. The mix of people attending the festival was as diverse as ever, with a nice global flavour and a diverse audience. It seemed to me, that all the toilet cleaners, and many of the staff doing catering appeared to come from other countries- and they were so amazed, there was nothing like this in their home countries they all told me.
It's also worth mentioning the huge range of food on offer, the Festival was a Gastronomic delight for many providing a wealth of choices from around the world to sample, alongside the more regular burger and chips, pizza, sandwiches and the like. My three favourite eateries were Tapas (in West Holts), Goan Fish Curry, and Harbour Seafoods. Tapas, the one with a large Spanish flamenco lady above it, proved so moorish and reasonable at £4.90 that I became a habitual purchaser, and got to know the staff. Walking back to the wife with two trays laiden with the spicy food last night, I overheard someone say I must have the mega-munchies.
Festival organiser Michael Eavis and family, who have seen the festival grow into the largest and most diverse festival in the world must be heartily congratulated for giving us such a wonderful experiance over the last 40 years. It's staggering to think of how much time and effort went into making the event so thrilling, and so diverse, and the people who have worked so hard to achieve such a bounty must be heartily congratulated for providing a Festival which incredibly managed to offer more possibilities to thrill, entertain, and get involved than ever before. Every year I say it can't be beaten, and am amused by Michael Evis', "It's the best ever!" statement, but damn it he's right! This year I was asked what my highlights were and realised it wasn't the music acts but elsewhere on site. The headliners definitely took second place for me.
The only downside, the Chinese lanterns whilst they look amazing in the sky, the amount of falling glowing embers (and wire - that's bad for the cows) in such a dry environment made me fearful there would be some calamity with tents catching fire. Three times I stamped out grey lanterns as they fell like jellyfish from the sky, and that was just where I was at the time, imagine how many must have rained down on the site. On the way home the roads and fields were littered with their husks which will cause a cleaning up headache for the Festival. Talking of cleaning up I have a pretty much clear conscience when it comes to litter this year. There's just one occasion where I was without my ashtray that I put a roached rollie but to the ground (and felt bad about it all weekend). clearly it's not just me, the site looked much tidier in the arenas this year, with much less litter covering the grass when looking ofr a space to sit. It could still improve but it seems the message is getting through. I hope the campsites see the same improvement as people leave today too. We will have to wait and see - fingers crossed.
With the wealth of entertainment on offer, it doesn't matter who the three headliners are that the dairy farmer says he has already booked for next year, the Festival will be the most extra-ordinary experience of the year, and we all have such amazing memories of a most treasured annivesary as we make our journeys home.