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Drowned in Sound at Glastonbury

Ben Harvey, with his SMS Text News reporter badge covered in mud, has managed to transmit his latest Friday column to us from a field, somewhere near the little village of Glastonbury.

– – – – – –

Picture 34So, there I was, knee-deep in mud (or, at least, something wet and brown), watching the Killers play at Glastonbury. Unfortunately, watching them was all I was doing because – due to having to find somewhere to pee (damn you, cider, damn you all to hell) – I’d relinquished my place towards the front of the stage and found myself at the rear of the enormous throng.

…I very nearly wrote “rear of the enormous thong” there…

Idiot jobsworths from the Council, who had turned the speakers down, I wasn’t actually able to hear them very well. Not being able to hear the music at a music festival isn’t actually the most fulfilling experience in the world and, as such, I was about to spin on my heel (or as much of a spin as I could manage, given that, technically, everything below my knees had sunk to underground status) and trudge back to Chez Harvey but, all of a sudden, the smokey air was filled with loud noise of Las Vegas kitsch-rock!

As it happened, the tendrils of Council Health & Safety hadn’t been vanquished but, instead, some cheeky sod in the crowd close to me had pulled out their mobile and started playing Killers tracks out from their little loudspeaker.

This worked well for five seconds before all the people laughing at the absurdity of the situation drowned out both the mobile and the main speakers, but it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it.

Anyway, the fact that mobiles are now so deliciously versatile does gladden my heart. And, in the context of festivals – or any other event organised by the Somme Recreation Society – I’ve put together a little list of reasons why they’re just so, so bloody useful…

1. Calling for help

Cries for help come in many forms; drunken calls to ex-girlfriends, calls to the police because your ex-boyfriend is stalking you, that sort of thing. However, this Glastonbury was marked by the rain, and the solid, unremitting mud the ensured. I managed to escape reasonably easily but others weren’t so lucky – my friend Chris, for example, was stuck in the car-parking fields for fifteen hours.

As we made our way out, staring out of the car windows that were running with the condensation from our own clothing, the one thing that really struck me was the number of people by mud-glued cars, phoning for the AA or the RAC or any other bugger that could come and pull them out. Can you imagine trying to organise that with phone-booths…?

2. Finding stuff

Tents, at night, are not the most easy of domiciles to find things in. Glasses case? Toothbruth? Dry trousers? Booze? Girlfriend? Groping around in the dark will take ages. As with many other areas of modern life – finding your way down the stairs of a strange house springs immediately to mind – this uncertainty is instantly dispelled by a random stab at your keypad and the resulting glow of LCD illumination from your keypad…

Ah. There she is.

3. Disgusting video clips

I suspect that, on Saturday morning of last week, quite a large proportion of the adult UK population awoke to find a video-clip, on their mobile, detailing – as only filmed imaged can – the pure, whole, complete and enormously lurid documentary of the toilets at Glastonbury.

If you were one of the lucky ones you merely would’ve been sent a clip of the general area, row upon row of Technicolor Polyjohns stood sentinel, like plastic Daleks queuing at the post office. Those less lucky would have clips displaying just how disgustingly muddy everything was (the whole effect reminded me rather of my student days, when for some reason a flatmate decided to melt a Cadbury’s crème egg in our electric kettle).

Those least lucky of all will have been sent a clip of the patty-men emptying the toilets, with their disease-dripping machines that trundle round the site looking like the bastard lovechild of an oil-tanker and a vacuum-cleaner. I’ve heard their mating call, the choking, sucking, liquid schlurping that they kick out when they’re vacuuming all the poo up.

Always reminds me of a kid at McDonalds, trying to hoover in the last of his chocolate milkshake.

4. All wings report in

How did people do this in the past? How? You’re with a group of friends, say, six of you, for the sake of argument. You’re leaving from different parts of the country. How would you know which Little Theft to meet up in on the way down? How would you be able to take pictures of Eddie mooning at a random lorry-driver from the passenger seat of his Focus? (we’ve all got a friend like Eddie, haven’t we…). More to the point, how would you find each other in the midst of 175,000 others? How would Pete Docherty’s handlers find which hedge to pull him out of? How would you call your mother, and say “Mother, I appear to have lost an important part of my brain, somewhere, somewhere in a field in Somerset?”. Alright.

5. As a weapon

James Bond, memorably, once used his mobile to jack 50,000 volts into the brain-pan of a villain who was about to shoot him. You know – it was the one with Terri Hatcher in, looking stupid. Anyway, that’s complete overkill. Modern handsets, due in part to their weight-balance and streamlined design but mostly due to the density of the lithium in their batteries actually make superb throwing weapons. A decent overarm hurl will quite easily stove in the face of most unarmoured assailants and, more importantly, in a festival context, will also signal to the idiot that keeps treading on your toes that you are displeased with him.

In fact, I would go as far to say that mobile handsets are the very zenith of mans efforts to make the perfect throwing weapon – after all, you can’t telephone a javelin to see where it is when you’ve lost it down the back of your sofa.

