My First Time at Glastonbury: I Make the Mistakes So You Don’t Have To

It was my first time at Glastonbury and we wanted to get there early, so we stayed at the YHA in Bath the night before. It was a good meeting point for the crew as we were coming from all over England. After a delicious pub meal and a few red wines we got a good early night in. There was plenty to do around there, but we just wanted to be ripe for the festival (see Glastonbury Survival Guide!)

We got up at the crack of dawn and went to Tesco to stock up on booze and food. While we were busy deciding between rum or whisky the heavens opened and the rain lashed on the supermarket windows, not lashed, pounded. The decision was made: we decided to go for both.


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Finally in the car with beers stacked around us and tins of beans at our feet off we set for Glastonbury Festival 2011. I’d made a mix tape for the car of my favourite acts and we had a great time dancing along for the hour long car journey to the festival. Just one wrong turn later and we’d joined the queue of traffic to get in. The first queue of many in fact. After about 30 minutes of crawling the winding roads in the drizzling rain we found around 1,000 people queuing in the rain, and our place was right at the back.

Mistake #1: arriving at 10am on Wednesday

We queued for five hours to get in. We were laden down with everything we could carry from the car; tents, stove, food, drink, sleeping bags, clothes, everything was cutting wholes in our bodies and getting wet in the rain and mud. Thankfully we had a Jagermeister to hand, and actually drank a litre between us in the queue. We were in fine spirits when we got in, let me tell you, well we would’ve been if we weren’t stuck in the rain.

My brother arrived at 2pm and walked straight in.

Mistake #2: carrying everything we could in one go

We’d obviously come at peak time and to an incredibly unlucky gate. When we joined the queue they let another queue form for about an hour. Then they decided they didn’t want the other queue as they were blocking the emergency entrance so they decided to clear that one first. Yes, there was uproar. No, it didn’t do anything.

We soon realised you were actually allowed out again to get your stuff and there was no need to be going through all this pain.

Once we were in we were so sick of standing in the rain with all our bags we saw a spot and pitched immediately.

Mistake #3: setting up camp just anywhere

We pitched just outside the Dance Village and the John Peel Stage. There was not one act we wanted to see on the John Peel Stage and there wasn’t too much in the Dance Village either. Glastonbury is a huge site, 900 acres in fact. And it’s uphill too. To see the acts we wanted we had to trudge up to The Park and The Other Stage every day, and worse trudge back at night.

Luckily my friends are amazing and we didn’t really complain, but in hindsight navigating the site did take a lot of time out of just chilling out and watching bands.

Crazy mud at Glastonbury

Mistake #4: not bringing enough clothes for all weathers

Oh my god Glastonbury is incredible. It’s as amazing as everyone says it is, yet hard to describe and something that really needs to be experienced for yourself. The tents looked great despite the grey day and there was definitely an incredible anticipation in the air of what was to come.

In the first hour we got involved in a record-breaking Twister game, found some amazing sculptures and got started on the cider.

That first night we found ourselves in a cosy little tent where everyone was dancing to keep warm. It was freezing outside and I was actually wearing everything I bought so it was great to strip off some layers and show off the outfit I’d bought especially and be warm after the day.

Day two and the weather had improved slightly. Even more people were arriving, but I can’t imagine where they were going. It felt full already. At Glastonbury you can camp by the stages – this is the first time I’ve experienced this and it did feel very strange.

A few bands were starting to play and despite the skanky weather and still being wrapped up in all the clothes I own it felt great to be sat out on the camping chairs just enjoying the atmosphere.

Day three and it all started kicking off. The full schedule started and everything, including the weather, was hotting up.

Amazing Glastonbury festival

Mistake #5: going to the main stage bar just before an act

Me and the boyf went to buy ciders while our friends went to get a spot at Paul Simon. It was a three-minute walk away – we didn’t get back for an hour, an hour I tell you. The bar was right in the sun, so hot and it was a huge bar with not many staff. The punters were getting irate. Staff were so slow and there was just too many people. It was only thanks to our dedication we even got served at all as those in front of us sacked it off when Paul Simon started. But we were going to get those ciders if it was the last thing we did.

