A decade at Glastonbury

It’s 2003 and I’m 15. I’m stood in a crowd of people who are heavy with anticipation, clinging on to my sister’s hand as we try to weave towards a giant cow, the meeting point we’ve agreed with our friends. Our progress is slow; everyone has their eyes focused on the stage, waiting for the encore. The iconic pyramid juts into the dark sky. A collective cheer raises up around me, sweeping me up. My sister, Emily, and I stop in our tracks as the first chords of Karma Police seep into the night. That Radiohead performance is still one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever seen – thousands of people singing that they’d lost themselves, for a minute there.

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It’s 2004 and my first ever sip of cinnamon aftershock burns my throat. A swarm of drumming thuds in time with my heartbeat. The sun peeks up above the horizon, bathing the stone circle in a mellow light that grows and swells as it rises above Glastonbury festival. I lie back on the ground and watch. The view is perfect up here.

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It’s 2005 and I’ve never seen so much mud. It’s coming over the tops of my wellies and the effort of walking through it is making my legs hurt. There’s so much mud that people are canoeing in it – paddling amongst the revellers. I spend the festival finding canopied cafes with bean bags to snuggle down in, out of the rain, sipping on steaming chai and listening to the twinkles of music and conversation. Bliss.

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It’s 2007, Glastonbury had a break last year and Emily and I went to V Festival instead… Needless to say, I’m glad to be back, but the rain is also here again. Incessant wet. Gogol Bordello is on the Pyramid first and we stand, waiting for them, with our hoods up and ours faces down. As soon as they start playing the sun emerges, like a mini miracle. We throw of our cagoules and dance with wild abandon.

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It’s 2008 and the sun is setting, turning the sky gold. Leonard Cohen is on stage, an absolute legend, gracing us with his set. The first few notes of Hallelujah fill the sky and fill my brain. I’ve listened to this song for what feels like forever. It’s achingly familiar and achingly beautiful, I can’t quite believe I’m standing here, watching it. My voice joins the chorus of the crowd.

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It’s 2009 and I’m sprawled out in the Healing Fields in the sunshine; a peaceful oasis within the bustling festival. A woman with long hair and a stunning voice sings to the wanderers who are catching their breath and indulging in massages. Achy legs kneaded out til they’re whole again. The Healing Field takes you right back to the beginnings of the festival, before it grew into the city it is today, and it’s my favourite part.

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It’s 2010, Stevie Wonder and Michael Eavis are on the Pyramid stage singing Happy (40th) Birthday to Glastonbury; stunning vocals rubbing up against scratchy ones and I’m smiling so wide my face might break.

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It’s 2011 and I have tonsillitis, but I’m pushing on as this is my favourite five days of every year and I’m not prepared to let anything ruin it. I’m in Block 9 at 2am and someone shoves fake moustaches into our hands – it’ll give us entry to one of the clubs, of course. I put it on and feel the fake hair tickle against my nose before entering the small, sweaty room. Fatboy Slim is on the decks – a secret set just for us.

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It’s 2013 and my friend Brooke has stumbled upon a Boat Party in Silver Hayes. The sun is beating down and the music is pounding – an MC stands on the stern to hype up the crowd. I close my eyes and dance.

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In 2014 and I’m clubbing in fields. They’ve built a whole different planet here and it comes alive at night. Tube trains crash into hotels in Block 9, illuminated waterfalls cascade down the side of buildings in The Common and whole government has been erected in Shangri-Hell, complete with eerie black-clothed snipers poised to shoot. It’s a trippy hedonistic rave; hundreds of people dancing in the dark.

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It’s July 2014 and I have everything crossed for 2015 tickets because, after a decade at Glastonbury Festival – the best place in the world – I can’t imagine watching it at home on the TV, dying to crawl into the screen and out on to Worthy Farm.

Thanks for the photos Jake Campbell, Brooke Kirby, Rose Lennon!

Written by Ruth Lee

Ruth loves to travel and loves to write. Director of social media at Citypress, she enjoys nothing more than escape, live music and very good food.


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  1. What a brilliant, personal and idiosyncratic view of Glastonbury. Ruth has an engaging style of writing and hopefully she’ll be back at the festival next year 🙂 I’ve never been to any festival – but this year finally am. Blogstock is a def not Glasto but it’s a start!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words Zoe – really glad you enjoyed and I’ll certainly be trying for tickets for 2015 – you should too!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this and looking at the great photos too! I was there in 2003 and 2004 and also was blown away by Radiohead’s set. It makes me long to go back-good luck with getting tickets for next year :))

    • Thanks Stephanie – really glad you liked it and yes, amazing set! Good luck too – huge fingers crossed 🙂

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