Fans are descending on the Glastonbury Festival for the first time in three years, although travel disruption has caused problems for some.
More than 200,000 festival-goers will arrive at Worthy Farm in Somerset for the event, headlined by Billie Eilish, Sir Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar.
But train travel has been hindered by a strike on Tuesday, with two more planned for Thursday and Saturday.
One fan, Sarah Hogg, said she was now “nervous” about making the trip.
The 33-year-old from Newcastle had booked a seat on a train to London on Thursday morning, which would have got her there in time to catch a pre-booked coach to the festival.
But she’s now going to have to leave after work on Wednesday evening to get the last train to London, where she’ll then have to crash on a friend’s sofa.
Sarah’s slickly-planned journey has turned into a 24-hour endurance test, involving an extra day hanging around in London. “It’s made me incredibly nervous about it and it’s just added stress.
“It wasn’t that long ago when they announced that this [strike] was all happening, at a point where everyone who’s going to the festival had already planned how to get there.
“I’m not particularly happy about it, but come hell or high water I will get myself to Worthy Farm.”
Is it worth the added stress and cost? “Of course,” said the seven-time Glastonbury ticket-holder. “It’s my favourite place on this planet.”
Festival organisers Michael and Emily Eavis were there to greet festival-goers, many of whom had queued outside since Tuesday, as the gates opened at 08:00 BST on Wednesday.
Emily said it had been quite an “emotional” morning, after the pandemic put paid to the event for the past two years.
“It’s more spectacular this year,” she told BBC entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson. “The wait has been so long and it’s just the biggest build-up we’ve ever had.
“Everyone’s feeling very happy and a little bit emotional about opening the gates.”
Her father, the festival’s founder, agreed, saying: “It’s all so exciting, you’d never believe it.”
However, another possible worry could be the weekend’s weather after the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for thunderstorms and torrential downpours across southern England, including the festival site in Pilton, which could lead to flooding in some places.
Zahid Fayyaz, a solicitor from Brixton, south London, has been to Glastonbury “five or six times” and usually gets the train to Castle Cary, the closest station to the Somerset festival, on the Thursday.
Like Sarah, he bought his tickets in late 2019 and kept hold of them, as the summer event was postponed twice due to Covid.
Now that it’s finally here, the McCartney fan and his friends will have to take an extra day off work, spend more cash and go the long way around in order to avoid disruption.
“It’s annoying but I’m just going to stay positive at the moment,” he said. “I’m generally supportive of the strike but I’d prefer it if it wasn’t this week.
“It will cost me more, and it’s going to take an extra two hours, but aside from this, I’ll be fine. But other people won’t be able to take time off work or afford the extra money.”
Allan Clifford, a teacher from Leeds, is still hoping to get to Glastonbury on Thursday but has had to rethink his plans.
He was a regular at the festival when he was younger and was looking forward to channelling his inner “hippy” once again in his 50s, but wasn’t sure how he would get there because of the rail strikes.
That was until “a wonderful and generous person called Alice, who I’ve never met before, offered to let me hop in her car and drive down with her”.
“What has happened is a lot of people getting online and organising car shares,” he explained.
Those arriving on Wednesday are spending the day setting up camp, with a number of smaller stages – particularly dance areas – opening on Thursday, before the main stages get going on Friday.
One of the bands Allan had been looking forward to seeing, The Damned, were forced on Tuesday to cancel their headline slot on Glastonbury’s Avalon Stage due to Covid, but he said he won’t let that news dampen his spirits, with 3,000 acts to choose from across the weekend.
They will include The Kalush Orchestra, winners of the recent Eurovision Song Contest, for what will be the Ukrainian collective’s first ever UK performance.
At 07:00 on Wednesday, Travel Somerset reported it was taking 28 minutes to reach the festival site from Castle Cary station.
It said it expected travellers to take an hour from the A361/A39 Pipers Inn, and 28 minutes from the A37/A39 Rush Hill, while for those travelling from A303 Podimore to Pylle the journey would be 18 minutes.
Warning over weekend of live music
Glastonbury is by no means the only major music event affected by the travel disruption. The Rolling Stones will play at London’s Hyde Park this weekend as part of its British Summer Time series, Green Day will perform in Huddersfield and London, and Ed Sheeran will walk out at Wembley Stadium.
California funk rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers also have gigs in Manchester and London over the coming days.
Jon Collins, chief executive of Live, which represents the UK’s live music sector, is warning fans to beware of “severe delays and potential safety risks” when taking alternative routes.
“This is one of the biggest weekends of the year for live music fans, with Glastonbury and British Summer Time both taking place for the first time in three years,” he said.
While his organisation does “recognise the legitimacy” of the strike action, Mr Collins stressed that the recently resurrected sector “is facing a perfect storm of fragile consumer confidence, rising costs, inflation and supply chain issues, meaning we frankly cannot take the impact of further strikes threatened this autumn”.
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