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Glastonbury: You Don't Wish You Were Here

26/06/2013 17:40 BST | Updated 26/08/2013 10:12 BST
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To those of you that are in mourning because you couldn't get your hands on a golden ticket, I put this to you: you are better off at home. I'm fully aware of how controversial this statement is going to be. I know people that defend Glastonbury as if it were a religion, blindly refusing to consider a negative experience by stating that, "Glasto is the heart chakra, man."

Anyone who disagrees with them is a flake with poor taste, a lily-livered bacon, a moneyed hipster that's too pretentious to get their Hunter's muddy. Considering all of this, I'd probably do well to keep my unfavourable opinions to myself and yet here I am, ready to rip Glasto a new one.

In 2011, I pressed F5 for four hours and handed over £200 with an open mind and a penchant to party. Billed by my friends as the most magical place on earth, I had expected to skip around a fairy tale wonderland like an uninhibited nymph of the night. I expected high fives all round and generosity and a sense of well-being. I expected to leave the campsite on Monday morning with the firm belief that Glastonbury was the ideal and that all of humanity should follow suit. But behind the multi-coloured veneer of freedom, love and pseudo-spirituality, Glastonbury left me cold.

Most of my time was spent walking or waiting. Either I was making the mammoth trek between my tent and the stages (a good half an hour away) or I was queuing to use the loo. When I wasn't walking or waiting, I was being decorated in free merchandise from omnipresent breweries or trying to release myself from captivity. At Glasto, every Brother's sponsored footfall is sucked into a greasy brown quagmire, making walking an arduous task indeed. After the first day, huge vacant lots of stinking, savage mud became No Man's Land and the people who were unfortunate enough to arrive late had to camp in glorified trenches. Their tents never made it home.

To make matters worse, this putrid dystopia was squashed full of little vodka monsters that shouted "Alan!" and dressed in Grazia magazine's idea of festival chic (I'm talking flower garlands, animal onesies and dip-dyed hair). More likely to frequent Superdry than one of the many rainbow warrior shops, these glamorous girls and boys had neon paint by the bucket load and scrawled electric green marijuana leaves on the side of their tents with a defiant 'legalize.'

I played a constant game of 'dodge the mushy bumbler' -the second type of attendee- who was evidently a veteran that had melted their sensory nervous systems with oodles of acid. These folks had woollen dreads and low-slung harem pants and wrists laden with ratty festival bands, except they didn't seem to be enjoying themselves at all. I saw a lot of that, of people not enjoying themselves, of families -the third type- awkwardly searching for the civility of a Pimms tent whilst tackling the push-chair-verses-mud conundrum.

You can't go over it, you can't go under it, oh no, you'll have to go through it.

One of the places I'd been most looking forward to visiting was Shangri-La, a village-sized film set that's as mad as balls. Over the years, it's gone from Blade Runner-inspired dystopia to apocalyptic ruin and is best described as a surreal dream world thought up by a mad man. Exploring Shangri-La's narrow and twisted alleyways, one might open a door and fall inside a nightmare or crawl through a tunnel and become a guest at Alice's tea party.

However, to get to Shangri-La I had to enter the queue at Glebeland - over half-a-mile away. Trudging muddily towards the promise of playtime, people were dropping like flies, exhausted and stunned by the epic journey they were being forced to make. In days gone by, Shangri-La could be accessed directly by the old railway track but this year the organisers blamed congestion - perhaps something to do with the 150,000 ticket sales. In the half-light of midnight it became an endurance test of sorts and by the time I arrived I was sober enough to see Shangri-La for what it was, a series of crap, stuffy clubs playing Radio 1's idea of dance music behind a cardboard-cut-out of something craaaazy. All the dry ice and clever lighting in the world couldn't hide that and the fabled alleyways were inaccessible because of the mud.

I spent a few sunrises at the infamous Stone Circle, a place that looks like paradise in pictures but is actually jam-packed with zombies that cannot string a coherent sentence together. I don't mind drug use one jot, what I do mind is bad company and when stuck 'talking' to a person that goes on and on about their aura and the fact that shrooms just aren't what they used to be and that their mate Whitey has got some sick bass bins, I start to lose interest. Aside from the inane monologuing and the bongo drums, the Stone Circle is punctuated by the cries of those selling and buying drugs. In a bid to normalise the situation, we shouted out for antihistamine but someone told us off for ruining their trip.

As is associated with the wanton and wasted, Glastonbury's toilets were reminiscent of squat party corners. Whatever dignity I took with me was quickly extinguished - human excrement was a headlining act. At the time, I thought that all festivals were poo mountains and that this would be something I'd need to come to terms with. However, that's not the case at all. Glastonbury just has a terrible waste management system. Sure, the size of it doesn't help but still, you'd think that the organisers would want their attendees to breathe in the sweet scent of summer, not human shit.

Aside from the vacant mushies, the poo and the mud, the other terrible thing about Glastonbury was the way it mistreated its environment. Beautiful green fields were churned into plastic bogs and desecrated with abandoned tent poles, sleeping bags and more cups than I could stomach. By the end of the weekend it was like the aftermath of an epic battle.

When I packed down my tent on Monday morning, I looked back at the mountain of trash behind me and wondered what it was all about. Hundreds of thousands of people had descended upon a patch of land in Somerset, abused their vital organs and turned the countryside inside out. It seemed barbaric to me. Greenpeace had a significant presence, occupying most of the Green Fields zone and even getting their own stage but by the end, the site was reminiscent of Thilafushi (better known as Garbage Island) and the skyline was mottled with exhaust fumes. How could Greenpeace stand to take part in such eco-abuse? Surely their presence advocated carbon emissions on the grounds of a good time?

The anti-environmental facts are shocking and as I joined the three hour queue to leave, I was worried that festivals just weren't my thing. Maybe I was more uptight about drugs than I realized? Maybe I needed to shower and have a nice sit down in order to function? Maybe the hypocrisy of earth-loving anarchic hippies swilling cider from branded cups and discarding them on the ground was just too much to bear?

No, I can totally cope with all that. But when an event is wantonly abusing its environment, particularly a cultural beacon like Glastonbury that, in my opinion, should be setting an environmental standard, I really struggle to have a good time. You might argue that that's "just what festivals are" - one big mash up where everyone gets weird, voluntarily loses their minds and stops caring about the planet but, correct me if I'm wrong, I thought it was about the music?