Mistake #6: not scouting out the festival early enough

We went for a walk and found a whole new area filled with artists making and selling their ways. You could join in classes and make anything from a ring to a plate to a precious stone. Just around the corner and we found the hippy village. We found groups playing instruments randomly, plays and poetry readings. It was a great spot to chill out in, but by that time we needed to move for Beyonce to close the festival.

Beyonce’s performance was incredible. Helped by the fact we were stood NEXT to The XX for it. Some of my most favourite people all gathered together.

Amazing sculpture at Glastonbury

Mistake #7: Not having comfy wellies

My feet were ripped to shreds by the end of the festival. That’s all I’ll say in the matter. It was grim.

Mistake #8: Leaving – why did it have to end?

My friend who was driving had to get back so we left at around 9am. Glastonbury Festival ground looked like a bomb had gone off and that’s no exaggeration. Later that day I saw the papers carrying stories about how disgraceful everyone was for leaving stuff, but I guess it was hard for everyone to take on the trains and in their cars. We tried, but everything was caked in mud that had dried sodden in the heat. Tents were sprawled, lilos deflated and just lying there, beer cans scattered every inch of ground – any spare ground was taken up by plastic glasses.

(Edit: Thanks to all the comments below I’ve written a post about the Glastonbury Clean Up and what you can do to help)

– Thanks to Ben Cremin for the featured image.

Only 8 mistakes, not bad. Glastonbury was without a doubt one of the best weeks of my life – but make sure you check out my Glastonbury Survival Guide and Glastonbury kit list, if it’s the last thing you do!

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47 Comments

  1. by Ayngelina on September 14, 2012  3:43 pm Reply

    I love festivals but even this one would try my patience - all that mud!

    • by anfy on November 1, 2012  9:56 am Reply

      You think other festivals don't have mud? Did you see IOW this year?
      Do you think Glastonbury always has mud? Even last year it was largely dried up by halfway through the weekend (although it did stay pretty gloopy in places). The year before was totally gloriously sunny all week. The 2 before that, it rained on Thursday but other than that was great - no mud. The last relentlessly muddy year was 2007!
      Don't believe the hype!

      • by Vicky on November 10, 2012  5:42 pm Reply

        Yes, I know other festivals have mud. I've experienced many of them! This is just my experience of Glastonbury, and in 2011 the first few days the mud was everywhere, I'm sure I'd have been disappointed if it wasn't!

  2. by Anthea W on September 16, 2012  3:24 pm Reply

    thanks Vicky for all the info and hardwork.... l'll make sure l learn from your mistakes LOL!
    Anyway, l just wanted to say that lm looking into Glastonbury 2013, and as l have a campervan l'll be able to park it on the tuesday and hopefully avoid the que like you found.
    Also lm going to make sure l look at the map and where best to park it, so that hopefully it will only take one hour to walk to the main stage and not two, like everyone says it does.
    cheers,
    Anthea

    • by Vicky on September 16, 2012  6:19 pm Reply

      That's what I like to see – preparation! If you've got a campervan you're sorted. And yes, choose a target spot and don't stop until you get there. Don't let anything get in your way or distract you :). Good luck!

  3. by old timer on October 19, 2012  3:18 am Reply

    it's people like you that make Glastonbury unbearable. i was stood near were your porto was taken for Paul Simon, and the bar at the side of that position took 2 minutes to get served and also it was more than well staffed. it looks like your more interested.how you dress and look than justchilling out and goingwith the flow

    • by Vicky on October 19, 2012  7:26 am Reply

      Haha, thanks for your comment old timer. Nah, I'm just naturally cool mate. I'm sorry you think Glastonbury is unbearable – let's hope you never go again hey?! One less person at the bar! Good day.

  4. by Mark E on October 31, 2012  8:55 am Reply

    Good advice all round. I'd add the following tips for newbies:

    1 - Don't try and rely on mobile phones to keep in touch with friends at the Festival ... text messages can take several hours to be received
    2 - Be very, very specific about where you are going to meet up ... i.e. "touching the flagpole holding the yellow flag nearest to the Cider Bus" rather than "near the flags by the cider bus". It can be very difficult to find someone a few yards away in a crowd of 150,000 people
    3 - Don'e expect your second (third, fourth, fifth...) Glastonbury to be the same as the last ... each one is different and each one is excellent.

