Dis­sent and dirt – looks like it’ll be a clas­sic Glas­ton­bury, Re­volver,

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

THERE’S A GREAT story in Johnny Ro­gan’s bi­og­ra­phy of Van Mor­ri­son about a party at­tended by the well-known repub­li­can fig­ure Ber­nadette Devlin. The book re­counts an in­ci­dent when some­one at the party put on a copy of the just-re­leased As­tral Weeks al­bum which led to Devlin get­ting up to leave for an­other room where “she re­mained for the night – singing sad rebel songs with her North­ern friends and look­ing dis­ap­prov­ing”.

There have been sim­i­lar dis­ap­prov­ing looks aimed at this year’s Glas­ton­bury Fes­ti­val, which starts to­day, from mu­si­cal/po­lit­i­cal ide­o­logues who have been shout­ing “Sell Out” for the past 41 years.

From first charg­ing an ad­mis­sion fee to erect­ing a se­cu­rity fence around the site for safety rea­sons to book­ing a hip-hop artist as a head­liner, there is al­ways a sanc­ti­mo­nious ca­bal hark­ing back to the “old ways”.

This year the Mu­si­cally Cor­rect have been look­ing dis­ap­prov­ingly at the main stage head­lin­ers – U2, Cold­play and Bey­oncé. In all the in­die hand-wring­ing about Glas­ton­bury – “so bour­geois, so main­stream” – the cen­tral point seems to get lost that Michael Eavis runs the fes­ti­val as a non-profit event. He de­mands (and gets) the big-name acts to go out for 10 per cent of what they’re usu­ally paid on the com­mer­cial fes­ti­val cir­cuit and all prof­its go di­rectly to WaterAid and Ox­fam. The big­ger the head­line name, the more peo­ple come and the more money is made for the char­i­ties.

Eavis doesn’t even al­low tele­coms or al­co­hol com­pa­nies to ad­ver­tise their wares and short of turn­ing the whole she­bang into a Crusty Free For All with The Lev­ellers and Chum­bawamba there’s not much more he can do – what with the mi­nor de­tail of hav­ing 150,000 peo­ple to en­ter­tain for 72 hours.

Glas­ton­bury can and does wreck your head with its rov­ing armies of eco-Nazis who glare at you if you so much as get con­fused by the colour-cod­ing of the eco-bins. And you may never want to see or hear the word “holis­tic” ever again af­ter a week­end at the fes­ti­val.

Glas­ton­bury may have be­come an in­sti­tu­tion, but, con­trary as ever, Eavis has de­cided that “peo­ple are hav­ing too much of a good time” at the ex­pense of the core fes­ti­val mes­sage. He’s dis­ap­pointed by the ap­a­thy shown by this gen­er­a­tion to swinge­ing cuts while fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions are, at best, slapped on the wrist.

“I want the fes­ti­val to be­come more of a sound­ing board of po­lit­i­cal dis­con­tent,” says Eavis. “Pol­i­tics gives Glas­ton­bury soul and gives it back its pur­pose. I hate to ad­mit it, but the po­lit­i­cal plat­form has been re­duc­ing. If peo­ple are re­ally faced with dire cir­cum­stances, that will get them an­gry and mo­ti­vated, and that’s the way we’re head­ing at the mo­ment.”

This year Glas­ton­bury will be wel­com­ing group­ings such as 38 De­grees, Cli­mate Camp, UK Un­cut and False Econ­omy in the hope that they can re­ju­ve­nate the old fes­ti­val reg­u­lars – such as the grey­ing anti-nu­clear crowd and the knit-your-own-or­ganic-tofu-san­dals end of the Green move­ment.

It’s al­ways a del­i­cate bal­ance be­tween the pout­ing su­per­mod­els and their en­tourages locked into their own VVIP prison back­stage (though this year Eavis has banned Kate Moss from hav­ing her usual celeb-only party) and the more mil­i­tant types up in the Green Fields who spend the week­end in an al­ter­na­tive prison of ide­o­log­i­cal dia­lec­tics. There are those who couldn’t pos­si­bly be seen any­where near some­thing as com­mer­cially vul­gar as the main stages and re­treat to a for­est of mu­si­cal fun­da­men­tal­ism, shar­ing space with those who are just there to get out of their head and en­joy what­ever act they can keep it to­gether long enough to en­joy.

And all this dis­sent and con­tra­dic­tion and tru­cu­lence merely adds to the in­ef­fa­ble ap­peal of what is a truly mag­i­cal fes­ti­val. It is why, for many peo­ple, Glas­ton­bury re­mains the best thing in the world.

Joe Strummer: Glasto rocker with a po­lit­i­cal con­science

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