‘I chatted about the weather with Janet Jackson’: the Glastonbury festival I’ll never forget | Glastonbury festival

‘Glastonbury has shaped my life’

Lauren on stage with Kenickie in 1997
Lauren on stage with Kenickie in 1997. Photograph: Martyn Goodacre/Getty

I first went to Glastonbury to play in a band [Kenickie], then with friends, and then for work. I’ve covered each event since 2002 and it’s a huge privilege to bring the festival into people’s homes. Glastonbury has shaped my life. I went from staying up all night to cutting my teeth on my first live broadcast with John Peel. He had skinned his knees rushing back after watching Kanda Bongo Man. I made a cheeky remark and he said: “You’re made for this shit, aren’t you?” Callow youth that I was, I took it as an enormous compliment. Now that I’m 44, I can see that it may have been more of a comment on showbiz. But I thought that, since he thought I was good (and he knew everything), I had better make a go of this new job – and I’m very glad I did.

Now my husband and I take our kids, who have grown up with Glastonbury too. I wonder how they will feel in years to come, knowing they were there watching Paul McCartney play Get Back? Sometimes it’s not until afterwards that you realise you were part of fleeting magic. I was in the Bowie audience as a punter in 2000. I marvel at that footage, knowing I was in the crowd, in some small way sharing a moment in his extraordinary life. Lauren Laverne, TV and radio presenter (Catch up on Laverne’s 6 Music programmes from Glastonbury 2022 on BBC Sounds and BBC iPlayer)

‘Janet Jackson’s brow furrowed at the sight of my sunburn’

Chris Godfrey and Michael Cragg with Janet Jackson
Guardian journalists Chris Godfrey and Michael Cragg with the actual Janet Jackson at Glasto. Photograph: Courtesy of Michael Cragg

There are always rumours swirling backstage at Glastonbury: so-and-so is doing a secret set by a bin in the hidden Babylon field, or a hologram of Tupac is joining Coldplay onstage for a rendition of Fix You. So when, in 2019, the chatter started that living legend Janet Jackson was keen to meet a few journalists backstage, I assumed it was nonsense. Then a text arrived from her PR: “Meet me at the press tent ASAP.”

Fast-forward 10 frantic minutes and there she was, standing in front of me in a makeshift lounge, her expression a mix of beatific smile and furrowed brow at the sight of my untreated sunburn. While other journalists filed in, Ms Jackson and I had a brief chat about the weather and, I think, the wonders of Stonehenge (the probable heat stroke had made my head feel funny). For our photo, I mentioned that when I met Lady Gaga (I know) she had climbed on a chair to be as tall as me for a picture. So Janet asked for the same. The resulting photo manages not only to capture my excitement, but also my worry at the thought of Janet Jackson falling off a chair and snapping an ankle. Michael Cragg, music journalist

‘I’ve never felt love like that before – it really was electric’

‘Something I could only have dreamt of as a kid’ … Mahalia on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury 2019.
‘Something I could only have dreamt of as a kid’ … Mahalia on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury 2019. Photograph: Richard Isaac/Shutterstock

My favourite Glastonbury moment was the second time I played the festival, back in 2019. There was a heatwave that weekend so we were all unbelievably excited and I was playing the John Peel stage, but had no idea what I was in for. Backstage, I freaked out when I realised how many people would be in that tent. My manager had told me it would be a crowd of about 6,000, but when I looked out from the stage it felt like 60,000. I’ve never felt love like that before – it really was electric. Being there in that moment, on that magical, sunny weekend, was something I could only have dreamt of as a kid. It was so good, we decided to stay for a couple of days and I had the best time. Mahalia, singer-songwriter

‘I stepped straight into the long-drop toilet’

Laura’s Glastonbury leg, with purple bruise
‘Next day I had a brutal purple bruise’ … Laura’s Glastonbury leg. Photograph: Courtesy of Laura Snapes

I hated my first Glastonbury in 2011. It was inconceivably huge and I am terrible at directions. I worked for NME and our office was a damp, cramped bus. On the Saturday evening, in a somewhat elevated state, I encountered my first long-drop toilet. I didn’t realise you were supposed to squat in front of it and hover over the hole. Instead, I clambered onto the wooden platform, standing either side of said hole. Then I stepped straight down it.

I have a regrettably lucid memory of what happened next. A small mercy: my mid-thigh was about the circumference of the aperture, so I only went so far in. And the long drop is mercifully long, so my foot dangled above the lake of horror below. I hoisted myself out – God knows how, considering my 22-year-old biceps were honed on little but furious typing and holding pints. And then … I stepped straight back down it.

Next day, I had a brutal purple bruise ornamented by rows of splintery scratches. My boss gave me a pretend bollocking outside the bus for the benefit of our colleagues. They were relieved I wasn’t dead, and he knew I had suffered enough. (I also had raw ankles from having binned my tights to go barefoot inside my wellies.) I made up the review I was meant to write (5/5, very moving) and went to the first-aid tent (more small mercies), where they disinfected me and said it was the worst thing they had seen all weekend.

For a while afterwards, I had nightmares about being submerged in the depths of the long drop. In time they faded, along with the bruise, and I made it back to Glastonbury to create some entirely non-shit, cherished memories. Laura Snapes, deputy music editor

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