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Glastonbury Festival: Somme-Watch!
Luke Turner , June 27th, 2014 17:48

Hacks have a habit for mistaking a bit of mud at Glastonbury for the tragic events of the First World War

July 1st 1916 was the first day of the Battle Of The Somme, one of the bleakest days in British military history: nearly 20,000 men were killed, most in the opening seconds as they emerged from their trenches to advance slowly towards the German machine-gun posts undamaged by days of artillery bombardment. In recent years, however, you'd have been forgiven for thinking that the first day of the Battle Of The Somme involved camping, expensive lager, the waving of irritating flags, and Billy Bragg playing a set of acoustic music at a pleasing hour on a Sunday afternoon. Over the years, invoking the Somme (along with other, muddier battles of World War One like Passchendaele) has become a depressingly tasteless cliché deployed by hacks with a deadline and a pint of cider looming. As weather forecasters try to predict whether Glastonbury 2013 will be a washout, we tip our hats to Private Eye and present to you, Glastonbury Somme-watch! Interesting to note that John Peel, as ever, was a pioneer...

John Peel, The Guardian, 1993

"The NME stage on Sunday seemed to be given over largely to bands clad in convoy chic, merrily a-prancing either barefoot or in boots that looked as though they had been prised from the feet of victims of the first battle for Ypres"

Esther Addley, The Guardian, 2007

"Thanks to its frequently muddy conditions, reminiscent of a first world war battlefield, revellers at the Glastonbury festival have long considered the event as much a war as a celebration, a four-day skirmish against the forces of nature and the ever-present mud."

Petronella Wyatt, The Daily Mail, 2007

"There is no such thing as time here - just endless repetitions of man-made and natural torture. The rain is relentless. I develop a cough like a soldier at the Somme. Gunfire would sound like a lullaby compared to some of the "music" performed at Glastonbury."

Roger Daltrey, The Who, 2007

"Daltrey told The Sun: “We thought ‘Who the fuck’s going to be here after three days of horrendous weather?’ It was like Paschendaele."

Time Out, 2008

"For the first time in living memory, Glastonbury hasn’t sold out and, given that the previous couple of festivals have resembled the Somme without the shooting, it’s not entirely surprising."

Bryony Gordon, The Daily Telegraph, 2008

"While they re-enact the battle of the Somme to the spluttering soundtrack of Amy Winehouse, I shall sit at home in Shepherd's Bush listening to her on my iPod, and funnily enough, I won't feel an iota of jealousy towards any of them."

Picture caption, The Daily Telegraph, 2010

"The Somme, July 1916. No, wait, Glastonbury 2005, it says here"

Martin Chilton, The Daily Telegraph, 2011

"She also said that artists are allowed 'special demands' and hers was for dark and milk chocolate hobnobs. Unfortunately, it was a baking day so when finished her set all that was left was like a chocolate version of the Somme. But it did have light and dark contours."

Clash magazine, 2011

"Glastonbury is synonymous with mud. The Worthy Farm event is closely tied to images reminiscent of the Somme, with the fields of Somerset regularly churned up by the feet of countless thousand music fans."

Julie Lawrence, The Daily Mail, 2011

“The final tipping point? My wellington boot has literally been sucked off my foot by sticky mud, leaving me in my socks and up  to my ankles in gelatinous brown goo. And it’s a very long trek back to my tent across a mudbath to rival the Somme."

Fraser McAlpine, BBC America, 2011

"1997 was the year it rained a lot, and the drainage at Worthy Farm simply couldn’t handle it. The beautiful green fields changed into a quagmire, everything became brown and sticky, people described the entire site as looking like the Somme, complete with actual trench foot."

Kaya Burgess, The Times, 2011

"Days of rain turned the ground at Glastonbury into a slippery bog as the first revellers arrived yesterday morning, though fine weather in the afternoon prevented the farm from deteriorating into the Somme-like conditions of old."

Laurie Penny, The New Statesman, 2011

"The endless mud is essential to the fun, for a very British understanding of the word "fun". When I last went to Glastonbury in 2007, sober and in charge of two young teenagers, it rained all weekend, turning the small Avon farm into a nightmarish collision between a messy Shoreditch warehouse rave and the Battle of the Somme."

Mark Beaumont, NME, 2012

"But in 2012 there’s a massive Somme-sized hole in all of our summer calendars."


The Telegraph, 2014

Telegraph speaks too soon! "At least there is no Somme-like mud at Glastonbury this year."

The Guardian, 2014

"Yes, friends, it's that time of the day/week/month/year. The time when I sit in front of the television and survey proceedings in Somerset, with – I hope – the help of your comments in the thread below, and your tweets. We'll be kicking off in earnest at 7pm, when the television coverage starts with The One Show live from Glastonbury on BBC1, and Rudimental's set from earlier in the day on BBC3. If I'm honest, I'm happy enough to be here, given that Somerset has been looking increasingly like the scene below. Imagine the Somme, with howitzers replaced by Skrillex …"

The Daily Mail, 2014

"After torrential storms had forced organisers to shut the main Pyramid stage on Friday, the meadows of Worthy Farm looked more like a re-enactment of the Somme. And when Metallica, the middle-aged chief executives of heavy metal, headlined on Saturday night, it sounded like the Somme, too."

The Register, 2014

"Of course these days we all want to go to Glasto with our tech, such being the curse of the increasingly connected world in which we live. So here’s a quick roundup of some essential - and not so essential but still pretty cool - techie gadgets for the festival season to take your mind off the fact that you are standing in a muddy field that looks, feels and smells (and often sounds) like a recreation of the Battle of Passchendaele and that you’ve paid an arm and a leg for the privilege."

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