Wednesday, July 10, 2002

GLASTOCONCLUSIONS: Now that everyone's had a chance to shake the mud off their boots, a clearer picture of what The Fence meant to Glastonbury is shining through. Clearly, the festival was safer, it was a success, its been secured - all of these are good things. However, what difference did the first Fortress Festival in the UK really make? Melvin Benn, the Mean Fiddler chap brought in to oversee security on the site, was quick to condemn the trouble-makers outside the gates: "The people who turned up and caused trouble outside the event were the criminal element, not festival-goers." Fair enough, but what about the trouble caused inside? For example, according to Avon and Somerset Police's website, three official security guards were charged with robbery and affray. When the festival is having trouble ensuring the behaviour of its own staff, you have to wonder how they intend to deal with the people locked out of the festival this year. Michael Eavis has promised to "resolve" problems outside the fence - this year, a group of two hundred marauded through the neighbouring village, with reports of a number of homes being broken into.
However, the general level of crimes the police became involved with did fall considerably inside the festival grounds, which should prove reassuring for the 2003 licence application - although £80,000 worth of stuff did manage to go astray, and the tighter entrance security has created a new wedge of ticket thievery outside.
More disturbingly is the nature of what that event will be. Talking to Music Week, Eavis observed that "we're attracting a more respectable audience. The amount of 17 and 18 year old students was grossly reduced. I can see a change going on that iw ish we could avoid, but you can't have the nice kids without the bad kids, so there was no choice, really." So, what does that mean? It seems to be the first admission that the price of tickets was determined not so much by operating costs, but to keep out an 'unwanted' element. The implication that students have been the trouble makers at previous festivals is worrying - I'm not sure, but I don't recall the guard who got beaten up in 2000 saying he was hit around the head with a copy of Proust in translation; the blanket ban on teenagers regardless of whether they're a threat to order or not would be worthy of Blunkett, don't you think? Why is it impossible to come up with security that allows happy, polite, friendly 17 year olds kids in to have the time of their lives, and keeps the tent-thieving scum out? And why is it as soon as people pass their 19th birthday, it's suddenly possible to tell the bad guys from the good guys? Of course, a polite, greying Glastonbury is a lot quieter, makes security a lot easier, and upsets far fewer people. But why not come clean, rather than excluding kids by the back door of ramping up prices?

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