‘I fell on my ass at Glastonbury because I’m a fucking animal’ – Glastonbury 2015 review

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So it’s taken me almost a full week to even attempt to unfurl in sentences just how wondrous this year’s festival was for me. I’ve been a full time resident in the grotty,  vacuum-like, Depressionville for the entirety  of this academic year. It has been rotten and rancid . And so this year I was truly ready to shed my skin in a Somerset field; bare my bones and to shake out the cobwebs in my soul. Gosh Glastonbury, you beautiful creature, you did no let me down. I was beyond honoured, thrilled and jubilant to be asked to perform on the Poetry and Words stage. It was my fifth year at the festival, my fourth time performing and the first time I’d been on the Poetry and Words stage, it was a really big deal for me to be given such a big opportunity in a place so close to my heart. A poet’s dream. Massive thanks to Benita and Helen Johnson (new baby Jake in tow as well!) and the whole Poetry and Words crew for doing such a stellar with the stage. I got to host a fantastic open mic, perform in front of musician, Grace Petrie (an absolute idol of mine) and shout feminist things at people. Perfection!

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Another highlight was catching up with poetry friends old and new: the sumptuous Vanessa Kisuule, Charlotte Higgins, Erin Bolens and Sara Hirsch.

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These two amazing drawings of me (one in human and one in owl form) are by the incomparable Scott Tyrrell, who should probably win an award for his kindness and enviable polymath capabilities. I got given a copy of his wonderful poetry collection, Grown Up- which you can (and should) buy here!

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There were also many festival highlights to be found away from the Poetry and Words tent and here are a few that warmed my soul:

For many, Friday’s highlight came from Florence Welch (her machine firmly in tow). I hear she royally SMASHED it and it is heartening that such a unique, self-styled female performer is headlining Glastonbury (especially considering Florence is only the fifth female to do so in the festival’s 45 year history. A pretty unfortunate statistic for a festival that in many ways has always been at the  forefront of progressive politics and music in its bookings!)

However, I had other business to attend to.  It’d been a busy day from performing my own set, relishing the explosive, almost Aretha-esque sound of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard in the ensuing downpour. Being pleasantly surprised by Jungle and their accompanying breakdance prodigy and appreciating some socially conscious hiphop courtesy of New York duo, Run The Jewels(‘RTJ!RTJ!RTJ!’).  So I ditched the not-so-secret act, The Libs, in favour of being in the front row for two of the happiest and hippest electronic acts around- Caribou and Hot Chip.

The man behind Caribou, Dan Snaith, radiates an air of pure enjoyment and genuine humility throughout the set. He is HAPPY to be here and he is making it known: waving to fans, thanking us after songs and smiling his way through a dizzying and dazzling run through the gorgeous soundscape of his latest record, ‘Our Love’. From the first muted utterance of ‘Our Love’ to the inevitable finale, the crowd-pleasingly joyous, ‘SUN’ (sun,sun,sun,sun), Caribou are both fun and thrilling to watch live!

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As were West Holts headliners, Hot Chip, who offered hit after hit after hit, in what can only be described as one of the most joyous moments of my life (as you can see from this slightly ridiculous grin on my face and the appalling dance moves during an embarrassing amount of BBC footage!) My set highlight comes as Caribou return to the stage for a big electro super-group rendition of the Springsteen classic ‘Dancing in the Dark’ – we are most certainly doing so!

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Saturday’s highlights come from the aforementioned encounter with Grace Petrie, Rhythm and Blues legend- Mavis Staples and a feral, furious and farcical Father John Misty.

At 75 years old, Staples still has the pipes and her band make a gorgeous soulful riot, drawing from a long back catalogue of civil rights anthems and gospel-infused soul. She stops mid-set to tell us ‘I’m gonna take you back down memory lane’ before shouting ‘1971’, pointing at a rather small child in the audience, with a wry smile and quick wit adds, ‘she wasn’t even born, but she’s there screaming along with everybody else’. The set ends triumphantly with a singalong to The Staples Singers classic ‘I’ll Take You There’ that extends the whole length of the Park field. We may not have been born in 1971, but Mavis definitely took us there!

Father John Misty is a different matter.  His is a world populated by honey bears, lunatics, motel rooms, women, virgins and Jesus. He is a thrilling performer. A loose-limbed showman; Jarvis Cocker meets Josh T Pearson with a hint of the menace of a feral, ferocious Nick Cave. Unpredictable in the extreme, one moment he is thrashing in the crowd, the next he has taken an iPhone and is staring straight into the lens charmingly proclaiming ‘HELLO YOUTUBE’, the next he is sincerely and gorgeously singing, eyes closed,’I’m just a little bored in the USA, Save me President Jesus’. All of which results in a stonking good show.

