Monday, 14 June 2010

Brendan O'Neill Is Utterly Wrong About Glastonbury

Brendan O'Neill has written a fairly silly article for the Spectator this week in which he complains about Glastonbury becoming "middle aged, middle class and authoritarian."  It is fairly clear from the article that Mr O'Neill hasn't been to the Festival much in recent years.  What isn't clear is why this former writer  for Living Marxism is now earning his shillings writing Glastonbury bashing pieces for the Spectator.

I will be pretty clear about this.  I'm going to Glastonbury next week and I cannot wait.  For me, the joy of Glastonbury is the sheer diversity on offer - the mix of music, the mix of ages, the mix of all kinds of entertainment make it a Festival without comparison.  

On one day (Sunday), I can see the buzzing new band The Drums, I can see MGMT and Julian Casablancas, I can see some of the hottest new dance acts in the various dance tents, and some great new acts on the John Peel stage and other stages.  On the same day, I can also see soul legend Stevie Wonder.  

No other Festival can offer this kind of variety.  The hottest new bands want to play Glastonbury as do the most established stars (Jay Z, Neil Young and Springsteen in the past few years).  When a band plays at Glastonbury as the sun is setting, something remarkable happens that is without parallel.  That is why the variety of people and ages at Glastonbury is so great.  That is what gives the Festival its own unique charm.

There are also some absurd comments made by O'Neill in his piece, which have to be addressed.

He says: "Some say the yoof abandoned Glasto because it became too expensive, because the acts consist of boring, bloated World Music types, because there are other, smaller festivals — V, Reading — where they can watch bands their dads do not like."

Well he clearly hasn't been the soulless, sanitised, commercial festivals such as V and Reading, which (V in particular) often has far more conservative and restrictive line ups than Glastonbury.  He clearly doesn't understand that Glastonbury isn't just about "boring, bloated World Music types" nor does he understand that the 'smaller festivals' he mentions are pretty much as expensive as Glastonbury, yet offer about 10% of the Acts.  But why let the facts get in the way of an argument that panders to the prejudices of your magazine's readers?

He goes on to complain about Glastonbury becoming authoritarian.  By this, he seems to mean that they have co-operated with the Police in order to bring about a substantial reduction in on site crime or maintain the licence that allows them to run the largest and best Festival in Europe.

He then goes on to make an absurd argument.  He complains about the Glastonbury 'authorities' encouraging attendees to practise safe sex.  This is a patently absurd, attention grabbing, nonsensical criticism of any music event.

O'Neill can continue to act as the self appointed voice of young people in a right wing magazine.  While he does that, young people will continue to descend on Glastonbury, for a Festival that sells out in record numbers.  Doubtless, he will enjoy the BBC's coverage next week while the rest of us enjoy one of the greatest cultural events that Europe has to offer.


  1. I think most of the old Living Marxism crowd took a sharp turn to the right: in the same way as the neo-cons in the 'States all seem to be ex-trots....

  2. I agree with all of this and was there this year but then I'm not THAT Brendan O'Neill


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