The elements of Glastonbury
With just under a week to go until the Glastonbury Festival - one of the global music calendar's biggest weekends - speculation is rife about one thing: the weather. The British music festival is so notorious for its washouts that meteorological predictions seem to take up as many column inches in its preceding days as news about the line-up or handy camping tips.
Everyone, organisers included, chuckles endlessly about the event's reputation as a three-day mudfest and proclaim that fans "wouldn't have it any other way". They are all wrong. According to the weather monitoring site www.metcheck.com, a largely dry weekend has been predicted on Worthy Farm for this year's Glasto. No rain is expected on the first day of the bash; however, there may be a light smattering on Saturday, followed by cloudy but dry conditions on the closing day. What this actually means is that monsoon-like conditions will beset the Somerset valley for the festival's duration.
Everyone who has attended the festival has a war story about the rain. From the time they forgot to bring their wellington boots and had to tie plastic bags to their feet, to when a downpour during Radiohead's headlining set brought on a pleasant feeling of togetherness among the 100,000-strong crowd. But few have experienced the full power of the elements in the same way as those who attended the 2005 bash.
The opening day of the festival had to be delayed when the mother of all thunderstorms erupted in the middle of the night, washing away tents and sending bolts of lightning towards the central Pyramid Stage. A friend of mine was one of the unlucky ones to lose everything he brought, including his camera and wallet, when a trickle of water grew into a river in less than a minute, flowing straight through his tent.
Whereas the 2005 festival brightened up the following day (although it remained waterlogged and muddy), the 2007 event was nearly as bad. Every morning, campers awoke to hours of rain followed by clouds and frequent short downpours in the afternoons. In fact that year was such a misery-fest that the organiser Michael Eavis spared his usual "Greatest Glastonbury ever!" remarks. The next year, unremarkably, the festival failed to sell out.
For years Eavis has resisted calls to move Glastonbury back a few weeks to statistically lessen the chances of a downpour. The event is timed to closely coincide with the summer solstice and moving is a bit like having Christmas in February. But does anyone really care? Isn't the timing just a hangover from the event's increasingly defunct hippie origins? The organisers are right that dreadful weather has become a part of the Glastonbury experience - a part that fans dread. It's worth noting that nobody leaving the festival has ever been heard saying: "The line-up and the vibe were great, but I was disappointed by all that sunny weather."
Updated: June 18, 2009 04:00 AM