Glasto turns religious

The Mail online headline today is “Glasto turns political,” as various “angry stars” protested the US Supreme Court’s decision on abortion. But it actually is better seen as finally coming out fully as a festival of a specific religious cult, that has become the established religion of Britain and the entire West.

And that is not simply because one rapper closed the festival in an “8,000-diamond encrusted crown of thorns,” though minimal thought will show you that this was as clear a symbolic anti-Christian gesture as an inverted cross would have been. And it was just as premeditated, since you can be pretty sure he didn’t commission a jeweller after the court’s decision last week, just as you can be sure that anyone seriously re-enacting Christ’s sufferings on the Cross would scarcely use 8,000 diamonds to do so.

No, this rather tedious echoing of what is called “progressive politics,” but which actually just reflects the mores of a senile elite, is of a piece with the platform given to Greta Thunberg and the virtual one given to this year’s fashionable hero, Volodymyr Zelensky. Glastonbury is now all about ideological beliefs being mindlessly celebrated by those in control of society, and therefore is in effect a State religious festival, much as one might see at Stonehenge in the Bronze age, or in Mecca at the Hajj.

Once one clearly sees Glastonbury to be a religious gathering, one also sees the whole conglomerate of fashionable causes as constituting a Cult, despite the apparent disparity of LGBTn, Climate Alarmism, COVID Compliance, the Ukrainian War, Veganism, Abortion Normalisation, Paedophilia, Abolition of National Borders and so on. And once one sees all these as facets of a rather incoherent religious system (though in the devil’s eyes, there is a strategic goal linking them all), it is only a foolish Christian who fails to see it all as a direct opponent of the faith they hold.

Let me contrast two other rock festivals I have attended (pretty much the only two, in fact). The Isle of Wight 1970 preceded the first Glastonbury Festival by several weeks, and was far, far, bigger. Yet it was still only one of many Woodstock lookalikes, ranging from the properly organised Bath Festival to the chaotic Phun City. All these vaguely arose from the Hippy ideals of Peace, Love, Pot and Profit, but to the vast majority of punters those were peripheral to the celebration of an “underground” music scene that justified travelling on trains resembling those after the relief of Dunkirk and living in squalor for several days. No doubt many of the beautiful young things (of both sexes) wished to be seen – but not with the expectation of appearing as celebrities in the news by extreme dressing or undressing, as seems de rigeur in Glastonbury.

In fact, the IoW 1970 was where I learned about press bias, as I picked up a copy of the Telegraph describing unhygienic horrors and mayhem far beyond anything actually going on, even with the parasitic presence of Danny Cohn-Bendit and his French anarchists. For politics was clearly parasitic on what was, primarily, a music festival. Even the most on-message performers only made vague references to peace in Vietnam, whilst there was ideological room for Pete Townshend to moan that they were performing in England for the first time in months to “a load of bloody foreigners.” And I’ve described in Seeing Through Smoke how it was the pelting (by Cohn-Bendit’s anarchists) of a church minister appealing for help in their care for those suffering after drug use that led the organisers to declare it, after a famous rant, a free festival. Maybe that act of capitulation sowed seeds for the success of cancel-culture now.

Greenbelt Festival, however, was an avowedly Christian event, though equally modeled, obviously, on Woodstock. I knew personally about half the acts in the first year, though I missed it myself doing street theatre evangelism with what became Riding Lights. But I played on its fringe myself from 1984-6, and even though it was a celebration of Evangelical Christianity, the range of expressions (including some less than orthodox, sadly) was wide, and warmly tolerated. You could get taught by Graham Cray or Os Guinness, celebrate a Taizé service or a Franciscan meditation, watch a sombre crowd of young punks singing to a small guitar on the bandstand, or listen to the famous Griff Pilchard almost singing his complaint that festival goers were all “Frogs, and we like mud” in some corner. That and After the Fire, of course.

Despite the Christian ethos, provision was made for helping drug and alchol abusers (I know Christians are not exempt from those vices, but the fact that the organisers were aware as well shows something). My brother, not a Christian, played with me the first year: he may have been offended by gospel messages from the stage, but no one took offence at him.

