‘We came and we conquered’: the Glastonbury I’ll never forget, by Skin, Rufus Wainwright and others | Glastonbury festival

‘We really felt like underdogs – but we smashed it’

The first time we played Glastonbury was when we were just starting out. We were first on the NME stage, at noon, except we didn’t have the right passes. We were trying to argue ourselves in, saying: “We’re supposed to be on stage right now!” We got in after 10 minutes, just in normal clothes, played four songs, and that was it – but we smashed it.

Then the next time we played Glastonbury, in 1999, we were headlining. But even though we were a band that was firing on all cylinders by that point, we really felt like underdogs. There was this attitude that you had to be a certain type of rock or Britpop band to be allowed to play Glastonbury. In the 90s, we constantly felt that we were having to prove ourselves. Then we walked on stage to the most thunderous, crazy welcome, with all the flags flying. I could see people all the way back, right up to the tents, and it was just this amazing gig. At the end, I said: “Shall we do another song?” and you’d never heard a louder Yes!” in your life. We felt like, “Yeah, we did it!” We came to Glastonbury and we conquered. Skin, lead singer of Skunk Anansie

‘My eyes met those of a man in the Green Fields tent’

Sarah Phillips and her husband-to-be at Glastonbury.
Sarah Phillips and her husband-to-be at Glastonbury. Photograph: Courtesy of Sarah Phillips

For me, walking through the gates to Glastonbury is like arriving at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. I first started going when I was 15 and won tickets, and have had so many “Glastonbury moments” over the years with the important people in my life. My most memorable Glastonbury was 2007, when my eyes met those of a man in a crowded tent in the Green Fields, which my friends and I had chanced upon, drawn to the kind of beats you need at 2am. We chatted for hours, he bought me a chai, and we exchanged numbers. The next day we went on our first date, which included a massage in the Healing Field, vodka jellies, watching Babyshambles and a wild night at the Rabbit Hole, telling everyone who would listen our story. Truly, there is nowhere more romantic than Glastonbury, even on the muddiest of years, as it was. At the end of the weekend, we went our separate ways and I wondered if I would ever see him again. Eight years later we got married. I can’t wait to go back with the kids. Sarah Phillips, writer and editor

‘Keith Richards’ manager saw me and I got to cut in front of Prince Harry’

When the Rolling Stones were playing Glastonbury, we were waiting backstage to get into their inner sanctum. Prince Harry was waiting, too. I remembered a few years before that, when I was going to see the Killers play in Hyde Park, and I was waiting to go backstage to say hi to [the band’s singer] Brandon Flowers. Then Harry cut in front of me – they let him and his posse in ahead, and I had to wait outside. Then the band had to go on stage so I never got to say hi to Brandon.

So here we were at Glastonbury, many years later, in a similar situation and Harry and I were waiting to go backstage and see the Rolling Stones. He was in front of me, and then Keith Richards’ manager came out and saw me, and I got to cut in front of Prince Harry. He looked kind of bewildered, but it was all in good fun, and he made it in eventually. It was a funny little reversal of fortune.

One of the times I played Glastonbury, in 2005, it was really hot, and everybody was sweating. I’d worn a three-piece suit, so I was boiling. Glastonbury is the place where you’re supposed to be crazy and do whatever you want, so I took off my jacket and my shirt. This was many years ago, when I was slim and, I felt, warranted to be shirtless. In the middle of the show, I got a message from my manager – who I subsequently fired – who said, “Put your shirt back on.” It was like my mom had called, but I wasn’t going to let anything take me down – and I didn’t put my shirt on. Rufus Wainwright, singer, songwriter and composer

‘We bonded over a dedication to finding the party while battling the elements’

If festivals are a true test of friendship then the ones made at Worthy farm are surely forged in steel. It’s where I met one of my best buds, Hannah, in 2014 and where we bonded over our herculean dedication to finding the party while battling the elements. Sure, you’re forever holding your pal’s drink outside a portable toilet, but have you ever climbed up a mudslide together? This is the kind of weather-related trauma specific to Glastonbury that binds for life.

During a monsoon year, the only way to reach the Crow’s Nest, the festival’s highest tent – where, illogically, we simply had to dance – was to attempt to scale a real-life fudge mountain. On we went, steadying each other, desperate not to slip, sharing a look that said “we must stick together or we will die”, and arrived an hour later just as the final song played. Everyone held hands in a giant circle to the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows. It was then that I knew our friendship could withstand anything, even being hundreds of miles apart.

Hannah has lived outside the UK for years now but we still go to every Glastonbury in search of that warm, fuzzy Beach Boys feeling. Kate Hutchinson, journalist and broadcaster

‘I left a muddy Glastonbury early – and learned to stay until the bitter end’

A young woman and young man, both completely muddy from head to toe, embrace
Down and dirty … Glasto in 1997. Photograph: PA Images/Alamy

I arrived at Glastonbury 1997 on a coach, containing the staff of the magazine I worked for. Some of them were even less prepared for what awaited us than I was: a manager’s girlfriend was wearing – and I’m not making this up – a white trouser suit, a bold choice for Glastonbury regardless of the weather. Within minutes of arriving, she burst into tears. It was an endless sea of mud, so deep it sucked the wellingtons off your feet. People staggered about, covered in mud because they’d fallen over, a state of affairs too horrendous to contemplate until it happened to me. It seemed to be raining horizontally. One of the stages had apparently collapsed. I don’t remember seeing any bands, and I felt convinced that it would be impossible to enjoy myself.

I left on Saturday morning. Radiohead were headlining that night but I couldn’t imagine their emotional tenor would improve my mood. A friend who had stayed called me on Monday, telling me I’d made a mistake. He was the first person I heard describing Radiohead’s 1997 Glastonbury performance in terms that subsequently became familiar: incredible, career-defining, epochal. That was a lesson about sticking out Glastonbury regardless, and I’ve stayed to the bitter end ever since. Alexis Petridis, music critic

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