Well it’s all been a bit surreal of late hasn’t it? I usually quite like surreal, if it’s Vic n’ Bob or a David Lynch production but this whole EU/Brexit thing is not good. I’ve been rolling around in mud at Glastonbury for ten days, so I registered my vote before went in, with the knowledge I had gained from previous Glastonbury’s, that I wanted nothing to do with the outside world, with the exception of daily calls to my family, to reassure them I was alive and surviving on a diet of crisps and Somerset cider.
However, when I awoke on the morning of the EU result, I couldn’t help but find out and I couldn’t help being shaken by the result. I worried about us leaving Europe but I didn’t actually think it would happen. Apparently, 80% of the 120,000 strong festival crowd voted to remain, so a dark cloud descended over Worthy farm over the first few hours of the result. And this was on top of the dark clouds we already had, as is traditional at this time of year (summer).
I vowed not to look at my Facebook timeline but invariably I did and it was ridden with outpourings of anger, outrage, disbelief and real worry about our future as a nation. I got sucked in and read the lot. Facebook is very good at that, particularly when the news is big. However, I also knew that the festival was about to officially get underway and we had music to look forward to it. A lot of music. And music from some of the biggest artists in the world, all within walking distance (you’d catch a cab in the real world). So I ignored Facebook and got on with the task in hand; festival fun.
As the festival wore on, so the spirit of the people there and the overall festival atmosphere seemed to grow. As more and more people were getting to grips with what was happening in the outside world, there appeared to be more determination to shape our own little world in our Glastonbury bubble. And that’s when it hit me. Glastonbury Festival is what the real world should be. Thousands of people living happily side by side, regardless of race, sexuality, age, remain or exit, etc. A micro-world where people can be who they want to be, without being judged. Where people can express love to another human, just by a look, or a hug or a helping hand through the mud.
Of course it helps that we don’t have to go to work or worry about bills, etc. Of course it helps we can get up and have a cider for breakfast without any sense of responsibility for the rest of the day. And yes, it’s a lovely thing to be able to see your favourite bands on your muddy doorstep. But that for me, isn’t the essence of the place. For me, Glastonbury represents an equality and oneness amongst its people that I’ve never experienced anywhere else in the world. And I’ve travelled a fair bit.
Glastonbury looks very shiny and glossy when you watch Adele on the BBC iplayer but believe you me, it can be a challenging time there with the weather and the lack of sleep. I did ten days there and it was a struggle at times. But time and time again, I just saw people looking after each other and a lot of joy and a lot of love. And this wasn’t late at night, off your face on MDMA (although of course, that goes down). This was 10am in the morning, as you stumbled towards a decent cup of tea.
I saw the EU referendum campaign as a misleading, very dangerous game, played out by certain right-wing media outlets and politicians with their own career agenda’s. I don’t think the majority of the leave voters realised what they had done and what would happen next. What is clear in the first few days post-Brexit, is that it has given a platform to right-wingers and all-out racists, to come out of the woodwork and split and divide a nation. I suddenly don’t know what it means to be British. I used to be proud. Now, I’m just quietly hiding in the corner to see what happens next.
I’m not saying everyone that voted to leave are racists. That’s clearly not the case. But we’ve been misled on both sides and this has clearly angered people and made us less a United Kingdom, than we ever have before.
What struck me about Glastonbury and what I learn from it every time I go, is our capacity to love each other as human beings. We are all the same. It’s really that simple. And nothing exemplifies that more than the greatest festival in the world. The challenge is to shift that in to the harsh outside world, where we need to look after each other more than we ever have before.