Part 4

Is it always muddy?

Only if it rains! Glastonbury often falls slap bang in the middle of Wimbledon fortnight and we all know how unpredictable the weather can be for that. However, unlike Wimbledon, I’m not aware of there being any plans afoot to install a retractable roof anytime soon. 

We’ve been very lucky with the weather over the last 3 festivals.  In 2023 we had a short period of rain on the Wednesday lunchtime but after that it was warm and almost entirely dry. 2022 was also pretty much perfect with warm days and a little rain at night but apart from one sharp shower early on the Sunday morning it was barely enough to keep the dust down.

Despite some pretty horrendous forecasts and heavy rain in the days leading up to the festival, Glastonbury 2019 remained dry throughout, albeit rather windy at times. Of my 19 visits to Worthy Farm it was only the third time I have experienced the phenomenon of an entirely dry festival. There was a bit of mud around during the early part of the festival where vehicle movements had churned things up in some places but this quickly baked dry in the sunshine.

In 2017 the Wednesday saw the highest temperature ever recorded at the festival with the thermometers topping 30 degrees but after that conditions cooled with some light rain. 

Michael Eavis stated that the 2016 festival was the muddiest ever, although anybody who attended in 1985, 1997, 1998 or 2007 would probably have disagreed with him. However it was rumoured that the whole of the South of England's stockpile of woodchip was shipped in to soak up the mud and many vehicles had to be towed both on and off the site with resulting long delays to people's arrival and departure from the festival.

2015 saw a few heavy showers and 2014 started dry but some thunderstorms developed, one of which forced all the stages to shut down for 90 minutes and made things moderately slippery in places for a while.

It only rained for a few hours on the Thursday in 2013 and we also only had one wet day at both the 2008 and 2009 festivals. 2010 was overall the hottest Glastonbury ever and an absolute scorcher from start to finish. However 2011 saw a return to more traditional Glastonbury conditions with lots of rain both before and during the first half of the festival making conditions somewhat challenging.

Going back a little further, the 2007 festival coincided with the wettest June on record and was far and away the most uncomfortable of my 19 visits to date. And in 2005 we had a storm of biblical proportions on the Friday morning which threatened cancellation of the festival and quickly turned large areas of the site into a quagmire, although the remainder of the festival was scorching hot.

Since 2005 a considerable amount of money has been spent on drainage to alleviate the most severely affected areas. But the festival site is in a valley and so if it does rain heavily then gravity takes its inevitable effect. The ground on the flatter central areas tends to get very soggy and with more than 200,000 pairs of feet stomping around it gets churned up quite quickly.

Can I bring the kids?

Personally, Glastonbury is one Festival which I never took the Tortlets to when they were younger because it's during school term time and their Mum worked in education. But many of those who do take their kids reckon it is among the best festivals for children to attend. In addition to the designated Family Camping areas, the kids also have their own entertainment field where there is an impressive array of stuff to keep them occupied in the form of a huge fairy castle, slides & swings, storytelling, things to make & do, sandpits, climbing apparatus, music making, puppet shows and appearances from kids favourites like Bazil Brush and Dynamo the magician.

There is also plenty of entertainment laid on for junior punters in the Theatre, Circus, Cabaret and Greenpeace Fields as well as children’s films in the Pilton Palace.

Entrance to the Festival is free for children aged 12 and under but I’m afraid that there is no concession for children aged 13 and over and they have to pay the full price. If your child is under 13 but looks older it would be sensible to bring a photocopy of his or her birth certificate or passport with you in case the stewards at the gates challenge the child’s age.

There's lots of additional useful advice on taking kids to Glasto on the official website.

How much money will I need?

Once you’ve paid for your ticket and transportation it is actually still possible to attend Glastonbury very cheaply. You can certainly survive on very little if you bring your own food and drink or shop around and I know several people who tell tales of having got through the festival without having two beans to rub together.

