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Oliver Fortune retreats to his lair


Although an occasional visitor to what in my youth were described as ‘pop festivals’, I have never been to Glastonbury – the 2014 version of which took place over the weekend – and probably never will. You can call me old-fashioned – or even just old – if you wish, but I do not care. My reason is the same one that, to all intents and purposes, has caused me to give up attending sporting events in the flesh.

I cannot stand the people. Or rather, the crowds.

Thinking about it, I guess my attitude also has something to do with not wishing to waste my time. When you pass the age of sixty, a vague notion dawns upon you that time is short and you don’t wish to spend more of it than you have to queuing to go to the lavatory, to get a drink, to get to and from home to reach a stadium gathering.

Plus, of course, the fact that in this wonderful modern age of technological advance, for all its frustrations which I shall neither bother to list nor moan about, you obtain a far better view of the action involved via the television than you ever can sitting in a bucket seat, surrounded by other members of the public. Sadly, the great British unwashed seem biologically programmed to stand up, wave flags, arrive late, disappear for food, drink or comfort breaks halfway through – a considerable disruption to those of us intent only upon watching the action – and (all around you, be they superficially intelligent or not), in discussing what is happening upon the field of play, talk complete balls.

But back to Glastonbury.

From Thursday onwards, as I understand it, the remaining staff of the BBC that had not decamped to Wimbledon, or indeed to Brazil for the World Cup, had set off for their annual jamboree in Somerset, hob-knobbing with the musicians and festival-goers.

From my 24/7 position on the sofa in front of the domestic 72 inch television, whenever proceedings at the tennis, soccer or athletics were off-air, or had become tedious, I channel-hopped to one of the BBC channels (BBC3 and BBC4 seemed saturated, BBC2 only slightly less so) covering Glastonbury.

My overall impression was disappointing.

Firstly, BBC3 – allegedly concentrating upon the younger audience – seemed to be specialising in (to me) obscure artistes, both on stage and in their hastily-assembled ‘studio’. In the latter, the general inarticulateness of your average musician was thereby exposed to general view, only exceeded by the crassness and vacuity of the ‘youngish’ presenters chosen for the task of interviewing them.

It was amateursville cranked up to the tenth degree and thereby virtually unwatchable.

StonesSecondly, what came home to me with bells on was how musical performance, unlike its sporting counterpart, can be ‘reduced’ by being televised.

I say that because last year (2013) the Rolling Stones – one of my favourite live performing bands, whom I have seen half a dozen times on stage – headlined and delivered what was regarded as one of the all-time great Glastonbury gigs – even by my daughter, who was there to see it.

I made a special point of watching it ‘live’ on television but was sadly under-whelmed. All the prancing and energy that Jagger put into his performance may well have been great to see from a hundred yards away if you were surrounded by tens of thousands of people eager to enjoy themselves, but it definitely lost something in being broadcast a couple of hundred miles to my front room, where I was sitting solo and confidently expecting to ‘blown away’.

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran

I take no pleasure in stating that, over this past weekend, during which I witnessed parts of the sets played by Robert Plant [the Led Zeppelin rock god singer, here looking about 110], Ed Sheeran – the twenty-something, ginger-haired, singer/guitarist whom I know by reputation to be both highly-regarded and successful [as dull as ditch water], Lilly Allen [resolutely average] and young American starlet Lana Del Ray [desperately unimpressive], my ‘disconnect’ via television endured.

It occurred to me that perhaps a key requirement of appreciating festival music is that ‘you really had to be there’. The allegedly 180,000 people who attended this year’s Glastonbury seemed to be enjoying the performances.

Hopefully, that was/is the case because, from where I was watching, I was immensely smug and glad that I wasn’t there.




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About Oliver Fortune

A doctor formerly specialising in sexual health, Oliver has written widely on matters relating to sex, relationships and counselling. He is divorced and has one daughter. He is a keen skier and mountain biker. More Posts