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BLOG: Year for giggle-gold masterclass at Glastonbury


United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Chris Swindells | 14 April 2011

I’m pretty sure I remember where I was when someone first told me Glastonbury isn’t about the music. Infact I remember where I was when the 76th person told me, over that very same weekend, as police held me, my rage and my flailing, fist-waving arms back from that preachy 'enlightened' individual. Now with the 2011 line up revealed I’m about to tell you the very same thing, so listen up!

I’ve always appreciated the finer arts at music festivals but Glastonbury above any other seem to have just ‘got it’. It’s made by the more communal, warm-hearted appreciation of the arts that run through it’s original ethos and design, but more importantly it's crowds.

Latitude, whilst a wonderful weekend, in it’s fledging moments can feel at a little forced; a more stuffy and formulaic cultural affair. Glastonbury rejoices in the eccentricities, the unknown and avant-garde. Not that it’s without it’s traditions; John Otway returns for the 61st time this year. But really what more can you want than to see him leave the stage sweating and beyond collapsing to be replaced by a political revolutionary disguised as a stand-up comedian, Mark Thomas. The 48-year-old is still getting away with the pretense and between handing out leaflets on your stop-and-search rights he makes you laugh through the most visceral of political vitriol.

Tony Benn can never deliver that level of anger but with his aged knowledge and left-wing credentials can give a talk that feels more akin to Roosevelt’s fireside chats than a festival set under the revered Leftfield tent.

To wander the boards on the comedy and theatre stage you must first realise, like most everything else in life, you’ll get as much back from Glastonbury as you put in. Ignore the warm-feeling and pure-of-heart crowd at your peril. Even the mud-coated stoners sheltering from the rain and Paul Simon’s main stage love-in are there to be turned on to Shakespeare. Too many times I’ve seen a comedian or poet bring his angriest game and play to the poles that hold the canvas over the punters who with that will quickly turn from amusement to apathy.

There’s a host of festival stalwarts in 2011 who’ll make you feel right at home if you're at all worried about that; Jeremy Hardy and Arthur Smith lead that charge, with their two decades worth of Worthy Farm experience. Newcomers, relative to them, god-taunting funnyman Robin Ince and part-time Banksy spokesman Simon Munnery are the two that any self-respecting comedy connoisseur really you can’t go missing.

Don’t let me lead you into thinking it’s a mild pale-white affair either; the spectrum of ethical and cultural diversity is celebrated under the theatre stage, as it is across the festival. Muslim stand up comedian Shazia Mirza and Iranian-born Shappi Korsandi will add some glamour to the line up. 4 Poofs & A Piano will add, well a piano and four c-list homosexuals.

Altogether though it’s hard to argue that Glastonbury is made by any one ingredient, but like all good things it’s the sum of its part. And what joyous parts.

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