Glastonbury just doesn’t hit the note

Do you ever feel like you just aren’t seeing what everyone else is seeing? Well, that is Glastonbury for me.

For three days every year, it has become a national ritual to watch the festival. And since the BBC began broadcasting it in 1997, interest has grown exponentially. 

It now takes a place somewhere between ‘Trooping the Colour’ and the ‘Lord Mayor’s Show’ in patrimonial significance. At this point, I am surprised it isn’t decked out with a Clare Balding commentary, a smartly-dressed Huw Edwards and some droll observations from Gyles Brandreth. For now, Lauren Laverne and co. hold on to their jobs for dear life.

The growth [of the festival is] so big it seems to send the country to a standstill for the weekend

It is some transformation for a countryside music festival with anarchic, counter-culture beginnings. Founder Michael Eavis could barely have imagined the growth of Glastonbury, a growth so big it seems to send the country to a standstill for the weekend.

But it’s not like this is Wimbledon. Or a Test match. Or even a Jubilee, or the Chelsea Flower Show. There is nothing at stake or anything really happening. It’s just a music festival featuring bands we have all heard of not sounding very good.

Over seven million watched Elton John’s headline show live on TV. Not bad. They just about had to ask people to bother to come back in 1970, the festival’s first edition. Now there are more people wanting in than are on NHS waiting lists. Where’s the Prime Minister’s plan to deal with this crisis ?, you ask.

It is a disclusionary form of entertainment

And there is the other thing. In the early days, tickets cost a pittance. Now you are looking at about £300 just for entry and tent privileges, forgetting all the added costs. It is no wonder that most content themselves with the BBC’s coverage. Rest assured that way there is no risk of rain or even disappointment, with Gardeners’ World just on the other side if things (as they frequently do) get a bit naff.

But what is even the appeal of that? Those lucky or unlucky enough to be there can barely make out the silhouettes of Alex Turner’s groomed locks or Elton’s sparkly glasses. The delight of this telly box entertainment comes in the fact that at least you can see the facial grimaces and hear the intonations, and, if so compelled, have justification to tell Twitter that the Arctic Monkeys really did peak about a decade ago.

But it is a distant and exclusionary form of entertainment. You are just watching other people have fun, albeit at a distance. At least if you are watching some sporting feat or royal patronage there is some significance to it. But sit down for three hours to watch Sir Elton sing his goodbyes and do a few royal waves? I’ll pass.


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