An empty pop-up tent rolls stiltedly, like a tumbleweed with back trouble, across a landscape of forgotten things. I fight briefly with it. I do surprisingly badly in the tent versus supposedly-young-and-fit-man tussle, but reassert my manhood to a bunch of slightly hung-over onlookers by growling and telling them that I think I won.
I only use the word “forgotten” because it’s more poetic, though. The stuff left behind post-Glasto was truly astronomical in scale. I’d guess that fully 33% of people had “forgotten” their tents entirely. And half or so of them had forgotten everything in them. This level of waste was at once incomprehensibly repulsive and incomprehensibly surreal.
It seemed, to borrow a phrase from H. G. Wells, like “the rout of civilisation”. It would not have been surprising to learn to hulking metal machines had ripped through a refugee camp and left this wreckage in their terrible wake.
Even to walk through it could not ram home the scale and absurdity of consumerism and laziness. It seemed as though ground zero stretched to infinity. Blackened circles of charred wood where once camp-fires burned, the limp flapping of half-guyed tents in the brisk wind, programmes, tubs of sweets, sleeping bags encrusted with mud, and distant moving dots, the astonished and the appalled, moving through the destruction. It was not until this point, weaving through the remnants of an impossibly good time, that the festival site had seemed so huge.
It is a sad age where disposable income has outstripped the value of goods. A tent, at £40, is a snip on a weekend where the tickets alone set you and the friend back £150 apiece. The question begged by rational choice economic theory is why the Hell you’d pack away that worthless piece of mud-spattered canvas when you could save fifteen minutes now and buy a new, clean one for next year. The question begged by living on a planet with dwindling resources in a country with overflowing landfills is when the Hell was capitalism a moral system anyway?
Glastonbury is meant to be a green festival. It’s got hippie roots; it gives money to, amongst others, Greenpeace; my job title was not litter-picker, but recycler, and an impressive quantity of waste is recycled at the festival. Between acts, the giant LED TV screens compelled you to sign up to I Count which, they suggested, would help stop climate chaos. 70,000 people took its advice—approaching 50% of festival-goers—and yet, if I guessed correctly, about a third of people left their tents behind. I know no statistically-certain inference can be drawn from these two numbers, but it’s hard to imagine that the groups don’t overlap just a little bit. The hypocrisy of those in the middle of the Venn diagram is moronic.
The Who had it right. Truly this was a Teenage Wasteland.
Though I couldn’t spot a Pinball Wizard for the life of me.