There are times in everyone’s lives when they feel that they are missing out on something truly magical that everyone else is doing. One of the first, and still most painful was when Kelly in my class got school shoes, with heels!!! whilst I was stuck in my ugly square orthopaedic shoes after years of seeing doctors about my deformed flat flipper-like feet. That was sorrow on a deep level and despite many high heeled shoes since, I believe it formed a big part of my psyche, of my overstretched, poorly functioning body letting me down. Then there were the years of all my friends going from boyfriend to boyfriend while I was the eternal gooseberry just wondering all the excitement that I was missing out on.
I was a teenager growing up in Somerset, where every summer solstice weekend a small group of the coolest, most deviant girls I knew would prepare themselves to climb the fence, and experience the eye-opening, other-worldly magic of the Pilton Festival (you weren’t allowed to call it Glastonbury if you were a local, it’s not even in Glastonbury for God’s sake).
So, for the first few years I wasn’t that heart broken about not being one of those girls. Aged thirteen I knew there was not a hope in hell of my mother letting me be one of them. As the years passed my love of music, my awareness of the specialness of Glastonbury, and my jealousy, all grew a little. The year I took my A levels a whole group of girls from my school went. I had already spent every penny I had paying for a holiday to Greece with my friends to celebrate the end of exams – my first proper holiday abroad, my first time ever being allowed to go away with friends. I knew I was not, and still am not the kind of person who would be willing to climb a fence to get into a festival, apart from that one time that I did climb the fence into Reading Festival, but that was an accident and I did actually have a ticket!
From the Friday to the early hours of Monday I sat, curled up on the bean bag in the spare room, glued to every second of the TV coverage, crying, in my house just a few miles from what felt like the very centre of the entire world. I had never, ever felt such terrible longing for something I couldn’t have, for somewhere I could not be. This probably just demonstrates how utterly privileged and lucky my life had been to that point, but man did I sob my poor little teenage heart out that weekend.
I think the experience broke my poor mother’s heart too, and from that moment our relationship was forever changed. That was the moment that my mother promised to herself that next year, she would make sure that her daughter got to the festival.
The following year was a tough one for me. I decided to drop out of my planned university course as I knew that really being a doctor was the only thing I really wanted to do. I hadn’t even applied the first time around as I just hadn’t believed I could do it. I moved back home, and I worked as a volunteer at a nursery for children with special needs, whilst trying to beef up my work experience for my application. They very kindly gave me ten pounds a week to ‘cover my expenses’ but I think they just felt sorry for me. Every single one of my friends had left, for uni, or on glamorous planned gap years on foreign continents. I was stuck at home relying on my parents and working full time, in a truly amazing job that I loved to be fair, but essentially for free.
Each week when I got my ten pounds I would go straight to the newsagent next to the school and buy that week’s copy of Melody Maker and NME. I would then walk straight to the bank, and with my little paying-in book would deposit every single penny of the change into my savings account. I would then spend the weekend devouring every word of those magazines, reading every review, planning which new albums I should try to rent from the library and copy on to tape, to familiarise myself with before I might see them at next summers festival.
All my friends had gone and it was a pretty lonely year, so my 48 year old mother decided that she would come with me to the festival. We spent evenings sat down in her bedroom, while I played her the music I loved, and tested her on all the different bands. She had a whole new musical education and we both got to know each other as people, properly, for the first time ever. It has been the most fundamental step in our relationship as adults, and was life changing for us both.
As the time approached I had saved enough money for two tickets, a tent, and some very basic supplies. My whole world had come perfectly to this point, as I entered the festival that I had been dreaming about every day for a whole year.
It was an amazing weekend, not perfect, but completely seminal in my life. My best friend ended up showing up at the last minute, jumping that fence and joining me and my mother, just in time, in front of the pyramid stage, to watch The Chemical Brothers. I will never forget my friend, totally off her tits in every single drug she could acquire on her way from the fence to us, and my middle aged mother, both dancing like lions with their hands in the air to the beat of Hey Boy, Hey Girl as the strobe lighting showed me their flashing grins. Nothing has ever really been the same since.
I have been to Glastonbury many times since then, in the baking years, the mudpit years, years with and without the superfence. I have seen it change and grow. I have seen hundreds of bands I would never have seen otherwise, spent days wandering the green fields and had experiences I would never have come across elsewhere, and eaten some of the best veggie food ever. The festival was instrumental in me meeting my husband over mud and a Brother’s cider, and the last time I went was on my honeymoon, having just discovered I was pregnant with my daughter days earlier. And yes, my amazing Mum came along that year too!
There were a couple of years the festival wasn’t on, so those times me and Mum went to other festivals, but none of them had that same magic. There were other years that we couldn’t get tickets, or I was out of the country, so on those years we held our own, the legendary Spaxtonbury Festival, the second greatest Somerset music festival.
For now, life has changed in other ways, and I have not returned since those early days of pregnancy. I very much hope to go back one day, maybe with my children if they want to go one day, and they’re not ashamed to be seen with me. For today I will sit here and feel that fear of missing out all those years ago, but cherish all those incredible memories I have of that magical place and all it taught me, and the bond it brought me with my mother, and with my husband. Tonight I will watch one of my all time favourite bands on the TV, and imagine myself back in that field, in front of that pyramid, when I was there myself seeing Radiohead at their most incredible, and the magic will be within me forever.