My point is that a true religious festival, as opposed to a cult celebration, is not a monoculture. Indeed, in 1985 my solo spots included a satirical dig at the whole culture of Greenbelt, and an unkind parody of Garth Hewett. Yet not only was it acceptable, but I got asked to play some extra gigs, including the very last set of the festival, after midnight at the Fringe and Scissors.

Fly-posted self-trumpeting, 1985.

But can you imagine taking a dig at Zelensky on one of the 100 Glastonbury stages? Can you imagine questioning the validity of climate science, as a Greenbelt speaker criticised Bible translators (mistakenly) for colonialist bias in African translations? The whole thing about the Woke Cult is conformity – a difficult balancing act when the dogma changes every five minutes, at an even higher rate than that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Can you imagine chatting freely with other festival-goers about your Christian commitment, and your disagreement with promoting abortion in a cynical crown of thorns?

Me on guitar synth with “Linda Pearce and Express Image,” 1986.

No, the world and his middle-aged wife are now regularly seen at Glastonbury, but I think the Christians should nowadays treat it as if it were a feast to Moloch. Yet they should also recognise that it demonstrates the Cultus of our leaders and institutions, much as feasts to Moloch did in the days of the later Old Testament kings. And we know how that all ended.

Greenbelt Time – Jon Garvey 1985

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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6 Responses to Glasto turns religious

  1. Robert Byers says:

    Never heard of glasto but if these so called stars believe they have the right to opine on this decision based on thier support for abortion in another country then why would the common people of america be denied it? It reveals , in a dumb way, these stars just want thier way and in arrogance don’t want mankind to decide. They are not democratic but elitist and probably because they believe they are better and matter more then the people including thier audience.
    Tossing out roe was saying THE PEOPLE WILL DECIDE. not saying abortion is illegal or not yet. Are these stars actuall judical experts? NO! So how do they know the constition deom the 1700’s supported a right to abortion? they don’t! AGA they just want thier way and curse and hate those in the way. Well they didn’t get thier way by this decision.
    It always shows the right side is not only smarter in the issue but secondary matters around the issue. It really does show one side is smarter and morally better then the other and thats why contentious issues are not a roll of the dice. Demographics cluster on same conclusion on a list of issues.
    I welcome these stars in this gathering being in a grand consensus on the issues. How is accomplishment in music and acting in the UK these days? Pretty bad here in North America.

    • Jon Garvey says:

      The biblical picture of “the fool” isn’t that he lacks smartness, but that he is not morally (ie theologically) grounded. The intellect therefore gets wasted in making abstruse arguments for false ideological positions… that is until the effort gets too much and you just start shouting down your opponents.

      The same goes for music and acting, sadly – if your skills are wasted on jumping through ideological hoops you’re not producing anything of artistic worth. But if you don’t jump through the hoops, you don’t get work anyway.

  2. Gordon says:

    Just back from Glastonbury! I can’t remember exactly how many I’ve been to, I’ve only missed one since 2004. Speaking to my sister after, who wasn’t there but has been to a few, her first remark was it looked amazing, so much so, that many of her friends are thinking of making the trip from Scotland next year.

    Now, Jane stopped going in 2009, I think, because she felt it was starting to feel like what Magalluf would probably be like (sorry for the Magalluf prejudice, I’m sure it’s actually very nice). People dropping litter and food everywhere, even on each other, as they staggered around before passing out, lying in their their own detritus.

    Fast forward 13 years and I can report it’s worse than ever. The mess is truly horrific. If anyone there really cared for the environment or indeed the planet, they are now in the smallest of minorities…. Probably tucked away in the Green Fields, the only quiet area of the festival left.

    Thankfully, I missed Greta. But, the sheer hypocrisy of blaming world leaders for the planet’s condition and not the very audience in front of her is astounding. I believe Eavis himself, who I still have great respect for, stated that the best thing for the planet would be to not have Glastonbury.

