Sunday 22 April 2012

Day 6 and Day 7: “She Stars in Her Own Private Movie”

Sunday, Day 6, 3pm, Come On Eng-ur-land
3pm found me trying to cram myself into an entirely over-occupied bar so that I could see a tiny corner of a fuzzy screen displaying the England vs. Germany match. It was so full any more people would have had to swing from the rafters, and the fire safety signs should more accurately have read “IF THERE IS A FIRE, THIS IS WHERE PEOPLE WILL BE TRAMPLED UNDERFOOT IN THE STAMPEDE”. I realised that I was basically being a lemming, and headed off in search of something more fun to do, like have a sit-down and a cider.

Monday, Day 7, 4pm, on the coach
A Team Leader’s role is never done. Not until everyone steps off the coach or the train in Newcastle. Admittedly, this time around I wasn’t really a team leader, since my “team” consisted of me and N, who was more than capable of looking after himself. Indeed, I think the reason I enjoyed this year’s festival so much was because I wasn’t having to look after people for once. Co-ordinating six people to turn up to their shifts at the Glastonbury festival, all of whom want to run off and do their own thing, is not unakin to herding cats (although in fairness, I have a beautiful beaded purse at home that last year’s Glastonbury team bought me as a thank-you for doing all the organising). 

Still, of the five of us I was the only one who had been to Glastonbury and volunteered with the Workers Beer Company before, and old habits die hard. Like many people on the coach, our epic journey home would not end with our stepping off the WBC coach in Leeds; that was just the end of stage 1. Had the coach left at 12noon as scheduled, we’d have been late home in Newcastle, but we’d still have had plenty of time to get up to Leeds Railway Station and get the train home. As it was, we were seriously beginning to wonder if we’d make the connection.

I busied myself on my phone, contacting National Rail Enquiries to check the times of the last trains home, and ringing my brother to let him know that there might be people he didn’t know crashing on the floor of our parents’ house. (My family lives near Leeds.) I didn’t really think that we’d need to do that, but being insanely helpful and over-prepared is one of my characteristics, and I was if I was going to stop now. After that, I leaned my head against the window, sighed, and tried to fall asleep. 

Sunday, Day 6, 4.45pm, inside the Avalon Tent – “There Are People In Here!”
My crowd-slipping-into skills got a workout, as I made my way inside the Avalon Tent to hear Keane play. It was so full there were people standing outside. I suspect this is not surprising, since if you picture Keane’s fans and England football fans, there probably isn’t a massive overlap, although as we stood there shifting our weight from foot to foot and waiting for the band to come on, quite a few people were checking their phones and putting them away with exclamations of disgust. (England were roundly beaten by Germany.) The band were late coming on. I wish I’d gone with my inner raconteur and yelled “Come on, stop watching the footie!” at the stage. 

Eventually the band walked out, led by Tom Chaplin who started at the sight of the tent and exclaimed with seemingly genuine surprise: “Fuck me, there are people in here! We thought we’d be playing to an empty tent”. They were clearly thrilled at the sight of the crowd, all of whom were definitely in the mood for a happy sing-a-long in the sunshine, and joined in the choruses of “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Everybody’s Changing” with great gusto. The band covered “With Or Without You” as a tribute to U2, and it was a very happy gig. You can always tell when a band is having a good time on stage, and Keane were clearly enjoying themselves, so much so that the NME reported afterwards in their write-up of the Sunday: “Either we’re having delusions, or Keane have just persuaded several hundred people that they’re one of Britain’s best-loved bands”.

It turned out that I was wrong about them being delayed by watching the footie. As they left the stage, Tom Chaplin paused and called out: “Hang on, what was the score? 4-1 to Germany? Oh well, it’s just as well that I don’t give a fuck then, isn’t it?” We all laughed. It was great to be so close to the band; the last time I saw them live (2005), they were several hundred feet away on the Pyramid Stage. Definitely one of my highlights of the festival.

Monday, Day 7, 5pm, Service Station
The coach paused for the driver to have a break. The overheated,grumpy inhabitants decanted themselves into the service station in search of rehydration and, in some cases, a quick fag. 

My bedraggled team glumly checked the National Rail Enquiries hotline to discover whether we could actually get home that evening. Answer: yes, if we got to Leeds in time to get the train to York, that connected with the final train to Newcastle of the day. Oh joy.

Whilst lying about on the grass near the coach waiting for the driver to return, we caught up with our foul-mouthed friend from the journey down (remember him?) who let us in on the fact that the coach had actually been stuck in the car park at noon, but without a pass it couldn’t enter the site to pick us up. (Access to Glastonbury is really, really strict.) Why exactly no-one had suggested we simply walked up to meet it is a mystery for the ages. 

Sunday, Day 6, 6pm, Glastonbury
I went for a final wander around, aware this was the last time I’d be seeing the festival in daylight since our shift would finish long after the sun had set. 

Monday, Day 7, 8pm, Outside Leeds Bus Station
8pm, hours after we’d expected to get home to Newcastle. It was chucking it down. We hailed a taxi and crammed ourselves plus our luggage into it, then hastened to the railway station. 

Sunday, Day 6, 8pm, Glastonbury – “Everyone Danced”
And we were back in the bar again, for our final shift. Heads down to get it over with… It’s not much fun spending your final evening at the festival behind the bar, particularly since by this point we’re usually running out of both change and the most popular drinks, but someone has to. We arrived ten minutes late due to the crowds, but got away with it. 

Fortunately for me, the Sunday headliner was Stevie Wonder. Let it not be said that I don’t like Stevie Wonder. Nobody doesn’t like Stevie Wonder. Yet, at the same time, given the choice… he was the headliner I would have been prepared to miss.

