Taking Acid At Glastonbury, 1992

The biggest festival in the UK kicks off today. I remember it as a plucky 14 year old in the days before the 'superfence'.
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The biggest festival in the UK kicks off today. I remember it as a plucky 14 year old in the days before the 'superfence'.

“Es, trips, whizz! Es, trips, whizz!” shouted a crusty bloke, with matted dreadlocks, a tatty black leather jacket and para boots, as he sat on a drystone wall. He was the fifth dealer we passed on the route to the festival gate and was as inconspicuous as an east London market trader. Motorbikes sped up and down as traveller's vans crept by. It was like a scene out of Mad Max. It's was Glastobury, 1992, and my fourteen year-old eyes were peeled wide open.

The official capacity was 70,000 but considering the amount of people we saw going through gaps in, or tunnels under the fence, it must have been much higher. All kinds of people from punks to rude boys and crusties to rastas mingled together in the blistering Somerset sunshine. Some people even wandered around stark naked. One bloke, trundled by the main stage as Ozric Tentacles played. Pushing his belongings in a shopping trolley. He was totally nude bar a straw sun-hat on his head. His arse cheeks were as red as a happy drinker's face in a sun-trapped beer garden.

When the evening drew in, the festival really came to life. The crowds swelled with even more arrivals as emergency vehicles sped around and the sea of tents and people threatened to burst the site at the seams.

"Stick together and look out for each other," the adults told a couple of the other teenagers and me, "if you get lost or split up, remember which gate to go to and meet us back at the tents. And don't try to buy any drugs, they'll only sell you paracetamol anyway."

"Yeah of course, we wouldn't do that," we reassured them.

There was one major route from the gate to the main stage which went over a bridge. Stationed there was a group of cockneys in black bomber jackets and baseball caps, they had a stereo blasting out hardcore. They'd picked a perfect bottleneck for a stall. Only they didn't actually have a stall. And they were selling drugs. We bought 3 tiny little pieces of white paper.
"White lightnings, man, wicked trips!" said the girl we each paid £4 to. Doubting they'd do anything, we slipped them under our tongues.

At the main stage we found a spot in front of the sound desk and sat waiting for the evening's head-liners, indie-punk gobshites Ned's Atomic Dustbin.

When they kicked off they were loud. Very loud. It was well over an hour since we took the tabs. Nothing had happened and we'd decided we'd been robbed. Not hard really, selling tiny bits of paper to 14 year-olds for £4 a pop. But, as the first song erupted from the speakers I began to tingle from my feet, all the way up to my scalp. My mouth dried and my jaw became lose. I stood up and could barely feel my feet as electric butterflies took over my stomach. I looked at the others and straight away knew they felt the same. All of a sudden, Ned's Atomic Dustbin sounded fucking amazing. We were tripping our faces off.

The rest of the night was spent stumbling from place to place in hysterical fits of laughter. I laughed so much I almost thought I'd pissed myself, although as my legs had gone numb, I couldn't tell for sure. At one point I was sat on the ground, feeling the grass and looking at the trails of my fingers as they moved in front of my face. I became aware of people around me, legs bumping into me and feet stepping over me. I found myself in the middle of an impromptu rave as one of the cafés cranked up its sound system.

We finally sneaked back to the tents in the early hours and I got into bed under the bizarre impression that I'd be able to sleep. I laid there for hours, listening to the hardcore sound system that was further down the field. I popped my head out now and then to see if the same, solitary rasta was dancing on his own.

I returned to Glastonbury in 1999 when I was twenty-one. I'd bought a ticket over the counter at HMV. Because you could then. The overcrowding was too much, criminality was rife and blatant. I saw a lad being mugged at knife-point while a scruffy old biker tried to sell me smak. All of our tents were robbed as gangs of scallies worked their way round the camp. Some unfortunates had their entire tents stolen. To get from one field to the next, the gates became such bottlenecks that they turned into a crush. I tried to watch Rolf Harris play in a marquee. It was so packed I had to stand twenty feet from the door, trying to catch a glimpse over the crowd as he wobble-boarded his way through Stairway to Heaven. I drank so much on the Saturday that I passed out while Underworld plaid Born Slippy.

I went again in 2000 but this time I didn't pay. My friend, a cousin and I parked in Pilton and walked to the site at dawn. It didn't take us long to find a spot where the outer fence was broken and lent against the main wall to climb over under the watch of a security tower. The guards just pointed and laughed. It was the same all along the perimeter as thousands of people invaded the site. Up at the stone circle, an entire 50m section of the fence didn't exist. Security on horseback pretended to guard it. Every few minutes a group of festival goers would appear on the other side to a loud chorus of “RUN!” from the thousands sat by the stones. Each time, the rucksack laden revellers went for it, sprinting past the horse guards who sat there and did nothing. Whoever Michael Eavis had hired for security had well and truly mugged him.

On the Sunday morning my cousin disappeared for a few hours.
“Where’d you go?” I asked him when he finally reappeared.
“I went for a poo.”
“What took you so long?”
“All the bogs were covered in shite. So I broke out, found a quiet place in the woods, then broke back in.”

The following year the festival took a break, before returning with the super fence in 2002. I've not been back since. I hear it's quite different.