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Glastonbury 2022 Review Alive and well!

Glasto’s all-embracing formula stands the test of time, writes WILL STONE, who had a whale of a time

THE best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and this is never truer than at Glastonbury.

Finally celebrating its 50th anniversary two years late due to pandemic-induced lockdowns, the festival was back with a vengeance as the youngest (Billie Eilish) and oldest (Paul McCartney) ever headliners graced the Pyramid stage alongside acclaimed rapper Kendrick Lamar.

Even the much-lauded Clashfinder won’t help you at this itinerary-defying pop-up metropolis, with many a compromise having to be made to the altar of the gods of impulse and going with the flow.

The Left Field stage was, as usual, firing on all cylinders with series of pertinent debates.

Minnie Rahman, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), lambasts Britain’s “utterly atrocious” asylum system in a discussion on the war in Ukraine and its resulting refugee crisis.

The debate on Labour’s future saw Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham proving himself to be much tougher than the current leadership on left issues like housing and renationalising transport — however he refused to be drawn on his ambitions for leadership when quizzed in a Q&A.

Political discussions were to be found elsewhere across the festival site too, notably at the Speakers Forum where climate activist Fliss Premru and the Blacklist Support Group’s Dave Smith talked about just transition and jobs for the climate emergency.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg also made a surprise appearance on the Pyramid stage, leading chants of “climate … justice” and to warn the world faces “total natural catastrophe,” blaming leaders for failing to take action.

“It has not only become acceptable for leaders to lie — it’s almost what we expect them to do,” she said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared by video link on the Other Stage to deliver a prerecorded message: “Glastonbury is the greatest concentration of freedom these days and I ask you to share this feeling with everyone whose freedom is under attack.”

And as if to highlight renewed fears of nuclear war while giving a nod to Glastonbury’s historic links with the CND, the campaign group’s peace symbol adorned the top of the Pyramid stage for the first time since the 1980s.

The festival also coincided with one of the biggest catastrophes for women’s rights in living memory after the US Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion, overturning Roe v Wade after almost 50 years, and leading to a plethora of artists launching angry broadsides against the backward decision.

Indie star Phoebe Bridgers led chants of “Fuck the Supreme Court” during a spectacular set on the John Peel stage, where she was also joined by singer-songwriter and poet Arlo Parks.

Pyramid headliner Eilish blasted the ruling as “a dark day for America” and pop star Olivia Rodrigo was joined onstage by Lily Allen where they dedicated the latter’s song Fuck You to the five justices who voted to overturn it.

Away from the limelight of the main stages, Glastonbury by day had wholesome activities and entertainment for all manner of tastes and a night life to cater for every level of debauchery.

The healing fields — which was laid out as an elemental mandala — hosted everything from yoga (with the Greenpeace stage even playing host to some invigorating "power ballad yoga" each morning), massages and tarot readings.

There’s an invigorating kundalini dance by workshop facilitator Mark Keane, and Chandra Mathers led a “big sing together” where she expertly acted as conductor, splitting the crowd into different harmonies.

Other highlights included an enchanting set from Pakistani vocalist and composer Arooj Aftab, which saw her throw red roses into the audience, while Sunday night Other Stage headliners Pet Shop Boys had their Spinal Tap moment after a technical glitch traped silent half Chris Lowe behind a screen for the beginning of their set.

They nevertheless closed the festival in appropriate party fashion with career spanning bangers like Suburbia, Left To My Own Devices and It’s A Sin, and are joined onstage by Years & Years singer Olly Alexander for Dreamland.

There were of course the endless queues; there’s the queues to get into the festival, the queues to leave the festival, the queues to go to the toilet, and the queues to get into some of the site’s most coveted venues like NYC Downlow, a celebration of queer culture that played host to the likes of transgender DJ Honey Dijon, and the Rabbit Hole, a glorified tent with a quirky crawl-through that many seem quite happy waiting all night to get into.

It would appear that another proverb equally applies to Glastonbury — good things come to those who wait.

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