So we settled in behind the bar on a sunny evening. And to quote a popular slogan, “Possibly the best live bar background music in the world”. We had Shakira… and then we had Stevie Wonder.

You can tell when the headline act is good, because the bar goes quiet. This went quiet. Then it went noisy, because everyone knows the words, and everyone joins in. By the time we got to “Superstition”, all the punters were dancing. The people in the field beyond were dancing. The person next to me was dancing. I looked around, and realised: every single person in the bar and outside it, from the station supervisors to the manager, was dancing to Stevie Wonder singing “Superstition”. And yes, I was dancing too.

Monday, Day 7, 9pm, Leeds Railway Station
We glumly contemplated the timetable. Our only chance was to go to York, then change for Newcastle. We’d be getting the last trains all the way, so here went nothing, hoping hard that we wouldn’t get stranded.

Sunday Day 6 / Monday, Day 7, 2am, Glastonbury – Shall We Wander?
And the shift finally finished. N and I decided to go explore the festival. This is a perfectly rational decision to make at 2am on the final day of the Glastonbury festival, as it never really stops. (I’ve read that each year Michael Eavis has to round up about a dozen people who haven’t accepted – or possibly haven’t realised – that the festival is over, and put them on the next train home). We stopped off for some pancakes, then wandered around staring at interesting things. There was a lot going on, despite the fact it was pitch black and cold, despite the day’s weather. (As the NME commented on a photo they took at the Stone Circle: “If you look closely, you can see that these people are wearing every stitch of clothing they’ve brought with them. Seriously, the Sahara Desert by day, the fucking Ice Age by night.”)

We stopped in a tent for a drink, then a woman in a turquoise taffeta ballgown wandered onstage and started singing Britney Spears’ “Toxic” in the style of George Formby whilst accompanying herself on the ukelele, so we stayed for a bit longer.

After this, we strolled around to take in any bits of the festival we hadn’t seen yet. We made it to Trash City, which I’ve always wanted to see at night – it’s really a bit pointless seeing it in daytime. It was lively, but not our scene, so we strolled slowly back down the old railroad path to the WBC village, dodging happy drunks and people falling about in costumes in the glare of the overhead floodlights. Eventually, we ended back in the WBC Village bar, where the traditional end-of-festival WBC workers’ party was in progress. People were jumping around and drinking large amounts of cheap booze. N and I settled down with C (T and L were off partying somewhere else), had a few drinks and reminisced about the past week.

As it got round to 3.30am and the first hint of dawn began to appear in the sky, we began to talk about turning in for the night. I strolled out of the tent…

And then the thought occurred to me. I’ve always wanted to see the sun rise over Glastonbury from the Stone Circle, but events and tiredness have prevented.

And the thought occurred: “Why not now?”

True, it was early in the morning, I was tired and I’d have to retrace my footsteps all the way along the railroad track and up to the top of the hill on my own. I’d also get about three hours’ sleep before we were off in the morning.

But I’d have time to sleep on the coach.

Why not now?

I slipped quietly out of the WBC village, leaving N and C to finish their drinks, passed the security guard, and headed out along the path.

Monday, Day 7, 10.30pm, York Railway Station
We hung grimly around York Railway Station, propping ourselves up on our luggage, and waiting for the last train of the night to Newcastle. Museli bars, chocolate and Coke were all that was keeping us going.

Sunday Day 6 / Monday, Day 7, 4.30am, Glastonbury – Sun It Will Rise
Light-headed, I climbed slowly through the morning mists and towards the top of the site and the Stone Circle. Any number of people were shambling about, drunk or tired or euphoric. I shambled a bit too, to fit in. All around me, people were watching the sun rise and lighting sky lanterns, the small lights rising slowly into the sky. I climbed to the top and flattened myself against the security wall, watching the sun rise slowly into the sky, thinking, finally, five years after I first came here, I’ve done it.

Tuesday, Day 8, 0.30am, Newcastle Central Station
“Farewell then.”


And here we were at the end. Seven days after we departed Newcastle, nine hours after we left the festival, we were back home and staggering into taxis to get back to our homes. We said farewell, promised to meet again, and left each other there and then.

I reached for my money pouch around my waist containing my driver’s license and credit card.

It wasn’t there.


But it hadn’t been a bad 24 hours. I thought back to meeting N at Central Station, L, C and T at Leeds. To hearing “Melancholy Hill” for the first time, to Muse on the Saturday night, to the entire bar dancing to Stevie Wonder. And to 6am on Monday. Morning.

Sunday Day 6 / Monday, Day 6, 6am, Glastonbury – She Stars In Her Own Private Movie
As the morning began, I made my way slowly back down to the WBC campsite through the remains of the festival. I didn’t really know where I was going, but I have a good sense of the festival’s layout and which direction to head in, and wandered past the sign, past the tower of ribbons, down to the WBC village. As I walked through Avalon, a few bars and stalls were still heroically open, ra-ra, Rasputin, Russia’s greatest love machine…

I went through the Avalon gate, past the cows, and back home, humming “She Has A Halo”, she stars in her own private movie…

“You look happy” said the security guard on the gate as I danced slowly past him.

“I am.”

  •  I didn’t ever locate my missing waistbelt, but managed to cancel my cards and get a replacement driving licence in the weeks after.
  • We sent a strongly worded letter to the Workers Beer Company about the coach fiasco. Things were much better the year after.
  • Myself and N returned to the festivals in 2011.  
  • C married his fiancee the following year.

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