There is nothing virtual about the Glastonbury Festival which now sits alongside the Chelsea Flower Show and the Grand National as one of Britain’s grandest jamborees.
The presence of mobile phones will ensure that YouTubing and Twittering will not stop but the music and merriment which defines this modern pilgrimage is utterly real. Even the trauma of communal loos is considered more bracing than barbaric.
What distinguishes Glastonbury from many of its rivals is its fabled eclecticism. Rather than being a shindig for folk enthusiasts or a fantasia for hip-hop aficionados, it brings together musicians of as many genres as there are colours a chameleon can turn.
The opportunity to be appalled and enchanted by creative works in a single half hour is an essential and enduring attraction of the festival – and one that is shared by the Welsh literary extravaganza staged annually at Hay-on-Wye.
The organisers of each event know that open-minded people who are seasoned with curiosity and goodwill revel in moments of discovery and enjoy the aesthetic adventure of leaving behind comfort zones.
Such celebrations of creativity are built on trust. People trust the organisers to introduce them to artists they may not like but which they will be glad to encounter. Similarly, campers trust their neighbours not to steal their spare pair of hemp dungarees or, more likely at the book bash, nick their panama hats.
Contrast this atmosphere of inclusion and diversity with party conferences which summon only the most zealous members of the country’s political sects.
These tribal gatherings have a unique camaraderie of their own and are charged with a sense of unfolding drama and flashes of mischief.
But what would happen if Britain’s five great parties – all of whom are in power somewhere in the UK – came together for a celebration of the common good?
In the May election the refusal of parties to talk frankly about the scale of the coming pain was maddening. Leaflets were filled with cliches any advertising hack could have dashed off in the time it took for the sugar cube to drop into their afternoon coffee.
But for one weekend each year such bland baloney could be banished. Participants would hear proposals which would terrify and excite, discover who is worthy of trust and who has shares in snake-oil, and leave confident that history does not just happen but is made.
This rediscovery that courage and imagination can shape the future might even be worth Tweeting about.
A Thursday column
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- A Tale of Losers, Stoners and Little Blue Pills
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- Shirtless Monday
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- Flog Yo Blog
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- The President's Cigar
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- A Sticky Jam
- Astounded by Budapest
- Oil on Troubled Waters
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