Aspall Cyder - Cider and Vinegar

The definition of mud - Glastonbury 2016

17th July 2016

Henry's Travels

Apparently, Eskimos have dozens (if not hundreds) of words for snow; so it struck me at this year’s Glastonbury that given the multiple forms mud presents itself in, how come English only has one word for it?

Mud, mud, glorious mud. It would be easy to define Glastonbury 2016 as “The Year of Mud”, particularly as founder Michael Eavis went on record as saying it was the worst year he had witnessed since the start of the festival.

But whether it was the muddiest year since records began or not, we did witness so many variations of the brown sticky stuff that it became quite compelling in its own right. And it wasn’t just the look of it and the feel of it; the sound and smell of it varied wildly too. Stopping by the roadside to listen to the sticky squelch of 1000’s of passers-by added a whole new dimension; marching through hollows filled with a gloopy consistency, and watching the shapes and colour shades of the waves we created was slightly spell-binding; as was peeling our tent from the campground and smelling the results of the anaerobic organisms that had been hard at it underneath for 4 days – a whiff akin to walking past the loos, was a reminder of how nature keeps working even when we take a few days off.

When is Glastonbury not about mud in one form or another? 2016 was a bumper year.

Of course, the texture of the mud makes getting around quite a laborious affair; if you want to see stuff, tick off your list of must see’s, you always have to be quite disciplined. But when it’s this muddy, you need an even more focused mind, accompanied by the steeliest of determinations.

Given the challenging conditions, we developed a strategy of aiming to see one main act in the day, and then letting the geography of where we had ended up dictate what we then took in. So for example, after we caught the legendary Ernest Ranglin out on The Park stage on Saturday afternoon, we stuck around for the next act Kurt Vile, then sauntered across to The Crow’s Nest, back to The Park to see Charles Hazlewood conducting Philip Glass (what a lazer show that was), ambled to The Rabbit Hole to hang out for a bit (great cyder….), before finally making the long trek back to base in the South East Corner and seeing some of the sights of Shangri-La closer to home. Keeping the travelling to a minimum, soaking up the sights around us, and not worrying who we might be missing on the Pyramid Stage. As it happened, we didn’t see anyone on The Pyramid Stage, but our weekend was no worse for that being the case.

I’ve always enjoyed the Buddhist idea that the journey is as important as the destination, and so some highlights of this year involved stumbling across sights and scenes that weren’t on stage or in a venue. The New York Brass Brand were an absolute case in point. I don’t even remember where we met them exactly – en route to the Cider Bus on Sunday I think; but there they were – up to 20 musicians all trombone, trumpet, drum and horn – belting out Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing in a divine and unique way. Never heard this version? – check it out. The sheer bonhomie and joie de vivre that emanated from this little corner of Worthy Farm was infectious; there wasn’t a stationary toe in the house – or arena. We moved on; eventually. Hot cider and Earth Wind & Fire waiting at some future point. 

And when we weren’t moving, we were blessed with a mud-free space to enjoy the view and the company of both friends and strangers. We didn’t take the mud head on, we tried where we could to let it be our guide.

Calling it our friend might be pushing it somewhat; however, we did hugely appreciate what a great workout we got as we walked through it in its various incarnations for hours on end day after day. And if I were to offer additional words for mud to the Oxford English Dictionary, I would suggest a thread that lifted it beyond the mere perfunctory, beyond the wellie sucking vacuums and into a realm that expressed something of the emotions that it can and does invoke in us all. I appreciate that can be good and bad; based on Glastonbury 2016, for us the definitions were overwhelmingly good.