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  • Mark Baxter

Glastonbury: Joy in Your Soul

Where Joe Strummer used to hang out and strum his guitar

Last week I was lucky enough to attend Glastonbury Festival for the first time in 10 years. Prior to that it was 20, and its fair to say it’s changed quite a bit in the last 30 years! And yet it stays remarkably true to its original purpose and beliefs: to celebrate music, culture and togetherness - the notion of inclusion, and a love for the arts and all people - still underpins the festival today. This is no mean feat. And the hallmark of any strong brand.

The biggest difference is the size of the festival. Compared to 1992 it’s vast and there are almost uncomfortably too many people. It’s easy to think Glastonbury is all about the headline acts. But as a festival of contemporary of performing arts, it’s much more than that. And therein lies its appeal and difference - there is something for everyone - from the Green Fields, to the Circus, from The Woods to Shangri La. It’s the ability to head off the beaten track and stumble across something totally unexpected and inspiring. Whether that’s Robert Fripp and Toyah Wilcox playing 'Heroes' in the Acoustic tent, DJ Yoda mixing together 50 years of hip-hop, life-drawing, human beatbox workshops, salsa dancing or simply sitting in the shade on the hill at Strummerville - a place where Joe Strummer used strum his acoustic guitar for small audiences around a campfire. One of many legendary Glastonbury stories.

Strong anti-capitalist protest in Shangri-La

There is no doubt that as the festival grows, it is treading a fine line between political and environmental activism vs commercialism. But it still manages to just about pull it off. The choice of vendors on site is massive but still largely independent and lo-fi. With plenty of space given over to artists to express their views.

The visual identity for Glastonbury has changed many times over the years. But part of its appeal is the sense of independence each venue has to do its own thing. Sure, there are halo distinctive elements such as the Pyramid Stage, the Tor and the huge flags, but it is not a rigid identity system that more commercial events are often bound to.

I believe Femi Koleoso of Ezra Collective best described the feeling you get at Glastonbury: joy in your soul. And this is echoed in Michael Eavis introductory welcome. Something we can all aspire to in work, and life.

The sun sets on Elton's farewell and the iconic Pyramid Stage.

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