    Surprisingly, the Download festival we went to a couple of weeks earlier was much cleaner, and the music was better. Even more surprisingly, my 8yr old middle son remarked there was less swearing at Download. I guess that’s what happens when a bunch of middle-aged Iron Maiden and Kiss fans have a festival.

    We have the Beautiful Days festival left this year which I’m thoroughly looking forward too. Great size, very clean, lovely people… the politics still isn’t to my taste but I can keep my mouth shut, sometimes. We’ll probably have so much fun we’ll book Glastonbury again (probably).

  3. Jon Garvey says:

    The mess is truly horrific. If anyone there really cared for the environment or indeed the planet, they are now in the smallest of minorities…. Probably tucked away in the Green Fields, the only quiet area of the festival left.

    The press had a field day on the mess (single-use plastic = a tent!), but I didn’t want to take the stories at face-value. But now I have a witness! There is clearly a message there about the prevalence of virtue-signalling: we all wave environmental flags, but then chuck them in the hedgerow without a thought. How much better to refuse to wave the things in the first place! I guess if you can afford £250 a throw you don’t worry about folding a tent (IoW 1970 cost a fiver, and the Left still moan that music lovers were exploited, even as they pack into Glastonbury).

    I guess that’s what happens when a bunch of middle-aged Iron Maiden and Kiss fans have a festival.

    Perhaps its the difference between an event for a shared purpose and an event for the fashionable to be seen at. Blind conformity was ever thus, of course – Hendrix hated the fact that, having once burned a guitar, he was expected to do the same every time by those who didn’t have a clue about the music.

    My main beef, though, is when the artists are there to be seen to comply with the fashionable norm. That too was ever thus – even I was invited to play at events in support of the striking miners (but didn’t), but no musician would have dared stage a concert in support of Margaret Thatcher, even if they despised Arthur Scargill. But it’s reached a stage now where State, Media and Culture are indistinguishable. McCartney recruits mercenaries for Zelensky.

  4. Gordon says:

    “Perhaps its the difference between an event for a shared purpose and an event for the fashionable to be seen at”

    You’ve hit the nail on the head there, Glastonbury is all about being seen. Metal fans revel in being unfashionable (although there’s obviously a certain fashion to that too!). Everyone dresses up at Glastonbury, at Download they wear the same kit they wear in normal life (black is popular) but don’t stick out for a change. It all feels far less judgemental. Despite modern woke norms, my long-haired 8-yr-old wasn’t referred to as a girl once at Download but constantly at Glastonbury. You see it in the music too. The most commercial band, Biffy Clyro, drew the smallest crowd despite being a brilliant act.

    Glastonbury prides itself on free-speech, equality and care for the environment but that’s so far from the truth. I love a good debate but, like Brexit, debate is only tolerated if it’s united in hatred of capitalism. Equality and the environment means millionaire celebrities flying in private jets for guest appearances while everyone congratulates themselves on banning drinking straws. Brazilian thrash-metal band Sepultura (played to a packed-out tent at Download) have a song Mass Hypnosis which seems pretty apt 🙂

    I’ll still probably go to both again next year, I’m part of the problem!

    • Jon Garvey says:

      Despite modern woke norms, my long-haired 8-yr-old wasn’t referred to as a girl once at Download but constantly at Glastonbury.

      That’s what comes of not wearing a badge with your pronouns (thee, thou, thine). But half-seriously, I’m sure your son suffered no real harm, though by rights being misgendered is a hate-crime worthy of a visit from the local constabulary.

      Since you mention the private jet hypocrisy, please indulge me as I share an extra verse I did to the song in the OP. I actually wrote it at Greenbelt when it was suggested I might be asked to record the song for their “Hits of Greenbelt” album, or something (though it never happened in the end):

      Before you know it, there you are:
      They’ve made me a recording star.
      Now I can buy a new guitar
      With knobs on the side.
      I’ll do my hair like Howard Jones,
      Wear leather clothes and precious stones,
      And sing about starvation zones
      Where thousands have died.

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