The Glastonbury Festival is world renowned for the scope of its hedonist, hippy, progressive, liberal and downright zany spectacles, people and pop acts. There is nothing I can say that will make you understand the breadth, depth and sheer wonder of it all – you have to see it to believe it. Just before midnight on Tuesday 21st June 2005 I got on a bus to go see it for my first ever time. I now believe.
To try and describe everything that was going on would be impossible, should I start with the sculpture of the Jenga Stackable Cows, the Greenpeace Pedal-powered dance-train or the Pagan Procession complete with Shaman dishing out blessings using a smoking bird wing? What about the joys of Fishing for Fairies? Heck, you might even be interested in some of the bands that played. Suffice it to say that if you leave your tent at all then fun will pretty much find you, wherever you go.
So I am going to describe for you just one of the spectacles, one that I had the unadulterated joy of being a part of rather than just watching go by: The Glastonbury Underwear Run.
By the Saturday I was dimly aware that it was going to happen, I’d seen a hand written poster down near the shark infested swamp when I was vaguely on my way to the candle-powered boat stall. “The Glastonbury Underwear Run: 2pm Sunday at the Meeting Point. Promoting Peace in Nepal”.
By about 2pm on Sunday I had all but forgotten it, I hadn’t actually been to sleep yet and was wandering towards the market area with the intention of finding some more tea, when a pair of men carrying a banner and wearing respectively only a pair of boxer shorts or suspenders and a corset went past. The latter was shouting into a loud-hailer: “The Glastonbury Underwear Run is about to start at the meeting point, promoting Peace in Nepal. Come and join us for the Underwear Run and Show Us Your Pants! If you aren’t wearing any… show us your Aaaaaaaass!”
If there is one rule in Glastonbury it is this: You will almost never end up at the place you intended to go but you will always find something much more fun and interesting instead.
A few minutes later I discover that I have stripped to my light blue briefs, boots and Panama hat and am engaging in the liberal application of sun cream to my pasty-blue Scottish skin. Had I planned to do this I might well have made a different underwear choice, all the other guys (with the exception of Oz, the man with the loud-hailer escaped from the set of the Rocky Horror show) were… well… more conservative with their Packet Presentation in an array of boxer shorts.
For a few moments I felt more than a little self-conscious. Then a voice in my head said this: “You are at Glastonbury. Who the hell cares?”. Without further ado we are off. This being the Glastonbury Run a few of us mime jogging as we follow the banner and Oz, who is explaining through his loud-hailer what the hell this was about to the myriad of passers-by. We give up on jogging after the first fifty yards as it becomes obvious that the Underwear Run has no clear route nor destination in mind and slow to a saunter.
Everyone (which is about eight guys and three girls) quickly get into the spirit of it all, handing out leaflets advertising worldshighestgig.com in support of abandoned or prostituted Nepalese children and explaining to passing punters what we are doing and encouraging them to join in. After a bit of experimentation I discover that the slogan “Pants for Peace… Peace in Nepal” raises both smiles and hands willing to accept the flier. You’d think they’d never seen an almost naked ginger-haired Scottish guy in a Panama hat before.
Before long the Glastonbury Underwear Saunter is making its first bar stop, just before the entrance to the Green Fields beside Jazzworld. The staff hardly even blinked at the crowd of underwear clad loons queueing up to buy a pint – it’s possible this was not the weirdest thing they had seen all day, perhaps MC Cow (a pantomime animal sporting a beat-box backing track and rapping away) had popped in for a pint earlier too. Anyway, we pick up another couple of people to join us on The Saunter who strip on the spot and continue on our way.
Eventually we reach the back of the Pyramid Stage, having passed a naked man covered head to toe in mud imitating Gollum who declined to join us on account of having no pants to put on, where we were unable to get over to the press office in the backstage area. Undetered, we go on up to the side of the stage where Jules Holland is playing. There is a wide patch of mud too sticky to sit down on that has been left empty by the swelling crowd, we – feeling remarkably cool on this warm day – proceed to dance in (and give out more leaflets around the edge of) it.
The Glastonbury Saunter was clearly coming towards its end as we moved off round the corner to another bar for more liquid refreshment and a top-up of sun cream. We have had an immense amount of fun and handed out a few thousand leaflets… we decide that we need to find a way to make the whole experience peak. To make it finish with a bang. To indelibly scar “Pants for Peace… Peace in Nepal” into the minds of a few more innocent passers-by.
We decide to Streak for Peace.
We make our way up towards the stone circle, “Join the Underwear Run for Peace in Nepal. We are going to the stone circle to Streak for Peace!”. “Pants for Peace. No Pants for Peace…Peace in Nepal!”
Someone starts a marching song to the tune of Cwm Rhonda. “Get your pants off, get your pants off, get your pants off for Nepal (for-Ne-Pal)!” Suddenly I am very glad I have my kazoo in the back of my ruck-sack, I knew I would need it at some point. The march continues with stirring kazoo renditions of The Great Escape Theme and Land of Hope and Glory.
By the time we get to the stone circle we are completely hyper. There is a race to see who can get naked most quickly, to be honest it was pretty much a dead heat. Suddenly the relative peace and tranquility of the place is disturbed by ten naked bodies, glistening in the sun, charging down the hillside.
We dressed then rested in the shade and gradually drifted our separate ways, I kissed one of the girls goodbye and noted that this was possibly the first time I had kissed a girl _after_ I had seen her naked.
Glastonbury is full of marvelous spectacles and you see many when you are there. Being one of them, at least once, is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. And sometimes without them on either. If there is an Underwear Run in 2007, I will be on it.
On a Serious Note
The Underwear Run was organised to draw attention to the plight of Nepalese children who are sold into slavery or prostitution. The Nepal Balbalika Trust is trying to do something positive to change this. Visit them at Nepal Balbalika Trust – World’s Highest Gig.