6. As a personal assistant

Glastonbury is complicated. Naive debutantes consider it to be merely some people sat around in a field with some bands on. The logistics of it, though, are fiendish. What stage is your favourite band on? Where is that? How best do you fight your way through the bovine crowds to get there? Who do you want to see after them, and what stage are that lot on? When do you have to leave so you don’t miss the start? What time does everyone want to hit that noodle place we liked so much? Where do we have to bail Eddie out from after he mooned that policeman?

It’s all so very confusing.

In recent years the Guardian has been very considerate and has given everyone, in their welcome-packs, a tiny, weeny little booklet that lists, in tables, what’s going on. Alas, though, this comes with an itsy-bitsy plastic pouch to put it in. This plastic pouch, in wet years, serves not to keep the guide clean but instead to drown it in rainwater, leading to the oft-seen sight of people trying to forensically dissect the papier-mâché schedule like a particularly feckless archaeologist.

But! Just punch the details into your handset, in the form of reminders, and Bob’s your mother’s brother…

7. As a financial deposit

All of my cash-money having been spent on lager & falafels, I was forced to give my Razr to a toilet-roll salesman in return for a hundred sheets of finest Charmin. On the upside, it had only been my Razr for half an hour; I’d found it lying in a puddle. Tee hee!

The authorities were kind enough, by the way, to have issued us all with our very own roll of green, bleach-free, earth-friendly toilet roll upon arrival. I used mine to mummify some random interloper who crashed through our camp at 3am…

8. As a hippy lure

You can say a lot about our crusty friends; you can say what a lot of tosh all that “crystal healing” nonsense is. You can say that they’re idiots for believing in the goodness of ley-lines and the badness of cellular radiation. You can say they smell so profoundly bad that, should they ever find themselves in an airport, all the poor sniffer-dogs in Customs would simultaneously be taking medical retirement. You can say all of this, but I won’t, since my own dear mother is a hippy.

What you can say about them is that they do dress sensibly. Those woven-goat-hair capes they sport around their knife-narrow shoulders, for example, are bloody warm. I decided to obtain one.

I waited until a likely-looking fellow had dosed himself up on mushrooms; out came my mobile, with a kaleidoscopic screensaver selected. I pressed it into his numb, herb-smelling hands and, whilst he tried to see infinity, I sliced away the reed girdle that secured his cloak and then, pausing only to pluck my handset back, made off.

It would’ve been the perfect crime, had it not been infested with stoned lice.

9. As a smuggling device

Prise the back off, pocket the battery and you have a handy little cavern to stow those things that the police would disapprove of. What? Where else am I going to hide my “I Love the Human Rights Act” badge…?

10. Because you make so many bloody friends

You do. There’s only one other time of your life when you make so many lasting friends so quickly, and that’s the first night you spend in prison. You’re in a giant party for four or five days and it’s impossible not to meet people – those you camp near become instant mates if only because you’re bonded with the Dunkirk spirit of staying alive, and sane, and in as good a humour as possible, when you’re soaked and saturated and generally utterly clagged in mud.

Just be sure to take a quick snap of everyone, if only so that you can remember their names when you get back home and sober up. You’ll remember the name of the girl you were really into, of course, but what was the name of that idiot that kept mooning everyone…?


  1. Ah the memories! I’m feeling nostalgic already and it’s only been a week! I can’t imagine what navigating Glastonbury would be like without mobile phones. Everyone was using them. Oddly enough, on the Sunday evening, I was in one of the Lock Up tents with some pals when someone asked over the radio from one of the other lock ups if there was a pay phone anywhere as a reveller needed to use the phone. The request seemed incredibly old fashioned.

    Of course, along with the mobile phone, you need also to bring charged-up spare batteries, otherwise you’ll spend your life trying to find ways of getting your phone charged. I’m so glad I did that. Working phone = security blanket.

    And somehow, you find a way to text through the mud and the rain to eventually maybe catch up with your mates at Lost Vagueness, several hours later…

    I should add that the leylines do do funny things to mobiles. My mate Steve’s phone just stopped working as soon as he hit the site, only to start working properly again on the Sunday.

    My phone was working, but wasn’t ringing. All calls and texts were silent. Not that I’d hear them anyway, but when I was in my tent, I’d have heard them but instead I just watched the texts appear silently… Or as that the medicinal ‘fight the rain’ hot cider brandy at work.. 😉

  2. Ah Yes – (thought I might see you commenting TK!) – the memories!

    There was me thinking I was only Blogger on site!

    Well – not entirely true having bumped into TK up at The Stone Circle late one night…
    i’ll re-phrase – there was me thinking I was the only Blogger doing any actual Blogging from the festival!

    Step 1) Take photo/video.
    Step 2) Attempt to upload to
    Step 3) Attempt to upload to
    Step 4) Attempt to upload to
    Step 5) Successfully upload to
    Step 6) Put phone in to charge
    Step 7) Repeat


    Great work Ben.
    The Killer were indeed a disappointment – shame about the sound.
    However the comedy came when we managed to get all 20 of us from The Guardian Lounge to the top of the hill in front of the Pyramid Stage – not by mobile phone… oh no.
    But by each of us having a glowstick!

    “Gold leader, this is red leader… come in…”



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