2016's Glastonbury will forever be remembered as a 'muddy one'

Glastonbury 2016 review

By Scott Williams | Published: Fri 1st Jul 2016

around the festival site

Wednesday 22nd to Sunday 26th June 2016
Worthy Farm, Pilton, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, BA4 4AZ, England MAP
£228 - SOLD OUT
Daily capacity: 203,000
Last updated: Mon 20th Jun 2016

For many veteran attendees of Glastonbury Festival the years are not marked by the acts that played or the entertainment on offer but by the weather and the mud, and in this respect 2016's Glastonbury will forever be remembered as the "muddy one."
Whilst it's founder, farmer Michael Eavis, may have declared it the muddiest ever, those that were there put it alongside the mud years of 1978, many of the Eighties years, the bad back to back years of 1997 and 1998, and what still for many was the worst year ever 2007.
The reason Eavis said the mud may have been worst ever and yet for many it wasn't as bad as 2007 is the advances made in dealing with mud. Organisers have improved the site's drainage, bridges, watercourses, and employ extensive metal trackway. They restrict vehicle access, keep fields closed until needed, use pumps, scrape the gloop up with tractors, and deploy bales and bales of straw and by all accounts "every single bit of woodchip in the south of England."
around the festival site: Glastonbury Festival 2016
Right from the first day, when at the last minute the campervan arrival time was pushed back in the hope that the fields already soggy from days of rain would have time to dry, there were long queues and problems getting onto mud churned fields. Bath & West Showground became a campervan field as access onto car parks and CV fields ground to a halt. The problem became a major headache and organisers sent out a message asking people to delay their arrival as they tried to cope with so many trying to arrive early.
Mud and rain also forces all of us into the arms of technology, now smartphones can last the duration soggy wet programmes and clashfinders are replaced by the App and everyone suddenly has their phones turned on. Texts whilst delayed get through, lost friends can be found, and it's all happening without us really noticing. Until one morning the whole system crashes and we all realise how much we rely on technology in a muddy year.
Wet festivals are always a trial and for those living in the tented city it's made more difficult by the sheer scale and distances involved. Restricted movement means more queues. Movement is easier when the mud is slicky but as it dries the high clay content makes it thick and resistant - wellies get stuck. Legs ache as they work increasingly hard to keep shoes made heavier by an ever growing cludge of mud moving through the gloop. In some of the less well remembered muddy years, eventually the ground is compacted down and hardens making walking easier on a bouncy firm ground. However it continued to rain in spells rarely heavily but prolonged enough to stop the mud drying out and so the whole site became an obstacle course. Even the usual escapes from mud on the west side of the railway in Green Futures, the Healing, Craft, and Greenpeace fields became muddy. Only the wide expanses on the Festival's flanks of Flagtopia, and the Stone Circle offered a green respite.
The John Peel tent can be included in that too and the new nature reserve/Woodland area - relocated it was no longer in a quagmire and offered a firm underfooting throughout the weekend, although unfortunately no catering just a bar - meaning those seeking respite had to venture back into the mud to find sustenance. Nearby the 'other' family field also bore up well to the conditions and it felt almost like a festival within a festival which had escaped the climatic conditions.
Another year and the masses become deflated by another Euro exit (not the football's fault for once - that happens once we get home) which led to the cancelling of Jeremy Corbyn's appearance. People rapidly got over the 'outside world' and got on with the business of revelling, many imagining Glastonbury as a Free State where solidarity mattered more than immigration. It didn't matter where you came from, we were united in a common cause to enjoy it, and band together despite the conditions.
Yes Glastonbury is about so much more than weather and mud, but that maybe what it will be remembered for this year. Okay so Coldplay's crowd illuminated wristbands, and Adele's warming performance probably will also stand the test of time. People will remember fondly a myriad of individual performances they saw across it's multiple stages, and recall the creative venues, crazy installations and visual treats, but primarily it will be one of those legendary 'muddy years'. There is so, so much more to this Festival and it's inhabitants than can ever be transmitted to those sat at home on their sofas it's so much more than a series of mass gigs in a field. To list everything else that just I witnessed would take pages and pages and make very stilted reading but suffice it to say Glastonbury has more crazy characters, surprise happenings and surprise pop up venues than any other festival anywhere. It also has a huge choice of food on offer, although for farmhouse scrumpy drinkers the choice was less this year.
around the festival site: Glastonbury Festival 2016
Some of the smaller venues had music on before the Friday and the site was busy with people looking around. There was a huge fireworks display near the stone circle on Wednesday's warm evening. This year the West Holts stage had big screens, the Main Stage had a Bowie tribute, and the Other Stage a Lemmy one. The Park had a tribute to Prince. Shangri-La offered an extensive amount of art work alongside the entertainment with some of Dismaland's attractions transplanted here. There was a Jo Cox memorial walk which led into the Naughty Corner and saw Emily Eavis open the Women Only venue - ironically decked out like a  gentleman's club and called The Sisterhood.
The Pyramid Stage field hosted a karaoke celebration of the music of David Bowie, and the tributes continued with Philip Glass's Heroes Symphony, clips of Bowie's appearance in 2000, and a flash mob dance, plus flags, costumes, puppets, and other homemade tributes. The Glade too had a new Funktion1 sound system which wowed crowds with its aural 3d. Steve Davis swapped his cue for decks to draw a crowd in The Park. A double rainbow sprung over the farm to bring a smile to the hippies.
Greenpeace in the Greenfields offered the chance to freefall from a rocket, and the craft and healing areas offered revellers an alternative to the music. The Park offered the Festival's metal cups and there were chances to sign petitions for the Worthy causes, Water Aid and Oxfam and find out more information about their work. There also seemed to be a lot more children around again this year, and they didn't seem to mind the mud, they appeared to be having the time of their lives.
around the festival site (Saturday): Glastonbury Festival 2016
Festival founder Michael Eavis sang 'My Way', a Bee Gee turned up, Jeff Lynne brought his Electric Light Orchestra, a resurgent Craig David went down a storm in Silver Hayes, as did many of the grime acts. PJ Harvey read a John Donne poem, Underworld had a muddy field dancing, and Earth, Wind And Fire turned the Festival into a 'Boogie Wonderland'. Those Coldplay wristbands would continue to blink on the final night whether it was in the naughty corner, a small venue wrap up party, the campsites, a lightshow in the woods or the Arcadia spider, as one of the muddiest Glastonburys ever drew to a close.
The transport issue returned with vehicles having to be towed offsite and long queues out of the car parks. Perhaps public transport and more pre-erected tents is the way forward.
around the festival site (Saturday): Glastonbury Festival 2016
I know there'll be people who won't agree with me, but personally I felt the 'Love The Farm Leave No Trace' message struck home much more this year, and up until the last day the site was visibly cleaner than in previous years.
This year there was a whole generation coming to terms with the mud for the first time, learning how to move in it, and making the most of it. Their exuberance to have the time of their lives probably propelled by how many of them felt about their future being suddenly altered, they were embracing the unknown.
Glastonbury is still the flagship event of festivals in this country, still able to hold off intense corporate branding. Still incredible value for money, and the most fun you can have in a muddy field. With the mud rather more hard work it's just possible tickets will be in less high demand next year. A huge thanks to the organisers, to the volunteers, the staff, crews, those who created and inspired, and the terrific performances of a high standard of acts all across the site in such testing conditions.
If you want a ticket to next year's Festival, remember you will first need to register, and look out for ticket details later this year. They'll be expected to be on sale in October.

review by: Scott Williams

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