Personally I look at it as being a bit of a holiday and push the boat out. See below for details of food and drink prices, but additionally there are several hundred stalls selling anything from Doorbells to Didgeridoos, from Whips to Wedding Dresses and from Bongos to Bird Boxes so it's very easy to be tempted into taking a little something home as a memento and I've often spent the Monday scouring the stalls for a few presents to take home for my nearest & dearest before I pack up and leave.

I usually budget for something in the region of £300 to £400 for six days (most of which stays stashed safely away in my van until I need it) but I take a fair amount of my own food & drink and so generally only buy one meal and a few drinks at the bars each day.  In 2023 I spent approximately £180 inside the festival.  Most of the stalls and bars will accept debit and credit cards but some still work on a cash only basis so your best bet is to have both available if possible.

If you run out of money there are several sets of cash machines spread around the festival and their positions are indicated by "£" signs on the site maps. However be warned it can't always be guaranteed that all of the cash machines will be in operation all of the time.  It's also a sensible safety precaution not to visit the cash machines alone and, as always, make sure nobody is looking over your shoulder when you enter your PIN. There is a £2:95 charge to use the cash machines for each withdrawal other than the machines close to Worthy Farm where the charge is reduced to £1:50.

What's the food like?

Absolutely fanbloodytastic!!! If you're under the impression that all festival food is restricted to overpriced burgers and undercooked chips then you are in for a very pleasant surprise. You won't find any major high street chains represented but there are nearly 1,000 independent catering outlets on site and these are all selected by the organisers for their diversity. 

Personal favourites of mine are the Goan Fish Curry stall and Leon's Vegetarian Cuisine, both pictured here and both of which can usually be located in the West Holts Field.

I'm also a massive fan of the food served up at the Tibetan Kitchen which is usually to be found on the northern path between the Pyramid and Other Stages. If you're ever in Manchester they have a restaurant there with very reasonable prices.

The best cooked breakfasts (apart from the ones I fry up in my van) can be found in the Street Sub-Aqua Club "Diver's Diner" tent at the bottom of the Cockmill Meadow family camping field. A full English fry up here will cost you £9:50. Flippers & snorkels are optional.

There are several stalls selling fresh fruit and there is also a bakery opposite the entrance to the Acoustic Field.  

Food prices for the most part are similar to what you would find at other festivals or maybe slightly cheaper in some instances. In 2023 a main meal would generally cost you somewhere between £10 and £15 but if you seek out some of the vegetarian cafes in the Green Fields you can eat cheaper. The Hare Krishnas will provide you with a hearty bowl of vegetarian stew completely free of charge, although a small donation for their generosity would always be appreciated.

Most of the food stalls have some sort of seating fairly close by to allow you to perch while you munch. Alternatively, for additional comfort and indoor dining visit the Tiny Tea Tent (pictured), the Fluffy Rock Cafe, Buddhafields, Chai Wallahs, or one of the many other cafes dotted around the site. Some of these have small stages so you can also enjoy live entertainment while you sip on a fortifying mug of chai.

All food is served on bio-degradable paper plates and with wooden cutlery. The festival also insists that all tea and coffee served by the traders is of Fair Trade origins. However if you want to go really upmarket you might like to book yourself a table for silver service posh nosh at the Deluxe Diner in Shangri La where award winning Head Chef Andy Evans will serve up culinary delights such as Spiced Lamb Sweetbreads and Red Mullet stuffed with Braised Fennel. They also do fabulous Sunday roasts including vegetarian and vegan options.  Book early to avoid disappointment!

Can I drink the tap water?

Yes, there are more than 850 wash basins and standpipes onsite where the water is perfectly drinkable and the quality of the water is checked regularly throughout the Festival to make sure there are no nasty bugs in it. You might find that the water sometimes tastes a little bit like a swimming pool as they do take extra precautions against contamination but this won't do you any harm whatsoever. The security staff at the major stages will often hand out cups of water to those at the front of the crowd so take advantage of this if you are feeling at all dehydrated and you'll also find that the bars have jugs of free tap water available as well.

