Irvine Welsh on Glastonbury: 'You build a city in a field and make your own rules'

There’s no other music festival like it, says the author, who describes past misadventures and the party tune playlist for his guest DJ slot

I did a walking tour of Spain this year, the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James. I walked the whole thing. It ends in the town of Santiago de Compostela, where you stay in a huge former monastery. It was lovely. Glastonbury feels like an extension of that, because you’re walking all the time.

I went to my first Glastonbury in the 80s but I don’t remember who the main acts were, or even if I had a good time. That was kind of irrelevant back then. You just sort of took off on these suicide missions. That would destroy me now. I can’t go full-on nuts any more. These days, I’ll have some red wine, meet some friends, have some posh food.

There is something distinctly British about Glastonbury, but then there’s something distinctly British about music festivals. You don’t really have anything like it in America. They’ve tried to get them to catch on, but they are for local people, always in or near cities and people mostly go home at night or stay in hotels. I’ve been to them all – Coachella, that big one in Chicago. They’re a bit like American football: couples and families go along together.

Britain really knows how to do festivals. I love the way you can bump into a bunch of lassies and it feels like a hen party, or a bunch of guys behaving like they’re in Ibiza. You do get families, though, and there’s stuff for them. That’s the beauty. You just sort of build a city in the middle of a field and make your own rules. It’s utopian postindustrial life as it should be – a guide to where we are going.

Here’s to music festivals … author Irvine Welsh.
Here’s to music festivals … author Irvine Welsh. Photograph: Andrew Gilchrist/The Guardian

I am DJing this year. Glastonbury isn’t chin-strokey. It’s party tunes, everyone having a good time. I play Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, some Donna Summer remixes, Don’t Leave Me This Way. Make it upbeat, make it party, make it fun, and close with Born Slippy, one of the best tunes ever.

Glastonbury really comes alive when the bands are finished. That’s when I like it most, when all these mad acid house clubs get going. There’s millions of them, I forget their names. I was going to see the Proclaimers this year but they were on too early, at midday. I’m just going to bed then.

Interview by Andrew Gilchrist


Irvine Welsh

The GuardianTramp

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