EXPLAINING Glastonbury Festival to someone who hasn’t been is tough.
Some years, it’s all about the headliners, like this year’s record-breaking Elton John set, while other years it’s about the biblical rain and subsequent mud or simply the sheer size — it now welcomes more than 210,000 visitors.
But for most of the punters who attend, the music is just a fraction of what makes Worthy Farm the most magical place on earth for that long weekend in late June.
What positions this festival above all others is everything else — the Healing Fields, the Green Fields, the Circus and Fairground Fields, the activism and the incredible history of the last half a century of cele-brations in this corner of Somerset.
I’ve been to Glastonbury eight times and have barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer.
Every time I visit, I’m surprised and delighted by a new corner of the festival I haven’t seen before.
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This year, it was the Unfairground — the field for subversive art and music — with its giant sculptures from salvaged materials and burlesque performances.
Multi-generational activities are wide-ranging at the festival, including at the Greenpeace Field, where both children and adults brave the eye-watering vertical slide, take turns at the skate park or take in climate change documentaries.
The festival caters incredibly well for kids, which may seem surprising given the sheer number of steps you take each day to get from place to place within the site.
This year there were miniature playgrounds near some of the more popular stages, like the Park Stage, so that parents could enjoy their favourite acts while the kids played.
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The Kidz Field has stage shows featuring old TV favourites like Basil Brush, wildlife experts and circus acts, while children can get involved in all kinds of crafts in the Make And Do Tent, or learn a musical instrument at the Muzikademy.
Or they can check out a range of films in the Pilton Palais cinema tent, among the weary adults nursing hangovers from the night before.
Speaking of which, there are surely few places in the world that cater for a hangover like the Healing Fields, with their laughter yoga, masseuses and homeopaths.
One of my favourite discoveries in recent years has been the Lost Horizons “nomadic spa”, tucked away at the top of the Tipi Field with a sauna, a clothing-optional attitude and plenty of acoustic music that has the vibe of a 70s Glastonbury.
Equally so is the festival-favourite outdoor restaurant, Permaculture, run by Mike Feingold who’s been attending Glastonbury since 1974.
Every day, it has only one dish on the menu. We visited for lunch each day, dining on dahl, salads and Thai curries.
It has the feel of a backpackers’ encampment in South East Asia, with its laid-back ethos and communal eating.
Unlike Glastonbury-On-Sea, which brings a different kind of holiday vibe with its 60-metre-long Victorian seaside pier, designed by resident Glastonbury artist Joe Rush.
It has old-fashioned seaside fun with a twist with a retro pinball arcade, bingo, fortune tellers and carnival dancers . . . all bizarrely set in a field, far from the coast.
But, then, everything is bizarre about Glastonbury.
How a dairy farm can turn itself into the fourth largest city in the South West every summer in just 26 days and still maintain its uniqueness year after year isn’t lost on either the punters or the performers.
It’s rare to watch a singer, band or DJ perform without them mentioning the magic of this particular festival.
Even Elton John and the Rolling Stones, some of the world’s most successful musicians, are visibly moved by the crowds they’ve played to on the Pyramid Stage.
It’s not lost on the festival’s founder Michael Eavis either, who said: “I genuinely think the best people in the world come here.
“Bands always say this audience is the most generous, respectful and up-for-it crowd there is.”
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And that general feeling throughout all of Worthy Farm for that weekend in late June is truly what has made Glastonbury the best of all festivals for so long.
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