Now Reading
Here’s What We Learnt At Glastonbury Festival

Here’s What We Learnt At Glastonbury Festival

The behemoth that is Glastonbury Festival has called last drinks for another year. SIMONE UBALDI – a seasoned veteran of the event – shares her wealth of knowledge and some killer tips on how to survive the massive five-day affair.

I am a shell of a human being. My shoes are mud-caked, my clothes stink and my feet feel (accurately) as though they have walked a thousand miles. I just woke up from a 24 hour nap and I will be wearing dark sunglasses for the rest of the week. But I have survived my fourth Glastonbury Festival. And it was glorious. And you should go.


#1 Yes, it’s “too big”. Go anyway.


Glastonbury is the world’s biggest music festival, held annually in a field in Somerset and welcoming upwards of 200,000 punters, staff, volunteers, artists and freeloaders. Arriving by bus on Thursday morning, a day after gates open but before the music starts, I see a tent city stretching out across the valley, far off into the distance, with looming circus tents, the iconic Pyramid stage and the Glastonbury ribbon tower on the far horizon. I know I can’t actually see half the site and I will spend the next four days walking back and forth across that expanse – and my heart just sings. It’s not just the biggest, most challenging and occasionally most hellish music festival on earth – it is also the best.

With 27 main stages and 56 smaller stages and venues, Glastonbury is rammed with diverse and excellent music from around the world, from two-piece jug bands to rock ‘n’ roll legends. Whether I’m packed into a field with 150,000 Kanye fans, sweating in a hidden cave to London’s finest dubstep or wandering past a two-piece jug band playing at a chai tea tent one muddy morning, the next four days will be filled with endless, dazzling sounds.

#2 Plan ahead, prepare for disappointment

Never mind the peace-loving hippy facade, Glastonbury is run like a military operation. You have to register to buy a ticket and if you  happen to be one of the lucky punters who breaks through the congested ticket queue online or on the phone, your photo gets printed on your ticket. At the gate, they check your ticket against your ID before giving you your durable fabric wristband (collected year on year by certain zealous, unwashed patrons) and reminding you to keep your paper ticket on hand at all times.

135,000 tickets are available to the general public and they sell out in October the preceding year, before the lineup is even announced. You wouldn’t believe how many Brits complain they can never get in, let alone foreigners. If you want to go, get organised and have a team of people trying to get through when tickets go on sale.

#3 Pack light, pack well


Glastonbury prep is similar to any camping festival, except that you have to walk your gear roughly 45 minutes from the car to your campsite. It’s a whole city you have to cross, with all 200,000 citizens  hustling for a scrap of land to call their own. Want a nice couch? A fancy gazebo? Some adorable fairy lights? Forget it. If you need to save money, bring a strong trolley to carry food and drinks, but otherwise pack light and remember the essentials – a quality waterproof jacket and a decent pair of wellies. Spend proper money on these things and you will be happy when the inevitable rain hits.

#4 Know that it will rain. Go anyway.

When it rains at Glastonbury, the fields turn to molten sludge and all plans and best intentions go to hell. You might lose an hour hiding out in a random bar while it really buckets down or you might change your plans to shorten a muddy walk between stages, but it’s all good. It’s literally all good – everything around you is interesting and distracting – so it doesn’t matter where you end up. People are generally pretty joyful about the weather, and rain-themed singalongs echo across the site, but don’t be tempted to slide around in it. Aside from the fact that it’s virtually impossible to have a shower over the five-day festival (unless you want to queue for hours), there are nasty things in the mud, not least of which is a horrifying amount of human wee.

#5 Pack a bag of magic tricks

Mark Ronson’s gumboots, that my friend Stu somehow ended up with.

I leave camp with whatever I might need for the day, including Band-Aids, painkillers and a portable phone charger. The charger is the best investment I ever made for Glastonbury  – two of them get me through four long days and nights at the festival. While others are switching theirs phones on and off the conserve power or queuing for hours at the recharge tent, I’m checking the festival app, texting friends and Instagramming with impunity.

#6 Don’t break the seal

Much has been said about the trenches that pass for toilets at Glastonbury. Much more could be said. I personally could write a solid think piece about the decay of western civilisation, embodied in the harrowed souls who make the sign of the cross before entering on of those stinking chambers. It’s a real eye-opener.

Despite organisers’ claims that 107,000 rolls of toilet paper are provided at the festival, there is never any in the public loos. Have plenty of TP and hand sanitiser on you at all times. Nose plugs are also a fabulous idea. But when you have to go, for god’s sake go in the toilet. Have some dignity.

#7 Get lost


For me, Glastonbury is about the music, but you could bimble about happily for days without seeing more than a couple of bands on the bill. Here are just a few of the hundreds of things worth stumbling across: the Big Easy Jam tent, filled with instruments that punters play for impromptu singalongs; the Rabbit Hole, a club which is accessed on all fours; the hidden piano bar; hip hop karaoke; hookah bars; Rebel Bingo; the Glastonbury Free Press, which produces two daily papers on site; the dragon in the stream; the HMS Greenpeace; the chai tea, metal workshops and massage parlours in the Green Fields; Billy Bragg’s Leftfield; Bez’s Acid House; the sacred stone circle; the Ribbon Tower; the Tipi Field; the Kidz Field; the giant flaming spider in Arcadia; and all of theatre and cabaret, spread across two massive fields.

At night, the multiple fields that make up the South East corner become a steaming, teaming bacchanalia of beats and excess, as people wander goggle-eyed through the steam punk landscape. You will lose your friends in a heartbeat and the phone network will go down, but don’t despair. Find a hidden bar under a waterfall, follow flame guns and lasers to a stage between Heaven and Hell or huddle around a campfire while some old guy plays a guitar. Make some new friends, then take them to the hill above The Park and watch dawn and creep over the festival site. All the mistakes will turn into magic, as long as you go with the flow.

(Photos: Simone Ubaldi)

Now you have the know-how, it’s time to plan for next year. Check out Qantas flights to London here. 

Scroll To Top