I applaud Kanye’s set. I enjoyed the strength of its opening -Stronger and POWER. The man in front of me applauded me for knowing every word as I rap along. Unfortunately, I did feel the set lagged after such an electrifying opening. Some songs felt like shortened radio-edit versions, ending abruptly. The set, however, delivers enough. I love the guest appearance of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and the spectacle of the crane for ‘Touch the Sky’ (despite the confusing and awkward pause that prefaces it). Kanye came and did Worthy Farm on his own terms, so props to him. All music belongs at Glastonbury. Pure and simple.

The real highlight of my Saturday night was watching the 1925 silent film version of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ accompanied by the Minima Orchestra. Dark, graphic and gothic, it was a world away from the glossy Lloyd-Webber musical fodder and the beautiful and menacing score created a genuinely terrifying experience (I mean look!)

Sunday starts with the incredible dance rhythms of Ibibio Sound Machine, fronted by a gorgeous and sparkling Eno Williams, the eight piece create updated afrobeat sounds which bring West Africa to the West Holts stage to glorious effect. This is the dancing that ensued:

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My highlight of the weekend comes courtesy of a raucous and right-on set from punk poet goddess: Patti Smith. She gorgeously howls her way through Horses, she rips all the strings off her guitar, she falls on her ass and screams ‘I fell on my ass at Glastonbury because I am a FUCKING animal’. The whole thing is a masterclass in being an empowered and inspirational woman. I wish being Patti Smith was a valid career option. Her performance sinks into all of my sinews, she makes me cry and yell and feel righteous anger. Midway through the anthemic ‘People Have the Power’ she commands me and the tens of thousands of others in the Pyramid Field to “Raise your arms! Feel who you are without technology, without governments. Feel your freedom!” With Patti I do! I feel my freedom and it is gorgeous.

All this is before she even brings out the Dalai Lama – she reads him a beautiful birthday poem (something as a poet I find particularly moving, a poem stuns and hushes the whole of the Pyramid field- Patti the poet holds centre stage). Then the Dalai Lama is brought out by Emily Eavis and presents Patti Smith with a white Khata ( a Tibetan Buddhist prayer scarf) and it’s all a bit beautiful and surreal. He speaks inspiringly on the environment, on the need for peace and (hilariously) how the white haired rockers of Patti’s band encourage him to keep going. We sing ‘Happy Birthday’, he cuts a cake and leaves. Pure Glastonbury magic.11667412_10153098741474527_8955727030662807245_nI’m front and centre on the Other Stage for another highlight of Sunday which came courtesy of the definitive Glaswegian soft indie pop band, Belle and Sebastian. The set is a win for all gorgeously soft-souled and nimble soled dancing indie outsiders. They sing about front man Stuart Murdoch’s struggles with ME, about being bullied (‘you won, you’re HERRRREE’ cries Murdoch to all the former bullied members of the audience) and the annoying kind of couples who we all love to hate( ‘Thank you for the invite tonight/Perfect snacklets, perfect drinks/I’m getting ideas from your interiors/Perfect apartments, perfect kids’). They get members of the audience up onstage for the glorious offbeat anthem ‘Boy with the Arab Strap’. They are a band of and for the people and we bloody love them!

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A Facebook message informs me that the BBC camera once again has felt the need to record my ridiculous dance moves in the front row as I watch Goat.The mask-clad experimental fusion band certainly earn my dance moves. Their show is even better than when I saw them at Glastonbury in 2013. At one point I rip off my head band and start having a ‘ribbon off’ with one of the singers whipping a tambourine and ribbons round her head ferociously. It’s astounding, bizarre and brilliant. For me, they outdo the bit of The Who that I saw.

The festival ends with a wild night out in the company of my family: sisters,Emily and Grace, and Grace’s boyfriend Isak. The evening is full of flavoured cider, wobbly walking and bellowed singing. It’s lush. We end up singing ‘I Need a Hero’ on a Shangri-La karaoke stage (accidently accompanied by a random man stripping!)

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The evening ends in NYC Downlow, a Drag Queen club, as we applaud the gorgeous performers and get covered in golden ribbons. I create an alter-ego ‘GOLDBEARD’ (see below) and we head to the top of the Stone Circle, as the misty sun whispers into view: souls satiated and hearts full to the brim for another year.goldbeard

Thank you to the poets and people who made this year so special: it was my favourite year ever!  See you in 2016!

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