Michael Eavis’ farm has returned to good health and Glastonbury is back, back, back again! One of the world’s best known festivals, a crucible of the greatest music in the world and often the world’s largest mud wrestling event, Glastonbury is a fundamental part of music culture.
1. When Beyoncé warmed up for Coachella, 2011
I was there when Queen Bey headlined. Homecoming this was not, but, man, was it glorious. A Sunday night headliner in 2011, the weekend was a washout, thick with that Glastonbury mud – part quicksand, part carbonite – until the final day of blistering heat. She arrived dressed as the sun, flawlessly coated in gold sequins. 4 had just been released and I Am Sasha Fierce three years earlier: pure pop hits belted out with relentless energy. It generated more than 2.6 million views on the BBC: the most for a single performance. Breaking records and my heart. Anna Conrad
2. When Oasis headlined the festival for the first time,1995
Why me? Why not? Whatever. Liam Gallagher has morphed into the musical equivalent of Coca-Cola, compensating for his abject lack of songwriting chops by hiring the world’s best pro writers (including an old school friend of mine, Iain Archer) and doing what it says on the tin. But Oasis entered their two-year long imperial phase when they headlined Glastonbury in 1995, an ocean of overdriven guitar noise underpinned by Noel Gallagher’s bulletproof songs, with yer man Liam swaggering on top like a rock’n’roll John Wayne. Nowadays he’s a British national treasure™, but back then he still looked like he’d start a fight in an empty room. Or indeed with 100,000 people in a field in Wiltshire. In fact, he actually did "offer out" someone in the front row, an act of such absurd braggadocio that it sent my girlfriend and I off to watch The Prodigy instead. Jason Barlow
3. When you could still jump over the fence in the Nineties
I went in the late Nineties, during one of the last times you could bunk over the fence. At the age of 20 I was into club music: hip-hop, R&B, jungle, house and garage. I was obsessed with Jay-Z, Biggie and Nas and dressing like Michael Caine in The Italian Job. But my mates and my girlfriend at the time were like, “Ah it’s Glasto, Alf. We have to go." So we went, pretty much on a whim.
We’d heard that you could bunk over the wall and indeed it was quite scaleable. But the first one I peered over happened to be where all the police were parked. Eventually, we paid a Scottish man in a tracksuit a tenner to go under a hole he had dug under the fence.
And, you know what? It was OK. We had a nice day – I only went for day 1 – and wandered about. I think I might have seen Gil Scott-Heron, but can’t really remember. And I may well have stayed longer if it weren’t for the fact that we were driving across Europe to go to a party in the Pyrenees in Spain the next day. Alfred Tong
4. When Kanye controversially took a headline slot, 2015
Fate doesn’t always throw you together with the right people. In 2015, I somehow found myself watching Kanye West in the company of an extremely intense American comedian whose career had recently received a boost. I knew this because he told me every time he received a congratulatory text message. “Sorry,” he apologised ostentatiously. “My phone’s blowing up.” When his phone wasn’t exploding with good wishes he rapped along to Kanye with unnerving ferocity. After a few songs some amiable goofballs wandered past, one of whom cheerfully plonked a cowboy hat on my head for a few seconds before taking it back. This sort of thing happens a lot at Glastonbury. The American, however, only caught the end of this encounter, leapt to the conclusion that a drunk had stolen my hat and charged in like Travis Bickle. “Hey buddy!” he yelled. “Give back the f****** hat!” It was the first thing the comedian had said that made me laugh. This self-involved American’s total failure to understand Glastonbury’s warm and messy spirit mirrored the culture clash that was unfolding on stage and was, frankly, the highlight of the night. Dorian Lynskey
5. When Glastonbury reaffirmed that it is ageless, 2009 and 2011
I didn’t go to Glastonbury till I was 40, which – a pleasant surprise – turned out to be the optimal age: old enough to have a friend with a Winnebago (all mod cons); young enough to know the lyrics to Dizzee Rascal’s "Bonkers". Perfect.
The next door Winnie was occupied by Franz Ferdinand – very polite chaps who didn’t seem to mind when three prominent journalists and a top hedge fund manager sat on the roof of their own accommodation, singing The Beatles and Madness till the small hours.
Yes, it takes far too long to get from stage to stage. Yes, some acts don’t quite rise to the occasion. But others do, thrillingly so. I’ll never forget Springsteen singing "Because The Night" or Beyoncé conquering the crowd with imperial ease. Every year, people say that Glastonbury isn’t as good as it used to be, that it has been ruined by consumerism, too many people, the invasion of the middle class. But the paradox is that all great institutions are said to be in decline: it’s a sign of their greatness.
Glasto is now as much a fixture of the British calendar as Wimbledon, Royal Ascot and I’m a Celebrity... In its sprawl, cacophony and irrepressible exuberance, it represents the best of a country that sometimes forgets how utterly fantastic it is. Long may it reign. Matthew d'Ancona