NME readers named Glastonbury ‘Best Festival’ at six of the past seven NME Awards ceremonies, and the reason is simple – it’s because Glastonbury is hands-down the greatest arts event in Britain, if not the world. In fact, the only reason it didn’t win in 2013 was because it took a year off to give those famous dairy cows a well-earned rest.
In the best possible way, Glastonbury is an assault on the senses. You’ll get lost. You’ll eat amazing food. You’ll dance to types of music you’ve never even heard before, you’ll see something that blows your mind, you’ll stay up till dawn. And you’ll soon realise so many of the other festivals you’ve been to are just big gigs in fields.
As a Glastonbury-goer, you’re part of the action yourself, camping in among the action across the vast site, exploring at any time of day or night. In Arcadia you’ll find a giant mechanical spider spitting fire while beats thump from the tremor-inducing soundsystem. There’s a community of tipis and healers in the Green Fields. There’s an underground piano bar //somewhere// that’s achieved mythical status on account of it being almost impossible to find.
Really, Glastonbury is a series of immersive festivals-within-festivals, all on the same site but all different in character. Venturing to the South East Corner after dark is like taking a trip to a series of alien worlds, from dystopian Shangri-La, with its heaven and hell-themed clubs, to The Common, home to a man-made waterfall, Rumshack and Day Of The Dead celebrations, Block 9, a slice of downtown New York in the heart of Somerset, and Unfairground with its twisted sideshows and dismembered dolls. Your wanderings might take you past skate ramps and circus tents, bandstands and, of course, the Stone Circle for some spiritual contemplation (for that, read: cheering at the rising sun with all the other spangled characters).
You’ll know by now if you have a ticket – 2016’s festival sold out in minutes, as usual – but you might not have worked out how to get there. Remember that as well as throwing the greatest, most hedonistic party of the year, organisers Emily and Michael Eavis raise funds and awareness for a variety of humanitarian and ecological causes (new this year – reusable, British Steel drinking cups), and encourage travel by train to nearby Castle Cary station as one of the most sustainable options.
You can watch Glastonbury on the TV or look the pictures in the press of mud-splattered people and either feel like you have a sense of what it’s like to be there. But look again and you’ll see that those mud people are beaming, because to be at Glastonbury is to be somewhere magical, even if just for one weekend a year. The festival is bigger and better than any one of the acts performing, and even the headliners, are sideshows to the experience of being in those beloved fields in Somerset. See you by the cider bus…
How to get there
Travel with Great Western Railway to Castle Cary and take the free shuttle bus to the festival site.