Review: Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts 2009

by Marianne Wilson

Photo: amy and marianne glastonbury. It's the best in Britain

I found myself at Glastonbury just after I lost myself. Worthy Farm is host to thousands of mad festival goers every year and I would like to say thank you to Michael and Emily Eavis, and everyone involved, for organizing the festival. You can tell that a lot of preparation has gone into it by the way it is set up and I think that anyone who goes to Glastonbury will gain something positive from the experience.

I would say that it's the best festival in Britain. It combines the best of festivals from all over the world and brings them together for one big mash up of cultures and tastes. It really does have something for everyone. Glastonbury is the biggest festival in the world. Fact! The masses of people can be intimidating but I generally found it easy to enjoy myself once I got to the place I was aiming to go and managed not to get lost atall. Glastonbury has several sub cities all glowing with sensory overload and wild entertainment.

The weather was fantastic this year, if maybe a little too hot at times, but I'm not complaining because I got a great tan ( or was that the mud?). There were a few heavy showers that brought thunder and lightning with them but they were short lived. I would not have liked it to rain the whole time but the Mud at Glastonbury is as legendary as the festival itself so it's fun to have a little stomp around in it, but no "ultra mud" this year stealing shoes and small children!

As for the fashion - Hunter wellington boots were everywhere, jazzy leggings, sequins, lots of glitter and neon face paints were all much in evidence.


Glastonbury is divided into several subcities:

There is Trash City, Arcadia and Shangri-La where you will find the more urban themed areas. The architecture reminded me of Blade Runner or Mad Max because of the sci-fi theme. In Arcadia the walls were all white on the Thursday but by Sunday it was covered in Graffiti and stencils, a free and beautiful art form. A piece of writing that will stick with me said "Dance in the moonlight, sleep in the sun".

Trash City was home to the Rubbish Doll House where we saw Shitmat perform twice. He usually plays breakcore, but the first time he played he was using a bass guitar and making distorted sounds for about seven minutes and that was it. The next time he did a proper banging breakcore set, it was really loud and quite obnoxious. This is a link to a clip of the first time he played, his performance reminded me of something that Aphex Twin would do. It was incredibly experimental but because he is Shitmat he can get away with anything. (

The exterior of the club was plastered with doll parts from mannequins and other types of rubbish they also had girls dressed in rags of sequins and polka dots dancing around getting people into the vibe. Trash City and Arcadia are also home to many of Glastonbury's robots! There are hundreds of them scattered around, moving, glowing and even breathing fire.

Photo: glastonbury camp. Green Futures, the Healing Field, Craft Field, Green Peace, Green Kidz and Croissant Neuf are the more "Hippy" parts of the festival, where you can visit Climate Camp, hear political activists speak in the speaking tent, have a solar powered shower and buy some nice vegan food. Glastonbury caters for vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters. The Stone Circle , a formation of ancient standing stones, is a place where people go to relax drink, talk to people and, most importantly of all, get the best view of the whole festival.

The Dance Village is on from noon until early morning. With several tents blasting 4x4 beats to treat your ears, the variety of dance music is eclectic anything from the drum and bass of Skream and Benga to the Italo Disco groove of Heartbreak. I saw rave legends Altern8 at the Dance Village on the Thursday night.

You can also hear Drum and Bass all weekend at the Glade ; an area almost hidden by the trees; you hear it before you see it. The Glade area of Glastonbury is so popular that it has expanded to a self titled smaller festival of its own that takes place in England in July before Glastonbury.

Headline acts and others

The stages where most of the headlining acts were playing were at The Pyramid, The Other stage and The Park. Unlike most people at Glastonbury I didn't go to see Lady GaGa, Spinal Tap, Tom Jones , Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen who were probably the biggest acts there. I found myself gravitating towards smaller crowds and tents. The John Peel Tent is an homage to the legend himself and it is sponsored by Shelter. Here you can hear small bands you've never heard of as well as rock and roll legends. I saw Jarvis Cocker there this year; he had really good chat and a lot of charisma. Avalon, Jazz world and Cabaret I am yet to discover properly!

There were many performing circuses that looked and sounded fantastic but I didn't manage to see any of the acts. Glastonbury is just so big! The Queens Head is home to up and coming performers as well as established indie bands. Soft Toy Emergency played there, I didn't go and see them because their music is not quite my gin and tonic but they are from Glasgow and doing well for themselves.

There is also an Acoustic Tent where I saw The Penguin Cafe Orchestra on the Sunday afternoon. The Penguin Cafe Orchestra is a fabulous orchestral band and I would recommend to anyone who likes classical musical to give them a listen. They were the perfect band to chill out to on a Sunday afternoon. There is also a massive cinema on site that this year was showing 3D films. To be honest, I had no time to go to the cinema when there is so much music to be heard, you can go to the cinema any day, Glastonbury only happens once a year!

One of my highlights this year was seeing N.E.R.D , I was really into them when I was younger and it was great to see Pharrell doing his thing with two of my best mates by my side! Sad thing was he tried to do an encore but because his time was up the sound guys completely cut off the sound so a muted Pharrell gave us his love and goodbyes. I also loved seeing the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah's again, Karen O Is an inspiration to me. I love her style and energy. They have a new album out so they played some stuff I'd never heard and also their classics! Right after YYY's was another of my favourite bands Bat For Lashes . They are amazingly talented but their music is quite down tempo and I almost found it a little too sad for an upbeat festival atmosphere.

Glastonbury style

Photo: glastonbury. Glastonbury has a style that would be hard to recreate at another festival, there is so much creative input from all parties. By that I mean the bands obviously but also the festival goers, the stall holders and everyone who designs the sets and stages. There is not one dull area of the festival with art to be seen everywhere you look. Some of it is designed to make you aware of an ever changing environment and political needs, some of is fun and some of it is creepy. The way the festival is designed excites every one of your senses.

It is also children friendly withlots of workshops for children and a whole area called the Kidz Field and Green Kidz devoted to satisfy the children Guaranteed you won't find a bored kiddie there. Glastonbury is THAT BIG that is even publishes a daily newspaper on site, yes the Glastonbury news sponsored by Q magazine is issued to eager festival goers each day of the festival containing very up to date highlights what happened that day some events you may have missed and some you have participated in. They must be editing it all night and reporting it all day.

So, I hear you asking, "is it worth the money?" Yes, yes and yes! If you're looking for something innovative, refreshing and different "Glasto" is the place to go. Time old traditions crossed with a contemporary and conceptual vision makes Glastonbury what it has become: Legendary.

Here is a list of the bands and DJ's I saw and the stages/tents they performed at.

  • Altern8 - Dance Lounge
  • Beardyman and the Bays - The Glade
  • Shitmat (x2) - The Rubbish Doll House (Trash City)
  • Skream and Benga - Dance West
  • Heartbreak Live - Dance East
  • Klaxons - the Park
  • Yeah, Yeah, Yeah's - Other Stage
  • Blur - Pyramid
  • Bat for Lashes - Other Stage
  • Bloc Party - Other Stage
  • The Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Acoustic Tent
  • Jarvis Cocker - John Peel Tent
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Pyramid
  • N.E.R.D - Pyramid
  • DJ Food - Dance West

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