In 2009 a vast 1 million litre fresh water reservoir was built at Worthy Farm at a cost of £400,000. It got a maximum "five" rating for drinking water quality when it was inspected on completion. The festival is now nearly self sufficient for water - no longer having to run tankers around the site. Following the 2019 festival, when some areas had to suspend the use of showers in order to preserve water for drinking, there have been rumours that a further reservoir is to be installed for future festivals in order to improve the supply.

Since 2016 Glastonbury has made a huge effort to banish the use of single use plastics onsite. As a result the stalls where you used to be able to buy reasonably priced bottles of Glastonbury Spring Water have been replaced by WaterAid refill kiosks where you can have your own water bottle refilled. You can buy souvenir stainless steel water bottles for £12, a £2 share of which go straight to WaterAid.

If you really can't face drinking tap water then you can still buy water from the food traders in re-sealable cans.

Alcohol - What's the deal?

And so we reach my favourite subject (and judging by the number of hits this page gets it’s many other people’s as well!) ...The best thing about drinking at Glastonbury is that, although there is a small element of commerciality creeping into the Festival, no one mega-brewer has a monopoly in the same way as is the case at many other festivals, so there is a much greater diversity of choice for the drinks connoisseur. Thankfully there is none of that nonsense of having to buy tokens for your drinks which you see at other festivals either. Closing times vary but most are extended well beyond normal pub hours and a few of the bars remain open well into the early hours of the morning. The festival is actually licensed to serve alcohol until 5am.

There has been a lot more attention paid to under age drinking in recent years and anybody who appears under the age of 21 may well be challenged by Security as they enter the bars. So if you are lucky enough to be under 21 or appear younger than you actually are then please make sure you have proof of your age. If you visit one of the property lock ups you can obtain a Challenge 21 wristband and then you can lock your ID safely away.

To those who are under age please be aware that the same licensing laws apply at the festival as they do anywhere else in the country.

In total there are more than 100 bars dotted around the site, several of which are run by the Workers' Beer Company (WBC) and are staffed by volunteer Trade Union members and charity workers to raise money for their causes. Many are open from the Wednesday lunchtime onwards. In 2023 the WBC bars served Carlsberg Danish Pilsner and locally produced Brother's Cider.

Anybody who is perturbed by this apparent commercialism really needn't be overly concerned. The sponsorship isn't particularly intrusive and you won't notice much other than some low key branding at the bars and on the paper cups in which your drinks are served.

The WBC bars will serve you a fairly standard selection of drinks and in all honesty they are pretty expensive. Examples of prices in 2023 were as follows:-

  • Lager £6:50 a Pint 
  • Cider £6:50 a Pint 
  • Otter Bitter £6:50 a Pint 
  • Spirits with a mixer £6:00 for a single and £9:00 for a double 
  • Wine £7:50 for a 175ml Glass

Most of the main bars serve ales from the Otter Brewery in Devon but a few of the larger bars such as the Avalon Inn, shown here, and the Cornish Arms have wider selection of alternative choices in real ale.

As a card carrying CAMRA member however, my advice to all ale drinkers is to head for the Cockmill Bar in the Acoustic Field where they serve an excellent selection of beers, all kept in tip-top condition.

Being in Somerset you have to try the Cider (£6:00 a pint in 2023) from the Burrowhill Cider Bus, which is situated just off the main market area near to the southern entrance to the Pyramid Field. We're not talking your pasteurised, fizzy Strongbow or Magners brands here. This is the proper stuff! They serve a choice of Dry or Medium varieties, plus the Hot and Spicy (mulled) cider at £6:50 a pint, which is a must on a cold or damp evening.

