De-flowered in Somerset...
Glastonbury 2011: A First Timers Account

Never been to Glastonbury?

Neither had Sam Ballard. Unsure of what to expect, the intrepid young reporter hitched a lift with team Clash as they made their way to Worthy Farm.

Cue mud, music and some mind expanding experiences as the rookie reporter delivers a blow by blow report...

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Part 1

So here it is, the first instalment of my ‘Glastonbury Virgin’ series, as I’m carefully caressed before being mercifully plundered by the Clash seasoned veterans at Worthy Farm. A baptism of mud if ever there was one.

For reasons unknown I’ve never been to Glastonbury, it was always something that, like many, I’d “definitely do next year”. So, under the guise of working, I took up the invitation to hitch a lift from Clash HQ and join the merry band of rabble-rousers at Mr. Eavis’ pleasure.

Arriving at around midnight on Wednesday night, to a churned field and some windswept (and slightly fragile) looking attendants, we unpacked the car, and made our through what was the vastest campsite I’ve ever seen. Foolishly asking where we were, I was embroiled with tales of “glades”, “railways” and “pyramids”. Too much methinks. I’ll just get a map.

When we eventually did make it to our tent, shattered and seeing-double, I was told that it was “about as fifth as bad a walk as it could have been”. ABOUT A FIFTH! I’m not unhealthy but I wasn’t ready for that. “You’ll be sore at the end of the weekend,” I was told with a nudge and a wink. I grinned and hobbled away to the Chai Tent. I’ll sleep well tonight.

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Part 2

As predicted, I slept like the preverbal. The previous night’s trek into unchartered Avalon had truly taken its toll on yours truly. However, there’s nothing a good cup of chai can’t solve and a descension into the fields of Glastonbury is no exception.

Having woken to the sound of dystopian meteorologists cackling in delight (it was raining…I mean properly raining) – I braved the downpour and headed to the press tent for a Clash briefing – and to be told of the next step in taking my innocence.

“Shangri-La,” he said.

Shangri-La - an apocalyptic, futuristic world created for the sole purpose of tripping you out. “It’s as near to being on drugs as you’ll get without being on drugs,” said an unnamed source. Let’s go.

The earth is about to be evacuated after a deadly virus has broken out and the whole place is full of nothing but boarded up shops, messages of impending doom and a contamination zone. And tonight is the last party on earth.

Walking in, we’re faced by a wall of glass discs, each with its own disease safely housed inside. The reason, explains the scientist standing behind his desk, is to see if you’re infected, and in need of either ‘moral decontamination’ or ‘physical decontamination’.

Right, now I’m nervous. The veterans are all standing around me smiling and nodding to each other. I’ve seen too many films start this way. I assumed I was in big trouble.

For whatever reason, I was selected for ‘moral decontamination’ (wasn’t sure whether to take that as a compliment or not…) and went from being in a bright white room surrounded by scientists to being on a therapist’s couch.

Here I was needled, jabbed and led – psychoanalytically of course – to answering questions about my ‘fear’ of Glastonbury and what may have triggered it in my earlier life. “I don’t have a fear,” I cried disorientated and huddled on the floor, sucking my thumb. “It’s just I’ve never got round to getting a ticket before!”

Knowing nods all round and this was just the Thursday. Now, excuse me, I’m off back up to Shangri-La. I’m hooked.

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Part 3

So, so far I’ve trekked, trudged, camped, explored (got lost) and been officially ‘Shangri-La’d’. What will today hold? I think it’s time for some music.

With acts like Metronomy, BB King, Wu-Tang Clan, Morrissey, Primal Scream, Bright Eyes and Gonjasufi all taking to the various stages across the farm today, I’ve got a feeling that it could be a busy one. I’ve also got a strong suspicion that my eyes are bigger my ears. Or my legs….(Basically, I want to see more bands than I’m going to be able to)

The problem of festival clashes isn’t unique to Glastonbury. However, it does seem like an issue that is never more prominent than when visiting Worthy Farm. You aren’t going to get a load of filler on a Glastonbury line-up are you?

Sitting here, trying to negotiate a plan, seems futile. However a plan must be made – along, no doubt, with sacrifices on the journey. Today the beast is officially awoken. I’ll let you know how I get on...

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Part 4

And on the second day Eavis said, “let it rain”. And it did. All day. But, what’s a little precipitation to someone with a flimsy plan, built around the premise that he can travel instantly between stages that are miles apart? Do you see where this is going?

The sheer vastness of the Worthy Farm site is something that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Strange worlds down black holes, manned by people who look that they’re a part of the alien environment, lay waiting everywhere. It’s an amazing distraction, but today was no day for distractions (maybe later). I had my itinerary and I planned to stick to it.

Hitting the ground running with Metronomy at the Pyramid stage and then Mona and Miles Kane on the John Peel stage, I was flying – this is easy I thought, then it hit me – the Glastonbury rumour mill. Right in the face. The ‘special guest’ slot at The Park had already been the subject of numerous rumours beforehand, but, as the day progressed the mill started to fly out with all sorts of names – someone’s seen a Kings of Leon crew member backstage, Jarvis Cocker’s here, someone even mentioned Boy George. Then someone said it: Radiohead. Radiohead?
Surely not, it wont be them. Not again. Can you risk it? Would you? No. Sorry Morrissey I’m afraid you’re the first casualty on my list. From there the whole thing fell like a pack of cards.

Now, drenched and with King of Limbs still ringing in my ears, I’m sitting here typing up the whole episode. They were brilliant, although having drawn one of the biggest crowds of the weekend so far; I’m starting to doubt the security of the ‘special guest’. Now, excuse me, I’m off to find those distractions.

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Part 5

Wow. I must apologies for the absence in blog posts. I’ve been on a bit of a journey.

Having caught sets from the likes of The Horrors, Anna Calvi, James Blake, Wild Beasts, Tame Impala, The Gaslight Anthem, Pulp, BB King, Radiohead, Big Audio Dynamite, Primal Scream, The Kills, Wu-Tang, Metronomy, Mona, Miles Kane, Don McLean and Paul Simon – it’s been a bit special.

I’ve endured weather as biblical and varied as the line-up – from torrential downpours to blistering sum – and everything in between. I’ve walked from a club with a live 50’s jive band to watching motorbikes defy gravity on the “Wall of Death”. There are circus acts next to Billy Bragg hosting debates on tax cuts. I don’t even want to think about what I’ve missed.

Before I came to Glastonbury I was warned by the Clash veterans that once sampled, I’d be hooked. I was dubious – I’ve been to my fair share of festivals and didn’t really understand why this one was any different to the rest. I now understand. Glastonbury is the festival. There’s an air about the whole site that needs to be breathed in to be understood.

The last five days have been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. And I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface. Suffice to say; I’ll be coming back next year. I’ve been broken in.

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Words by Sam Ballard
Photos by Al de Perez

Discover more of Clash's coverage from the Glastonbury festival 2011 HERE

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