Since I’m writing this week from the glorious alps again, I had thought I’d immerse myself in nature. The natural world – winter fading, spring rapidly burgeoning – is, after all, very giving with its gifts. What were once winter trickles, often hidden beneath the snow pack, are now beginning to appear from beneath their white duvets and rush, gurgling, to join the swelling river. And all around, shocks of green join the growing brown expanses, fertile mud – be it still damp and claggy from its hibernation – from which summer’s rampant growth will soon begin.

Oh, but Glastonbury, dearest Glastonbury, how you’ve brought my mood down. Yes, it’s certainly true, since this is the world of humans, that other enervating ticketing systems are increasingly available – but this, hippest (or hippy-ist, or hipster-ish) of all events? So disappointing.

I refer, since I’m sure there will be many who are not aware of it, to the business, this week (last week, as you read this) of it being time to pay our festival-ticket balances. Yes, the reality following the excitement of paying last autumn’s deposit has finally arrived in tens of thousands of email inboxes.

And what a dispiriting process it all is. Ticket price – check. No problem with that. A slight frisson of irritation at the ubiquitous booking ‘fee’, obviously, as if being allowed to do so was some sort of privilege.

But there you go. Such is modern life, and few seem to question it. As with premium rate phone lines, and a seat on a plane, these anomalies in logic have simply slipped in. And as to parking, well why NOT charge £35 to allow your guests the privilege of parking in a field? (Which, by the way, is the only option for those not going via coaches, and in possession of many kilos of camping gear.) Hell, you have the land sitting there – why not make it pay?

And there again, why not sling in – or, more accurately, have your ticketing partner sling in – a handy-dandy £5.25 per ticket ‘optional’ insurance, and ‘strongly advise’ festival goers to pay for it? Because, naturally, should you suddenly not be able to make it, it’s clearly unreasonable to expect a refund. What are the chances, after all, of selling that ticket to someone else, given that the event is so routinely under-subscribed? And so what that you can insure a fortnight in Spain for just a couple of quid more? £5.25 is such a nice-looking number.

Hey, and why not refuse to accept credit card payments? After all, those nasty, capitalist-society credit cards are just SO non-festival-ethos, with all their grubbing around, making money out of not terribly much. But of course, they offer all sorts of handy user-benefits, like travel insurance, and cancellation insurance, which means – hmm – no £5.25 extra per ticket required.

But, as I say, hey-ho, that’s life. Even festivals, green and of-the-people as they are, have to move with the times. Which is why I presume (I’m nearly done griping here, I promise) there’s the final £7.75 ‘administration fee’ per booking – which pops up, like a marmot from a hole on Mont Blanc, and apparently covers the expense of producing and posting your precious tickets, and which (to my admittedly untutored mind) seems one heck of a lot of cash.


Of course, this is normal in the 21st century. This is the price we pay for going out, doing stuff, having fun. This is the remit of the modern-day profitable middle-men – the unseen human army whose business it is to charge to ‘administer’ our pleasure.

And it’s unfair of me to single out a single festival. In fact, almost every event putter-on-er works to roughly the same principles. This is what it costs and, later, this is what it REALLY costs, once the various fees and oh-so-vital insurances have been figured in, and we realise that the best things in life are often not free – not when there are easy co-lateral profits to be made (signing up for PPI, anyone?).

Though it does leave something of an acrid taste in my mouth as I tick the box to sign the Glastonbury Pledge and promise ‘not to pee’ in their field, because it brings me back to my beautiful, not-for-much-longer-alpine playground. To nature and nurture and to the whole idea of Glastonbury, which I still so fondly cling to, along with the fervent hope that the best bits of the festival WILL still be free.

No charge for mud, after all.

*The author would like it recorded that since going to Glastonbury she wouldn’t hear a word said against it, its children, its pets, its wider family and/or any of its – lovely – associates. And would very much like tickets for next year. AT ANY PRICE. 🙂

First Published in The Western Mail Weekend magazine April 2016

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