Also check out the chilled Pear Cider from the Brothers Bar in the West Holts Field, which is brewed just down the road in Shepton Mallet. You may have seen this available in cans and bottles in your local supermarket but it is often a reduced alcohol variety. At 7% ABV the "festival strength" version kicks like a mule. Beware, it is very easy to completely lose the use of your legs drinking this stuff, which is probably one reason why I seem to spend more time in this field than anywhere else!

In 2023 this nectar would cost you a comparitively inexpensive £6 a pint. Raspberry Ripple, Toffee Apple, Wild Fruit and Strawberry & Lime were the other flavours available in 2023 in addition to the standard Pear, although disappointingly the flavouring is in the form of a squirt of sugary syrup which is added as the drink is being poured and the alcohol content is therefore reduced to 6.4%.

There are several wine bars dotted around the site. Keep an eye out for the big green inflatable bottles. 

If you want to go really upmarket some of the venues in and around the South East corner and The Park serve bubbly by the glass as well as cocktails and shots.

Although they are less obvious nowadays you'll also sometimes find there are still rogue traders wandering around selling cold cans of lager, tequila slammers and vodka jellies. They aren't licensed by the festival and are therefore effectively trading illegally but it's all part of the (ahem) spirit of the place.

Can I bring my own booze?

Yes you can! Unlike other large festivals where they will try to fleece you for every last penny, you most certainly are allowed to bring your own booze to Glastonbury and drink it wherever you choose. The only restrictions are that you can only bring in "enough for personal consumption" and that you must not bring any glass. If the security at the gates find glass bottles in your bags they will be confiscated. They aren't particularly heavy-handed but please don't try to smuggle bottles in.

There is a very good reason for the No Glass rule. Think of the cows who have to live on the site when we aren't there enjoying ourselves and how much damage broken glass could do to them. If you want to bring spirits then decant them into metal or plastic containers first. Or if wine is your tipple of choice then buy it in cans or boxes.

There is currently no set limit as to the amount of alcohol you can bring on to the festival site. What the security will try to do is prevent people bringing large amounts of alcohol on site to sell on illegally at an unlicensed profit. There was an announcement made shortly before the 2013 festival that punters would only be able to bring as much alcohol onto the site as they were able to physically carry, but this was very quickly retracted in a statement from Michael Eavis. There was also a recommendation within the Council Review following the 2019 festival that a set limit should be considered, as the amount of alcohol which is deemed to be "enough for personal consumption" may differ considerably from one member of the security staff to another. However there has been no further word as to if and how this is to be implemented going forward.

I've gone through the gates with 48 cans on my trolley in the past without any difficulty. But don't forget you may have to walk anything up to 2 miles from car to camp site so you will be restricted by how much you can carry over that sort of distance. If you are driving you can always return to the car to top up supplies over the weekend. Note that there are no shops selling alcohol within easy walking distance of the site or at the onsite Co-Op and the local pub in Pilton is closed for the duration of the Festival.

And while we are on the subject, here's a top tip. If you put cans of drink under your tent's groundsheet so that they are in direct contact with the grass you will find that they remain much cooler than if you just leave them in your tent, even on a warm day. Just don't accidentally kneel on them when you go back to your tent in the dark. That really hurts!

Is it possible to buy ice at the festival?

This might sound like a really bizarre question but you wouldn’t believe how many people ask it every year.  You can indeed buy bags of ice at the onsite Co-Op and somebody also contacted me to say that some of the general purpose shops were selling it by the cupful. 

I spotted these guys hauling a load across the site a few years ago, presumably for sale at the shops or for use at the bars.

Are the toilets really that bad?

Ask anybody who has been going to festivals for as long as I have and they will almost certainly tell you that the toilet situation is vastly better now than it was in the past. The "Pyramid of Poo", which was a regular feature of festival toilets, is thankfully no more than an unpleasant memory these days. Certainly Glastonbury lays on considerably more in the way of toilet facilities than it is legally obliged to for the number of people on site and these are all cleaned on a regular basis.