    Hope you got tickets for next year - I'll see you there (touching the flagpole holding the yellow flag nearest to the cider bus)

    Cheers

    • by Vicky on October 31, 2012  8:36 pm Reply

      Ooo yeah, great tips Mark! Unfortunately I can't go this year due to work commitments, but I know I'll be sick with jealousy when it comes round. Have fun!

  5. by Flip on October 31, 2012  9:05 am Reply

    My first Glasto too. I've been to a few festivals, but nothing prepared me for this. I went on my own and met some great people online beforehand, all in the same boat, what a crazy group it was. A few girls from Australia, guys from New Zealand and the rest from the far corners of the UK. Glasto solo polo is going to be walking through the gates in 2013 as well if any loners need a home.

    My only advice to people is don't plan. Music isn't what this festival is about. Ok, make a list of a couple of headliners if you must but music is there to be discovered, trust me.
    Pick a direction and walk in it. Try and talk to someone new every hour. Take lots of toilet paper!!
    A few of my momories from 2011:
    Sat in the park drinking skittles vodka when pulp turned up unannounced.
    Getting home made breakfast including fresh bread from the Greenpeace Village
    Dancing the early hours with the hippies in the tipi village (Whilst wearing a death costume....haha don't ask)
    Getting lost and not caring because it was just more fun.

    Bring on 2013, and to those of you who have tickets.......see you there!!

    • by Vicky on October 31, 2012  8:37 pm Reply

      Great memories Flip! And yes, you're right about not planning – it was quite hard to get around the stages as they were so far apart so keep plans loose. Have a great Glasto 2013!

  6. by Norman Price on October 31, 2012  9:08 am Reply

    Take plenty of socks. Proper ones. I didn't and wore wellies all weekend. Ouch! Lesson learned for next year.

    • by Vicky on October 31, 2012  8:38 pm Reply

      Agreed!

  7. by Jonathan Bailey on October 31, 2012  9:09 am Reply

    One MASSIVE mistake you seem to have made was not getting enough information about Glastonbury before you went there. No excuses there, as there are so many websites which offer really good advice. One I'd recommend is this one http://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/ which in the Q & A section will tell you about whether you can exit the site after getting your wristband etc. Another goood one is https://sites.google.com/site/glastoearth/the-faq which is written by long-time Glasto attendee Tort. Well worth a look.
    Protip: always take wellies.. Wellies and boots. And flip flops (ignore the flip flops bit)

    • by Vicky on October 31, 2012  8:38 pm Reply

      Cheers for the comment Jonathan, and thanks for the tips for everyone!

  8. by Bruce on October 31, 2012  9:13 am Reply

    So you left your shite as it was a bit hard and muddy. You managed to carry it in, with beer. You can manage to take it out without the beer. The blokes in your photo look strong enough. No excuse really.

    Walking boots win over wellies every time. You are going to get muddy and wet no mater what. Walking boots don't get sucked off your feet by the quagmire.

    • by Vicky on October 31, 2012  8:40 pm Reply

      Walking boots are a great idea! Never thought of that – much comfier too. And yes, you're right, Leave No Trace!

  9. by pie_and_a_pint on October 31, 2012  6:37 pm Reply

    Selfish people like you leaving stuff behind because you're too lazy to carry it mean that the cleanup operation takes longer and costs more money. Money which would have gone into the profit which the Festival makes. Profit which goes to the good causes of Oxfam, Water Aid and Greenpeace. Selfish people like you leaving your stuff behind risks the safety of the animals on a working farm, which is what the festival site is for the rest of the year. And selfish people like you who leave your kit will have to buy more kit next year while your old kit goes to landfill.

    If you can carry your kit in, you can carry your kit out. Please don't bother coming to Glastonbury if you can't obey a simple rule like that. I bet your whisky, rum and jaegermeister was in glass bottles as well?

