Opinion

Glastonbury 2024 is over, but its magic will take longer to fade

Glastonbury is a place to lose yourself in your very own Brigadoon, says Robin Ince who, in between his own performances, finds plenty to distract him

Glastonbury's Pyramid stage. Image: BBC

Oh look, there’s Charlotte Church singing We Shall Overcome beautifully. And there’s Billy Bragg leading a chant-along of A New England with an eager crowd. And there’s Bow Anderson performing a song about eating disorders and how we can damage our body due to our fears of having the right shape. And that is all within 10 minutes. It is the time of year for people to say, “Glastonbury! What’s all the fuss about?”

Let me tell you. There is no other festival like it.

Watching on TV you might just think it is a bunch of well-known bands, but it is so much more than that. First of all, it is a wonderland of stone circles, sculptures, towers and art on every boulevard.

There are the most beautiful and eccentric costumes and vehicles. Tents with death-defying circus acts, tents with poets, tents with mathematicians explaining the secrets of winning Monopoly every time. There is a band on stage which includes woad covered warriors, cattle skull faced prophets, and pounding percussion from every corner (Heilung).

My weekend starts by giving a talk in the LabOratory science tent and explaining why ghosts really do exist, before going to perform with a bunch of poets in a tipi for the brilliantly named Tongue Fu. The light is getting low, so I have to read my poems like an ancient man trying to search for the vegetarian option on a menu.

Friday begins by recording a show about alien life possibilities in the cabaret tent. A very low number of our audience believe that our alien overlords walk among us, which suggests that the Glastonbury demographic has changed in the last three decades.

I rush to the crafting field to meet Kate from This Is the Kit and make a garland crown out of willow, ivy and rosemary. (I am pleased to say that Kate wears my creation during her set that afternoon and I wear mine for the rest of my solo shows.)

I host a panel discussion on the nature of consciousness and definition of intelligence which, unsurprisingly, talks of the ingenuity of puzzle-solving crows (maybe they are our overlords).

My tasks for the day done, I rush to the Pyramid Stage to experience noise but instead I am treated to one of the rarest occurrences in Glastonbury: silence, seven minutes of it.

It is asked for by Marina Abramovic. It is willingly given.

Some years, there would be people eager to spoil the moment with laddish ribaldry, but it says a great deal about the kind of people who come to watch PJ Harvey that the field is so quiet.

Then, Emily Eavis bangs a gong and Harvey walks on, as alchemical as ever (I think she holds the record for the artist whose gigs I have had the most transcendent experiences at).

Tanita Tikaram ends her set with a sing-along of the ’70s pop classic Love Is in the Air, then it is the Heilung runic ceremony, The Bootleg Beatles and a bit of Dua Lipa.

But IDLES are calling me and their vigour, passion and humanity inspire the crowd and re-energise the politically weary.

Then, I go to my tent and to bed.

NO.

Then, I move towards my tent, but I am waylaid by a band called Us who look frightening young and play with ferocious energy and joy. They look about 15 on stage, but I am relieved that off stage they look like they might be nearly 20.

And that is just one day and a bit, and that is what the fuss is about, and that is barely more than a scraping of cells from this vast Somerset beast.

I must mention Cyndi Lauper. She was magnificent, though hampered by tech issues.

Do not believe what you read. She was enchanting and wonderful, and my friend Grace Petrie, who was magnificent later on in the weekend, sang along to every song and another friend wept during True Colours.

A shout-out to the Glastonbury workers who collected litter, worked the gates, gave directions, sorted stages. They were so happy and helpful.

My Brigadoon is gone now, the power of its enchantment remains circulating in me and pumping through my heart.

These fields are not for cynics.

Bibliomaniac by Robin Ince

Robin Ince is a comedian, writer and broadcaster. His book Bibliomaniac (Atlantic Books, £10.99) is out now. You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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