The Glastonbury Festival came at an inconvenient time this year coinciding, as it did, with the referendum on Brexit. How many of the young people who flocked there heeded the advice of farmer Eavis to organise their postal or proxy vote before they set off for the weekend with their tents and wellies? Is it possible that some of them were content to leave the shaping of their future in the hands of others (some of whose own futures are so short they might not even live to see Article 50 invoked)? And yet I think back to my own festival-going days and recall that I ranked the importance of voting well below that of securing tickets for Jimi Hendrix. It may be a natural tendency of the young to be preoccupied with youth, but I suspect our educational curriculum is partly at fault for not giving more prominence to the teaching of civic responsibility.
I admit that I watched a few of the Glastonbury acts on TV, though I did so guiltily: it seems such a cop-out to watch for free – and from the comfort of home. I didn’t enjoy them. Besides the guilt, I just could not get the excitement of the gig without actually being there. And then there was the generation issue: with one, sad exception the acts belonged not to mine but to the millennial (voters or otherwise) and I could not relate to them. I have not, strictly speaking, given up on festival-going. Some years ago I, along with many others of the Isle of Wight generation, switched to jazz festivals which, apart from offering a different style of music, generally take place in urban centres. This means that the venues are proper buildings fitted out with rows of seating, bars and toilets. Occasionally there are marquees involved, but they are usually situated close to comfortable facilities.
Lately, however, I have become uneasy with the idea that my default setting is “safe, comfortable and one-dimensional” so, this year, I shall be taking a tentative step back in time. I shall be braving the elements at Festival Number 6. Admittedly this event takes place in a semi-exposed location and I do have the campervan to retire to, nevertheless it is more than a symbolic move away from the armchair and TV. The festival also offers more than music – there will be performances of various types and even gourmet dining events. In short it promises to deliver a multi-cultural experience and, I hope, a fair degree of inter-generational mingling, insofar as that is possible – or even advisable.
I got a taste for inter-generational mingling last Saturday at a nephew’s 21st birthday party. It was a great do, although the timing may have been unfortunate for those of his friends who had hopes of attending Glastonbury. Still, not one of them mentioned it to me, possibly because our conversations tended to be politely perfunctory. But there is no doubt that as the evening progressed I noticed a tendency for those of similar age to gather themselves into groups until, eventually, the prospect of them mixing became more remote.
Inevitably there was much talk about the generally unwelcome result of the referendum. People were gloomy about the prospects for the future but happy for the present: the hospitality flowed freely, the band was hot and the dancers let it all hang out it. Still, I thought, there is some irony here. We are celebrating the coming-of-age and the dawning of opportunity for a young man just as a big door has been slammed in his face. We talked it over and over, some of us staying up to see the dawn, reluctant to concede that the party’s over.