Toilet roll is sometimes provided in the loos but this will often have run out by the time you get there so it's a good idea to carry a small supply of your own at all times in case of emergencies. Free toilet rolls are available from the Information Points and Property Lock Ups but please only take as much as you need and give a small donation to the charities they are collecting on behalf of if you can.

Without wishing to sound too much like a school dinner lady, you really need to make sure you wash your hands after visiting the loos and before eating. Dodgy tummies at festivals aren't much fun and are far more likely to be caused by dirty hands than by poorly prepared food. There are wash basins with soap or sanitiser gel dispensers near all of the toilet blocks but I also carry a small bottle of the alcohol based gel, which we all got so used to carrying around with us during the pandemic, just in case the provided stuff has run out, which it does from time to time.

These are the infamous Glastonbury "longdrop" toilets which are basically a row of seats over a large pit. They actually aren't anywhere near as smelly as you would imagine and, provided the weather is dry and you time your visit to shortly after they've been cleaned, a not too unpleasant experience at all. As you can see, they are open to the elements and some of the doors don't have locks on them but it's easy to see from the dangling feet which ones are occupied. And in case you were wondering, the myth that occasionally people fall in is completely untrue.

Here's a handy hint for the longdrops - Some people carry a double ended "S" hook with them which you can hang over the door and use to keep your bags and/or coat off the ground while you are doing your business.

These wonderful composting loos appeared in several locations around the site for the first time in 2013. You just pop a small cup of sawdust in after you've made your deposit and they remain totally odour free for the entire festival. They were deemed to be such a huge success that in 2014 they proliferated all over the site, almost completely replacing the previously widespread plastic "turdis" portaloos and virtually negating the need for the "sludge gulper" tractors to move through the crowds during the festival.

These are the “She Pee” female urinals which enable girls to enjoy the phenomenon which we blokes take for granted of being able to pee standing up. A small funnel-like device is provided to assist.

Special Request from my friend Flash:-

"This is an accessible toilet for disabled people, located in various spots throughout the site. They may seem tempting, especially if there is no queue, but there are hundreds of disabled people on site who cannot use any other toilets. So please leave these for others who have no alternative." - photo courtesy of Flash Bristow

With a toilet block in virtually every field and urinals close to most of the bars there really is no excuse for pissing in the streams or the hedges. But people still do and as a result the Festival has been prosecuted and fined in the past for polluting the water courses. Nowadays the "Worthy Warriors" are on the look out for offenders, so unless you want to risk being lectured by them over the error of your ways - Don't Do It!

Can I have a shower?

If I'm totally honest most people go feral for 5 days and tend not to bother. Certainly when I camped I would normally make do with wet wipes and my D.I.Y. shower in the camp site. However there are a few places to be found on site where you can get yourself a shower. But please be aware that you may find some of these are communal and don't offer the degree of privacy you may be accustomed to.

These are the showers which are to be found close to the entrance to the Kidz Field. Expect to queue for some time to use these, especially at more popular times of the day.

More showers can be found in the Greenpeace Field. Again there are often long queues for these at the more popular times, although I have heard that they sometimes operate a ticket system whereby you book for a specific time and come back later.

Alternatively head for the Tipi Field where you will find the Lost Horizons sauna. You can buy a weekend pass from these guys so you are able to use their area as a little nudist sanctuary whenever you want. 

Please don't take things like soap, shampoo and shower gel with you to the showers. You will be supplied with environmentally friendly versions to use when you get there. All you need is a towel.

Please also note that there is nowhere for you to plug in your hair straighteners - and yes the question has been asked in all seriousness in the past!!! There are however a few hair and beauty salons such as the Blo Dry Bus shown here dotted around the site if you feel you really can’t go five days without being pampered.

What facilities are there for the disabled?

A hilly dairy farm certainly isn't the easiest place to get around for the able bodied so I'm afraid all I can do is express my total admiration for those who don't allow their disabilities to prevent them joining in the fun at Glastonbury.

