UK host's tips to survive Glastonbury

By Scott Kara

After two decades of going to Glastonbury, Jo Whiley gives Scott Kara a few tips to survive the rain and crowds

BBC presenter Jo Whiley says the reason she keeps going to Glastonbury year after year is for the sheer fun of the event.
BBC presenter Jo Whiley says the reason she keeps going to Glastonbury year after year is for the sheer fun of the event.

Jo Whiley has lost track of how many times she's been to Glastonbury since she first went as a schoolgirl in the mid-80s. And although these days the 47-year-old is a flash BBC TV presenter and radio DJ, which means she gets the VIP Glastonbury treatment, she still remembers vividly what it's like to survive the mud, the hour-long treks to see a favourite band, and feeling the need to use a shewee (more on those soon).

"I really need to count up how many times I've been," she says on the phone from London before the festival kicks off this weekend.

"I started when I was at school. I just love music and I've been covering it for the BBC ever since."

Whiley is one of the hosts of the BBC's live global coverage of the event, which will be beamed to New Zealand for the first time. UKTV screens six hours of what will be a mix of live and highlights coverage on Monday, July 1 from 5am, possibly featuring headliners the Rolling Stones. Other acts likely to be part of the broadcast include Mumford & Sons, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Portishead, Smashing Pumpkins, and electronic whiz James Blake.

As you read this, many of the 150,000 music lovers will have already started to converge on the Somerset farm of organiser Michael Eavis. And you can tell Whiley is excited, even though she will be working. She fondly remembers her first festival, and even though she doesn't remember any of the bands she saw, she'll never forget the rain. "We got there on Friday and we left on Sunday morning because tents were sliding down the hill. But that's what happens when you go to Glastonbury; it rains and tents disappear into the mud."

And with this, let's get the Glastonbury gospel according to Jo Whiley, and a few tips on how to survive it ... even though most of us will be happily enjoying the music from the comfort of our couches.

Where do you start? What do you need to take?

You have to pack really carefully. People obviously want to take alcohol with them but you have to remember, if you're taking beer you're going to have to carry it from a very long way away. So pack lightly when it comes to drink. Make sure you pack wellington boots, and wear really big, long, thick socks. This is really, really important because if you get wellie rub at the top of your legs it can ruin the entire festival.

Definitely something waterproof, and suntan lotion, because one day it will be raining and the next it will be glorious sunshine.

Some people take things called shewees, which are essential if you're going down to the front of the crowd and need to go to the loo.

Sorry, what are they exactly?

Oh, they're just implements that you wee into while you're watching a band. I've never used one myself but I get sent one every year and they are bizarre contraptions. So this year, if you want to go and see Mumford & Sons on Sunday night and you start queueing at 10am, at some point you're going to have to go to the loo.

Any tips for getting around to see everything that you want to see on such a huge site?

There is a Glastonbury app, which will tell you who is on where, and the route to get there etc, and those sorts of things are so important because it is so vast - and it is really difficult to explain how big it is but it takes such a long time to get anywhere. You'll know that you want to go and see the Arctic Monkeys on the main stage but you might be in Shangri-La, which is an hour away, so you're going to have to walk miles and miles.

So it's important to navigate your way around and know where you need to be when, and the app is really good for that. By the time you leave you are so shattered.

So what is it that keeps you going then?

It's purely the fun of it. There are so many things to see. It's like a village within a village within a village. There are so many different places to go to, like Block 9 and Shangri-La and they are just taken over by performing artists and people who do the most outrageous things. So if you are walking from place to place to see a band you see so many bizarre and crazy things along the way. You'll see a bunch of ladies walking towards you with a tea urn, serving fairy cakes. It's that sort of thing that keeps you going - the fun of Glastonbury.

What are your top Glastonbury moments from over the years?

Beyonce [in 2011, on Sunday night]. People can be quite cynical, and there is a lot of musical snobbery at festivals over here. "What is she doing here?" But when she came out on stage she completely nailed it, and it didn't feel weird that we'd got this R&B dance diva performing on the main stage. It just felt fantastic. And she performed to the audience like she was in a little tiny club and everyone came together. And Coldplay [who headlined the night before], I've known them since they first started out. That Glastonbury was really important to them because they had played so many times on smaller stages and so the fact they were playing on the Pyramid stage, for them it couldn't have meant more. They had the time of their lives, and that was a seminal moment in Glastonbury history.

Who: British TV presenter and radio DJ Jo Whiley
What: Glastonbury
Where & and when: UKTV, Monday, July 1, 5am (encores 6pm)

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