Someone else should pay for me

On BBC Radio 6, the presenter Steve Lamacq invited listeners to send in their memories of the Glasyonbury Festival, to suggest what music from the BBC archives of the festival should be played on the programme.

The BBC weren’t at the Glastonbury Festival I attended, in fact not many people were. The attendance was 12,000, a small fraction of the number of those who have attended in recent years.

It was a big event for us. It was the first festival since 1971 and, being locals, we were able to buy our tickets at Crispin Hall in Street for a discounted price of £3 each instead of at the full face value of £5.

Taking a day off from our summer jobs, a friend and I hitched our way to Worthy Farm outside the village of Pilton, including riding in an empty silage trailer for part of the journey.

We had taken with us a two man tent and sleeping bags, a camping stove and saucepan, some tins of baked beans, and a pack of twenty-four cans of Skol lager. We reckoned we could buy whatever else we needed for the three days at the festival site.

Frequenting pubs in the town of Glastonbury, we were familiar with the eccentricities of some in the community, but those whom we had seen before seemed conventional and mainstream when compared with some we encountered at the festival.

Among the crowd were members of various radical political groups. Perhaps “radical” is the wrong word, among the crowds were members of various weird political groups.

One man handed out copies of the International Times. We had heard of the underground newspaper, its name had a certain mystery about it. The suggestion that there were stories about which we had not been told prompted us to read the paper. It was disappointingly dull, the editorial was vitriolic comment and outpourings of resentment; there was not a single shocking revolution.

The oddest publication of all was one that criticised the festival organisers for charging for tickets. The 1971 festival had been free because rich sponsors had paid for it.  The critics suggested the 1979 festival should also have been free and that tickets were commercial exploitation of the festival goers. To someone brought up to pay his way, it seemed odd, why should it be free? Who was going to pay the bills?

It was a first encounter with an attitude found among members of the middle class hippy movement that suggested someone else should pay for them to live as they wanted. In the intervening years, the question “why?” never seems to have been answered.

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