The Spring Ground campsite is specifically reserved for disabled festival goers and their carers and there are lots of facilities there to make the festival more accessible and life a little easier. There are also disabled viewing platforms at the major stages with dedicated toilet facilities nearby. - photo courtesy of Dawn Fletcher-Park

My friend Flash Bristow created some excellent first hand advice for disabled visitors. Sadly, Flash is no longer with us and the advice is perhaps a little out of date now but you can still find it in her "Glasto On Wheels" Guide.

In addition I have also noticed on several occasions over the last few festivals that there were people standing to the side of a number of different stages, who were hand-signing for deaf members of the audience. I understand that you can arrange for this via an organisation called Deaf Zone.

The festival has been awarded the Gold level of the Charter of Best Practice by Attitude is Everything, an organisation which campaigns to improve Deaf and disabled people's access to live music.

What medical facilities are there?

OK, I’m sure you will have already guessed that this guy isn’t really a doctor. He was just “prescribing” tequila shots in Shangri-La. But Festival Medical Services run one primary and two secondary medical facilities on site and it is fair to say that, if you are unfortunate enough to need it, you will receive much more prompt medical attention at Glastonbury than pretty much anywhere else in the country. A few years ago somebody in my extended group of friends fell and broke her wrist but she was X-rayed and had the wrist set in plaster without even having to leave the site.

If you are heavily pregnant or have a serious medical condition it would be as well to report to the medical areas as soon as you arrive so that they have a record if anything does go wrong.

Unfortunately, with a population equivalent to that of a moderately sized city, it is statistically inevitable that there will be fatalities at the festival from time to time. However, despite the festival's hedonistic reputation, remarkably few of these are drugs related. If you do feel that you have overdone things, don't worry about seeking medical assistance. Better to be safe than sorry and it is unlikely that you will find yourself in any trouble with the law.

There are two Welfare Centres which are positioned at Worthy Farm and in the Green Fields and additionally two "Worthy Rest" tents in The Park and Silver Hayes if you are finding it all a little bit too much and just need slomewhere to sit quietly for a while. The Samaritans are also on hand for those who require their support during the festival.

There are also a couple of onsite pharmacies for hangover cures and other less serious medical requirements.

If you need to bring prescription medications with you to the festival please have a good read through the Prescribed Medicines Policy, which you can find HERE, and bring all the required documentation with you just in case there are any questions raised by the security at the gates.

Is it OK to use mobile phones?

Coverage for mobiles at the Festival used to be extremely patchy and when I first went in 1999 it was almost impossible to get a signal anywhere in the valley. Nowadays the situation is much better. Vodafone have booster masts on site and most other networks seem to generally work OK although there is always a degree of uncertainty with connectivity in areas where so many people are trying to communicate at once and problems do still arise so it's as well to have a back up plan if you are arranging to meet up with people on the site.

You can get your phone battery topped up at the Vodafone Connect & Charge Centre or you can buy one of their power bars and also exchange an empty one for one which is fully charged. If you'd rather not wait with your phone – and sometimes the queues can be very long – there are a few stalls in the Greenfields who will charge it for you using solar and wind power whilst you go off and enjoy the festival. Some of the camping steward caravans also offer phone charging services.

Personally I can't think of anything more pointless than wasting a chunk of my festival queueing and waiting for my phone to charge and I'd find it far preferable to take my own charger to replenish my phone's battery while I'm asleep in my tent. Android phones tend to really chew up the power and are expensive to replace if you manage to lose them so a lot of people I know have a cheap old phone which they keep specifically for festival purposes.

Can I take my dog?

No you can't. Regrettably there are very few festivals in the UK nowadays where canine friends are welcome and the days of travellers with their "doggy-on-a-string" at Glastonbury are long gone I'm afraid. Any animals found on site are cared for by the local RSPCA. I'm not sure how this unfortunate fox got on however as he was trapped inside the fence and looking very confused shortly before the festival.

Go to Part 5