GLASTONBURY 2023 PREVIEW – Evening Standard, June 2023

What are you up to this weekend? Anything good? For over 200,000 workers, performers and wide-eyed welly wearers, ever since Wednesday night’s fireworks the biggest party on Earth has been well underway. Glastonbury Festival is upon us for only the fourth time in seven years, after its planned year off in 2018 and two unplanned pandemic years off in 2020 and 2021. It’ll be hard to top last summer’s delayed 50th anniversary event, at which Paul McCartney shot the star power up to insane heights by bringing on both Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen as surprise guests, but there’s no doubt that yet more historic moments are imminently to be created.

We are a nation of festival goers, whether it’s 16-year-olds marking the end of their GCSEs by setting fire to things at Reading, Made in Chelsea types banquetting at Wilderness, headbangers headbanging at Download, or a more mature crowd having a cultured time of it at Latitude. The cost of living crisis following the Covid years has negatively affected numerous smaller events, but public hunger to get through those hallowed Somerset gates seems to become fiercer every year. Glastonbury stands alone. Why is that?

Firstly, it’s the history. Ever since September 1970, when a fresh faced Michael Eavis promised The Kinks, free milk and an ox roast to visitors to Worthy Farm, Glastonbury has been a magical place for generations. Whether you were an original hippy, a Nineties freeloading fence jumper or a tech-savvy newbie who can navigate the current labyrinthine ticket buying process, you’ll have a year or a moment that remains among your happiest times.

It’s also the TV coverage, which has enabled millions of unlucky absentees to experience the highlights since Channel 4 first broadcast 4 Goes to Glastonbury in 1994. I remember watching Radiohead introducing the paranoid wonders of OK Computer to horrifically mud-streaked masses in 1997 and being smugly glad that I could be there without actually being there. Now the BBC’s iPlayer and Sounds app permits a vast pick and mix for the tent avoidant.

And it’s the flags. So many flags! Nowhere else can you watch Arctic Monkeys while simultaneously feeling as though you’re participating in the Battle of Agincourt.

Of course it hasn’t always been perfect. Bad weather always negatively affects a camping experience, but when there are 400,000 feet continually churning puddles into swamps, it really can scar. I opted out for a number of years after the endless rain of 2007, but seeing it through the first timer eyes of a teenage companion last year sparked the magic all over again.

This year there have been more complaints about the line-up than usual. It shouldn’t be that surprising for the headliners to be all male given that only four women have topped the bill this century and one of those, Florence + the Machine, was a last minute replacement for Foo Fighters. But as the rise of rap to headline status has shown, even if it’s more slowly than people would like, Glastonbury always adapts. Your experience will be different from everyone else’s, your memories all equally special.

Glastonbury Festival | The Official Glastonbury Festival Website (