    • by Vicky on October 31, 2012  8:43 pm Reply

      Hi Becky, thanks for the comment. No, no glass bottles. Pretty sure they're not allowed in. And yes, you're right – Leave No Trace. Take any extra packaging off your food and bits you're taking in, and take extra bin bags to bag up your rubbish to take out, or leave at the bins. Errmmm, thanks for saying I'm selfish too – always nice to see.

  10. by Huw Jarse on October 31, 2012  6:52 pm Reply

    always take your shit with you you lazy twat people like you have a fucking clue about glastonbury fuck off and volunteer in haiti

    • by Vicky on October 31, 2012  8:44 pm Reply

      Haiti's too far for me Huw, although I'd love to. You sound like a lovely person – fancy hanging out some time?

  11. by Paul Horncastle on October 31, 2012  7:14 pm Reply

    One of Glastonbury's slogans is "Love the farm - leave no trace." In your case it appears to be "love the farm - can't be arsed to remove the trace as it's a bit muddy." Highly selfish - It is a working dairy farm for the rest of the year. You could at least take the stuff you don't want to the nearest bins.

    • by Jonathan Bailey on October 31, 2012  9:26 pm Reply

      Vicky: I believe the reason you're getting all this "abuse" as you call it is because you have, by your own admission, just left your stuff behind when you left because it was, and I quote "caked in mud that had dried sodden in the heat." I don't want to sound all sanctimonious, and if I do, I apologise, but as a lot of other people have already said, it's not just a festival site, it's a working dairy farm. The cattle are his livelihood: if they're injutre dthrough carelessly discarded tentpegs and whatnot then that livelihood takes a hit. Did you know that there are people on their hands and knees scouring that 90 acre site for fag ends for weeks afterwards?
      As for shitting in the hedge. I can't wait for the Green Police to catch you, in fact I'd pay to see that. Again, "Love the Farm, leave no trace." It's got to be treated as not just a catchphrase but as a mantra for how you conduct yourself there.Did you know the Festival has been fined for polluting the local watercourse? 175,000 people pissing or shitting in the hedges has a terrible effect on wildlife. Don't be a part of the problem.
      Don't complain about the people serving at the Worker's Beer tent. They're working as fast as they can under what are difficult circumstances.. remember, there are over 175,000 people on site, all wanting to get served at some point. Relax, and it will happen. Accusing them of being slow is ridiculous. It's Glastonbury, not your local.

      • by Vicky on November 4, 2012  10:17 pm Reply

        Thanks for your comment Jonathan.

      • by Vicky on November 10, 2012  5:37 pm Reply

        Thanks for your comment Jonathan. I hope others can learn from my mistakes.

  12. by D on October 31, 2012  7:54 pm Reply

    Don't make mistake number 9 - If you go, take your stuff home with you, it's not a rubbish dump, it's a festival.

    • by Vicky on October 31, 2012  8:46 pm Reply

      Quite correct. Constant dumping will ruin the field and sabotage the future of Glastonbury – Leave No Trace.

  13. by mr gumby on October 31, 2012  11:58 pm Reply

    Hi Vicky,
    Having read your account of your first visit to Glastonbury festival, I notice you've said you aren't able to go next year. All I can say is - Thank God for that!
    You clearly haven't got a clue, complaining about the mud, the distances, the speed of service in a bar catering to many thousands of people! Then again, how could you have known? It's not as if the are almost endless resources online to look through before you get there.
    And of course, the subject of litter. 'Love the farm, leave no trace' is not just a catchy jingle to be quoted to others, but ignored by you. Just one example - if metal tent pegs are left in the ground, they're very difficult to spot by litter pickers. When the fields are rotavated, they get broken into small metal splinters which can easily kill the cattle which graze on those fields. Somehow 'it's all a bit muddy' doesn't quite cut it as an excuse. If you do go to Glastonbury again, think seriously about this issue.
    On the other hand, if Beyonce was really your highlight of the festival, you might be better off going to V festival.

