Getting down and dirty

Every wide-eyed reveller is an equal at Glastonbury. Or at least they were before Camp Kerala was conceived

News just in: at this year's Glastonbury, in among the unwashed multitudes, will be a select group of people who paid £6,000 to get in. In exchange, they will have also gained admittance to something called the Camp Kerala Village, whose residents are entitled to VIP tickets, hot showers, "as many towels as required and dressing gowns available for all", and a daily cooked breakfast. Among the optional extras are 24-hour room service providing "charcuterie, breads and cheese boards", and travel to and from the site - "including helicopter transfers". Almost all the places have apparently been sold, which rather begs the question of who on earth the lucky campers are - if anyone sees a guilty-looking huddle including Meg Matthews, Otis Ferry, Mick Hucknall and Paris Hilton, I suppose that might provide the answer.

The enterprise, to be located in farmland adjacent to the festival site, is reportedly the work of one Jenny Lederman, an ex-barrister and local resident. "People who went to the festival during the 1980s and 1990s and have now made a bit of money want to do it again," she reckons. "The festival is such a unique experience that once you have been there you just want to go back and back. This is for people who love Glastonbury and want to do it in luxury." Ms Lederman has assured any sceptics that this prohibitively expensive venture has "got the Glastonbury ethos running through it".

Sorry and everything, but what rot. Whatever the Glastonbury ethos is, it is certainly a little too egalitarian to extend to Camp Kerala's toffee-nosed principles. Moreover, "doing" Glastonbury almost certainly does not involve paying for people to see to your every need. Indeed, I would argue that the archetypal festival experience is built on three days of dirt, metabolic self-abuse and a mindset founded in the kind of frenzied pleasure that can easily teeter into screaming fear - ie at 4.15am in the stone circle, with eyes like dinner plates, having clean forgotten where all your belongings might be, you may experience a sudden flash of lucidity and want your mum. But that's all part of the fun, right?

In 16 years of festival-going, I have certainly never quite topped my first time at Glastonbury, during which comfort, well-being and cooked breakfasts were the last thing on my mind. Excuse the descent into old gittery, but the context here is very important: this was 1990, the last Glasto before the organisers let the police in, so whole swathes of the site amounted to the kind of street-market that specialised in rather more illicit goods than ponchos and emergency wellies. There was also only one stage, so once I'd seen Happy Mondays, I felt free to spend the next two days having a non-musical, mind-expanding look round.

And, god, the pleasures of roughing it! For want of anything else to smoke, my friends and I ended up inhaling the fumes from burning string (hemp-based, you understand), being handed out by some well-meaning druggy philanthropists. When it all became too much for our throats, we managed to find a travelling entrepreneur who would exchange his wares for a cheque (the image of him writing down the card number by torchlight was priceless). We lived, as I recall, on doughnuts and - when things got desperate - cold new potatoes, eaten straight from the tin. So delirious was the whole experience that on the last day, as Ladysmith Black Mambazo did their thing, I began to fall asleep with my head in a puddle. "Cor, look at him," said one passer-by. "He's well out of it." Really, I could have hugged them.

I recount all this not to lay claim to having been some kind of student Keith Richards, but simply to point out what having a good time at a festival should involve. Taking into account the opportunity to charge your mobile phone and the absence of a man who used to tour the camping areas each morning yelling, "Hash cake!", I am sure today's young Glasto-goers are looking forward to much the same kind of experience. But really - what washed-out, air-conditioned, impossibly ersatz version will be enjoyed by the inmates of Camp Kerala? If they're that apprehensive about the festival's rough edges, they'd be best advised to stay at home, employ some bespoke caterers and watch it on BBC2. And then hand over the £6,000 to Bob Geldof (or something).

One other thing, while I'm here. Back in 1970, when youth culture necessarily entailed a certain amount of wild rebellion, a bunch of hippy scenesters were so appalled by the idea of the Isle of Wight festival simply charging people to get in that they ripped down a section of the perimeter fence and thereby tried to make the whole thing free. In these rather more conformist days of Coldplay records and Uniqlo trousers, I wouldn't necessarily expect today's young trendies to follow suit, but still, if anyone finds Camp Kerala, maybe they could sneak inside and rebelliously leave some mud under the duvets, before making off with some cooked meats.


John Harris

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Basement Jaxx on life as Glastonbury headliners

How does it feel to be chosen to replace Kylie Minogue at Glastonbury? Helen Pidd meets Basement Jaxx.

Helen Pidd

17, Jun, 2005 @9:45 AM

Article image
Interview: Kasabian

The true spirit of Glastonbury is alive and well - but you'll find it at a farm in Leicester not Somerset. Dave Simpson meets Kasabian.

Dave Simpson

11, Jun, 2004 @3:18 PM

Article image
I'm still standing

Paul McCartney has sued the Beatles, fought Yoko and been called 'petty' by his old mate Ringo. But, preparing to headline this year's Glastonbury festival, he tells John Harris why the insults will never grind him down.

John Harris

11, Jun, 2004 @8:37 AM

Elasticated beats

Timo Maas does lubricious electro, Beverley Knight lets us know who she is, and Russell Crowe's band turns out to be quite good - plus the rest of this week's new pop releases.

Reviews by Dorian Lynskey, Caroline Sullivan, Dave Simpson and Maddy Costa

08, Mar, 2002 @6:28 PM

Article image
The making of Glastonbury - the movie

Julien Temple set out to make a film about 30 years of magical Glastonbury moments. But jugglers kept getting in the way. Alexis Petridis glimpses the 12-hour 'rough cut'.

Alexis Petridis

18, Jun, 2004 @1:50 AM

Article image
The Glastonbury effect

Next month, 150,000 people will lose themselves - and an important part of their brains - in a field in Somerset. Why? Alexis Petridis explains why this festival is like no other.

Alexis Petridis

30, May, 2003 @1:26 AM

Dirty Pretty Things

Peter Bradshaw: Knight's unusual script is an engrossing noir romance, couched in the language of both thriller and urban myth, and brought to life by three actors whose expertise is a joy to watch

Peter Bradshaw

13, Dec, 2002 @2:03 AM

Article image
Dirty pretty things

They played 'beautifully badly'. But Malcolm McLaren still fell in love with the New York Dolls - and became their manager. As the punk pioneers reunite for Morrissey's Meltdown, he relives their garish 1970s excesses. Below, today's bands pay tribute.

Malcolm McLaren

28, May, 2004 @2:00 AM

Article image
Gerard McBurney meets Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina

Sofia Gubaidulina's 'music of poverty' was born of Soviet repression and censorship - and was all the richer for it. Gerard McBurney meets her.

Gerard McBurney

12, Aug, 2005 @12:20 AM

Article image
Howard Feinstein on Gus Van Sant's new film, Last Days

Gus Van Sant's new film is about Kurt Cobain's last days. Or is it? Even the director doesn't seem sure. By Howard Feinstein

Howard Feinstein

05, May, 2005 @11:57 PM