It’s not easy to write an epilogue for a festival I wasn’t able to go to. And it’s probably not a good idea to describe the details of the dysentery that kept me at home. I could tell you about the moment I think the parasite entered my body (drinking tap water that was being sold as bottled water, in India) or the time in London’s Hospital for Tropical Diseases. I was sat in a waiting room entirely populated by young, tanned, good-looking people fresh back from their world travels. What could possibly be wrong with these handsome specimens? The problem was, we were not the only ones in the room. Each of us contained at least one (in my girlfriend’s case, two) other living organisms who had made a home inside us. Of course, we live with parasites all the time, but it’s only when you take a new one on board that you remember that your body is an ecosystem. Sometimes the guest is welcome, like the birds who peck the food from between a hippo’s teeth, and sometimes the guest is not.
A festival is an ecosystem. For a weekend, we are not just individuals but also part of a wider sense of the ‘vibe’ of the festival. Crowds are unique and unpredictable. A bad element can either multiply and take over or be squashed. At the Latitude Festival last summer – which is renowned for its laidback, safe atmosphere – there were two rapes. Nobody could reconcile the friendly atmosphere with these hideous acts. Suddenly, everyone seemed more suspect and trust was in short supply and, by the end of the weekend, there was a kind of unspoken glumness. Glastonbury is well known for its unique ‘vibe’ and, for my experience, that really is what makes it unique – some intangible quality that flows through the crowd, helping people to be more open and thoughtful.
By all accounts, the Crossing Border festival was a cracker. And, although I never got to see any of the artists that I was excited about, I am healthy now. I do sometimes miss my parasite though. We had good times, bad times and finally, I had to put an end to our relationship. Big pills six times a day for a week.