    • by Vicky on November 10, 2012  5:39 pm Reply

      Thanks for your comment Mr Grumpy. I know it must be crazy to put together and an epic project, this is just my experience of it. I absolutely LOVE Glastonbury and will learn from these mistakes (as the title suggests) next time I go. Enjoy 2013!

  14. by russycarps on November 1, 2012  9:48 am Reply

    the only thing that surprised me about this article is that the whoppers involved are not wearing hunter wellies!

    • by Vicky on November 10, 2012  5:40 pm Reply

      Ha, I loved the 'uniform' at Glastonbury. Ray Bans and Hunters were everywhere!

  15. by Cassiel on November 1, 2012  12:40 pm Reply

    "You could join in classes and make anything from a ring to a plate to a precious stone."

    I'd love to know how to make a precious stone - details please! Would save all that bother, digging them out of the ground and once I've made a few, I'll have enough money to buy my own festival!

    • by Vicky on November 10, 2012  5:42 pm Reply

      Ooo, you're a quick one. I can change...

  16. by Ian the worm on November 1, 2012  1:26 pm Reply

    I can’t speak for all the workers at Glastonbury, but from my point of view, your blog comes across as rather negative. “Too much queues, too hilly, too smelly, too muddy” etc. There are around 50,000 people who work unpaid at the festival to try to bring the best experience to all the festival goers..

    As an attendee, your thoughts on the festival are always welcome but I wondered if you could also write about what you think should be done to improve the festival for future years. For both you and your boyf.

    Thanks.

    • by Vicky on November 10, 2012  5:43 pm Reply

      Thanks for all these comments Ian the worm and everyone. I'll definitely be following up on this with some recommendations. Thanks, Vicky.

  17. by Ian the worm on November 1, 2012  5:49 pm Reply

    As one of the workers at Glastonbury, what do you think we can do to improve the festival for the next time you and your boyf attend? Or maybe you could write about the top 8 Glastonbury things?

  18. by Bruce on November 2, 2012  12:07 pm Reply

    @ Ian the Worm. What could you do? Well, work a bit harder and quicker you lazy work shy fop.

    • by Ian the worm on November 3, 2012  10:04 am Reply

      Hi Bruce,

      Yes of course I could work harder but working for 15 hours per 24 for 5 days is enough already thanks. Everyone expects gold plated service for their £210 ticket. It ain't the Ritz you know!

      If the punters want more of their ticket costs to improve "the service" then either the prices need to increase or some aspect of the festival needs to be budget cut.

      I think the main committee have got the right balance.

  19. by Bruce on November 4, 2012  8:38 pm Reply

    @ Iran the worm. Erm, I was joking.

    • by Vicky on November 10, 2012  5:35 pm Reply

      Come on kids, play nice :)

  20. by soulrelocation on June 10, 2013  6:06 pm Reply

    Hi. Thanks for your post. Very helpful and honest/genuine. Some of the feedback was harsh but I also picked up helpful stuff from that (re clearing up after myself!). So please continue with your posts. It's the one I enjoyed reading most.

  21. by Jan on October 8, 2013  9:25 pm Reply

    Leave the girl alone... She seems to be taking the whole flack for the many thousands who leave their stuff behind each year. I think she got the message and has obviously thought about it. I think she is making a valid point re the mud... Explaining perhaps why the others do it. Glastonbury organisers should listen to constructive feedback like that and maybe they can address the issue.... Just sayin

    • by Vicky on October 10, 2013  4:12 pm Reply

      Cheers Jan, you're my new best friend :)

  22. by Bruce on October 9, 2013  11:49 am Reply

    Jan, we have left her alone. The comments were from about a year ago. What was said, needed to be said due to her couldn't care less attitude. She says she has taken it onboard. We are all happy with that. The fact that thousands of others are lazy and thoughtless doesn't make it OK for one more person to do it.

    With regards as to what Glasto could do about heavy rain, lots of people and the resulting mud I don't know. They have spent a fortune laying drainage around the site. Perhaps they could slab the site to keep the mud averse happy.

  23. by Jake on June 23, 2014  9:52 pm Reply

    Yay, thanks for all the advice here Vicky! CAN NOT WAIT!

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