No sleep 'til Block 9

24 hours through Glastonbury Festival 2013

No sleep 'til Block 9

Photographer:Peter Corkhill

Kai Jones - 08 July 2013

8.08am, Saturday June 29

A thousand nuclear suns blaze through the fabric of my tent, heralding the dawn of this ridiculous feat. In classic Glastonbury fashion I’ve prepared myself for this task by drinking whiskey and dancing to Boys Noize and Simian Mobile Disco at The Beat Hotel until 2am this morning. It’s hardly worth moaning about though, as there’s probably still people hanging off Car Henge and eating aluminium over at South East Corner right now.

Glastonbury is a 24 hour state of mind, and I’m off to find it.

10.20am

I’m going to need some kind of protective costume to survive the task so I’ve headed up to the theatre and circus fields to see what I can find in this wondrous area of salacious delight. Two gentlemen in eye liner and sailor hats have just set up a stall in front of the Poetry Tent, and call me over.

I’m Jack and this is my friend Jack,” says Jack. “We are Jack Squared,” says Jack. “We are Alteregotists,” they say in unison, “and we provide a bespoke alter-ego service.” After a five minute consultation, Jack delivers my alter-ego: Stevie Wonderland, the greatest dancer in the world and “a mixture of Tom Jones, Christ and Kylie”. With a warning as eerie and prophetic as the fortune teller in Big, Jack says I can have the alter-ego for as long as I like but I must live it completely for the next five minutes or “strange things could happen”.

Jack seems a good lad, so I heed his warning, and after thanking him with a can of pear cider, I strut off, bopping to the flow of the leylines. I get a fright when the nearby Miniscule of Sound (“the smallest nightclub in the world”) is closed, but I immediately find a kazoo orchestra and dance to their wheezy beats, before moonwalking over Bella’s Bridge (dedicated to Arabella Churchill, who set up both the festival’s Children and Theatre areas) into the circus field. An hour later and I’m still jigging away, as I help out with the construction of cardboard boxes for Sunday’s life size recreation of Glastonbury Tor.

12.30pm

At the Cabaret Tent, Marcus Brigstocke and Brian Cox are recording a special edition of Radio 4’s comedy science show The Infinite Monkey Cage. I step in to the packed marquee as they are exploring “the temporality of our experience”. Apparently there is a 'now' at the same time everywhere across the universe. But also kind of not. Because ‘now’ is subjective. Or because the universe is as bent as Del Boy Trotter. I leave with the feeling that the universe fell off the back of a lorry, and is just one of a job-lot being stored in a lock-up somewhere in Peckham.

1.15pm

So far today I’ve been sold a fantastic alter-ego and a dodgy universe. I just need a toxic-strength strawberry cider to wash all this down, so I head to the famed Brothers stall and watch the sophisticated, passionate Malian singer Fatoumata Diarawa swirl and entrance on the West Holts stage.

2.05pm

The blazing sun and cider is making my ‘now’ a tad dizzy so I delve into a delicious medley of vegetarian wonders from Leon’s Cuisine at West Holts before wandering up to the Green Fields. On the way I stop off at the pop-up skate park in the Greenpeace area, marvel at the ridiculous tricks, and find out about the fight to stop Lambeth Council demolishing the historic Southbank Skate Park (do your bit by signing the petition at www.savethesouthbank.com).

5.22pm

An Indian Head Massage in the Healing Fields, a cup of Chai and a nice sit down in a giant bird’s nest later and Glastonbury has removed all the Glastonbury toxins from me. My head is full of little fluffy clouds and I head back down to the Pyramid Stage, timing the journey perfectly to witness The Orb dish out their own ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’, backed up by Ghana’s venerable master drummers Kakatsitsi.


7.45pm

While Bobby Gillespie is getting his rocks off, I meet up with David, Madeline and Paul from Stay Up Late, a Brighton-based group that makes it possible for people with a learning disability to live the lifestyle of their choosing. David is working at the disabled platform that overlooks the Pyramid Stage, helping other disabled people to enjoy the festival. Evidently an expert at staying up late, he looks surprisingly chirpy for someone who was up drinking until 4am, before heroically rugby tackling a guy who had tried to break into a neighbour’s tent.

9.30pm

David tells me the secret to staying up late is simple: a good dinner. I try to make a mental note, but it immediately gets pushed out of my mind by an entire Pyramid field singing “Whoo! Whoo!” as the stage lights flicker into action, the Rolling Stones launch into ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ and a hundred thousand dreams come true.

1.12am. Sunday June 30

I’ve made it to another day. Standing underneath Arcadia’s steel spider-like structure, I try to enjoy the usual delight of being pummelled into the dirt by Fatboy Slim and the colossus structure’s roasting flames, but my mind is trying to work out which Rolling Stones melody it wants to sing. Norman Cook finishes his set and the MC’s words “And now! Chase and Status!” instil the fear of a thousand layers of hell in me, so I aim for the solace of the Strummerville campfire, reliving the memory of ‘Paint it Black’ as I walk.

3.00am

Joe Strummer use to talk of the unifying flames of a camp fire, and even though Strummerville sits tucked into a corner of the otherwise hedonistic Unfairground, the conversation and togetherness has all the healing elements of the Green Fields. In tribute to the man that these flames still live for, I pay my respect at Joe Strummer’s memorial stone and head in to the marvellous debauchery of the South East Corner.

The next few hours unfold into a hazardous, delicious blur. I dance underneath the towering Genosys at Block 9 as it emits blistering acid house that harks back to the pre-Criminal Justice Bill days of free party days. I lap-up abrasive garage at the London Underground and pick up my porn moustache and enter the 1970s disco ecstasy of NYC Downlow. And I wander the dystopic corridors of Shangi-La, literally squeezing into the tiniest, tightest club for some Boys Noize-style electro-filth.

It’s all getting a bit too much like Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream, so before a bowling ball comes down the road and knocks me off my feet I slap myself back into reality with some Tequila shots at the Rumshack. Glastonbury’s official entertainment ends at 6am and I finish this part of the night at Temple, a tribalistic bullring where still-alive minds are like a red rag to Billy Daniel Bunter’s hardcore techno.


6.15am

Sometimes you just need to have a quiet drink after all the hedonism. Except this quiet drink is at NYC Downlow’s infamous backstage bar, where it seems the entire crew of the South East Corner have assembled to toast another successful night. Drag queens, cabaret performers, techno heads and Downlow’s stripped-down musclemen take well-earned drinks and start their own party, while a military-suited chap with a pair of cymbals crashes them together in the face of anyone who needs a much-needed wake-up call. It works beautifully and gives me the energy to head towards the Stone Circle.

07.00am

I’m not up here to celebrate the morning with the rest of Glastonbury’s night stragglers though. I’m here to find the mythical Underground Piano Bar; a secret, tiny venue built into the ground at every festival by a beautiful group of Irish travellers. After much digging around in hedgerows I find it an unassuming corner of the Stone Circle field. Entry is only granted by correctly answering a set of random questions, and after crawling through a long concrete pipe I’m in a wondrous wooden hut and faced with a ramshackle open-mike mix of bands, singers and pianists.


8.15am

I mark the passing of my 24 hour Glastonbury journey back at the Stone Circle, enveloped in the early morning warmth and the company of a few hundred strangers; and look forward to another day in the life of this incredible festival.

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