Friday seems to hit with a bit of a bang at Glastonbury – after the calm of Thursday which sees only a few bands dotted around the site everything kicks into gear. Luckily I’ve already had my trip to the Vanity Van, and thus welcome the festival proper with newly painted nails. Though not normally one to worry about appearances, the calm of the Vanity Van which is filled to the brim with equipment and bottles of Batiste Dry Shampoo for those who don’t wish to queue for showers, offers a welcome relief from the crowds and the showers.
My first stop is the Left Field, which is is the hub of activism at the site. This year tributes to Tony Benn dot the tent, but there’s little time to stop and take them in as the panel debate begins. ‘The Revolution Will Be Feminised’ opens up a debate about women’s activism and allows the crowd to hear from some awe inspiring women. The theme of the session quickly seems to shift to one of speaking out, and how women are using their stories to inspire and push for change.
Whether it’s discussions about the work of the E15 mums fighting to remain housed in London or Spartacus Network’s peer support around disability and benefits it’s a place to be reminded that all over the UK women are championing campaigns for change, whilst also being the ones most affected by cuts. Thankfully rather than becoming a depressing look at the work still to be done, it becomes a space to inspire change and as the session draws to a close with a powerful poem by Zita Holbourne its clear the audience are left inspired to continue the fight for change.
Next up in the Left Field is Billy Bragg’s Radical Round Up, one of my favourite places to discover new talent and to rekindle love affairs with those already known. Whilst Bragg opens with a Upfield, it’s Australian singer Kim Churchill who quickly steals the show, with the tender Some Days The Rain May Fall. His delicate instrumentation compliments his striking vocals, moving the crowd to a complete hush. Meanwhile the Stockton-on-Tees based The Young’uns carefully document the moments which have shaped Teesside and the North East’s history, tackling fascism, EDL protests and the need for a good cup of tea in their numbers.
Meanwhile Lucy Ward not only delivers a striking performance of For The Dead Men but also offers up her 14:18 Now commission. Tasked with delivering numbers to reflect the centenary of the first world war, Lucy poignantly tackles the story of of many men shot dead at dawn in Lion. We’re also treated to a duet between Bragg and poverty campaigner Jack Monroe on A New England, serving as a firm reminder of the role of music in activism.
As the storm begins to brew it seems wise to head for cover and moments later the traditional Glastonbury rain begins to fall, only this time with coupled with lightning and thunder which sees the power on the entire site shut down for safety reasons. As it passes over Lily Allen arrives on the Pyramid Stage for a delayed and shortened version of her own brand of politics. Whilst at times it’s perfect pop music, and quite frankly there’s no greater sight than the numerous kids who’ve been granted to sing along full blast to Fuck You without a care in the world, at other times it feels like she’s playing just a bit too hard to be something other than a celebrity.
As she removes a wedgie from her arse and questions if her camel toe is visible I can’t help but wish someone had given her guidance on where to draw the line. Nevertheless Lily has always been one for controversy and today she seems to have ignored the concerns about her Hard Out Here video, this time offering the crowd twerking dancers in dog masks. It feels like the low point in the set. Whilst she redeems herself by offering LDN, Smile and The Fear they all seem to get lost by her desire to ensure she’s the most debated act of the day.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor on the other hand feels like an unexpected diamond, and as she loses some of the dance elements for her new album it allows her faultless vocals to really shine through. Opener Birth of an Empire offers a more mysterious vibe, whilst Young Blood offers a tender ballad which highlights the shift in pace on latest album Wunderlust. Whilst she still delivers her trademark numbers (Murder on the Dancefloor, Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) and Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer) all getting an airing) it’s the stripped back numbers of the set which seem to capture the crowd, especially the waltzing rhythm of Love Is A Camera which is both tender and catchy in equal measures.
Meanwhile Glastonbruy wouldn’t be complete without a slot from crowd favourite Newton Faulkner. The up-tempo Won’t Let Go feels like a perfect number as night truly draws in whilst I Need Something manages to avoid feeling stale, despite making regular appearances in his set. For me however it’s I Took it Out on You which showcases both Newton’s carefully crafted musicianship but also his faultless ability to convey emotion in the intonation of his voice.