Don’t worry: whatever the headline says, I’m not here to insult your intelligence by suggesting it will be just as fun to watch Glastonbury on television, as we all must this year. It won’t be. Of course it won’t be. Quite clearly, getting drunk in a field with friends and watching live music is much better than getting drunk in your pants, on your own and struggling with the red button.
But enough of the bad vibes, man. Glastonbury 2020 – or the Glastonbury Experience, as the BBC is calling it – is still worth getting excited about, particularly if you stop torturing yourself with thoughts of what might have been.
We have ahead of us a weekend (plus Monday, an excellent precedent that must not be forgotten) of curated music on television, a sofa – or a deck chair, if you prefer – and a full fridge. We’ll get to friends later. Let’s start with the music. The BBC has a dedicated Glastonbury channel on iPlayer, which has been going since Thursday and gets under way again at 10am on Saturday. Some of the best sets from recent decades will be shown, including Oasis (Saturday, 4.30pm), Adele (Saturday, 9.30pm), Kylie (Sunday, 2pm) and Stormzy (Monday, 6.30pm).
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Most excitingly, David Bowie’s 2000 set will be shown in full for the very first time on television (Sunday, 9.30pm). There will also be highlights packages every day on BBC2, while BBC Four provides some respite with a series of acoustic performances from, among others, Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and Kano.
It is worth dwelling for a moment on this patchwork of performances, stitched together from different years. Not only has the BBC cherry-picked the finest shows, allowing us to witness the iconic sets we missed, it has also created an exhibition or retrospective of sorts, for we will see over the coming days how music, fashion and haircuts have changed.
It will, I suspect, be enlightening and surprising. This nostalgia – this opportunity to reflect – feels particularly fitting in these austere times. To look back on creative brilliance is restorative and reassures us that it can happen again. But as Glastonbury regulars never tire of telling you, it’s not really about the music.
And so we must address the elephant in the (front) room. How to recapture that sense of communal revelry that makes Glastonbury so intoxicating? Various initiatives – not, I appreciate, a word that screams “party” – have been set up, including #GlastoAtHome and “Glasthomebury”, which are encouraging people to recreate a mini-festival in their garden and post the pictures on social media. It’s a nice idea, and props to anyone who pitches a tent. But it might be better to think of community in less literal ways.
For the first time, this is a Glastonbury that we can all participate in together. Tickets are limitless; anyone can join in. What could be more a part of the Glastonbury ethos than inclusiveness? The pleasure of watching Glastonbury on television has previously been tempered by a suspicion that perhaps you are missing out and should have bought a ticket.
There is an inevitable “you-had-to-be-there” quality to all Glastonbury anecdotes. Not this time. Whether it turns out to be a triumph, in which we all laugh, drink too much and reminisce online, or a crashing disappointment, we will have experienced it together. It’s a lovely thing and may not happen again – with a fair wind, Glastonbury proper will be back next June.
The Glastonbury Experience will probably not be the festival you tell the grandchildren about – but I hope it won’t be a weekend we forget about in a hurry, either. And best of all, when the music stops and the fridge is empty, you can jump straight in the shower.