Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

He may have just been putting a brave face on it, but Michael Eavis came off convincingly when he told U.K. newspaper The Independent, “It’s more fun when it rains” and explained to The Guardian, “Hot sun day after day makes you lethargic.”

With parts of his festival site under four feet of water two days earlier, it’s hard to imagine thousands of punters thought conditions matched up to Eavis’s assertion that they “stimulate the character and add to the fun factor.” But Glastonbury has a way of smiling itself through such adversities.

“They’re a different sort that come here. They’re all smiling through it and having a great time,” Eavis’s wife, Liz, told Pollstar June 26th, the fest’s final day.

After four days of relentless baking sunshine, the British weather did a spectacular U-turn June 24th and turned the site into a quagmire.

Up to 300 tents had been washed away by a 4-foot wall of water that flooded The Glade area of the site and had the sodden occupants grabbing what possessions they could and running for higher ground.

The sun had made the earth so hard that the water had nowhere to go and much of the site was turned into a lake.

Festival owner Michael Eavis told The Daily Telegraph June 22nd that seeing “the rooks nesting high in the trees” was a sign the weather would be fine, although now it seems they were only doing that to make sure they kept their homes above the water level.

The poles of the John Peel Tent were struck by a bolt of lightning but there were no casualties or serious injuries. All power was cut and main (Pyramid) stage performances were delayed by a couple of hours. Most of the 152,000 crowd were left covered in mud.

BBC Radio 1‘s coverage was interrupted after a river near the broadcast area rose by one foot in 15 minutes.

By mid-afternoon Friday (June 24th), there was a queue for higher ground, where entrepreneurs were selling Wellingtons boots for £15 a pair.

The Oxfam shop was reported to have sold its entire stock of ponchos and wellies within an hour, making £13,000 in the process.

By Sunday afternoon, the weather conditions had improved immensely and so had the site conditions, after diggers helped remove water and some of the mud from the worst-hit patches. Somerset fire service pumped out nearly three million litres of water. The liberal distribution of straw also helped, although it was quickly cleared before the sun dried it out and made it a fire risk.

On the day before the festival, three would-be gatecrashers tried to smuggle themselves into Glastonbury by hiding in portaloos but were flushed out when the lorry carrying them stopped outside the festival perimeter fence.

Thinking they’d made it inside, they came out of hiding and were immediately met face-to-face by the lorry driver.

They’d sneaked into the loos when the lorry stopped at a motorway service station and then had a bumpy ride sitting on toilet seats until they thought they’d reached their destination.

As thousands of festival-goers hitchhiked to Somerset a couple of days before the music began, all lorries bringing portable toilets to the site were searched.

Security also seized rope and extendable ladders, and stopped one gang who’d dug down two feet next to the fence.

Sgt. Frazer Davey of Avon & Somerset police was reported as saying the festival had been “extremely safe” and, after the first two days, recorded crimes – excluding drugs – were down 40 percent on last year to 84 offences. Drugs offences rose from 76 last year to 183, but he said that was due to more pro-active policing. Drugs are being investigated as a factor in the death of festival-goer Benjamin Shepherd, 25, from nearby Street, on Friday night.

Acts weathering the Glastonbury storm (June 24-26) included Coldplay, The White Stripes, New Order, Basement Jaxx, Garbage, Keane, The Killers, Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson, Van Morrison, The Thrills, Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight, and The Coral.

Worst performance was generally adjudged to have come from Primal Scream, with singer Bobby Gillespie admitting, “We had a long session this afternoon.” Appearing somewhat disheveled (and disoriented), he brought a couple of songs to a premature halt, leaving other band members looking awkwardly at one another.

Thanks to the intervention of the organizers, he had a much shorter session in the evening. They cut the power, leaving a petulant Gillespie hurling mic stands into the audience as he was led off stage.

— John Gammon