There are Glastonbury T-shirts, hoodies and babygrows. But Richard Guy, 70, has come up with another must-have piece of festival merchandise: the Glastonbury pill box.
Not, to be clear, for tablets of the mind-bending variety. Rather, he said, for the older reveller who needs their daily medication during the five-day party.
“They would sell more than Glastonbury T-shirts,” said Guy. “It would be the only pill box that went from Wednesday to Sunday and not the whole week.”
Guy and his friend, Paul Donbavand, 68, have been to more festivals in the past five years than most twentysomethings, including Coachella in California and at Benicàssim in Spain. Glastonbury topped the lot, said Donbavand, because it embraced the more mature revellers.
“At Coachella we explained to some Californians that we were there to see some techno DJ, not Lady Gaga. And they were hugging us saying: ‘What? You old fuckers?!’
“People were patting us on the back, saying: ‘Well done, pops.’ There’s none of that here,” said Donbavand, before rushing off to watch a raucous Libertines set officially open this year’s Other stage.
The question of age has come into focus at this year’s Glastonbury, which is celebrating its delayed 50th anniversary by hosting its youngest ever headliner, 20-year-old Billie Eilish, followed by its oldest in 80-year-old Paul McCartney.
The average age of Glastonbury headliners has increased steadily in the past 15 years. When Prodigy, Radiohead and Ash topped the bill in 1997, the average age was 26 years and five months. This year it is 45 years and two months, even with Eilish, although that is down slightly on the average age of 49 when the festival last went ahead in 2019.
Glastonbury has never collected demographic data about its 138,000 ticketholders, but it has always attracted a generally older crowd than other festivals. For some it has become as much a UK institution as the BBC Proms. With more than 500 marquees and 100 stages, it is no cliche to say there is something for everybody at Glastonbury.
“It’s a festival for everybody, all ages,” said Karen Kelsall, 62. “You can wear anything, be who you want to be – dress up, don’t dress up.”
For all the drug-addled carnage, mosh pits and mud baths, there are incongruous elements of serenity. At Glastonbury’s only cream tea stand – where the motto is “civility before debauchery” – Lynda Green and her husband Michael Green, both 70, had stepped away from the chaos to enjoy a civilised refreshment.
Lynda – attending her 20th Glastonbury – said she enjoyed the “very much more relaxed” feel to parts of the Somerset festival, as well as the variety of food and music on offer. “There are no other cream tea stalls – we’ve been looking for this one,” she said, sipping from a china cup. “We’ll go to the other stages as well – we won’t eat cream teas all the time!”
Lynda said she was looking forward to seeing Rufus Wainwright and Robert Plant, but was in two minds about whether to watch the festival’s main attraction, Paul McCartney. “I’m not too fussed,” she said. “He’s 80, isn’t he. I’m not sure his voice is up to it so much any more, sorry.”
Her husband, Michael, who has been going to Glastonbury for about 20 years as an Oxfam volunteer, felt there was a real buzz about this year’s festivities after the two-year hiatus. “There’s a real excitement in the air,” he said.
Robin Berry, a 62-year-old medical volunteer, had also sought refuge at the tea stand. “It’s just a nice place to have a little sit down and meet other people,” he said, sat alongside his wife, Eileen Berry, 56, as hundreds of scantily clad people stumbled past their tea stand.
“I mean, how many little tea shops have thousands of people walking past dressed in all sorts of bits and pieces.”